Wednesday, May 25, 2011

For Better or For Worse... or For Real?

I needed to look at flashlights and headlamps.

Since I was in the area, I stopped by my friend, REI, to explore the options. This time, I was glad for my extreme familiarity with the store, since I was able to walk with utmost confidence to the lighting section…rather an interesting experience when you consider I was still in a dress and heels, having just been the pianist for a friend’s wedding (thankfully, I remembered to remove the corsage in the parking lot). Click. Click. Click. Talk about strange looks.

Later, I found myself in front of the hat section, since I don’t own one and really ought to bring one to my island nation. After I looked perplexed long enough, a salesperson stopped by. “Can I help you?”

“Oh yes,” I answered, “I need a hat for Papua New Guinea that won’t disintegrate in the damp and isn’t so expensive that if I lose it, I won’t feel devastated.”

He laughed, and began describing the virtues of one particular hat and then looked at me, teetering on the only (and last) pair of heels I own. “It’s one downfall…is, well,” he hesitated, “it’s not particularly fashionable.”

I snatched the hat from him and smashed it around my ears. “It’s great! I’ll take it.”

It certainly has been wedding season this May, with at least six of my friends tying the knot (and this weekend I will again slide behind the piano and attempt to time the processional to the walking speed of the wedding party).  As you know, I’ve also been getting into the spirit of things! After all, I’ve now created a gift registry, been thrown a shower, planned a honeymoon (according to the cashier), shopped in men’s clothing, and even considered apparel for starting a family!

However, it became apparent the other day that I was still missing a key element of the season.

The ring.

I don’t own rings—a fact that is rooted in my dislike for anything mobile on my hands (rings, bracelets, even watches). But, according to most travel experts, a single woman on the go ought to wear a wedding band for safety reasons.

So yesterday, my mom, grandmother, sister, and I went wedding ring shopping.

Here are the mighty shoppers ready to tackle this adventure!

As all good girl outings should, we started with lunch—at the Rainforest CafĂ©. Not only is the restaurant full of memories from my childhood, but it seemed a fitting beginning for a ring that will travel to the jungle.

Then we trekked over to Icing, by Claire’s, but we soon discovered that the bling on these rings was so ridiculous that getting mugged for a $10 rock seemed to defeat the purpose. Across the hallway was Nordstrom’s Clearance, and here we found a much wider selection.

Very wide.

Where does one start?

Another woman was perusing the racks alongside us as I tried on various rings, Hannah documented with photos, and we all kept up a lively commentary. No, this one is too tight. That looks too gaudy. I don’t think this is wedding-ring appropriate, do you?

I could see her eyebrows rising, like Sherpas in the Himalayas. My grandma turned to her, “We’re wedding ring shopping,” she explained. The woman’s eyebrows climbed higher. “For my granddaughter…she’s traveling overseas. She needs a wedding band.”

 Some wedding bands were wide (and felt like clumsy bandaids…). Some were so tight I thought I might lose circulation…some sparkled… some glittered…and some even had the engagement ring attached. Fake jewels abounded.

I found rings that imitated Princess Diana’s or the One Ring found on the floor of Gollum’s cave (I wasn’t sure if I wanted to risk being joined by eight companions and being compelled to chuck it in the nearest volcano). Some were terribly noisy, clattering and snagging whenever my finger brushed against the outside world, or were so bulky that my poor hand didn’t want to close.

I could practically hear the Hobbit music

Finally, we found it.

 Narrow, silver, no jewel. and most importantlycheap.

Let the wedding bells sound—Catherine found her ring! Now, all I need is the man :)

I'm not the only one trying to discover his whereabouts! One day, after a presentation, a man came up to me. “So,” he asked, “what does your husband think about all this?”

I thought he was joking. “Oh,” I smiled, “he’s been rather silent on the matter.”

You could have heard a pin drop. I realized with horror that he was serious.

His wife scooted closer and jabbed him with her elbow, whispering frantically, “Uhh, I don’t think she’s married!”

