I dropped the blogging ball regarding the last three days of SIMStart! I’m home now and trying to process everything. It was a good weekend, but I feel more overwhelmed and a bit more confused than I did before going. But first, a quick overview of what we did:

After Friday morning prayers I headed over to the medical office to have blood drawn. They test for Hepatitis C, HIV, and some sort of enzyme that determines what kind of malaria medications you are able to take. The nurse, Erika, was very kind and when I told her that I was considering doing a guest house position, she was very excited. She’d served in West Africa, in Benin perhaps, and she said she was always so thankful to have a place to get away to and listening ears at the guest house. It was interesting to get her perspective on the position.

After that I went to meet with the long-term coordinator, Patricia. She talked with me about my desired placement and I tried to get my head wrapped around how the timeline would work with the position being filled. Later in the day she gave me a packet of information that the Peru field gives to new comers and it explained that every long-term person is required to take language school for 12 months. So, if I understand correctly, a possible scenario is that I attend SIMCO (Candidate Orientation) in July, begin support-raising in August, take (hopefully) 6-8 months to raise support, go to language school in the US for 2 months in February and March (while the last of the support comes in), leave for the field sometime after that (like mid to late April?), and then take 12 months of language school in Peru. Thus, I wouldn’t be taking over the guest house until about April of 2012 when the contract they are in would be up anyway. At least, I think that’s what I’m gathering.

The third item on my agenda on Thursday was meeting with one of the psychologists, Tom. Thankfully my psychological testing did not indicate that I’m crazy. The 16PF test was something like the Myers-Brigg test. It was simply one that reveals your personality tendencies in a way that isn’t right or wrong, rather just things to be aware of so that you know how you interact with other people. The other test, called the MMPI-2, was one that’s designed to test all sorts of things and point out psychoses, if they exist. There’s a middle or normal range for that test, and then it’s possible to be above or below the normal range. Not only was I entirely in the normal, healthy range, but my line had so little variation that Tom actually said it was a concern. He indicated that it might mean that I was highly conscious of controlling my emotions. He encouraged me, with sweeping hand motions, to be free in Christ – free to be who I was designed to be. His facial expressions reminded me of Jack Nicholson, so just imagine the Joker telling you to be free in Christ and you’ll have the picture.

The afternoon was wide open for me, so after lunch I spent some more time talking to Carol, who had done my second interview on Day 2. She and I had a great chat and I have a feeling I’ll be dropping in to see her at SIM before too long. I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on emails on my work computer and watching some of the field videos with some other SIMStarters in the residence hall. It was quite neat to have the opportunity to meet other people who are pursuing similar goals in life. There were about 10 singles there and so we had the second floor of the residence hall to ourselves. It made for some great chats.

That was the night I stayed up later than any other. I learned to play the card game of “Scum,” so that was fun. SIM has a couple of the Regional Directors come in for each SIMStart so there is one (or one couple) per floor of the residence hall. One of the couples was Jim and Shari Ardill who are from California. Jim is the one who made me cry in my first staff interview. They were in Africa when they were on the field and they apparently spent a great deal of time playing cards there. We had a really great time learning and playing “Scum.” They had some extra additions to the game that included the ability of the “Scum” to create and police one rule per round. Anyone caught not following the rule became scum the next round. During one round the rule was that you couldn’t show your teeth. Try doing that when you’re laughing hysterically!

Saturday morning, Day 4, we started with a talk from the Short-Term mission coordinator, Bob Hay, on “The Road to the Mission Field.” It was a great talk, in my humble opinion, and one that I might have really benefited from even more if I’d heard it upon arrival on Wednesday night. I completely understand why the schedule was put together as it was, but it was one of those talks that really gave some good insight into the process. I might have had different questions to ask along the way if I’d heard it earlier, but regardless, I enjoyed it. Bob also gave a second talk on the SIM core value of “Committed to Biblical Truth.” It was an interesting, interactive session which helps us all stay awake on a Saturday morning!

In the afternoon we got two talks on the finances of SIM. Some of the people who are there are going on the field for less than 2 years, so they will all be starting their support raising immediately. Those of us who are going 2 years or more have to meet and be approved by the board of directors first. So, that being said, it was important for us to talk a little bit about “Relationship Development Ministry” which is another way of saying, “Building Your Support Team.” I have a feeling I’ll get a lot more of that sort of information in July, but it was a good foundation to start thinking about it.

