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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Olivia/UK - Come Rain Or Shine, Or Geometry

Small Section of My Neighborhood in Colindale, London 
Consider these pictures. Can you see the difference? Immediately, you might notice the weather or time of day but there is another difference, harder to spot: the perspective from which they have been taken.

The beautiful blue sky pictures are from today. I took them from my front door as I walked back from the after-school program I help at three times a week. I love getting to work with the sometimes sweet/ sometimes cheeky kids on things like pronouns, spelling, and figuring  out the perimeter of a football pitch (soccer field). Today we worked on angles. I explained the word “horizontal” to one sweet young girl wearing a hijab by talking about the beach in California and the sun meeting the water at the horizon. Her older brother informed me that when I got back to CA and I should go out on a boat, I could watch the horizon to prevent myself from getting seasick. I thanked him for his advice.

The majority of children I spend time with there are Muslim. In fact, a large percentage of the population among which I live is Muslim. I go to a sewing group with Muslim women who sew pillowcases and burkhas. Most of our neighbors are Muslim and a couple men who signed up to do a house group on Sunday are converted from Islam.

So what is the point of these things: perspective, angles, and Islam? In the States and around the world, the topic of Islam and those that practice it is widely discussed. It is the 2nd most common religion in the world with around 23% of the world's  population claiming it as their own. Have you ever spoken to someone who is Muslim? Do you have friends currently fasting for Ramadan? To be completely honest, I have not until this trip. This makes me wonder how many people in the United States would say the same even (perhaps especially) those in the Church.

These reflections leads mostly to more questions but here's what I do know. I know that the angle with which I see my neighbors has changed. I know that I should love more deeply and pray more fervently for my Muslim neighbors whom I have seen to be funny, intelligent, sassy, fashionable, good at geometry, great at encouraging, a protective brother, a loving mother, and a patient father. I should pray for my Muslim neighbors, not so they can become a Christian like me, but that they become more like Christ. I want my neighbors to have the same hope as I do. I want them to be able to spend their time until eternity serving God and loving his people with all the different gifts, stories, and strength that they bring to the family of God. All this I have not seen clearly until now, not until I have been given this change in perspective.

Hopefully, this post will be encouraging to you and give you a little slice of what God has been working out in my heart and day to day experiences here in London.

Much Love & Tiramisu,
Olivia Faith Sales 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Olivia/UK - Day 1: Walk, Talk, Pray

Pastor Chrishani & I on The Downs
Last night it didn't get dark until about 10 o’clock. This may sound strange but experiencing it is stranger. I was exhausted from traveling so I went right to sleep but my travel buddy and other intern, Josh, got so confused by the time difference he woke up at 9PM Monday and thought it was 9AM Tuesday! It was funny this morning but it shows you just how discombobulating a 10 hour flight and an 8 hour time difference can be.
We went for a walk to shake off our jet lag with the Hulugalle’s older son, Shan, and then we headed back to talk through a general schedule of our time here and our objectives of our internships. Pastor Chrishani took us into town for errands and then to pick up Shamindra (their younger son from school).

We then headed to The Downs which the commonly used name for a view of several countries and enjoyed a cuppa for Pastor Chrishani, coffee for Josh, and cocoa with marshmallows AND whipped cream for Shamindra and I. The Downs are the highest point in Dunstable and they boast a view of eight counties on a very clear day, including Hertfordshire(for the Jane Austen fans) and Oxfordshire (for the C.S. Lewis fans).

After dinner we gathered to pray through Day 14 of the 30 Days of Fasting & Prayer that the Hulugalle’s church, Living Waters, is going through. We sang worship, prayed and read scripture.

This may seem like a pretty straightforward description of a rather simple day but what I struggle to really describe to you are the conversations that gave this day life, meaning, intention, and simple enjoyment. It was a day of being prepared for what is to come.

Something that Pastor Surekha said stood out most to me. We were talking about wanting to take on too much, about feeling like we must do everything, and about thinking that people could not get on without us. He brought up the story of Lazarus in John 11 and though it clearly shows how much Jesus loved him and his family, he waited two days until he was dead and the family was grieving before going to them. He waited until he was sent by his Father. I often struggle with wanting to fill the needs that I see that I don't listen for my Father's voice directing me. I wear myself down, live in pride, and take opportunities to serve from others when I ignore what God has specifically called me to in effort of trying to be everything for everyone.

This ties into one of my main objectives for this trip. God has given me many different dreams for the future and I struggle with wanting to do everything all at once which limits my effectiveness and energy. Yet, I recognize that God can call me to different ministries in different seasons so that I can desire to do what He has created me to do and focus on that a long as He asks me to. However, if I'm not listening for His voice, I will not know what ministry season I am coming into. That is a reason why I am here, to listen for the voice of God and see in what direction he leads me after graduation next Spring.

Please continue to pray with me about hearing where God is leading me to next and continue to ask Him if you are “minding your business” of doing what He created you to do also. Let us continue to do that which God created us for! 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Much Love & Swedish Fish,
Olivia Faith

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Olivia/UK - Crossing The Pond (and Other Barriers)

It is the night before I depart for the UK and I'm sitting in my living room with my family watching a movie, a fire crackling in the hearth, and we're eating cheeseballs with chopsticks. I am struck by all the little things we do that seen perfectly normal and endearing to each other yet to another family would be considered quite strange or out of place. You probably have things like this in your own family. These things bring us together as a family. Yet, these familial and cultural differences are so often what separates us.  We let our upbringing, preferences, education, theology  and even ethnicity divide us from the rest of the world and often our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We see this throughout our world today with our changing political climate, racial relations, and, on an even larger scale, in the refugee crisis and persecution of people groups worldwide. On the small scale we can even see this in our churches. The Church, as the Body of Christ, can often see cultural, theological, and preferential differences as boundaries that divide rather than strengths that balance. Our answer is different denominations or worship services. We are strangely disjointed for a group if people who profess a belief  in something as unifying the Gospel.

In the New Testament, Paul writes to the churches again and again about unity. He penned these famous words to the believers in Galatians: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (3:28 ESV) There are countless variations on these words throughout the New Testament all with the aim of reminding believers that the boundaries of the world are not to be present amongst brothers and sisters in Christ.

These thoughts have been heavy on my heart and on my mind this past semester at university and even heavier and more frequent in these few weeks leading up to this trip.

Much like the rest of my family, when I see a need I desire to fill it. If we're not equipped to do so, we find a way to get equipped like my oldest sister who is curently in school studying midewifery in the Philippines after seeing the need for trained midwives on the mission field.

In the same way, I am going to the UK this summer to get equipped. I am interning with several churches in London and Wales learning to do ministry in a cross-cultural setting. Not only will I be living in a new culture, I'll be serving communities on the edge of the second most diverse city in the world. 

My goal for this internship is to learn about the people of God and their ways to love, serve, and worship Him from around the world. I am going to learn about the little differences and the big, to learn about what a balanced cross-cultural community looks like rather than a divided once. My desire is to get the community in Christ to see themselves as God sees them as neither male nor female, neither conservative nor charismatic, neither republican nor democrat, neither underdog nor all-star, neither minority nor majority, but as "all one in Christ Jesus."

Thank you all for your faithful and much needed support and prayers  as I go out to serve and be equipped to continue working in the Kingdom of God. I will do my best to put out posts to keep you all updated on my progress as an intern, and about what miracles God works through the daily lives of myself and those around me. 

Much Love & Cheeseballs,
Olivia Faith Sales

Olivia at LAX ready to board her plane to Heathrow Airport in England.