Sunday, February 16, 2014

During the past couple of years I never updated my blog much.  I don’t think I was the best match for the life I was living.  I love – like family – the people I was with, but … I was also missing my friends and family in Ghana.  I missed being busy; I missed having responsibility; I missed being trusted to actually do stuff, make decisions and see them through, even if it goes another direction from how things have been done.  I missed having to think, being challenged in ways where the outcome actually matters.  I missed also living and working in an environment where I could play an active role in making decisions for things that seemed important, where it felt my input mattered and I played a role and had responsibility towards the outcome – whichever direction that might go.

I also suddenly had wifi service and needed to learn how to manage unlimited internet browsing.  It was amazing how much more I could do when I turned on my laptop to do some work while in Africa and that was the only option I had – to do some work.  Suddenly, I could turn on my laptop and every time (well, most of the time, since the wifi wasn’t always working), headlines would appear!  Latest, breaking and oh-so-important news was right before my eyes – who wore what to the Oscars!! How big was that snake living under the house in Florida?  Who said what?  I’m still working on controlling this --- the most inane stuff suddenly becomes fascinating and takes up valuable blog-writing time (how much time did I just spend finding and watching the video of the cat jumping that a friend just told me about? And then links that came from it – and I’m not even a cat person!).

Anyway --- there were definitely some high points.  Aside from being closer to family and some friends in the US (definitely the best part of the past couple of years), one of the next best parts was when I did the field visits to our lay missionaries in West Africa about a year and a half ago.  I was actually trusted to have time with them, talk with them, observe how it’s going for them and for their mission assignments, their community life, their adjustment to African life, and for some, their preparations to leave all that and return to the US, seeing what’s next, etc.  I got to listen, be engaged, be responsible, and play a role with no micro-management going on over me.  Another high point was last year in April/May when I came to Rome for 4 weeks of meetings (yes, meetings were a high-point – can’t believe I say that).  All the SMA lay groups internationally were asked to submit a name of one of their lay missionaries to go to our General Assembly, where the heads of SMA meet every 6 years to vote for the leaders and the priorities for the next 6 years.  From the names submitted, the leaders in Rome at that time chose me to come represent all the lay missionaries at the Assembly.
St. Peter's Square, the Vatican, from the cupola of St. Peter's

me, on the cupola, after our meetings finished (pictures from the meeting wouldn't be interesting to show here)

Another high-point was our training from Jan-March last year.  I was the “tracker” for Jean, meaning that I met with her weekly to discuss how it’s going from her perspective and also from the perspective of the lay program.  It helped that she was from Wisconsin, so of course she had to be good (heh heh).  I enjoyed our tracking times – the exchange of honest communication and feedback.  And now she’s been in Tanzania for a year, and I love reading her blog updates – she’s a beautiful woman.

And then, there was "riding the pines" with Dan, Joe (more on him below) and Kyle - doing what's most important in life: just spending time with people you care about.

Back in June, last year, I got a call from our newly elected General Superior (can anyone believe it’s common to still use words like “superior” to refer to someone in a leadership position?  Anyway …. I guess that makes the rest of us … inferior – heh heh).  He asked if I’d be willing to come to Rome for the next 3 years and be the English Secretary to the General Council – or, the Anglophone Secretary to the Top Dogs – or, as someone said I should call myself, “SMA’s Secretary General”.   I had a week to think about it, and daily went back and forth on the decision.  “Live in Rome for 3 years!!! Hell yeah!!”; “Go be a secretary for 3 years …. uh …. what? Really? Am I really thinking about doing that? That’s crazy – my mind doesn’t stay awake in meetings.”  So, after the week of thinking about it, I told the General Superior that I didn’t know if it would be a good idea since I enjoy being “in the field” and working with people and I’ve never done this kind of work before – if I suck at it, then they’re stuck with me for 3 years (of course, there would be ways out, I’m sure), and if I don’t like it, then I’m stuck for 3 years (and I wouldn’t necessarily feel free to take a way out).  He suggested we could try it for a year, see how it goes, and take it from there.  I wasn’t used to a “superior” like this – who listened to my feedback and actually considered it, reflected on it, and came up with a reasonable suggestion.  Wow.  (And he doesn’t even know I have a blog, so it’s not like I’m sucking up at this moment.)  But, hearing his response encouraged me to accept this position (Secretary General – heh heh) – I’d be working with someone who takes input and feedback and actually thinks about it and comes up with some sort of option outside the box.  I liked the idea.

