Day 1 on the job

Amber and I woke up today. That was a great start to the week. And we both headed off for our first day at our new jobs, Amber at the Binghampton Development Corporation (see sidebar) and me at Christ Community Health Services.

More specifically, I am working with Christ Community Ministries and a new outreach to the somewhat large and previously ignored refugee community here in Memphis. This specific ministry is headed up by Nathan and Steve, the latter of which I will be working with more directly. There are also a few other interns I am working with: Catherine, Peter, Madeline and John. I am so pumped about the team I get to work with!

Our first week is going to pretty much be an orientation to a world that is much different than the one we all have mostly grown up with. Today, Nathan, Steve, Peter, Catherine and I (the other two will arrive later) spent the morning sharing our stories with one another and praying for each other. I was really moved by what God has been doing in their lives - what a great way to start our year together.

Steve took us out to lunch at Soul Fish, which was another fantastic selection - I've tasted some great food down here! Afterwards, we spent some time studying Colossians 4:2-6 and 2 Peter 4:7-11, to lay some framework for our ministry this year. We wrapped up the day by gaining some orientation to the specific refugees and apartment complexes we will be working with, as well as familiarizing ourselves with Catholic Charities which is the current receiving organization for these refugees.

I couldn't have asked for more for our first day on the job. It's going to be an emotionally and relationally taxing year, but an incredible opportunity to love and serve a marginalized group of "the nations" right here in Memphis.

Close By

And I thought Amber and I were super lucky to have the brand spankin new Champaign Library less than a mile we have the supersized Memphis Library also less than a mile away. Only bummer is that we don't get free DVD rentals down here...guess our movie watching quota will plummet.

Preparing for what's ahead

Amber and I don't start our new jobs until Monday, but yesterday I got a call from my "boss", Steve. He was trying to juggle two different refugee families who needed transportation, and he said he would possibly need my assistance. One family of six needed to visit the dentist, the other was an emergency involving a mother going into labor.

I had to stop for a moment and take a deep breath: I'm not in campus ministry anymore! Not only will we be working with adults and children, but they are refugees from war-torn nations trying to survive in a foreign land.

It turned out that Steve survived the day without my assistance, but it was a good wake up call to prepare for the work ahead. Steve took Amber and I and two of my new co-workers, Catherine and Peter, out for dinner last night. We went to Young Ave Deli, a local fav. The sandwiches were creative and tasty. The sweet potato fries were probably the best I've ever had and I was also introduced to deep fried artichoke hearts. Yum!

Better than the food, our new friends are awesome. Random fact of the day: all four of us working with Refugee Resettlement this year took Latin in high school. Weird.

Southern Shower Curtain

Amber and I couldn't find our shower curtain rings for the longest time. This was my makeshift shower curtain holder. Who says I'm not putting my Engineering degree to good use!

Wednesday Update

For the past five days, Amber and I have largely been settling into our house. And today, I can say, that apart from hanging a few pictures, we are done! Knowing that we are likely only going to be in this specific house for one year (it is owned by SOS and provided for Academy interns each year), we were extra motivated to get things arranged quickly so we could maximize our use of the house without our stuff being scattered everywhere.

Today we hopped over to SOS headquarters (only a few blocks away) to grab a few tools to start attacking the yard. It's nice having a "free" hardware store at our disposal! We trimmed some bushes and raked the yard, which is weird b/c neither of us have had a yard before that we are responsible for.

Last night, Eric and Shelly and their two kids stopped by the house. Eric is a former SOS director and former SOS Academy director. He and his family will be moving to Montana in a couple months, where Shelly will be starting a new job at a hospital. They have a boy and a girl; their daughter was just adopted five months ago. I don't understand the whole process, but basically they were on a list to adopt a child from Memphis and they could receive news that a baby was being given up at a moment's notice. And that's what happened. Whoa!

We also met our next door neighbor, Hah, who is Vietnamese. He doesn't speak much English!

New Beginnings in Memphis, Tennessee

Driving east on I-40, we were about seven miles from our new home, I turned the wheel, steering our 12' Penske moving truck onto the ramp for Danny Thomas Blvd. Amber was trailing in our Buick Century with her mom in the passenger seat, my parents in tow and Amber's dad and his friend forming the caboose. The nerves and excitement were surging through my veins. My stomach was turning circles like a load of laundry. Are we really moving to Memphis?! What are we getting ourselves into?! We need you, Father!

We drove down Poplar Ave, passing familiar sites from previous visits. Amber turned into SOS headquarters to pick up the keys to our new home, a house we had only seen from Google Street View when we were mailed the address. I led the rest of the caravan down the street a couple more blocks to Collins and took a left. The excitement was building; we were almost there! We passed the home of Ms. June where our team worked this past Spring; the grass seed we planted had turned into a lush green yard! One more block. I turned left into our new neighborhood to find a quaint home with a front porch and a porch swing. Amber pulled into the drive just a few minutes later and in a rush of excitement we unlocked the doors and hurried inside to get a good look.

Our house is incredible! SOS has really treated us quite well. It is very clean and updated. Plenty of space. Hardwood floors and windows in every room. A spacious backyard with a fire pit. Right across the street from an active park where we have seen several kids playing soccer already.

Within minutes, Amber's new boss, Robert, arrived to welcome us to the neighborhood. Towering about eight inches over my head, Robert was super friendly and very hospitable. About 10 guys and gals from SOS and the BDC drove up to unpack our things and 25 minutes later it was all unloaded! A few other new friends popped in throughout the day to welcome us to the neighborhood and see if we needed anything. We have been overwhelmed by everyones kindness and hospitality. We were especially blessed to have our parents there with us to help us unpack and clean (your stuff gets kinda dirty while in storage for three months).

We took our parents out for dinner at Corky's before they left and dad said that the Memphis dry rub ribs were the best he'd ever had. The fresh peach cobbler wasn't too shabby either!

Philip, the director at SOS, and his wife, Kelsey, invited us to worship with them yesterday and then over for lunch with a bunch of folks who have worked with SOS summer staff in the past. We had a blast getting to know some folks our age, and to hear their stories about living in the neighborhood.

I've shared a lot of facts here, but in terms of how we are doing: we have faced occassional nervousness, but all in all, we are doing great! We are really enjoying Memphis so far! The people and the weather have been fantastic. God is good and he is with us.

More updates coming soon.