Monday, May 11, 2009

Worthy work

I wrote a lot about the pleasure of food and company in Malaysia. What I didn't say much about was the work. So a few people have asked why I went. Was it a holiday? Was I working for our college? While in Malaysia, I didn't think readers would be as interested in the work aspect, especially on days with very long hours and sustained, hard work. So each night I would take the last hour of the day to reflect and focus on the times between working.

So how did I get there and what did I do? Here's an update for those of you who want to know the serious side of a working trip.

During the winter, we received an email from someone connected to a university board member, asking if I could teach two courses, preach, and present a seminar to high-school and post-high schoolers on preparing spiritually for college. All in just over a week in Malaysia. It seemed a good way to support a valued relationship and extend the work of our university with its mission to Carry the Call. My boss agreed. So it was time to hit the books and get ready.

The work started early this spring with preparation of over a hundred hours of reading, study, and writing for teaching two courses: one on World Religions and the Christian response, and the History of Spiritual Formation. I arrived Friday and taught 8 hours Saturday over a 10 hour day bisected by a one-hour lunch break, with 2 breaks morning and afternoon. After church Sunday where I was introduced as a representative from Northwest, I taught another 4 hours. Tuesday, I preached to a women's group on being light in a dark world.

During the week, various pastors and church staff asked about the university and issues related to ministry, whether over meals or at other meetings. It seemed there was just enough time between for prayer, revising the studies for the students I was meeting, and asking God for guidance as the days flowed from one to the other. Any spare hours between 6am and 11pm were spent working remotely with my office, interacting with alums at home, taking care of data and requests, preparing for graduation, and working with my student assistant.

Friday was a national holiday, so the church had scheduled an all-day course: 8 hours of class time for about 45 or 50 students, over a 10-hour day. Friday night after dinner, I caught a ride to church to talk to about 25 student leaders (got home around 10.30pm). Saturday, during a three-hour afternoon session, I had an opportunity to talk to over a hundred young people and their parents about their spiritual preparation to enter college. I had taken college favors and 150 units of enrollment materials along, so hopefully some students will come our way in coming years. I caught supper on the way to the airport and flew out that day. I slept like dead in the Singapore airport between flights.

Sure, it was lots of fun. I had asked God for a heart to say yes to every opportunity and for enjoyment in meeting his Church halfway around the world. I took sleep time to write about the good food and lovely people so others at home could enjoy the between work time with me.

But was it work? Yes. Very demanding and challenging work that I hope accomplished our spiritual and vocational goals.

Have I slept almost 8 hours a night every night since I've been back? Yes. I was beat when I got back, amid snail-mail catchup, meetings, prep for grad, a big alumni breakfast Friday, and a weekend of commencement exercises, preaching, and Mother's Day.

I'm not quite rested, but God is faithful, and I trust that the efforts on this trip will accomplish his purposes for NU and his Church. Thanks to you who have prayed over the past weeks so the work would not be in vain.

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