Word Power

So I’m sitting in my usual Friday morning lesson with six-year-old *Lanae. I’m reading Lanae’s phonic sounds for her to write on the whiteboard (honestly, this is the boring ‘check up’ part of the lesson before we do the interesting things.) Then the following conversation begins:



Me: Ok Lanae, the next sound is ‘p.’

L: [silently writes down the sound, with her tongue sticking out between her front teeth…Lanae’s normal “thinking” look.]

Me: Good! Now, can you write down all the ‘k’ sounds? You know those.

L: I do know those! [Writes a ‘c’ and a ‘k’ and a ‘kc’]

Me: Hold on Lanae. Look at that sneaky letter c at the end! It’s trying to budge in line and get in front of the letter k in ‘ck.’

L: Sneaky letter c. Wait your turn! [raises her voice and shakes her index finger at the alphabetical delinquent, commencing to rub out the ‘kc’ and rewrite it as ‘ck’]

Me: Great focus, Lanae. Can you write the ‘th’ sound for…

L: Why do I come to Springboard?

Me: Sorry, what?

L: Emily, why do I come to Springboard?

Me: Well, because you need practice reading and writing.

L: But I KNOW how to read and write! See? Look at all the sounds I wrote! ‘a’ and ‘qu’ and ‘th’ [writes ‘th’ for me to see.]

Me: Yes, of course you know those, but…

L: And I know the really tricky ones like ‘igh’ and ‘ear’ and ‘air.’ I practice those!

Me: Oh Lanae, I am so proud of you! You have worked really hard this year. Just think of all the sounds you got better at since we first started hanging out and reading together.

L: Emily, I have learned a lot.

Me: Yes, you have, Lanae! But you’re here because there are still more sounds to learn.

L: REALLY?! More sounds?

Me: Yes, we’ve got even more sounds to learn, and there are always more words to learn, too. You see [I lean in to whisper for dramatic emphasis] some words break the rules and say different sounds than the ones we practice.

L: [gasp] WHAT?? Words break the rules? Naughty words!

Me: Yeah they do! No one really knows why. It’s up to us to learn which words are the naughty ones so we can surprise them by saying them right! But don’t worry, it’s not like all your new words will break the rules. Some words follow a lot of the rules, but they’re really long and take more time to learn. I’m a grownup, and I read and write a lot…but I still get to learn new words every day because there are so many!

L: You mean long, grownup words like ‘because?’

Me: Oh, even longer Lanae.

L: Like what?! [Lanae is beaming ear to ear at this point]

M: Hmmm. [trying to think of a complex word that could capture the attention of this curious little person] Have you ever heard of the word ‘defenestration?’

L: [gapes at me for a moment] Def…en…shuh?

Me : De-fen-e-stra-tion. This is how you spell it. [I write ‘defenestration’ on the whiteboard] How many letters are in ‘defenestration?’

L: [Lanae counts the letters one by one with her index finger] Fourteen!

Me: Lanae, that word has more letters than half the alphabet. ‘Defenestration’ is a long word, and there are a lot of grownups who haven’t even heard of it or know what it means. Do you know what it means?

L: No. What?

Me: ‘Defenestration’ means to throw something out a window. Not through a door, or over a tree. Out a window. So if I took this rubber [rubber is the British word for eraser, so all you Americans can get the giggles out now and change your mental image 😉 ] and that window right in front of us was open, I could throw the rubber out the window. I could defenestrate the rubber.

L: [Lanae stares at me, mouth wide open. Her eyes meet mine, then they flit to the rubber, back to my eyes, back to the rubber. Then her hand reaches and snatches the rubber out of my hand, safely enfolding it in her palm. She uses her other hand to wag a finger at me.] That’s naughty, Emily! Don’t defenestrate the rubber! You could hit someone on the head!

Me: Okay Lanae, I promise never to defenestrate the rubber. Promise. Now, what sound were we at? Oh that’s right, you just wrote the ‘th’ sound for me. Lovely – now show me the ‘sh’ sound…


To all of you concerned adults…I promise I teach your children more than the technical terms for injury causes among unsuspecting pedestrians. However, the children may or may not be able to say some of these terms correctly in full sentences AND teach ethics lessons to an adult. Happy Friday to you, too.

