the place that calls my heart

This blog is written by Marissa Showalter. It comes from her personal blog “Riss Lynn Takes Brisbane“. Marissa was a Spring 2017 student from Messiah College. Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2017 and has been lightly edited. 

This past week has been a tough one. Every day that passes makes me wish more and more that I was on a plane headed back to the place that calls my heart. There are just too many in completes that I left behind in my sweet Brissy, and I want nothing more than to return to finish what I started under the sweet summer sunshine of Queensland. What do you do when your heart physically aches for somewhere else?

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A Gold Coast Beach

You would think that the more time passes, the more I would settle back into life here. WRONG. Yep. If anything, I feel even more listless than before. People here are talking about taking their GREs and applying to jobs, and I can’t help but feel like a frozen over creek, stagnant and unmoving.

I have been encountering so many well-meaning folks who, upon discovering that it’s my senior year, inquire as most do about what my plans are after college. I fake a smile and start going on about how I plan to go to grad school for counseling. HA. Who am I fooling?? Not that I don’t still feel like counseling is my calling or anything, but now I have bigger dreams and weirdly they look a lot like palm trees swaying on a spotless beaches and kangaroos bouncing across a stretch of barren desert.

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A mob of Kangaroos

People are usually rather incredulous when I tell them that I want to move to Australia. They think I’m joking or being dramatic or just exaggerating the impact that my time there had on me. “You would really want to live over there?” they ask me. “But it’s so far! Wouldn’t you miss your family?”

Then they ask me what I would plan to do when I got there and that’s just the kicker, because once again, I have no idea. Like, not a clue. I could go and work odd jobs for a little while, which no one would understand once I have earned my degree. I could do grad school abroad potentially, but of course I don’t know what that would mean financially as an international student or the implications for becoming a licensed counselor in the US. All I know is that I need to find my way back somehow.

So this has been an especially hard week emotionally as I move yet again into my new apartment. In the move, I packed up all of my Australia mementos and carefully tucked them away to be prominently displayed in my new home. I cling to even the smallest item that claims even a little bit of sentimentality. You know what? I still have the packaging for a necklace that I received over there that should’ve gone in the trash long ago. And yet I continue to cling.

If I come to a conclusion about all of this, I’ll keep you updated.

Until then.

xoxo, Riss

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A Night At The Museum

This post is written by our guest blogger Joyce Mok , ASC Student Services Coordinator.

Sometimes you stumble on an event which is so rich, it makes you smile days after it is over. Last week, Roxanne and I had the privilege to attend an “after dark” event at the Queensland Museum. A celebratory event showcasing Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders’ history, heritage and culture. The night featured talented young artists from Digi Youth Arts (creative space for indigenous youth), panel discussions, poetry, weaving, live music, roving performances, visual art and short films.

The night began with a moving ceremony, welcoming us (guests to this land) through song and dance.

Welcome to country

A Welcome to Country ceremony

With Welcome to Country over, we wandered the rest of this treasure trove of all things old and large. There was a room full of dinosaur bones, beetles and an assortment of deep sea creatures you only hear about in Jules Verne stories! I was in awe of the creative Creator who made these diverse beings.

With access to rooms and exhibits, we stumble upon a young performer. Motivated by her Aboriginal and Jamaican heritage, Aurora  Liddle-Christie uses her art as a platform to explore the experiences of people of colour within Australian society. Her poetry strong, bold, engaging!

As we weave past artifacts and gigantic termite mounds, it was only natural we end our night expanding our skills in weaving. Practiced by both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, each cultural group uses particular materials, techniques, patterns, colours and design based on the plants found in region.  Children are taught at an early age to make baskets for collecting food, nets of fishing and even toys.

Weaving workshop with Torres Strait Islander

Weaving workshop Torres Strait Islander style

I (and Roxanne) certainly enjoyed our night out at the Queensland Museum and look forward in the coming months in sharing experiences like these with the ASCers.

Oh, How Time Flies

Excerpt from Vicki Crocker’s personal blog “Heights and Depth”. Vicki is a Fall 2017 student from Roberts Wesleyan College. Reproduced with permission.

