Walking to Church

The summer I went to Europe was not the first time I had needed to find my own way to Church. That had occurred the year before, when I spent a month in North Carolina as a Benjamin Franklin Fellow. I hadn't done a very good job-- I was busy, and there were cultural activities each Sunday. And so I missed church for three weeks, until the spiritual hunger I felt grew deep enough to overcome my sense of awkwardness, and I asked if my host could drop me off at the nearby LDS chapel on the last Sunday of the program. 

I resolved after that experience that I wouldn't let awkwardness or someone else's schedule keep me from coming weekly to take the sacrament and worship my God. And so as I set out for Europe, I made a list of cities I'd be in for a Sunday, and looked up addresses for the nearest chapel to where I'd be staying. 

Walking to church in a new city each Sunday marked a turning point in my religious life. For the first time in my life, I was an adult setting my own schedule and traveling at my own volition. I had made the commitment of belief years earlier in life, when my father left the church, and I had developed my own relationship with God. But walking to church when it would have been so easy to do otherwise, and when no one but God would know or care, made that commitment real. 

I still treasure the memory of those walks and the church meetings that followed them. I could feel God answering my commitment with His own, and the spiritual experiences I had at those meetings continue to influence my life. 

One Sunday in particular stands out as one that changed the course of my life. I had been praying for several months before the trip about whether I should serve a mission for the Church. On Sunday in Prague, I asked for directions to the chapel I had looked up before leaving the States, and then started walking. I lost my way, had to detour around a major construction site, and finally arrived halfway through the sacrament meeting. 

As I sat in the back of that small chapel, listening to talks translated from Czech to English, I received the sudden, deep conviction that God wanted me to serve a mission, that it did matter, that the Church was true, and I knew it, and God knew I knew it. I have had few moments of such total clarity in my life. It was the answer to months of prayer and pondering. 

I don't think those prayers would have been answered if I hadn't walked to Church, and shown God that I was serious about listening to Him, that I was looking for an answer, not just going through the motions. I don't walk to church in a strange city very often these days, but I do believe that it's important to show God that I'm serious about my commitment and about the questions I ask. 



Well, there was a two-month post-drought after all. Sorry, dear readers, I guess I just can't be trusted.

In other news, I leave tomorrow to serve for two years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'll be serving in southern India, and for as long as I'm there this blog will sit dormant.

Whether I start it up again when I get back depends largely on whether it seems like a worthwhile project at that time. On the one hand, I'll have lots more adventures to share. On the other hand, I'll be crazy busy and who knows what other ways I'll find for sharing stories in the meantime. So we shall see, dear reader, we shall see.

In the meantime, my younger sister (can't call her little any more) will be posting my weekly emails home on my other other blog, singhgurion.wordpress.com. So if you'd like to keep up with me, look there.


One Year

This June is eerily like the last. I did some landscaping work for a neighbor but have no job for the rest of the summer. I recently conversed with high school administrators about receiving my high school diploma. In the evenings, I go out to meet with friends and talk about poetry, philosophy and religion. I'm trying to organize the basement, fix a bike, and get yardwork done, struggling against my own capacities for distraction and procrastination.

The main difference is that this year I won't be getting on a plane to England in three days.

 I'll be at home for a few more months, sleeping in late, catching up with old friends, making some new ones, and reading, reading, reading.  And then, hopefully, by the end of the summer, I'll be leaving for two years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This is the most important step I've taken in my life so far.  It's a decision I made, after years of expecting and thinking and doubting and at least a year of praying and pondering, about a year ago, in Prague.

Someday I should tell that story.


Where I've Been Since March 24th

The problem with not updating a blog is that not-updating quickly becomes a vicious cycle, a pernicious habit.

I think my absence began with a week of mild depression when nobody commented on my brilliant post about doner kebab and the Reichstag. Also, I was starting to prepare final papers for two of my courses, and the research and drafting for those began to consume much of my time.

That weekend I went to the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology annual conference, which was an entirely new and exciting world. Thinking about what I'd heard there kept me busy through General Conference, which gave me plenty more to think about.

And there were still those papers. Before this year, I never thought I'd enjoy writing a twelve-page essay, but I enjoyed writing these (most of the time-- I didn't enjoy it when I was up until 6 in the morning attempting to string together two major sections of my argument, only to give it up for another day.)

Then came exams, and then the drive home to Ohio, and then after 4 days at home I headed off to meet N. for a small reprise of our travels. I stopped to visit friends of a friend near Philadelphia, and then met up with him in NYC. We spent three days there with my sister, a day in New Haven (primarily at Yale's Peabody Museum) and then two days at Brown (where N. goes to school) before he had exams and I went to Boston (stories from this trip to come.)

On the bus, I read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

These last two things (the East Coast trip and my reading of Calvino) may bring changes to this blog. I've decided to expand the scope from my trip last summer to all of my traveling, and I may start experimenting with the sort of view of a city offered by Calvino.

And hopefully there's not another two-month post drought.


Reichstag and Doner Kebab

When I first saw the mirrored cone inside the Reichstag dome, I didn't think of ice cream. I thought of Doner.

The Doner Kebab, to all who have never experienced the joy of this sandwich, ubiquitous on Berlin's streets, is the main product of almost every Middle Eastern restaurant in the city (or at least every Middle Eastern restaurant cheap enough for me to eat on my college-student budget). A shop generally advertises its doners through the presence of a dondurmek in the window.

The Reichstag's rain cone looks to me just like the meat on a dondurmek:

Doner kebab is, by now, one of the most popular foods in Germany. It's also common in the rest of Europe (the first dondurmek I ever saw was in Paris.) But as Turkish as doner kebab looks and tastes, it's as German as the Reichstag, invented by a Berlin fast food vendor in 1971. Since that time, doner kebab had migrated across Europe back to Istanbul, where it's almost as popular as it is in Berlin, proving once again that the world is far stranger than we could ever hope to imagine.

Next week: a slightly more serious look at the Reichstag building.


Mirror, Mirror

This mirrored cone hangs in the dome of the Reichstag Building. Its chief purposes are to collect rainwater and to look awesome.

Next week: what the mirror cone has in common with a fast food sandwich.