May you only defenestrate things with great love…and probably some caution!


*names have been changed to protect the privacy of the students


An example of Lanae’s story writing – this one’s about the toy unicorn we found whom Lanae has named Trixie:
Trixie’s Adventure
Trixie wants to go on a trip. She wanted see other unicorns so pack up her stuff then flew away. Happy ever after.


Moved by Wonder

“So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I’d just run across the great state of Alabama. And that’s what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going.” — Forrest Gump

I just got back from a run – it’s about 5 miles, or about 8 kilometers, to run from my flat to the Tower Bridge and back. According to Google Maps, this is the exact same roundtrip distance between my mom’s house and Target in Eagan, MN.

Let that sink in for a moment…going to the Tower Bridge is at my fingertips like Target is to my mom in her current sphere. And for my family in Southwestern Minnesota reading this…it is a shorter roundtrip run between my flat to nearly every Central London tourist trap than it is to go one way from Welcome to Fairmont. 😉

Is this real life? YES. Yes it is. And honestly, I don’t even feel that tired!

Running, and general physical activity, have always been more enjoyable for me when imagination, creativity, and exercising my brain get to be involved in the process. This is why organized sports in gym class bored me to tears as a child, but pretending to be a dog or a forest-princess-with-a-unicorn kept me running around outside all day. Running in London lets me use my imagination in a very similar way. I’ve run along the Thames in Central London, hidden neighborhoods farther out, main roads, side streets, through beautiful parks, grungy industrial spots, and have stopped at a coffee shop or gallery every once in a while just because I can.

Exploring the streets of London is fascinating! I get all of the magnificent stereotypical London views in person, and dodging London traffic provides an adrenaline rush and that is evidence for it near extreme sport status. However, I also get the not-so-beautiful things – litter, catcalls from strange men, ambulance sirens, air pollution, and lack of snuggly green spaces where I can stretch in peace. I mostly miss being able to kick off my shoes and walk around barefoot – I’ve been privileged in the cleanliness and safety of my past neighborhoods (so I’m grateful for the barefoot running shoes I got myself last summer…not quite as good as nothing, but very therapeutic given my running environment.) Running without music also keeps me engaged with the environment around me – I can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel a plethora of stories. Wonder keeps me going.

The physicality of running gives motion to some of the thoughts that get stuck otherwise. I’m a very outdoor creature, and living as an outdoor creature in a mostly indoor city is a lifestyle I’m still learning to live with. The best and worst of the same world are all wrapped up in the same run each time I go out. It gives my mind a lot to chew on as I reflect on my experiences living here, what drains me, what re-charges me, what I love, what I merely tolerate, and what could be around the next corner.

Even though my volunteer placement is a time and space for me to serve others, my overall lifestyle here has been surprisingly individualistic. It still feels a little odd to me to have whole evenings day after day, week after week, and now month after month, in which I get to make these decisions for myself about how to spend my time. Yet these opportunities to do unorganized exploration based on my own whims is liberating and reminds me of what it was like to be a kid.

This post was longer than I intended it to be, but I hope it was a good read nonetheless. I’ll try to give you updates more often. My mom has told me she knows that if she doesn’t hear from me, she simply knows I’m busy exploring, talking to strangers, and trying new things. The last few months have been full of these opportunities. 🙂

Love from London,


P.S. I’ve discovered that when my environment can keep me interested, I can run up to 10 miles, and I keep getting better. I might do the London 10k this summer to support the literacy charity for which I work, something I NEVER imagined would be part of my year. NO ONE is more surprised than me. YAGM, what are you doing to me??

Long List of Life Updates

Happy almost Christmas everyone!


A view from one of the Springboard for Children centres in Peckham.

I originally wrote this as an obnoxiously long post on Facebook – it’s a list of various life tidbits I think you’ll enjoy (since many of you have told me you like living vicariously through my stories and photos.) So at the request of my dear friends and parental figures living vicariously through me, HERE IS A LIST. Nine very short descriptions of experiences I want to share. So much love to all of you, and THANK YOU for all the support from far away.

1. I now own 6 of the 7 Harry Potter books in British English, including 2 hardcover first editions. I have distinct memories of buying each one…for example, I bought Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone at a market in Greenwich while some jovial British men older than my parents danced and sang along to Doris Day on a record player. 

