> > > 8-month mission on "Mars": March 2016

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Connecting the dots

Here's an excerpt from one of my journal entries while living in the dome in Hawaii last year: "Even here in the isolated and confined environment of the dome, each day is a unique path or sequence of events that is difficult to predict, with weather patterns affecting our energy production and frequent interactions with each other impacting our thoughts and actions. But daily occurrences in the "real world" are even more unpredictable with the randomness in who you meet on the way to work, what you end up reading while you browse online, or where your friend takes you for lunch. All of these interactions with people, information, food, even the lighting or sounds in an environment can have an effect on your thoughts, actions, mood, and health. Our days may seem routine, and our options may be limited. But in reality, each day has an infinite number of possibilities." 

Given that our lives have such randomness and unlimited choices, it's noteworthy when a sequence of events are all pointing in the same direction. In my case, all roads lead to Gary, Indiana. With a heavy heart, over the years I have visited Gary to see my friend Michael and his daughter Laura, who are great inspirations to me. I revisited the Gary community again recently on my way to Chicago, wandering around abandoned homes, unfinished railroads, and vacant commercial spaces, slowly decaying until a day of demolition will come. 

In 2010 when I met a Gary native named Michael in downtown Lafayette on a Sunday afternoon. Both of us were feeling down and needing a friend, and we believe that God introduced us. I began to see Michael around more often and started to learn more about his life and the Gary community. Brewing in my mind and heart for a couple of years now has been this desire to develop educational outreach projects for students in Gary, Indiana.

About two weeks ago, the rumbling of this desire to make a difference in Gary was reawakened.. when I was part of the "Busy Students Retreat" at St. Tom's at Purdue. It may have also been provoked by my activities on the weekend prior, as I was reunited with some of the HI-SEAS crew facilitating outreach activities for young students in Fishers, Indiana at the Passport to Hi-Tech at Conner Prairie. We taught students about how resourcefulness is required on a Mars mission to make limited resources last for the long duration of 3 years! 

Outreach Event in Fishers, Indiana: http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2016/03/05/girls-become-scientists-day-conner-prairie/81267766/ photos of the crew and the two activities we facilitated about water filtration methods and how to study craters on the Moon!

When we were living in the dome, I had already mentioned to Commander Martha some of my ideas for the Gary project, since she's the expert on indoor gardening and renewable energy! My idea for Gary is transitioning some abandoned homes into sustainable food production facilities, since Gary is also known as a "food desert" with a lack of nearby grocery stores. This endeavor will require community support and technical help. While Martha was still visiting, I felt encouraged by my spiritual director Eileen to get better at communicating and reiterating my ideas to people. I had explained to Eileen that I feel God asking me to move forward with this, but I cannot do this project alone. Both Eileen and Martha helped me brainstorm and got the juices flowing again. And since then, it has been one improbable event after another.. I'm meeting all the right folks and connecting the dots!

Here's a list of some of the recent "aha" moments!  
1) Martha and Eilleen nurturing the vision for a Gary outreach project
2) Meeting Katie at Dorothy Day lecture, who described it as a "God moment"
3) My Jeep broke in Indy, so I needed to stay the night and wait for repairs. I stayed at my friend Linda's home, the fresh food haven of a master gardener!
4) Felt the need to deliver fresh foods to Michael in Gary on my way to Chicago
5) Wandered around Gary, felt alarmed by someone following me, so I pulled into a school's parking lot, then I walked inside and to my surprise I found the superintendent's office and the office for innovative outreach development!! 
6) Went to Fort Wayne for my flight to Florida and bumped into an old friend, who is an amazing witness to Christ, felt moved by the ideas I shared, and has started to make the connections to develop industry partnership for the project. 
7) Sat with a 6-year-old girl and her grandmother on the flight to Florida, a beautiful experience that showed me just how much I love interacting with young students and her grandmother knows some city officials in Gary.
8) Revisited the industry partners in Fort Wayne after my return flight, took a tour of their aquaponics facilities, building a team and working on the proposal!

God's providence is alive and orchestrating some beautiful teamwork. 
Gary, here we come! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary,_Indiana