I arrived at SIFAT. The land is beautiful, and the place is wonderful. There is a swinging bridge between the lodge and the main complex. The main complex has an administrative building, several sheds and work areas, a class building, and a dining hall. Growing here are sorghum, corn, watermelon, squash (both green and yellow), llamas, and four pigs (two of which are named Ham and Eggs), among other things. Dividing the property into several sections is Mad Indian Creek, a stream which is at most a foot deep, except at the swimming hole.
SIFAT stands for Servants in Faith and Technology, and they teach missionaries from the USA and citizens from other countries what are called appropriate technologies, which they can then use when, respectively, they go on their missions or return to their home countries. SIFAT also offers short-term courses for small groups, and teaches these groups some lessons much-needed in this nation. I think my church should send some teams to SIFAT.
Applied (or appropriate) technology means using materials readily available in an unindustrialized country to make needed things, rather than trying to ship expensive and nearly-impossible-to-repair gadgets and widgets from the USA. A well for pumping water can be made with PVC pipe, some stiff wire, and a little bit of rubber, or even PVC pipe, a rope, and the sidewall of a flat tire. Many useful things we take for granted can be improvised using trash already in a particular country. SIFAT offers a ten-week course in applied technologies.
After a meal at SIFAT, leftover food is not discarded. It is fed to the pigs. This makes the trash output lower, wastes less food, and improves the efficiency of the whole operation.
The view from the lodge house near the swinging footbridge is very nice, with a grassy slope and a few trees, the brick path, and the wide stream laid out before.
It is a romantic and peaceful place.
Today, we were left, in groups of three, to our own devices in a foreign culture: Birmingham. You may laugh, but this truly is not the same culture as my home. Each place has its own peculiarities.
We had a set of objectives, but no map (except in emergency; our observer had a map). We had $13 each for expenses, and (after a prayer), we headed into our journey. Our first task was to look at our surroundings and think about what they tell us about the culture. My group walked almost everywhere, because we decided each time, except the first, that we would reach the place we were going at that instant faster if we didn't wait for the next bus.
Our tasks included: Catching a bus into the city center. Locating a significant landmark, the 16th Street Baptist Church, and learning why it is significant. Locating a statue of an important figure, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Learning the cost of a train ticket to Atlanta, and then a bus ticket. And locating a post office.
It was a fun and insightful day. We learned much about being in a foreign culture, and we learned about communicating with people of other cultures.
I saw Christ today in the helpfulness of every person we met and in their willingness to tolerate a group of ignorant foreigners. I would say that the city is a credit to the character of our nation.
Today was an interesting day.
We spent most of the day in discussion sessions, and we learned many interesting things, but in the afternoon, we did something you may find hard to believe.
We watched Star Trek: The Next Generation(tm).
Well, we didn't just turn on the television and tune in. We watched a specific episode. "Darmok".
The episode involved a meeting between the federation and another culture. The other culture, though they used words found in English, communicated in an entirely different manner. This taught us, in a very unique and profound way, about communicating with other cultures. I found this very enjoyable, though I do not consider myself in any sense deeper than mildly and shallowly, a fan of ST:TNG(tm). This, though, should remind us all that God can use the most unlikely things to teach us His truths.
The rest of the week, we learned many of the nuts & bolts information we would need on our missions. I will post a needs list later. We watched "The Mission", we toured SIFAT, and we reflected on our faith journeys.
I am posting mine here. (Next entry)
I am whom I am today because of who Christ is every day. I am nothing particularly wonderful, of my own worth. Throughout my life, I have been a selfish person.
I grew up learning to acquire my own desires, looking out for myself before others, and most often just seeing my own needs while ignoring the needs of others. So, you can see that I was not a good man. I was not someone who would give of myself for the needs of others. I was not chosen because of my worth.
I might tell you my story in a few short sentences.
I might say: One day, God looked out over the world and said, I think I will make something worthless beautiful, today. And God put His hand down into the slimy part of humanity, brought me up, and cleaned me and made me useful and beautiful.
God chose me because I needed Him, not because He needed me. God could have left me in the condition I was and still accomplished His purpose. God chose me to be one of His children because God loves all people.
There is power in prayer. I did not know, but my mother prayed for me every night. Prayer works. I am here because my mother, showing God's love, prayed for me.
I was going through a rough time. My girlfriend had dumped me, I had no job, and my life had no purpose. I was living a sad existence devoted to trying to please myself. And do you know? I wasn't happy. I didn't know, but I needed God. I did not find God at a church service. I wasn't going to church. I didn't meet God in a brush with death. The only danger I faced was Hell.
God meets us where we are. Over a period of months, God showed me that I was not sufficient to meet my own needs. I needed God. He met me where I was. And one night, I accepted His gift: for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. God so loved me, unworthy as I was, that He gave His only begotten Son, and I believe in Him, and I shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.
I am a new creation. No more do I ignore the needs of others. Now, I help where I can. No more do I push others aside to gain my own pleasures. Now, I let others go, and I wait my turn. No more do I seek self-serving ends. Now, I seek to serve God.
I am not what I am today because I was good. I am what I am today because, even though I do not deserve it, God has extended His grace and love to all the world, even to one such as I. Because of God's love, my life has a purpose. God is loving and just and holy.
I am whom I am today because of whom God is every day.