Although my husband didn’t have a lot to say in the decision-making process, it’s now time for him to become more vocal (or, at least no longer nameless)! As my mom, sister, grandma, and I sat on a bench outside of the store (and I practiced not jumping at the shock of seeing something on my hand), we attempted to conjure up a fitting moniker. To simplify paperwork, we decided to follow the matrilinear tradition and let him take my last name of Rivard. But as far as a first name…

  • Gus? (Groom Unknown Still)
  • Matt? (Man Absent 'Till Tomorrow)
  • Abe? (Arriving Boy Eventually)

What do you think? What should his name be and how did we meet?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Break

You haven’t heard from me as much recently for two reasons.

1)    Speaking and Traveling. Over the course of Saturday, May 14 to Tuesday, May 17, I had 10 different appointments and drove for a total of 20 hours, trekking all across southern Minnesota and northeast Iowa…Note to self: Always remember to bring music. (During the first five-hour leg to Iowa, I forgot to grab any CDs and had to choose among the radio’s vast array of options: opera, baseball re-caps, cooking teriyaki chicken, and a very twangy country station.)

2)    Packing. 2 years. 1 week left (before the shipment). Enough said.

But, on Thursday, my family and I took the day off together. No Wycliffe. No emails. No thank-you notes. No outside responsibilities were allowed for anyone. We simply enjoyed each other's company.

We went to Interstate Park and Taylors Falls
It's on the St. Croix River, only about 20 min from our house.
It liked advertising its "rugged" trails. Hmm.

It was a huge blessing.

My sister and I. We're weird. And she's my best friend.

People often comment on the “sacrifice” that I’m making, or the “calling” God has placed on my life. But in reality, it’s not just me. My family, by willingly letting me go, is obeying the call God has put on their own lives. Missions is not a task done in isolation. And staying is not easy.

In many ways, I think it can be even harder for them, because I will have so many distractions and new experiences keeping me busy, while life will continue “normally” here… and my chair will be empty.

 I praise the Lord a thousand times for my family. I love you guys so much.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's All Relative

“So, do you have plans to move anytime soon?”

I was reclining in a dentist’s chair for one of my last stateside visits. “Uhhh, Aua Oo Gi’ee.”

“What was that?” the hygienist removed her fingers from my mouth.

“Papua New Guinea. I’m moving to Papua New Guinea.”

“Ahh.” She dove back towards my molars, and I could hear her counting softly. Then she straightened. “Wait, is that…?”

“…it’s a large island just north of Australia.” I finished.

She laughed. “Oh, really! I thought it was a small town in northern Minnesota!”

While northern Minnesota does sometimes seem like the end of the earth, I think I might have to travel in the opposite direction.

The island of New Guinea is actually one of the largest islands in the world, second only to Greenland. Thus, it is rather ironic that the world map on the back of my door is missing only one country…Papua New Guinea. The other half of the island is present, but then the poster ends, right along the country’s border. Ever since coming upon this travesty, I’ve been scrupulous to check every map that I come across to see if Papua New Guinea is safely located 100 miles north of Australia. After all, I wouldn’t want to fall off the edge of the map!

However, in the grand scheme of things, PNG is still rather small (about the size of California). So, when I started support-raising and needed a suitable Table Display, I was in a quandary. How would I find a map that would show this 600-island nation large enough such that my older friends wouldn’t need to pull out their bifocals and small enough that it was clearly a distance from Minnesota? After all, I’ve been asked about my upcoming trip to Africa and my extended stay in South America.

Notice the rubberband holding the seal together...
My first thought? One of those world shower curtains! After I moved on from that idea, I began sorting through other options. Placemat anyone? Fabric panels? Book? A globe worthy of Atlas? None of these seemed satisfactory, so imagine my excitement when I was at a missions conference, perusing through tables of books and puzzle resources, I found, tucked behind the t-shirts, a 9” high, inflatable globe.

Just think—it’s compact for travel, small enough to tuck into the most conservative display, and large enough that Papua New Guinea even gets named in red letters! According to the package, the globe is 93 million times smaller than the real Earth, putting one centimeter at 930 km. Papua New Guinea is 15.4 centimeters from St. Paul, MN (but I can’t confirm since GoogleMaps is “unable to calculate directions” from St. Paul to Port Moresby).