So – I moved to Rome at the end of September.

soon after arriving in Rome; 
with Joanna and Arie who were visiting.  It turns out these were not the Spanish Steps -heh heh 

And I’ve found it kind of amazing that I love it; I’m enjoying the challenge of a completely different role.  I enjoy translating from French to English – it’s like this puzzle, not just word-for-word, but trying to get the spirit and intentions of those words (who knows if I’ve been as successful with this as I hope I have been).  I’ve enjoyed (mostly) being focused in meetings and trying to get the key points out of all the rest of the talk that goes on.  And I’ve enjoyed the atmosphere of Rome, meeting the range of people who pass through the SMA house and the Italians I’ve met since being here.  I’ve enjoyed the attempts to learn Italian beyond being able to request pizza and bierra, or pasta and vino rosso. 

I also was given the opportunity to do another field visit to our lay missionary in Ghana.  He’s also amazing – he had returned to Ghana for his second commitment to working with the Liberian refugees, especially children with disabilities and malnutrition.  I was there 3 years ago when he first arrived and had his first 6 months in Ghana, then visited him a little over a year into his commitment for the field support visit I mentioned above, and saw him again last year in the US when he was back on leave.  Now, to see him in action again – he’s such a natural part of the life, and his heart is with the children and people where he is living and working.    
Joe, with one of his beautiful kids -- Sharon
 

All around – it was a good, inspiring and motivating visit for me.  Of course I took some vacation time to see my friends and the projects where I had been over the years:

me with Jethro, who I've written about, at Harmony Center

- -and (of course) there will soon be a blog entry about the visit, because (of course) there are a few people I’m still hoping to help with education and have no idea where to turn (as usual).


I’m a little envious of people in the US with this spectacular winter they’re having.  Wow.  Here, on 16 February, I sit on the floor, bare feet and window open.  Yesterday I had a picnic on a shore of a lake just outside of Rome.  It’s an unusually warm winter here.  My big decisions this winter have been, “hmm, how wide should I leave my window open today?”  I love the wintery winters of Wisconsin (OK, spring-like winter in Rome is also OK, but ….), where you run the risk of your nose freezing and falling off your face within 6 minutes of stepping outside.  It’s like how I remember winter from growing up, but…my memories could be off – maybe it was just a few days every year that were like that, and those wintery, blustery days stand out and override all the other days.  Anyway …. Enjoy.  

6 Comments:

At 6:43 PM, Blogger MJ said...

Great job of summarizing the last few years--and even managing to put in some pictures to go with it. I'm impressed that you were able to do it in what might seem to you an awfully long blog entry, but considering the years, was not only pretty short for the time it covered but really interesting, like all your entries are.

 
At 9:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you going back to Ghana any time soon? I think I'll be there all of April. If I come to Rome can I stay in the SMA house? I'll bring an air mattress and sleep on the floor! I do enjoy showers though. So great to see Joe!!!! Maybe when I'm in Ghana he'll take a break and come to the beach with me. Send me his contact info, please.
Florence, not that Florence the one that eats and talks about food while sitting on the beach Florence!

 
At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Loretta said...

You have had amazing experiences. I'm glad this is working well.

 
At 11:19 PM, Blogger Rick said...

Steve - great blog update and thanks for including the photos. Things sound pretty good, and the view from the cupola is amazing!

 
At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Father John said...

I am not sure I can to-day write in English. Since the many years I have been already spending here, I had so few opportunities to practice this beautiful language.
Je suis très heureux que tu aies pu trouver un poste qui te convienne à Rome. Je suis sur que tu y fais du bon travail. C'est toujours un plaisir de te lire et de voir l'intérêt que tu ne cesses de porter aux Africains les plus démunis. Pendant deux mois, nous avons la chance d'avoir parmi nous actuellement la chance d'avoir parmi nous le Supérieur Général. Il est vraiment courageux pour se mettre à ce dure travail à son âge. Cela a été pour moi l'occasion de quelques échanges intéressants.
J'ai reçu des nouvelles récentes d'Hope for Life par une amie française (mais ancienne professeur d'anglais) qui voulait se rendre compte sur place de ce que j'avais pu lui raconter. Elle est revenue enchantée de sa visite un peu trop courte (seulement quatre jours)
Sincère amitié et encore, merci.

 
At 7:59 PM, Blogger FLM France said...

Merci beaucoup pour les nouvelles.
Hélène

 

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