It’s been exactly a week since I arrived in Munich at the Jugendwohnheim St. Ermelinda, a kind of dorm for female students and apprentices, run by the Salesian sisters. I did not have many expectations coming into this experience, but I still managed to be caught off guard a bit. I imagined myself being here for the girls, helping the new ones move in, showing them around etc. Somehow it slipped my mind that I would also be one the “new ones”. For the first few days, all the sisters had to show me how everything worked (not that they’re done with that), and the girls that had already lived here for a few years showed me around the town a little. (Thank goodness for this one very outgoing Polish girl who invited me to join her on several outings, and who can keep a conversation alive!) I was kind of frustrated with this situation—I was there to help them. Then I remembered that I couldn’t be there for the girls nearly as well if I didn’t experience the things they experienced. I had to be the small-town stranger in the big city, staring wide-eyed at the metro plan and fumbling with my map, before I could help the other new girls find their way.
So far my jobs have been great amounts of housecleaning and list typing (both very typically German I think), dish washing, manning the reception desk and locking the doors to the dorm at night. Eventually I hope to do some spiritual activities with the girls, but Bavaria still has vacation, so there aren’t that many people here right now.
I think perhaps one of the hardest things about being here will be convincing myself that it’s actually worth it. I’m still struggling with that feeling that I should have gone to a third world country, especially while hearing about the German VIDES volunteers who went to Zambia and (I think) Venezuela. I almost don’t dare call myself a missionary, having visited a famous art museum (the Alte Pinakotek in Munich) my first weekend here, and being kept awake at night by one measly little mosquito. My relatives over here (of which there are many) seemed to not quite comprehend what I was doing here. Missionary work? We don’t need missionaries…And then I’m almost kind of jealous of all the girls who are studying at the university here, thinking that that could be me right now…Anyway, my consolation is the fact that all this craziness—flying all the way across an ocean to wash dishes for ten months—is for God. If the other girls see that I’m doing what I’m doing for God, then that will be a witness to God’s power and love.
In reading the above paragraph, please do not think that I am overwhelmed with negativity. I am enjoying getting to know the sisters and the girls and the city (and I am doing more than just dishes). It does seem as if the sisters could use a hand. Today one of the girls who’s been here for a while said that the sister more-or-less in charge seemed happier since I’d gotten here. Hopefully she was right. One beneficial thing about being here in Europe is that I will have ten whole months to focus on how to be a missionary, a witness to God’s love, in the same contemporary world that awaits me upon my return home.