Our financial speaker, Doug Christensen, had a second talk in which he gave us some basic, over-arching information on how individual budgets are put together. I had been waiting for this sort of information because I had no idea what sort of range my financial support goals would be in. I had some friends recently leave for the Czech Republic and their support (for a couple with one child) was $7,400 ($3,900 in salary and $3,500 in a ministry account) in ongoing monthly support and $55,000 in outgoing expenses. So, I wasn’t sure if I should be expecting half that much or something entirely different. Based on Doug’s information, it seems that the average single at SIM (average being in places all over the world) raises $2,400 in on-going monthly support (with an additional average of $300 for a ministry account) and about $20,000 in outgoing expenses. So, while it sounds like a lot of money, I was actually relieved because it seemed less than what I had anticipated! Of course, the range of monthly support for a single was $1500 at the low end to $3500 at the high end, so living in an urban city may put me closer to the high end. I will eventually get an individualized budget at SIMCO in July, but in the meantime, it’s nice to have reasonable expectations. I was also pleased to understand that the support budget includes plans for health insurance (and a small term life policy) as well as for retirement, two things which I was previously worried about.

Saturday night after dinner we had our fifth talk of the day on the SIM core value of “Strengthened Through Diversity.” One of the neat things about SIM is that there are sending offices all over the world. Thus, my future team in Peru isn’t made up of a bunch of Americans, but rather it will be a multi-national team who are united in Christ. I imagine it will present challenges, of course, but ultimately it’s such a beautiful picture of the body of Christ doing God’s work! I love that idea.

Whew! That pretty much sums up Day 4. We were all quite tired by the end of that day, so after a trip to Sonic for milkshakes, malts, and sodas, we turned in pretty early. It’s amazing how tired you can get sitting in lectures all day! I did a little reading before I went to sleep and read the entire packet of information that Patricia had given me about Peru on Day 2. It actually freaked me out quite a bit because it brought with it a real dose of reality. Some of the information was talking about what items to bring and not bring, and it just served to remind me of what a major change it will all be. I know it would be the same with any field of service, but I found myself a little more nervous as I realized that I would soon be making decisions about down-sizing and packing for the field!

Sunday was our last day at SIMStart. It included a worship service on campus and then closing interviews with the staff. The closing interviews were when SIM indicated whether or not they wanted to move forward with each individual and it was our turn to tell them if we felt like it was a good fit for us as well. I didn’t hear about anyone getting a “no” from SIM this time around, but I did hear about some “Yes, but…” invitations. Some people were required to finish school or seek counseling before leaving for the field. Most people are given a long reading list of books by the psychologists and apparently I was lucky to only be assigned two additional books to read before the field. As you’ve likely gathered from some of my comments earlier in this massive blog, I have been invited to move forward and I plan to attend SIMCO in July.

One of the things that I mentioned to Carol, who did my closing interview, is that I have a little bit of an unsettled feeling about the Guest House Manager position in Peru. I believe it stems from the few days where I thought that the position was filled and out of the realm of possibilities, but also because someone mentioned to me that I would do well with short-term mission coordinating in another country. I think, with those bits of info, I went into the SIMStart weekend expecting that something might change. When everyone was “full steam ahead” with the Guest House Manager position, I found it a little disconcerting because I was expecting to need to be flexible about my options. Now I find myself a little confused that something else hasn’t cropped up. I’m moving forward, but with a bit of hesitation since I almost sense that the path isn’t as straight as it currently appears. It’s going to be interesting to see where this goes!

What does my timeline look like now? It’s very hard to say for certain, but here’s my goal:

  • Now through July 10: Down-size the house and have a massive yard sale. I’d like to list my house on the market after SIMCO and I’ll need to get rid of as many things as possible prior to that in order to stage the house for showing it. I’ve collected plenty of junk and extra stuff in 7 years there.
  • July 10 – 30: SIM Candidate Orientation
  • August: List house on the market, start support raising
  • Mid to late January: Resign from current job (Support would need to be at 80% and house would need to be sold at this point).
  • February – March: Language Acquisition School with CIT (Center for Intercultural Training)
  • April: Leave for Peru

Now, that being said, this is my plan and since I’m about “that which He has for me,” this year, I have to recognize that those plans can be amended along the way. CIT offers the training classes that I need in February and March and again in late May through early July. So, leaving is somewhat contingent on getting funding to the right level in order to get into those classes at the right time. Additionally, I have to finish all the requirements for classes and readings before I can leave for the field as well, so that work needs to be ongoing this whole time. It’s lots to think about and juggle in the coming months!

Lest this blog get any longer than it already is, I’ll pause for now and post this. Thanks to everyone for your continued prayers for this process!