I guess I won’t be heading “up nort” to my cabin in PNG for the weekend!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Perils of a Gift Registry and Other Shopping Stories

I have never been fond of shopping. Wandering through stores, comparing stripes versus polka dots, and calculating prices have never been my cup of tea. In fact, shopping to me is like going to the dentist. Most of the time it is neutral. Every once in a while you have a great conversation with a hygienist who remembers to take her hands out of your mouth when you respond. And then there are those moments of absolute wretchedness that are only known to sitting in that dental chair.

But since preparation for Papua New Guinea necessitates purchasing various items, it does mean I have some unique shopping experiences that make the process far more entertaining.

The infamous least it's so bright I won't lose it!
For example, there was REI. For the past month, I’ve spent much quality time with REI and Midwest Mountaineering and other cool stores. If I have to shop, please let it be one of these stores where they have awesome posters of international places, gear that could survive the temperatures of Mt. Everest, and salespeople who don’t freak out when you tell them you won’t always have Internet, much less electricity. As I checked items off my list, I was amazed by the choices. Did you know that the type of backpack used for backpacking, not toting school books, is a very specialized and fitted item? I was measured and pulled and sent on lap after lap around the store hauling 20 or so pounds, trying over a dozen backpacks before a winner finally emerged (evidently, there are very few backpacks small enough for my back and in the capacity I needed).

During those many hours spent in the store looking at water filters, mattresses, hiking boots and more, I had been using a cool little registry wand to mark my decisions since some of the items were planning on being purchased later. ZAP! I felt powerful. When I went to the checkout and turned in the registry wand, the cashier smiled at us brightly. “So,” she chirped, “are you guys planning an adventure honeymoon?”

My jaw dropped. Us? As in the two people standing here? My dad and I? I, for once, had no comeback. “Uhh,” my dad choked, “she’s going to Papua New Guinea!” We only just escaped through the automatic doors before we gave way to hysterics.

A honeymoon? Apparently I was planning more than just that…

One day I had some extra time, and so was perusing the clearance in Kohls’ on the chance that I might find some inexpensive appropriate tops or dresses for Papua New Guinea. The climate and the culture dictate clothing that’s long, loose, durable, and modest. In other words, not typical American styles. However, I dove in, and after a while of wandering from section to section, began to come across tops that matched my criteria. I muttered a running commentary as I critically eyed the apparel, fingering the fabric and holding it up to myself for size, all the while blithely ignoring the looks from the women around me.

Until I walked out.  And I realized I’d just been sauntering through Maternity… without a ring on my finger.

But nothing quite beat the shopping experience my mom fondly refers to as “cross-dressing in Target.”

You see, I needed to buy shorts. Not just any old shorts. No, in order for me to be appropriately clothed while swimming in PNG, I need to wear long, loose, wide shorts, which aren’t terribly common in our American women’s departments. Find men’s board shorts, my handy list told me. So, after googling “board shorts” since I didn’t know what they were, I headed to Target. But as I wandered into the store with the usual crowd of mothers and sticky children, the business person on his cell, and two twenty-something guys slouching under baseball caps, I realized that men’s was probably overkill, and so I struck out for the little boy’s section.

And was faced with shorts. Racks and racks of shorts. Unknown to me, shorts are to boys as tops are to girls. Exercise shorts. Basketball shorts. Reversible shorts (yuck!). Long shorts. Netted shorts. Shorts with logos. Shorts with school colors. Shorts with pockets. Shorts without. You name it, there are shorts for it. Never have I encountered so many shorts. But, in the name of Bible translation, I dove in, and finally clawed my way back to the swimming shorts, and begin a search for a pair that did not sport Batman, Spiderman, skulls, sharks, or pirate logos. I tried to pretend I was looking for my little brother…if I had one. I pulled one out. Would this fit him? Hmm. I sneaked a glance around….then held it to my waist. Nope, too short. I nonchalantly tossed it back on the rack, just in time to see the two gentlemen who had entered Target with me wander past…

