Wednesday, November 05, 2008

ACTS Week 9

The ninth week of ACTS was pretty sweet, because we did a lot of stuff I had never done before. Namely- pressed cider, held a pie auction, and had a car wash. So brace yourselves, this could be a long one.  It was also interesting because it was World Missions week, and my friends Eli and Hollie Moyer were here to teach us about the history of missions, and all number of cross-cultural concerns, issues, and idiosyncrasies that arise when living in a foreign country.  As noted in a previous blog, we woke up Monday morning to find ourselves with no power and no water, and just had to DEAL.  Because unlike America, in many places in the world, that kind of thing happens with some frequency.  We also experienced a variety of foods and ways of eating- on the ground or with our hands for instance.  Or on the ground AND with our hands.  That was rice and beans.  All well and good, but my favorite part of the week was when we learned dramas- a variety of silent skits that convey the good news of Jesus in allegorical form, silently, using nothing but our actions to tell a story.  This stretched some people much further than most anything we’ve done, but it presented yet another great challenge to grow together as a team.  As did bucket showering.  And no, we didn’t go the whole week without water.  Don’t worry, I didn’t join some coercive cult where they make us sleep in mud huts and build our own fires.  They give us matches.

So, back to the fun events.  First cider pressing.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, we live on an apple orchard.  With quite the variety of apples, I might add.  Every day during our break in class I walk outside, ponder what kind of apple I would like to eat, and then go pick one straight off the trees.  It’s one of those small treasures that I value immensely.  But with all these apples, we need to do more than just eat them whole.  I have to say, there are few “fresh” things that are better than fresh apple cider.  The difference between freshly made apple cider and store-bought is such that once you drink fresh apple cider, you almost cannot stand anything else.  Because anything else just makes you think how AMAZING the other stuff is, and you get all sad and mopey.  And sit in a corner and cry.  Ok, maybe that’s just me…  On this “list” of way-better-fresh-than-packaged (that I’m making up right now, since it’s an interesting thought) I would include tuna (it’s like the canned stuff is a whole different substance), corn-on-the-cob (I never buy it in a grocery story, I have never in my life found any that is halfway decent.  Sorry, I’m a snob), and pasta (if you’ve ever had fresh homemade pasta, you know what I mean).  Those are just a few in my list.  Back to apples. 

The long and short of is that we took apples and made cider from said apples.  Had you asked me, I would have said it was a jiffy little process, over and done in an hour or so.  I would have been wrong, so I’m glad you didn’t ask me.  This is kind of a big process.  You have to put the apples in big garbage cans, first to wash them of the pesticides, then in one with a little bleach to further kill all the crap they spray.  Then you throw them into the little grinder machine which spits out ground apple.  Once the bucket is filled with ground substance (~150 apples which will make ~2 gallons of cider) you turn a crank to lower a lid and press the apples, and voila, out comes liquid into a bucket below.  Only you don’t drink this cider (though you could), you have to first strain out any chunks that got through, then boil it.  And after all this, you have fresh apple cider.  And it’s not like you just up and decide to make a gallon here and there.  This is a “go big or go home” kind of thing.  Multiple people, multiple hours, multiple garbage cans full of apples.  We’re talking on the order of a thousand apples.  But oh how worth it to taste your first sip!  I recommend pressing your own cider at least once in your life; it’s tremendous fun and has great payoffs.

Later in the week came the weekend, and it was to be our fundraising extravaganza weekend.  Saturday night was a dinner/pie auction.  We had a Mexican theme (fancy that- we’re going to Mexico and had a Mexican themed dinner!), invited a few dozen couples, baked a few (ok, 16, though some were donated) pies, and voila- a pie auction was born.  It was an all-day affair.  Cooking, baking, timing, decorating, and practicing some of our skits to share with our guests.  I am sure you would be shocked and surprised to find out that your resident bloggerette was the emcee for the evening.  I know, I know, TOTALLY out of character.  But alas, I was.  It’s funny, because though I am relatively (ok, really) outgoing, no one here had yet seen the “performer” in me.  Getting up in front of a bunch of (mostly) strangers and making a total fool of myself.  One of my favorite things to do. 

I am sure you would also be shocked to know that I made a movie.  Wait, that actually may be shocking.  By “movie” I mean a five minute informative video consisting of clips from interviews with the team on what they’ve been learning, what they expect when they get to Mexico, and how our guests could be praying for the team.  I did the interviewing.  With some crafty editing (it’s all about the editing!), we had ourselves some good material.

So we served dinner, we entertained, we performed, and finally we auctioned.  Had you asked me, I would have said the pies would go for $20-40, maybe $50 if it was some kind of wonderful.  Again, it’s a good thing you didn’t asked me, because I would have added another notch in my incorrect belt.  Pies sold for a minimum of $50, and upwards of $100 for many.  The top pie went for $130, and my lovely fudge sold for a whopping 85 buckaroos. Hot-diggity-dog.  What a blessing beyond my wildest hopes and expectations!  God is so sweet, using normal people at a simple pie auction to bless our team.  So.  Awesome.

Finally on Sunday we held a car wash.  Given that things come in threes (you know- stooges, Snap/Crackle/Pop, triplets, God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit), this is the third example of a “if you had asked me” where I would have been wrong.  While I was not exactly dreading the car wash per se, I was not particularly thrilled about washing cars for four hours.  Outside.  On a Sunday afternoon while my New York Times Sunday Edition was sitting on my bed still neatly folded.  A hearty helping of selfishness perhaps?  Touched with a side of doubt about whether it would even enough money to be “worth it”?  Yes, please.  I was all, “Well I never stop for car washes.  Who ACTUALLY stops for car washes?” As it turns out, a whole heckuva lot of people. You know why?  Neither do I.  But gosh golly, they came.  Often all at once, which is so typical.  We would all be sitting around for 10 minutes with no cars to wash, and then 8 would come at once.  Classic. 

I am sure you will again be surprised to find out that my main responsibility was to stand on the side of the road (two lanes both ways, along a main drag with strip-mall-like shopping centers, plenty of traffic lights) with a neon yellow cardboard sign that read CAR WASH.  And act like a complete and total fool.  Well, maybe I added that part on for my own amusement.  Let me just say- there is nothing quite so able to force you out of self-conscious mode as standing on the side of a busy road hopping up and down, screaming, and doing SNL-style cheerleading.  By yourself.  After a few hours (and temporarily sign-holding relief to participate in washing) I decided that my wimpy CAR WASH sign was not effective enough.  So on the other side I wrote, HONK FOR JESUS.  AND CLEAN CARS.  Suddenly my amusement, fun, and energy was kicked up a notch.  And my fellow ACTS-mates were also encouraged because suddenly there was honking.  Not out of anger or annoyance, but pure joyous cacophonous honkage.  It was great.  Simply great.  And you know what, even if only 1% of the cars that drove by that day actually stopped at our car wash, I would say that 90% of those that drove by smiled.  And you know what, I consider that a success in and of itself.  There is way too little sillyness and smiling in this world and far to much seriousness and snarling.  As it goes, those 1% amounted to quite a few cars, and quite a few generous donations to our cause, adding blessing upon an already joyous day. 

So I stand corrected on all three accounts.  Cider is not terribly easy to make, even something as simple a pie auction can be an immense fundraising tool, and car washes can be fun (and make money to boot!).  All three are simple yet teachable moments, when approached with the right heart, mindset, and attitude.  We just need to have eyes to see and ears to hear.  And be teachable.  God is sweet like that.  So so sweet.

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