31 August 2010

Arrival in South Africa

After two days of travel, we safely arrived in South Africa on August 27.

One of the first things that struck me was how hilly the Durban and Pietermaritzburg areas are.  I have no idea why, but I was expecting it to be flat for some reason.  I am looking foward to discovering what other (less superficial) preconceptions I have of South Africa turn out to be false.

Our orientation sessions have been challenging us to disorient ourselves from our preconceptions and learn to challenge ourselves in new ways.  I am already noticing a difference in my outlook on poverty, justice, and our gospel of the cross.

Peace be with you all!

Embarking for South Africa

Note: this post was intended to go up on August 25, but I lost internet access before I could finish it.

Today is the big day.  Today, I begin my two days of travel to South Africa and will see my host country for the first time shortly.  This week of orientation in Chicago has been an uplifting week of preparation for my spiritual journey through life, especially this coming year.

The bonds I have formed with the other YAGM volunteers and alumni have strengthened as we have grow closer to God and each other.  We have learned what it means to be in community with one another even as we prepare to be in community with those partnering with us this year.  We have come to appreciate the wonderous diversity in God's children even while finding common ground.

One commonality in all major religions is a call to be self-less and to be servants to one another.  This foundation is expressed in the holy writings of each of the major religions.  In a later post, I will explain more about this.

25 August 2010


While I am on this year long spiritual journey, I will be sending out a monthly newsletter of my experiences in South Africa.  If you are interested in receiving a copy, please email me at lengel.michael@gmail.com to be added to my mailing list.

21 August 2010

Spiritual Nurture and Communicating Across Cultures

The first two full days of orientation in Chicago have flown by.  There has been a good balance between getting to know our fellow YAGM volunteers and preparing ourselves for our year as servants in multiple ways.

Pastor Jim Gonia has been leading a session on spiritual practices to bring along with us for the journey.  As we look after our souls' health this coming year, he has presented us with new ways of considering our relationship with God and new prayer techniques to consider using.

Learning to communicate despite cultural and language barriers was the theme of today.  Sunitha Mortha guided us through sessions on communication between cultures.  We simulated various language barriers through activities such as a tag game where the instructions were delivered in gibberish, a card game where the rules were taken away and silence strictly enforced, and navigating to a restaurant in groups without being able to talk.

Tomorrow's theme looks to be focusing on the logistics of the program.

19 August 2010

Arrival in Chicago

My year-long journey has begun today with my flight to Chicago for a week-long orientation for YAGM prior to my departure for South Africa.  Thankfully, I did not have any problems with my flight to Chicago, though I had no leg room to speak of.

We took a bus from the airport to the seminary in Chicago.  Now, I'm not sure how long the trip usually takes, but we hit some serious traffic and the drive took an hour and a half.  The traffic served to illustrate two lessons that should serve me well during my journey this year.  First, I will need to learn to go with the flow.  Second, even when I know where I am and how to get to where I want to be, the pace may not always be the speed I want it to be.  Of course, both lessons will serve me well in my spiritual development as well.

I am excited that the first part of my journey is now in full swing.  Being with all of the YAGM volunteers again for the first time since the DIP event in April invigorates me.  The opening worship service this evening was very moving.