After a few minutes, I gathered my choices and began a smart walk toward the fitting rooms in the women’s section. There was no way I would try these on anywhere near their rack! My path took me right past the young men’s section…and I saw their swimming shorts. Well, it’s worth a shot, I thought, but it only took a moment for me to realize that I would drown in these shorts (figuratively and literally). So, pushing past the clearance rack, I resumed my beeline for the dressing room…and straight into the path of the same two baseball-capped men. Goodness! Were they just roaming Target like buffalo? 

Here's my final choice of shorts (along with other packing items)
Their expressions indicated similar thoughts about me.

I dove for the dressing room, made my decisions, handed the rejects to the attendant who ostensibly had seen much stranger behavior, and darted out of Women’s towards the cash register. As I jumped around the final dress display, I stumbled into the aisle…and found myself face to face with my two earlier friends. We looked at each other. I looked down at my pair of board shorts.  My brother. Yes. For him.

I bolted to the checkout, fervently hoping I wouldn’t run into them again. The cashier rang up my purchase, and as he shoved the shorts into a bag, he looked at me, his eyebrows raised in confusion. “Getting ready for summer?”

I sighed. No, it’s for my honeymoon…

Oh, shopping.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Interviewing the Elephant

1046431-Royalty-Free-RF-Clip-Art-Illustration-Of-A-Cartoon-Detective-ElephantNo one likes talking about it. No one likes asking about it. But we all know what I’m referencing—that elephant standing in the corner, trying to be inconspicuous with his trench coat and sunglasses. Money? Who me?

But an elephant won’t disappear any easier than mosquitos in summer. So I say let’s be radical! Let’s interview the elephant!

Hello Mr. Elephant. I hear you are going to Papua New Guinea as a Bible translator! That’s quite a ways from your native Africa, isn’t it?*
Yes, it is, but I’m very excited to be directly part of translating the Bible for the people still waiting there!

It must be very expensive to fly over there and all that, especially since you, uhh, probably need a military jet to fit your lovely gray mass.* It’s so nice that you had that job at the counseling clinic!
Actually, my receptionist job was unable to finance my position in Papua New Guinea. Because I will be living there for a long time (some projects can take upwards of 20 years) with only short trips back to the US, I can’t earn enough money before I go to pay for the entire thing. My job  only covered immediate expenses, such as insurance, gas, start-up expenses for support-raising (like printing costs for newsletters), and other small items.

Oh, I see. But when you get over there, you will get a job like one of those tentmakers, right?
Actually, I will need to be focused on linguistic work full-time—it takes a lot of time and energy to learn a language well and then translate all those verses of the Bible. In addition, if I take a paid job over there, then I will be depriving the opportunity from nationals who need it more than I do. Furthermore, most people live as subsistence farmers, so they aren’t able to support me full-time either. That’s why I’m in the middle of support-raising right now.

Too bad you aren’t retired and can live off Social Security or have a long-lost rich uncle who dies and leaves you his fortune. Then you could go and wouldn’t have to raise any support!
That might be a whole lot less complicated, but raising support is far more than money. Missions is the work of the church, not of individuals or of agencies, and so by having a wide base of partners, I’m joined by many more workers for the Kingdom! They help keep me accountable, provide encouragement, and make a huge impact in world by their sacrifices. Living through support is actually a biblical concept that God ordained for the Levites, and even Jesus and His disciples lived it out (Luke 9-10). Some missions agencies are connected with a specific denomination and receive funding that way, but Wycliffe is non-denominational, so that means all Wycliffe workers--including our organization's president--require support.

So, are you just raising one large amount, like my church’s youth group going on a missions trip?
No—a short-term missions trip (where the individuals are planning on coming back to their home country and staying there) is able to provide a total amount simply because it is short. Imagine if I tried to figure out expenses for a trip that had a 20 year duration! It would simply be too overwhelming and inaccurate, since my budget can easily change depending on many circumstances (such as when the dollar fluctuates). Instead, I re-evaluate my budget yearly and determine a monthly amount that best fits my needs. Then, I need to find people who will partner with me in regular giving so that this monthly amount will be fully covered.

