Thursday, July 31, 2014

SMC and Musings about Life in the US

Last week I was at North Central College in Naperville, IL (near Chicago) for the Summer Missionary Conference (SMC).  It has me thinking about life in the States and the joy of spending time reflecting and

reconnecting with people.

I was able to walk for at least an hour each morning I was in Naperville.  I walked through campus and to nearby streets.  I also walked along the beautiful Riverwalk trail along the river that runs through town.  (I only took my camera on the first day so I have pictures of the town, but not the Riverwalk.) 

Ever think about why towns were founded where they were?  Most often they are built close to a means of transportation – in this case a river and then railroad tracks.  There are many cities/towns close to railroad tracks!  I know that in many of the places I have visited I can hear train whistles as I did in Naperville.  Trains are still important in our country – if more for freight than passengers in many areas. 

The train I saw led to the thoughts about the expression “the wrong side of the tracks.”  Since most towns had tracks, it became the norm for rich to live on one side of town while poor lived across the train tracks on the other side of town.  The rich wanted to be in a separate neighborhood/area, but how did the rail line become the dividing line?

Near the Naperville tracks there was a curvy concrete wall which I first thought was to hide the tracks.
Maybe it does, but on the other side is also more parking.  In addition, I could see a water tower behind the wall and tracks.  So how do they get water into them??  I know that our water towers in Garoua Boulai, Cameroon and Baboua, CAR are filled with a pump run by a generator and comes from a local spring. Then gravity provides us running water – indoor plumbing!  I have seen many water towers in the US.  Do US towns do the same thing to fill the water towers? 

Many towns/neighborhoods now have community gardens, as this one pictured on North West College’s campus.  They encourage people to be closer to their food source, eat more fresh vegetables, and, hopefully, eat those with fewer chemicals/fertilizers. Great.  As I was working with my sister Monday in the community garden in which she volunteers and has her own garden, two women were there taking soil samples.  They are part of a project testing lead levels in gardens around Philadelphia.  Wow.  It never occurred to me to think about what had been on the site previously (probably houses) and the danger of lead in the soil!  They said that raised beds are better to avoid contaminants.  And, some plants, like sunflowers, take lead out of the soil – a good thing, but gardeners should be careful not to compost the stalks or they will just put the lead back into the ground.  Sunflowers also remove arsenic, zinc, chromium, copper, and manganese from the ground.  Other plants are also used for this purpose; it’s called phytoremediation.  (See for an intro to the subject.)

What is it about the US and guns?  Why is it so important for people to insist on owning handguns whose only purpose seems to be killing people?  I know that second amendment is important to many and I am not against hunting and gun ownership.  I don’t understand, however, the recent trend in some places to openly carry guns into public places – these people have a permit to carry a concealed weapon but it is not kept concealed.  The result is signs like this one on the doors of college campus and other public buildings.  (I am not mentioning the US’s other obsession with smoking that often provokes a slow, miserable death.)  We live in a world of extremes.  (Yes, I know CAR has its own problems with extremes…)

Summer Missionary Conference
Once a year about half the mission personnel from around the world meet with those from Global Mission in Chicago.  That means each of us goes every other year.  GM personnel prepare a theme that carries through sessions each day; this year it was migration.  How appropriate since the problem of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children crossing the US/Mexican border dominates much of our news recently.  Our theme, though, was much broader.  We considered the story of Joseph and his brothers – each of whom migrated to Egypt at some point (and not always willingly either) – immigrants from Europe (to colonies and the new world) – and later immigrants to Europe and the US.  Sometimes immigrants were/are welcomed, but often they were/are not.  Still, they followed the resources that they believe(d) were/are necessary for them to live.  Issues are complex.  I was glad to have time to reflect on some of them and hear others views.  (“Solving” the immigration problem was not the objective at these sessions.)

The conference also provided time to reconnect with people I met two years ago, meet new people, and discuss our work.  This also included time to meet with the Madagascar, West and Central Africa team and its leaders.  (Yes, that’s a mouthful.  I think Rev. Dr. Andrea Walker will need a new, larger business card now that she has had two countries to her portfolio!)

Thursday evening we had a reception, then dinner to honor personnel completing their service.  Wonderful tributes and excellent food. 

On Friday, the West/Central Africa team led the final worship service with commissioning of new missionaries.  We shared elements of liturgies from the countries where we work and divided speaking parts.  Jackie Griffin and I used our Biblical storytelling skills for the old and new testament lessons (Ruth 1 and Matthew 24:13-35, the road to Emmaus).  Rafael Malpica, Willie Langdji, and Chad Rimmer drummed as Dr. Abe (and others) accompanied congregational singing.  It was a moving service. 

I am now back in PA for some down time before I head back to Cameroon. 

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading about your travels, Susan! I especially enjoyed the photos of SMC. Safe journey back to Cameroon!