17 September 2011

Heads to Keep My Head

I knew going into this trip it was going to be bitter-sweet. I would spend time with people I love that I do not see very often, be in a place I enjoy, but that it was also a time to say 'good-bye' and bring closure to the "European" part of my life. A friend asked where in the world I was, I responded "I'm in my other home from a previous life." And that is the truth of it. Strange as it seems, Brno is in a sense "home." But it wasn't until today that I got that deep pang in the heart; the realization that I really do love Brno, love being with Bethany and Gloria, which filled me with longing to return, but knowing that I am saying "no" to this option in life. And if it weren't for my plastic baggie of heads, I might waver in that decision.

It started as just a silly idea sparked by photos from Becca and John's trip to South Africa. Something that would be fun and hopefully get a few laughs. With Charissa's amazing help I came to Europe armed with 20+ "Micah boys on a stick." The hope was to take photos using the heads, show the boys that even though I am traveling half way around the world - they are still in my thoughts. Plus, it makes some of the photos more interesting, in a quirky kind of way. But who knew that my desire for gag photos would be providential - or as Natasha put it: "So glad you have your heads to KEEP your head." Even though I had no idea I would need a reminder of a greater love than I have for my friends here, quaint buildings, yummy food, castles at every turn, history that goes back multitudes of centuries and cobblestone streets that test my ability to walk, when I packed my Micah heads, they have been providential. Always carrying at least a few with me hoping to find an inspired shot, and the interaction on Facebook after I post the photos, has kept me tied to Micah and my heart on course. Who woulda thunk!? Ahh... the providence of God - what a blessed thing!

15 September 2011

Let Us Not Forget

The need to weep is almost unbearable. I bite my lower lip in hopes of containing the whimper that threatens to escape; the shout of anger that rumbles inside. My undoing is the room with the hair. One long wall, behind glass, mound after billowing mound of hair. Locks cut from women who cannot object, their voices silenced forever by the gas chamber. The next room has a similar wall displaying braces, crutches, prosthetics and I want to scream - "Life is beautiful! Every person's life is beautiful! It should never be destroyed!" There are more rooms, more display cases - suitcases with names marked on them, eye glasses, shoes, kitchen wares. Then comes the display of prayer shawls hanging straight and lifeless. I scream inside my heart "Where were you God? Where were you when your people needed you?"


"God, I want an answer! God, I need to know You don't abandon your people; that You will not abandon me."

Quietly. "Jennifer, my sweet girl, I was there. With every person who suffered, with every child who cried in terror, with every resistance worker, with every person who spoke out against evil. I was there."

I remember my heroes of the faith, a big reason I am even here today: Corrie ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoffer. "Papa, help me not be silent in the face of evil. Help me not to forget the precious life being lost today to genocide, gendercide, sex trade, drugs, street life, glue. Help me be your agent of love; to be light in this dark world."

Our tour group moves on to Birkenau. On the grounds is a group of Israeli youth. As they walk the long road from the gates to the end of the camp where the crematoriums once stood they carry flags, a few musicians play a mournful tune. As I stop to take a photo of the last original rail car that brought people to this wretched place a tall youth with yamika carefully pinned talks on his mobile phone, his voice wavers and cracks as he talks through choked back tears. He is remembering his people. I silently pledge to him - "I will remember too." Let us never forget.

13 September 2011

Irony from Behind the Former Iron Curtain

In May 1995 I had just graduated from George Fox University and within three days of graduation, I boarded a plane for my first trip to Europe. I went with a group of students on a May Serve trip to Ukraine. Originally I was on the team for Haiti, but political instability caused that trip to be canceled and I was placed on the Ukraine team. After the month, I was smitten with Europe. I continued to return. A short term trip to Slovenia was next. Then my internship for Western Seminary in Brno, Czech Republic. I arrived sometime the first week of March 2001. Two weeks later Beth arrived. On her second day, being the savvy experienced intern that I was with my two whole weeks of experience, I was showing her the route to get to Gloria's house (our supervisor). As we walked to the bus stop at the end of our street, Kroftova, she shared how she had always expected to be a missionary in Latin America as she took Spanish in school. I explained how Europe was a perfect fit for me, and that I had taken German in high school and taken some Russian after my trip to Ukraine.  My focus had been Europe for the last several years - this is where I wanted to be. And so it was. After my internship I had every intention of returning long-term within a year or so. But I needed to go home first and finish up my program and get this health issue figured out. In June 2005 Beth and I returned for a visit to Brno - a friend of ours was getting married. I still had hopes of one day returning to Brno on a long-term basis. Come summer of 2009, God had been working in my heart and I knew Brno was no longer where I would be permanently. Honestly, I didn't know if I'd ever be able to do missions at all. I was living in constant pain from my back problem and if surgery in September didn't go well, I wasn't sure what my future would hold but I knew Brno would only be a place to visit.

It is almost two years exactly since my back surgery. I have fully recovered and the surgery was a phenomenal success! I still have to be careful at times and have a few limitations (bummer! no bungee jumping!) but I have my life back! This week I am visiting Brno and Beth, who is now living her full-time, Gloria is here too - I'm actually staying with Gloria. Beth, who thought she'd be going to Latin America is living in Brno for the indefinite future, and me, who always thought she'd live in Europe is on a course for Latin America. Oh, the irony!

08 September 2011

Only By Love

"The arms of love encompass you with your present, your past, your future; the arms of love gather you together." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Tuesday afternoon I sent my mother a link to a blog, that I picked up from Becca who posted it on Facebook. It was for a photographer who is on a short-term missions trip to Honduras at the moment and went with some people from the Micah project to visit the market district. I commented that I was kind of proud of myself for picking out JuanCa from the back of his head; the scar is rather distinctive.  Looking through the photos made me a little envious of this gals skills - I want to take great pictures like her! But it also made me homesick, on a day where I was already filled with longing to be in Honduras. 