I can’t believe it’s already been 7 weeks since I’ve first arrived in this beautiful country. I have been able to experience many things and meet many people. One of the coolest things I’ve found about Australia is the diversity of culture. For example, the other night, out of a group of 11 people, 8 different countries were represented. I thought it was pretty cool to know people across the country, but to know people from around the world just seems to make it that much smaller.

I’ve also learned that a majority of the school work here is writing papers and not having and tests or exams. Through this, I often find myself starting and finishing a paper in one day, partially because of procrastination through Zumba and other workout videos on YouTube with my host sister, but also because of my stronger desire to get the Australian experience.

With the multiple papers and piling up stress of school, I’ve felt surprisingly calm. The busier the semester gets, the more I realize how busy my schedule gets with planning when to write which paper, planning this trip, and still figuring time to do spontaneous things. With time becoming more and more scarce, I’ve felt the need to sacrifice spending more time on a paper to go and experience some Australian thing with friends. This is something that I feel slightly convicted about because I want to do well in my classes, but I’m here to experience all that I can of Australia.

However, this is quite the least of my worries because I feel the main reason my journey lead me to come here is to grow in Christ in a new way, and that is my ultimate goal of the semester. I would love to get an amazing grade and experience everything I can in my limited time here, but I believe that the reason I don’t stress over these things is because they aren’t the main reason I’m here, which I am very thankful for.

Busyness

Excerpt from Ashley Legget’s personal blog “Dear Australia“  Ashley is a spring 2015 ASC student from Messiah College. Reproduced with permission.

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This is just one of the many beautiful views along the Gorge walk on Straddie Island.

There is way more then I can fit into a blog post to write about, so be prepared to read a novel here, arranged by bullet points:

1.) The main focus of my time in Australia is learning about the modern culture and Aboriginal culture, which has sparked a deeper passion in me for equality. For the American’s who don’t quite understand, Aboriginals are like the Native Americans of Australia, so technically the “Native Australians.” They inhabited the land, and were forced out and abused in many different ways. The thing that makes this class so close to my heart is having a true Aboriginal teacher who spends a lot of her time teaching us about her culture and the close to home problems that they faced and are still facing today. Aboriginals still do not receive the recognition, love, and rights that they deserve as the rightful “owners” of the land. Aside from seeing the true heart of Lea and experiencing a deep passion for her people, this has really sparked a general passion for equality of minorities. Whether they are separated by religious views, culture, language, sexual orientation, or enslaved by anything such as human trafficking… or really anything else, everyone deserves the same rights, respect, and a chance at life the way they decide to live. It breaks my heart to hear the stories of the oppressed.

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This is from the Art Museum a few weeks ago, but it’s taken on a whole new meaning as I continue to understand the Aboriginal culture more and more.

2.) Second, my internship is going so well. I work about 15 hours a week overall at Citipointe, doing a variety of things from administrative work, making phone calls, organizing information, connecting with youth, running a cafe, and many other random jobs. I am really getting a chance to see a whole different youth culture. It’s a large church, VERY pentecostal/charismatic, has a large body of volunteers and about 30 full time workers. I am learning a lot about myself and youth ministry. I must admit though, as I have before, I LOVE my small church and the community around a small church.

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The band is amazing, and extremely well known throughout Australia. This is the main youth event that is put on on Friday.

3.) I finished my first big assignment on the Background of the New Testament if anyone is interested in that topic… it was hard.