2. I love choir. And Christmas carols. And singing British carols in London in a beautiful Anglican church is lovely indeed, especially when our choir led the carol service last night. LET THERE BE LIGHT! So many candles. 

3. I’m spending Christmas with an amazing supervisor and her family in the Cotswolds. Google it for some beautiful, quintessential British scenery.

4. I get to help plan ARTS AND CRAFTS FOR TEENAGERS (huzzah!!!) for a New Years event at a friend’s church much further north of London…

5. …and then I get to spend a few days exploring York! Just booked the train tickets for the New Year’s and post New Year’s holiday.  THERE IS A VIKING MUSEUM IN YORK. Apparently, there used to be incredibly violent tension between my Norwegian and British ancestors (invasions, pillaging, etc.)…but then they moved to North America, took up farming, married each other, and voila! Here I am. International family dysfunction with eye-catching displays in a museum.


The beautiful architecture and festive decorations at King’s Cross Station on the day I went to buy my rail card.

6. One of my students wrote a story and drew a picture about a pig who walked down the road wearing a jumper (sweater, for you Americans.) “Sean” said the pig is going to a party, where there is another pig wearing a jumper. The two pigs are in love and will always live happily ever after with lots of hugs and floating hearts. In their jumpers. The end.

7. When I get homesick, I just watch an episode of X-Men (the 90s American cartoon) or Star Trek: Next Generation. And then I feel instantly better.

8. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles is slowly becoming one of my new favourite books. It’s about these British children who travel to a different dimension called Whangdoodleland with this eccentric British professor. Julie Andrews wrote it. Yes, you read that right. Julie Andrews (aka Mary Poppins, Maria Von Trapp.) Because she is that amazing. Thank you, baby brother Wesley Crusher, for the graduation gift. 

9. I have been going on 8 mile runs. 8 miles?! REALLY??!! Yes. No one is more surprised than me about my body’s new found stamina. I can run from my flat past the Shard, past St Paul’s Cathedral, along the Thames, past Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Then back to my flat to stretch and relax with a cuppa (cup of tea.) No big deal.  And I’ll probably run the London 10K to raise money for Springboard for Children in July.


More to come soon! (my flatmates took pictures of me singing in the Christmas caroling service, and Christmas celebrations and New Year’s will happen SOON!) Let me know if there are specific things you want me to share on Facebook or in my blog. 

With love,


Local Wisdom: Advent is Countercultural


The humble beginnings of Christmas decorations in our flat – a tree and Advent candles. More decorations (and pictures to show you!) coming soon.

Hello friends!

I love the Christmas season – I always have. I’m sure it’s combination of things: food, music, gifts, decorations, snow, everyone being slightly more pleasant than normal. I am guilty of singing Christmas songs year round, and it’s a bit of a relief when I can start singing them in public without weird looks from everybody else. There’s nothing quite like the look you get from a stranger in the grocery store when you’re caught singing “O Come Emmanuel” in July. 😉

But in recent years I’ve started to dread the actual day of Christmas, as if I have to brace myself for all the things we have to prepare and what MIGHT GO WRONG if we’re not ready for everything.

I’m sure all of you who celebrate Christmas can relate. There is so much junk that gets in the way of understanding the relevance of the Christmas story. Now is the time of year when we scramble to finish things before deadlines at work and school before we can take a few days off. Ads convincing us to shop for the latest and greatest plastic things infiltrate even the most intimate of spaces – personal relationships and social settings become opportunities for us to be judged on our hospitality and generosity based on what we’ve bought.  This is especially maddening when the normal life things like illness, unemployment, challenging relationships, and the loss of loved ones get overshadowed by the “Christmas cheer” via plastic, electronics, and overexertion of our bodies’ energy stores.


Moving to London has helped me START sorting out cultural expectations for Christmas from the genuine theological implications of the Advent season.

Before I moved here, I was excited to experience Christmas in London (so many of my favorite Christmas pop culture images come from stories set in Victorian England…and the Muppets…and Doctor Who.) But now the ways businesses use these images to hook people into buying “stuff” is less romantic than when I first came. The shops’ Christmas season began at the end of September since Halloween isn’t popular here, and Thanksgiving doesn’t exist (but this is essentially same period of time for the Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas shopping time frame in the US.) The cultural expectation to celebrate by buying is overwhelming.

