Unexpected New Directions

            It’s really a terrible shame that updating this has fallen off my radar to such a degree that I haven’t been seen here since February. It’s really full spring now, and the semester which fast approached when last I posted is now waning to its home stretch. This second semester has in many ways followed the pattern of the first and found its routines, but it has been by no means boring. I have every intent now, though, of throwing up several posts soon to throw some light to you, the curious, about how the last months have gone. They’ve been less excitingly brand new than the first semester, but more comfortable, and probably better overall. Life has been very good, and I’ll try to belatedly share some of the goodness. But I think I ought to begin my return to this site by sharing the unexpected news that has hung a gray touch of uncertainty over all the time since.

            Picking up from the last post: at the team meeting mentioned there (returning thence, I received the unexpected note which was the post’s subject) we were told to expect to receive shortly an email about news within Teach Overseas, our sending organization (to whom I and one other teammate were connected through GoCorps). We’d heard rough ideas about what the changes could be: alterations in fundraising requirements, restructured summer training program, rumored tweaks to other policies. I anticipated the message eagerly.

            What I didn’t expect was what we got. The first long paragraph sounded awfully foreboding if all it meant was fundraising schedule changes. The second, one sentence, dropped the bombshell: the organization had decided that its sustainability had run out, and that it would at the end of the school year, be ceasing all its operations and closing permanently. Wait, what? The simple version of the case is that the organization was deep in debt and their model was proving increasingly unworkable. The end.

            Of course the message was longer than that, but mostly I sat staring blankly at the screen for a little more than the next hour. This was not a thing which could possibly happening, but it was anyway. This kind of disconnect tends to shortwire something in my brain.

            I needed to escape somewhere. I dressed warm and left. My pathetic aerobic endurance and timing of crosswalks lasted long enough for me to run to the nearest bridge and across the river until, having run down some physical energy and out of mental focus, I stumbled to the edge of the frozen river and spent an hour telling God what I really thought of this development.

            The organization was doing good work, and taking a great approach to doing life-changing work around the world. Why was God closing that down? Why didn’t He want it? Because God uses organizations like this one, but He doesn’t need them – His Kingdom’s work in the world will not fail because of one company’s closing. But what about me? God’s work in the world, and in Russia, wasn’t ending, but maybe my time here was. I had been reluctant, a year ago, to commit to a two-year time, but had been happy recently to be sure of (at least) one more year here, maybe more. For once, I wasn’t stressing about where I was supposed to be next year. And now I was again. Why?

            But my being here in the first place was only because God had already taken away my previous plan – the January previous, I’d once before stared blankly at an email saying my plans for the year after school were gone, and it took a while to get back to trusting God to provide something better – and this had been it. Now why was this drying up too? But God had been faithful before, and would be again.

            Walking across the river, not the bridge, toward home, I did the best thing I could think of to do: I praised God. I praised Him for everything He’d done to bring me here, all that had happened here, and for whatever His plan was now. Then I ran home, knowing God was still going to be in control, even when the organizations serving Him come and go. Then I passed some drunk teens on the sidewalk and one started shouting “Eye of the Tiger” in English and I couldn’t help it: I smiled. Then I read the Psalms until I found one that hit home, and went to sleep having gone from a normal day to a disaster to renewed faith in about four hours.

            So, the obvious question: what now? I’d hoped to have the answer by now, almost three months later. But I don’t. There is a similar and like-minded organization that may be picking up my school relationships and continuing a similar work there. I may join them, and next year could be, in the end, mostly similar to this one (in situation, not in detail, I’m sure). But they’ve been very slow to proceed. Without them, I could negotiate with the university directly, sans organizational affiliation. Or… there are an awful lot of possibilities, or at least half-baked notions, about what I could be doing where next year, or even this summer.

            What I do know is that God is still working in Russia, and in me, and He will open doors and point the way – not on my schedule, it’s clear. But if His timing is usually later than I’d like, the results are better than I expect. So I wait. As if I had a choice.

            But even without knowing about next year, I can say one fear from that night on the frozen river that didn’t come to pass: suddenly faced with the idea that I might have only one semester more here, I hated the thought that even that semester, while I was here, would be useless – that my ability to invest myself wholly in my life and work here would be neutered by the approaching end here. That I would wonder why I should bother learning the language and investing in students, if there was no time in which to make a difference. That, gladly, has not been the case: I’ve thrown myself at this semester pretty well, I think, and good things have resulted. I don’t know what happens next, but I’m doing what I can while I can, and waiting to see where it all goes from here. Keep reading, and I’ll tell you what’s been going on, and when I know what’s going on after that, I’ll tell you that too.