4.) I spent this past weekend at North Stradbroke Island, which is mainly an Aboriginal culture. We attended an opening ceremony, which included celebrate the 21st birthday of the elders! I heard many great speakers with beautiful hearts and passions for Aboriginal culture. We did so much to learn more about the culture! We each got to attend a few workshops, which included sand art (not the kind in the bottle), basket weaving (we made bracelets), spear and boomerang throwing, and Aboriginal art. Personally, I learned how to throw a spear and I made 2 keychains in the weaving workshop; it’s the same technique, you just wrap it into a circle and make a basket instead of just a small straight line! We kind of got stormed out of there, so we headed to our camp to unpack and get settled in before we headed off to an Aboriginal weapon and artifact lesson from an Aboriginal! We learned how they made all of their different weapons and learned some crazy hunting methods. We also got our faces painted like a sting ray I believe, and learned some awesome dances and took some crazy pictures (not on my camera, so check back in another time to see them!) The next day we traveled around and got to see some cool landmarks. First we saw a Midden, which is one way Aboriginals can prove how many years they have occupied a land. The midden just looked like a large hill covered in grass, but if you were to cut the hill in half you would see many layers of shells, bones, and other things that they threw in a “trash pile.” It was really cool to see the bottom layer of that! After that we went to Point Lookout, which is the most beautiful beach/gorge walk ever. There’s many pictures (thanks to the other people in my class and myself) of the view, so check them out in the Photograph tab. Then we went to Brown Lake, which is classified as “Women’s Business” where women prepared for ceremonies and gave birth. This is a sacred place. It’s called Brown lake because it’s surrounded by tea tree’s which have died the water brown and “contaminated” it with tea tree oil, which actually made the water soft and great for your skin!

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This is our Aboriginal professor Lea showing us the bottom of the Midden. The Midden is where the Aboriginal people used to throw shells, bones, etc. If you cut the hill behind her in half, you’ll see hundreds of layers, proving how long they have been on that island.

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This was the opening ceremony during the dance segment!

THE CRAZIEST THING: They drive the car ONTO the Ferry! There were like 3 coach busses and A LOT of cars on that Ferry… that made me very very nervous, but it was a beautiful boat ride to the island and back!

5.) I had a bit of a fall… and this is quite the funny story looking back on it now. I was sitting getting ready for Internship with a few friends at Rivers Cafe, which is the cafe attached to the church I am working at. The seating area is up on a platform, which you can walk up 4 or 5 steps on either side to get to. I was sitting with my back to a set of stairs when one leg of my chair when over the edge and I fell (over a matter of 5 seconds) on the chair down the stairs onto the very hard turf ground. I got entangled in the chair and now have a crazy bruise to prove for it!

6.) Australians love American accents, think were all fat and eat unhealthy, and basically every stereotype you can think of America that is negative.

7.) That is all I can think of. In general I spend a lot of time with Dana at my internship, which has been so lovely working with her. In my off time, I go out to eat with friends and take naps… but don’t worry.. I don’t typically have free time, so I am soaking up every ounce of this time.

Bay View Park

A poem by fall 2013 student, J.T. Cummings

Water trickles under the dock at Bay View Park. A heaven on earth.
Alone with one’s thoughts, in silence, he sits.
Meditating, listening, hearing what his heavenly Father has to say.
Broken, undeserving: Feelings that pass through the mind.
Relax. One’s mind begins to wander. Peace. Taking the burden from one’s soul; God arrives.
Anticipation of God’s direction, the summer breeze. Rest.
The water is still. The birds chirp in the distance. The sun sets.
God, a beautiful artist. The sky filled with colour.
Whole once again. Redeemed. One sits in his presence.
Serenity. Tranquility. Bliss.

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From Linear to Circular: An Indigenous View of Returning Home

Excerpt from Fall 2014 student Tim Almquist’s blog “A Season Down Under“. Reproduced with permission.

“Our Western dualistic minds do not process paradoxes very well. Without contemplative minds, we do not know how to hold creative tensions. We are better at rushing to judgement and demanding complete resolution to things before we have learned what they have to teach us.” 
– Richard Rohr

“What Western Christians struggle with, then, is a dualistic belief that for God to be in something, that thing must transcend the ordinary—it must become outwardly different in order to distance itself from the natural, evil, world and thus become “Christian.” They cannot accept a natural expression of God among us. This is in absolute contradiction to what the Bible teaches in John 1:14: and the Word [God] became flesh and dwelt among us.”
– Richard Twiss