I see. So what does the monthly amount go towards?
About 50% of it goes toward taxes, retirement, insurance, ministry and operational expenses. The other half covers my basic living costs, including housing, food, education, tithe, travel, furlough tickets, incidentals, and ministry needs.

When do you need this amount by?
I need 100% by the beginning of June. Right now, you can see the remaining dollars-per-month that I need in the rain-gauge on the left.

What happens if you don’t get it?
Then I can’t go in to PNG in August. PNG personnel are asking for me to come in August 2011 because there are so many people groups ready and waiting for translators—they have to keep turning them away because there simply not enough linguists (like me) available to take projects. Due to the remote nature of Papua New Guinea, I must go through an intense 3-month orientation course offered only twice per year (August and January). If I don’t have 100% of my budget by the beginning of June, then I will be delayed until the January session.

Oh my. I don’t think I could ever do that! I hate asking people for money, and I’d never want to live without knowing if a paycheck was coming or not!
You’re right, I don’t think I could do it either if I was just asking people for money like a robber at a bank. Stick em up or people will die! But actually, my job is simply to present the opportunity for people to become involved in the ministry of Bible translation—a chance for them to have an eternal impact in a way that might not be possible otherwise. It’s not up to me to convince them; rather, their involvement is completely between them and the Lord.

The reliability of living on support is no different than a normal job—it just strips away things called economy, severance pay, and disability. When I’m in my native Africa, I never know whether a drought is coming or if locusts will come and destroy my tasty acacia leaves tomorrow, but God knows all my needs. Will He really allow me to starve when He’s called me to this place Himself?

I understand now. I really am excited for what you are doing, but there are just so many things that ask for my money... infomercials, ads on Facebook for the Japan tsunami, even political parties who call me during dinner! What should I do? How much should I give? How long do I give for? Give me the concrete details.
I can’t tell you whether to support me or not—that’s a conversation you need to have with the Lord. Is this a ministry He is calling you to be involved with? However, I can help you out a bit with the other questions.

The amount that you give is completely determined by you. Every gift, no matter the size, has a huge impact! Don’t discount any amount :-) The interval for giving is also based on your budget (yearly, quarterly, monthly), and you can request your bank to withdraw funds automatically at a set interval, if that’s helpful. Special (non-regular) gifts are always appreciated, but they do not count toward the 100% that I need in order to leave. Finally, how long you choose to regularly give is between you and the Lord. I plan on being with Wycliffe as a career, starting in Papua New Guinea.

Giving can occur online (go HERE), over the phone (go to or through the mail (email me for details).

What if I really can’t support you financially at this time, but want to stay involved?
Your encouragement and prayers are invaluable! I send out monthly prayer updates by email to help guide your prayers (you can sign-up for those HERE), and I always love to hear from you. You can stay in touch with through this blog or my Facebook page and you can always continue to spread the word about Bible translation! If you want to get together and visit before I leave in June, let me know!

You know, you can probably remove your trench coat and sunglasses now.
Oh. Oh yes, I suppose.

In All Seriousness...
If you have ever asked or even thought of any of these questions, you certainly aren’t alone (and please don’t feel offended). I hope this little dialogue helped clarify some of those pesky financial elephants that are a part of many missionaries’ lives. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask—no question is too irr-elephant! :-)

If you are thinking of partnering with me financially, I encourage you to pray about making a decision soon. Your partnership now is what will enable me to leave in June like planned. No gift is insignificant!

*Disclaimer: All questions reflect actual scenarios …except that I am not an elephant, and I don’t own a trench coat. And I won’t be needing an army cargo plane to fly over to PNG…

Monday, May 9, 2011

Vision 20-20... or 2025?

There was a moose next to the sunglasses.

I stopped and stared. After all, it’s not every day that you walk into an eye clinic and encounter a 5-foot tall resin bull moose with an antler rack worthy of any Alaskan big-game hunter, standing nonchalantly between lenses rated for extra UV protection.

