Letters From America So Damn Lucky

From “Natasha McGill”

Subject Letters From America So Damn Lucky

Date Sat, October 2, 2004 6:05 am

To tashmcgill@maxnet.co.nz

Reporting live from the Mothership of All Motherships.

Here I am at Willow Creek Community Church. I could tell you about the brand new auditorium that they just opened, that seats 7000. Or about the 25,000 people that came through the doors last weekend. I could tell you about the lake, and the landscaping, or the water feature in the lobby. But it wouldn’t be fair to comment on those things when I haven’t figured out what they all mean yet.

So I can tell you about the people.. Had lunch with the Student Impact staff. They work with senior high schoolers, a ministry of more than a 1000. The kind of ministry that has youth pastors, small group pastors, worship pastors, counselling pastors and administrative staff just for one small bracket. Also had a meeting with one of the people from Axis, which is the 18-30 ministry.

They’re good people. An enormous number of them are relatively new and they are all asking the same questions of post-modernism and what that means for us and the people that we are leading, and those who are leading us. And the questions are the same.. how can you make this work, what must be sacrificed for the sake of wider community etc etc etc.

Being in a place this big, where there are so many people who ‘belong’ but the definitions of community are challenged by logistics… makes me glad for the fact that I could recognise by sight at least most of the people that I see azs part of the Windsor Evening Community on a regular basis.

But all that church and work talk aside…

Chicago. Windy City.. although I haven’t figured out if it earnt that name for the hotwinded politicians and mobsters, the actual wind.. or immense number of jazz and blues musicians here. The atmosphere and character oozes out and around every pavement and sidewalk.

Chicago feels like the first real city that I’ve set foot in here in the States. The people feel real, the buildings are old and beautiful, the air is clean.. err.. cleaner, than in LA. The train track that runs through the city, the architecture of the skyline is stunning. Haven’t made it to the Frank Lloyd Wright memorial yet, but that is on the cards for the weekend. I have spent a couple of days downtown though.. street crawling and capturing the sight and colours and light of a city like this. The way the sun sets over the horizon of Lake Michigan and reflects of the wall of glass that is the skyscraper outline. The gracious view of Chicago’s sprawling city suburbia filled with brownstone and redbrick from the skydeck on Sears tower.

I submitted to the tourist pull and walked thorugh Navy Pier, rode the Ferris Wheel, took a speedboat tour of the shorefront, and I’m hoping to the architectural river tour this weekend too.

Michigan Avenue is one of THE places to be in Chicago. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Tiffany’s, Bvlgari and etc etc etc.. line up along what’s termed the Magnificent Mile. So I went into Bloomingdales, cos I’m after the pan-ultimate American experience.

If you’ve seen ‘What Women Want’ where Mel Gibson walks into the department store and just is swamped in a sea of women’s voices.. it was actually like that in real life. I stood and watched, just observing old ladies in Chanel suits wearing diamonds set in platinum that could sink ships.. I couldn’t help but feel.. well, distinctly out of place, but also disappointed to discover that the heart of all the Hollywood exaggeration.. doesn’t exaggerated the radical dependence on the external to minister to the internal. Beauty counters set in for metres and metres, while just a couple of blocks away, the darkness of the crowded housing, all black neighbourhoods, covered in litter and grime and sadness sits in the shadow of the high-rises.

Yeah.. typical I know. It’s the same old same old to come and be horrified by the wealth of some and the poverty of others, but it would be irresponsible to pretend like it’s not the case. So I’m not cheesy.. I’m just real.

After a hard day of travelling the streets of the city, went to Giordanos for pizza. A traditional deep-dish Chicago style pizza. Kinda has to be seen to be believed, but the cops in the booth just down from us, with thick Chicago accents, the Italian/Greek metropolitian flavour of the place seems to be just right.

Anyway.. the flavour of the place is hard to capture in a series of letters and words. But I’m loving it. Chicago is a place I could live. Defintely a place I could live. Off to find music and madness tonight. What I haven’t found is a cup of coffee worth drinking. Watched the presidential debate last night.. couldn’t help but like some of what George W. Bush has to say. I’m watching myself before entering into too much political discussion though.

Where I’m staying in Chicago is actually covered with pictures of New Zealand, my hosts were just there. I missed home for the first time the other night.. but there is still a lot of travelling to be done. I’m looking forward to all the conferences being over and getting to see my uncle and Danielle, Natasha and a few other friends.

There is a big ol’ message stirring up within me at the moment.. decisions that I made before leaving home that have solidified and choices that I have coming up expanding.. and so that’s exciting. I realised before I left that I’ve been slowing losing my edge.. it’s been dulled by circumstance and choices, and that’s not okay with me. So I’m resharpening the blade. Here’s hoping that journey will continue to unfold when I get back, and it will help you resharpen yours too. I’ve discovered that it’s better if you take your life with you when you go somewhere.. so in a sense, y’all are here with me. You are in my thoughts and prayers.. and your influence travels with me. So much things to say.. starting with, I’m so damn lucky to have been given what I have, and to be entrusted with you, to journey with.

Thanks for your emails and text messages etc. Brightens my days.

May you be Present in the moments you are in.

May you be Present with each other, and honest.

May you be Present with the Father, and loved.

Tash xxx