“You don’t find truth. Truth finds you.” 
– A wise Australian friend

“Study abroad students often go home more uncertain, but more committed.”
– Australia Studies Centre Program Director

As I began to prepare for coming to Australia, I made a mental list of the many personal things I was going to achieve while transcending the barriers of the community I call home. I don’t exactly know where this mindset came from: that because I was off on an international adventure I would somehow find the answers to different questions I’ve been asking myself in the past couple years. More broadly, they are questions like: what will you do with your life?, and when will you begin?  I often struggle to make or give meaning to things and so I find myself sitting and wondering when it’ll come. I wait for reasons, rhymes, certainties, patterns and answers, as if God would just hand me a prompt, so I can get on with it. The problem with this way of living, is that most things don’t actually work out in such a conveniently ordered fashion. We are often left with choices to make and sacrifices to risk. I want to suggest, that we (assuming I’m not alone) find ourselves in this trap because it has something to do with the West; particularly the Western understanding of Time. Below I have drawn a simple illustration of the difference between the Western and Indigenous understandings of time:

TIME

While those of us with a Western worldview default to a linear sense of time, the Indigenous worldview understands time circularly. What does all this abstract theory have to do with my time in Australia? Well, back to those unanswered questions I had at the beginning of my semester, believe it or not, I head home in less than a week and according to the linear worldview, they are still unanswered. And I do believe at some point certain things will become clearer and I will have more direction about post-college life. It just feels liberating to try and commit to an Indigenous understanding of time, not because it means I won’t have to make some choices and take some risks, but because it does a better job at allowing me to experience the meaning of life interwoven between past, present and future. The Western concept pulls up its boot straps never looking back, while the Indigenous view has a center to revolve around. I will describe this with an example from class a couple weeks ago.

I woke up the last day of my Aboriginal cultures class with a significant thought. The thought was that I came all the way here to Australia, expecting to change and grow as a person. I realized that it doesn’t matter what you do in life, it’s not material things or even grand adventures like studying abroad that truly change and satisfy you. Implicitly and explicitly, you will learn and grow and I have learned a lot. Really though, what matters is not one more experience or one more accomplishment, but it is the people we are in relationship with that counts as a worthy pursuit in everything before us. I know that sounds sweet and cliche, but do think with me for a minute about how easily we make our lives about accomplishment rather than contentment or conquest instead of love. It’s like we never learned how to be still and know that God is God, delighting and trusting in that. On that same day I woke up with this significant but simple thought, I found myself seated on the dry ground in a circle with a number of Aboriginal women as kookaburras sang from the gum trees surrounding us. We learned from them how to interpret Aboriginal art theologically and watched as they danced the story of salvation in Christ. A missionary who joined us helped bridge the gap between Indigenous and Western and gave us examples of how Westerners tend to view the world. One thing he said was “it’s not about tasks, it’s about relationships.” This quickly connected with the thought I had earlier that morning. The people in our lives are what matter, rather than the things we get done or the answers we discover. There will always be people to share life with, either directly or indirectly and I have learned a deeper sense of what that means by being abroad for the semester. Despite all the places I’ve traveled to, papers I’ve written or even those bright mornings out on the veranda when I journaled and read, there’s nothing about my adventure as important as sharing it with other people who are trying to make their way in the world just like me.

Warlpiri

As I prepare for my return home, it is tempting to want to tie it all up and simplify it into pictures, souvenirs and drawn out journal entries. Instead, I feel the need to rest and release the labels and categories of ordered control from my weak grip. This season has been special in many ways. It has also been a reminder that life is simple and ordinary, even on the other side of the globe. I will be home after enduring several more hours on a plane and the mystery of time travel and be presented with the same invitation I was given before I left. And this invitation is sacred as it comes from our Creator saying:

“I know you have a lot of questions, unresolved tensions, and life often feels overwhelming with paradox and a lack of certainty. Instead of living each day in fear, you are invited to partake in a revolving communal journey of simple yet eternal redemption. There is a harmony to be had with other people and the land on which you wander. It is a harmony singing the songs of everyday love and grace. Everyone’s invited. Even you.”