But there could be no doubt about it. He was definitely a moose. And he was only the beginning.

I filled out paperwork at a receptionist counter built with fieldstones and great wooden beams, wielding a slab of wood as my clipboard and a fish for a pen. “Come this way,” the optometrist beckoned—or was she a wilderness guide?—as I ducked through a doorway of tree branches, leaves brushing my hair. She led me down a stone path toward the examination room, beneath flying geese and past a life-size beaver cocked on his haunches, sporting his own pair of frames. A canoe leaned in the corner. Sticks served as drawer handles.

The bear cave in the waiting room clinched it. This was definitely the coolest eye-doctor that I had ever encountered.

Here you see me (with the infamous patch) and my sister. We're cute!
I actually have had quite a few office experiences to compare to last weeks' adventure. When I was about 5 years old, preschool screening discovered that I had amblyoplia, or “lazy eye.” It meant that my right eye was so significantly dominant that it was taking over the functions of my left eye. Without treatment, I would lose the ability to have depth perception, so my family embarked on an aggressive period of patching my right eye, such that my left was forced to work.

Hundreds of hours, eye-drops, charts, little depth-perception bubbles and questions asking “is one or two clearer?” later, and the eye-doctor became as comfortable as the neighborhood grocery store. For about two years, I wore a patch that adhered to my glasses (the adhesive patch lasted only long enough for me to blink…and realize the absolute torture that resulted from having eyelashes so long they scraped the inside of the patch every time my eyelid twitched) and experienced one-eye pirate life firsthand in order to regain that perfect 20-20 vision.

But for Wycliffe, the vision is for 2025—the year, not the prescription. In 1999, Wycliffe realized that translation projects were starting at a rate of one every 18 days—a pace that would take until the year 2150 before the last translation project was even begun! Out of a desire to see the Word of God come more quickly to the still-waiting people of the world, Wycliffe threw out the challenge of Vision 2025. The goal? To see a Bible translation project started in every language still needing one by the year 2025. Since then, with changes in tactics and the urgency of the new goal, projects have accelerated to starting one every five days, placing the last project to start in the year 2038.

It’s a giant task. But we have an even bigger God who can do more than we can ask or imagine. Thousands of workers are still needed, and I’m eager to be a part of this journey in Papua New Guinea.

Vision 2025 is 20-20 vision. And they don’t even need a moose to prove it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Beyond a Voicemail

“Good morning, Northland Counseling Services. This is Catherine! How can I help you?” I adjust the headset more comfortably around my ear, while keeping my eye on the waiting room clock. It’s almost 8:47 AM. I tap through several computer screens, “yes, next week is available…” Copy, click, save appointments through the end of May. “Thank you for calling!” I hear the door creak, and I shift my chair toward the window. “Good morning…”

The 30 minutes that it takes for a clock’s hand to scale minutes marked 45 to the 15 is the most chaotic period of time for a receptionist at Northland Counseling’s Roseville office, and for the last 10 months, I’ve had the privilege of a front seat view. Literally.

I straighten a few pens and brace. 3…2…1…

Meet The Beast. Enough said.
In theory, the only thing that happens on the hour is the scheduled appointments…in reality, the world turns on it. I have since concluded that there must be something in the earth’s rotation to cause a super-magnet of time, causing all things to draw together in perfect chaos during those 30 minutes. Inevitably, as soon as a client comes to the window with his credit card to charge his co-pay, the phone begins ringing on both lines, the therapist pops his head in to request seven more copies of a handout in the next five minutes, and the computer freezes into oblivion. Three children began pulling out the puzzles, and a new client is confused about her clipboard of paperwork. And then, there is The Beast. To my left sits a creature that is the antithesis of friendly machines like R2-D2; rather, this behemoth of a copier/fax/printer shrieks with all the subtlety of a police siren and threatens to spit fire as soon as it is stirred awake…which it gleefully times to erupt in our precious 30 minute window.