Want to take a looksie at the photos? Start here.

Pretty great shots, right? Make sure to click on the link  to see more

The next morning - Wednesday - I found an email in my inbox at work, apparently I had sent the link to mom using my work email. 

"WOW...went through a gamut of emotions looking at the pictures.  From smiles to tears to ahhhh's back to tears.  I KNOW now that you have been called by God to go to Honduras.  You look at these pictures and you (Jenn)  are drawn in with your heart to the people and you ignore the streets and trash. (sorta)  I see how that could get to you and the work God has to do in a heart/mind to get beyond it.  Is there a smell too?  There must be.  These were really incredible pictures - felt like I was there, recognizing a few of the people.  Fab pic of JuanCa.  But when I saw that pic I realized the work God had done in his heart and life and the smile of a changed man. That going there means giving up the American life for the Honduran life, and loving a people addicted and dirty....not unlike the Hotel residents in  some ways.   I saw Honduras in a different way = a people made in God's image and a people God loves and children without many chances for a life without glue, needing someone to come alongside to help bring life to them. 

I trust in God's Name for you and in His promises to sustain you there and give you wisdom and His love to share with these wonderful people.  I love you so much and would be selfish without knowing that God is calling you and I would never stand in the way of what God is doing in your life. He has given you a heart sooo big it needs to be shared with these lovely people."

My mama! My eyes welled up and spilled all down my cheeks as I read that. And they still do. With her words she wraps her arms of love around me in the present, reminding me of my past, releasing me into my future, gathering me together in one cohesive whole. 

02 September 2011

More Communicator Entertainment

Jennifer Streger [9:27 AM]:
why are you in a meeting??
Jon Tasker [9:27 AM]:
cuz I'm a very and important person
Jennifer Streger [9:27 AM]:
Jennifer Streger [9:27 AM]:
you are very a person?
Jon Tasker [9:27 AM]:
what? that's the reason
Jon Tasker [9:28 AM]:
oh, yes
Jennifer Streger [9:28 AM]:
cool. you are special.
Jon Tasker [9:28 AM]:
my mind moves so fast that it doesn't NEED the words that other people need.
Jon Tasker [9:28 AM]:
ummm, cuz I set a reminder and forgot to uncheck the show as busy thing.
Jennifer Streger [9:28 AM]:
if it moves so fast, I bet you know what I'm gonna write next
Jon Tasker [9:28 AM]:
you can just talk in fragments and I'll understand
Jennifer Streger [9:29 AM]:
crashing... problems... Friday...
Jennifer Streger [9:29 AM]:
Jon Tasker [9:29 AM]:
ha, yeah, you didn't even have to say that much, i could tell from you sighs so early on.
Jennifer Streger [9:30 AM]:
oh, you are good. very person good!
Jon Tasker [9:30 AM]:
I AM a very person aren't I?!
Jennifer Streger [9:30 AM]:
so when?
Jon Tasker [9:31 AM]:
Jennifer Streger [9:31 AM]:
Jennifer Streger [9:37 AM]:
listo ahora??
Jon Tasker [9:37 AM]:
Jennifer Streger [9:37 AM]:

[We then left and went to Starbucks.]

01 September 2011

Battle of the Egos

Jon and I recently had to move cubicles. We now sit about 50 feet from where we used to (okay, I'm making that up - I have no idea how far it is really, but it's not too far), but now we don't have the special set-up that we requested. We have a full wall between us and sit 'stacked' instead of facing one another. Even though Jon is only 8 feet away, it feels a world apart. I miss him. Kind of pathetic, I know. We still talk, but mostly through Communicator. Like today...

Jennifer Streger [1:13 PM]:
ACK!! Thwarted once again!!! The miles listed were for ONE WAY not round trip! AHHH!!!! I actually need 10k more miles to make it work. This sucks.
Jon Tasker [1:13 PM]:
uhoh, of course, and WHY can you im me, and I JUST tried to IM you like 60 seconds ago and it wouldn't let me?!
Jennifer Streger [1:13 PM]:
because you are ridiculous
Jon Tasker [1:13 PM]:
ssssooo, no Honduras then?
Jennifer Streger [1:14 PM]:
Oh, no. I'm going.
Jennifer Streger [1:14 PM]:
Jon Tasker [1:14 PM]:
or you might have to actually work like 2 weeks in between trips as opposed to just one?
Jennifer Streger [1:14 PM]:
no WAY!!
Jon Tasker [1:14 PM]:
1 week work, 2 weeks vacation...I think you get different PTO than I do.
Jennifer Streger [1:15 PM]:
thats because I have more seniority
Jon Tasker [1:15 PM]:
Than who?! I'm the Content Support Wizard
Jon Tasker [1:15 PM]:
That's my new title
Jennifer Streger [1:15 PM]:
BUT I'm the queen
Jon Tasker [1:15 PM]:
hmmm, normally the queen HAS a wizard huh...who's over the queen??
Jennifer Streger [1:15 PM]:
the wizard always works for the monarchy
Jennifer Streger [1:15 PM]:
only God is over the queen
Jon Tasker [1:16 PM]:
hmmm, so CSG is my new title?
Jennifer Streger [1:16 PM]:
I'm thinking... NO!

and then our conversation turned back to business and the discussion of how to classify a specific DOR. I'll save you from the boring part and not include that exchange.