Week One: Under the Banyan Tree

Well, after ten full days in Hawaii, I’m beginning to feel more comfortable here. In the location sense, that is, not necessarily in the climate sense.
Exhibit A: today I stood in the freezer of our campus kitchen, and while others were shivering around me I was finally comfortable. Chalk it up to being warm-blooded and from a cold country. But hey, I’m getting used to it. And I definitely enjoy the heat and the colour to my skin after already seeing several months of winter this season.

It’s been such a full week. A friend of mine once described DTS (discipleship training school) as drinking from a fire hose, and I finally understand that phrase. There’s been so much happening here, so much stimulation; physically (weather changes, walking lots, and telling myself I should be running to prepare for a 5 km run in Maui in February), emotionally, and spiritually. We’ve had some incredible speakers and sessions this week to learn from, and unpacking all that they have discussed is exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.

My heart is aching for home, and for those I left behind. But I know it’s going to be a whole lot longer, and I need to be patient.
I’m also so excited for this time to fall in love with Jesus. To continue to discover His heart for me and for my future, to discover and rest in the infinite and extravagant love of the Lord. There’s still so much to process and to search my heart about, but here’s a taste of what’s going on in my head… and in my heart.

I’ve spent a lot of time right here this week:

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See that table with the wooden chairs off to the left there? Under that small-ish (just kidding) tree? That was my processing table this week. And what a good spot that was to be. That’s a Banyan Tree, a huge fig tree that basically is a big tree with a hollow core, and while it sometimes has religious connotations, I just love how it looks and how small I feel beneath it. Another fantastic perk is that it’s also the hallmark of our campus cafe, which is just the loveliest thing. Their smoothies are fabulous. Maybe someday I’ll cool off enough to try one of their hot drinks. Haha.

But I spent some well-needed “introvert time” parked at that table, listening to Josh Garrels, journalling SO MUCH, and just looking around and enjoying where I’m at. This week has been tough, but God is teaching me so much.

A large way that God tugged on my heart was through the words of Dan Baumann, our speaker of the week, who sat us down for three days and told us over and over again how much God loves us, how He wants to show us just how much He loves us, and how He wants to just spend time with us. And that message, made even more real by Dan’s incredible testimony, penetrated through our tough skin, and began to settle itself deep into our hearts.

Dan shared with us his incredible story of years and years of relationship with God, which has taken him all over the world, from throwing rocks into an American river as a teenager, to ministry in an eye hospital in Afghanistan, to a freezing university campus in northwest China, to a year of kitchen duty in the Colorado mountains, to nine weeks of imprisonment in Iran, to divine intervention and release from that same prison and subsequent years of grace and discovery of God’s heart.

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In this photo, Dan draws one of the big concepts driven home this week:
Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing.
That drawing represents that tree branches need their trunk (vine) to receive nutrients from the ground and to produce fruit. Without the trunk, the branches wouldn’t be capable of anything, let alone capable of producing delicious fruit, like the fresh papayas and bananas we have been enjoying lately.

It’s the same way with our relationship with Jesus. We are called to remain in Him (John 15:1-5), and if our relationship with Christ is lacking, we are unable to remain in Him and thus receive His “nutrients” and produce fruit. It’s as simple as including Christ in our lives more, actively pursuing Him, and letting His love sink into us, make it’s home in our hearts (Ephesians 2:17), and change our lives.

So much of what Dan said hit home with me, and he says it best in person or in his books. But here are a couple of the main points that keep resonating with me:

Jesus is madly in love with us. Not because of anything we have done, do, or will do. He loves us simply because we are. And He created us. He created our desires. He knows us, and He knows our desires, and He wants to give us good things. He’s not a monster out to get us; He actually really, really, REALLY loves us. And whether we feel like we really love Him or feel like we don’t at all, His love is always there; our relationship with Him is more defined by His character than how we feel at the moment. There’s nothing you or I could do today to make God love us more.

Everything we do for God needs to overflow out of intimacy with Him. When we discover God’s heart and how good He is, how faithful and trustworthy He is, we discover how loved we are, and that will make us change our lives to reflect Him.  And the more we discover Jesus, the more we discover He wants to give us more than we can ask or imagine.

I really wish we could sit down for coffee and go through so much of this together. And for some of you, we will. :) The things we learn here will not only impact my heart but also my profession and my career.
Until that coffee date (or chai latte date, in this case, heehee), there’s still so much more to learn, to discover, to sit under the Banyan Tree and ponder over.

Also in the meantime, there’s work to to be done and fun to be had.

A large group of us are responsible for kitchen duty every other weekend, and yesterday and today were a great introduction into kitchen life, starting early at 6 am and serving so, so much food to our fellow hungry students.

This is Jenny and I with our new “babies,” the steamers in the kitchen. They helped us cook over 600 eggs each morning and 12 massive pans of rice each night. Now we’ve got skills.

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My friend Dani and I went for a little “walk” around campus, ending up going through the campus sheep flock’s pasture, over a lot of rocks, through a gate or two, and around a whole lot of dirt and grass and scratchy bushes. This is how we came out… and unfortunately most of that tan washed off. ;) This gives a whole new meaning to “getting our feet dirty!”

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Another unique feature about our beautiful campus is that there are wild cats EVERYWHERE. Welcome to Hawaii, where the wild cats roam. And meow at odd hours. And beg at your feet for milk or scraps from your plate at breakfast time. They’re cute, and mostly domesticated, but we’re not allowed to feed them as they’re already fed by a humane society… and lots of them have ringworm so we have to be selective of who we pet. But here’s a new little friend, who I’ve affectionately deemed Felix.

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There’s so much more I wish I could fit into one blog post.

Spontaneous shopping and DELICIOUS brownie-eating and star-gazing excursions.
Letting my voice blend in with over one thousand other people singing the same song.
Discovering all 9 seasons of Little House on the Prairie sitting on the shelf right next to all the Star Trek movies at the campus library. Finding a book called “Guns, Germs, and Steel.”
Skyping. So familiar, so lovely.
Discovering Ross. Basically Winners, but American. Ohhh dear.
Reading all the sweet encouraging messages that my favourite people wrote in my journal and on letters and in cards and in emails.
Going to church in a renovated movie theater. The seats were so comfy, I almost fell asleep. And then the music started. And I was wide awake. Haha.

Seriously. Such a wild week. And I have a feeling it’s only going to get better. ;)

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Some final thoughts of what’s going on in my heart right now, thanks to Josh Garrels’ Beyond the Blue. Check it out on YouTube. Sooooo good.

“So lift your voice just one more time/if there’s any hope may it be a sign/that everything was made to shine/despite what you can see/so take this bread and drink this wine/and hide your spirit within the vine/where all things work by a good design/for those who will believe/and let go, of all, we cannot hold onto/for the hope, beyond, the blue.

This week’s Hawaiian word?

Mahalo.

Thank you.
For reading this and for your feedback, encouragement, and prayers. I love you guys.

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