Yes, here you are. No, it will be a few minutes. Spell your last name, please. I’m sorry, I’ll check the coffee. Can you sign here please? Only the Tuesday or Wednesday have availabilities. Welcome, please take a seat! Yes, yes, thank you! Have a good day!

And then… silence. The printer grumbles a few beeps and settles down. All is quiet. And I can now file away the resulting piles scattered across the desks.

The receptionist, quipped one of my co-workers, is the “neck that makes the head turn.”

Where it all the magic happens!
I answer the phone, coordinate office space, and do mental gymnastics as I schedule multiple clients with the same name and spelling who want the same day with the same therapist... I bandage bleeding fingers and replace light bulbs. I keep the candy basket full and call maintenance when the toilets start overflowing. I fax medical records and race back and forth to the main building’s doors when people are locked outside in a rainstorm. I copy insurance cards and leave messages, always repeating our phone number twice. I make the coffee, replace the tea bags, and sort through months of magazines for your waiting room enjoyment. I file hundreds of records and listen to a child animatedly calculating the airspeed of a flying dragon, and the resulting flight time to Chicago. I’ve been hit on by a golf course salesman and enjoy a jovial “good morning” with the Friday mailman. I piece together receptionist Spanish (not found in your average high school curriculum) and laugh with the Venezuelan couple when I make mistakes. I attempt to deepen my phone voice so that I don’t sound like a 12-year-old soprano, check the Kleenex boxes, and ask you to sign here please on credit card receipts.

Our very cheery waiting room, serenaded with classical music
I’m a receptionist, and today I had the bittersweet task of turning in my key and leaving Northland. As I look back on the last ten months, I can see the Lord’s provision throughout the entire journey, orchestrating details that only He could have known.

It was the end of summer 2010, my full-time contract position at Northwestern College as a proofreader was coming to an end…and I had no job. Every evening after work, I stayed up late scouring job posting websites and crafting over thirty personalized resumes and cover letters. I networked until I was blue and made connections on LinkedIn and prayed…and was becoming desperate. Nothing was turning up, and even if I managed to start the hiring process, who would want a girl who was departing the country so soon after finally being trained in? My last week at NWC arrived and I was still without a position, when on my lunch break, my phone rang. “Catherine Rivard…?”

Connections that no one could call coincidence…phone call…interview. And the next week, the day after I left my cube at Northwestern, I stepped into Northland’s Roseville office.

Northland Counseling Services is a Christian counseling ministry staffed with the most tremendous collection of therapists and psychologists that I have ever encountered. With locations in Chanhassen, Chaska, and Roseville, people all around the Twin Cities are able to find hope and freedom through Christ, guided by the wisdom and expertise of these amazing men and women. I can’t say enough about them, other than I have been so blessed to sit behind the counter hand them their schedules as they help restore marriages, bring about adoptions, reconcile relationships, and provide relief from trauma.

And it’s not just the therapists.  Over the months, I have seen firsthand the ministry woven together in every corner of this office, from the gentleness of my co-worker who can walk even the most depressed or OCD through all the necessary paperwork, to my office manager who, by a smile and God-given ability to remember everyone’s name, birthday, and recent antics of their dog, is able to make each person feel like he or she is the most important in the world.

Here, ministry is not defined by a job title.

In this period of raising support, I’m introduced a lot. Everyone, I’d like you to meet Catherine—people smile, extend their hands, and then I, with some trepidation, watch their faces as the next words drop. She’s a missionary. 

The hands-free headset is very handy...except when the battery dies
Eyebrows go up…where? Papua New Guinea. No—really? Oh, I could never do that! How did you…? My, my! And I watch in dismay as, more often than not, their well-meaning intentions begin to construct a pedestal that soon lands me among the gods of Mount Olympus.  Well, I could never serve like that!  I’m just a stay-at-home mom, after all. Imagine! I just work in a cube…I could never go to the jungle!

And I wish they could understand that a cheery voicemail can go thousands of miles further than a plane ticket.

No, please…meet Catherine. She’s a receptionist.

Can I get you a cup of coffee?