To honor Jesus’ story in Advent, I would like lift up three individuals’ messages on this first Sunday of Advent. Some local wisdom to counter the advertisements’ messages:

  1. Mary and Joseph were literally the first people in history to accept Jesus into their lives. We can learn valuable lessons from them – living with the stigma of Mary’s extra-marital pregnancy, fleeing as political refugees when King Herod killed countless baby boys to find this other king he’d heard rumors of, and their REPEATED calls to obey God in raising this little person who would grow up to save the world. Following Christ is a lifestyle that will cost us the respect of other worldly forces, but it is SO FULL of love and joy.  – Andy Barnett in his message “Learning from a couple called Joseph and Mary” this morning at All Saints Church in Peckham
  2. We may feel like we have to “brace ourselves” for Advent, but the reality is that Jesus comes to us today as he did on that night long ago. He comes humbly, simply, quietly in the night when no one is paying attention. The opposite of us keeping life under control, Advent is about letting God surprise us with love, without fear of being imperfect. Jesus is the definition of God loving us in our mess. – Jenny Dawkins, the curate at All Saints Church in Peckham
  3. As Christians, we are called to enter into the story that God writes with people’s lives. There is always light and dark present on this Earth. From a British perspective with Celtic roots, Advent is a time to practice trust and hope in God even as nights grow longer and days grow colder. It is a time to pay attention to creation as it settles into the dormancy of winter. Even in a bustling city like London, it is a time to listen to the deeper resonances of creation’s power, and God’s power within creation – to the intimate songs and whispers that can transform our hearts as we journey together. – Janet Morley; poet, editor, Christian aid worker who spoke on her Advent poetry anthology, haphazard by starlight, today in St. Paul’s Cathedral

Advent is a time to wait and prepare. But it’s also a reminder of the kind of waiting and preparing for God we should be doing year-round anyway. How can I prepare the way for God today? In this conversation? With this meal? How can I be more gracious with myself? With others?  How can I be more aware of creation?  How can we prepare the way for God in community? How can we still let God surprise us? How can I do all of this when my life is insane, I have laundry to do, dinner to cook, and a family gathering to get to before they start lunch without us???

Blessings on all our journeys as we navigate the world in Advent…and all the other times of the year. 😉



A Day in the Life

Hello friends!

It’s a month later than I planned, but it’s done! As promised, here is the post about what my general routine is, where I go, what I do, etc. My day begins:

I WAKE UP! But how well I slept the night before affects how easy it is for me to get out of bed. I’ll be honest, falling and staying sleep was a huge problem when I first got here (I think it was one of the ways my body attempted to cope with the anxiety of being in a new place.) Fortunately, this has been getting much better in the last few weeks! Sometimes it’s really easy to just pop right out of bed, and have a miraculously productive morning that may include a devotion/jog/walk/yoga/meditation…I went running twice last week before leaving for work, and I like to sit on the patio while I eat my breakfast when the chairs aren’t wet from any rain. Other mornings are me rolling out of bed 15 minutes before walking out the door, scrambling just to put on some clothes, throwing some lunch food in my bag, and eating breakfast en route. But most mornings are something between these two extremes.


Peckham Park Primary School


Oliver Goldsmith Primary School

I WALK TO WORK! On Monday and Wednesday, I walk down the street for 5 minutes to get to Peckham Park Primary School. I like to say hello to students and their families as they’re walking to school, too, since they live so close to my flat. On Tuesday and Friday, I walk with Mathea (my flat mate and fellow intern) to Oliver Goldsmith Primary School over in Camberwell (the district just East of Peckham.) This walk is a bit longer, taking about 25 minutes, and includes two different crosswalks where some really friendly people in reflective vests with flags stop traffic to assist us across the street. The first times I walked these streets, the people/vehicles/chaotic dashing across the street was really overwhelming. I’m pretty used to it now, and it’s strange to look back on my initial reactions to the seemingly “strange” things about my new neighborhood. Thursday mornings I spend in the Springboard main office in Central London, so I walk a few minutes to get to the bus stop. Then, I get to ride one of those iconic, bright red, double-decker buses for twenty minutes to get to the office! On a perfect morning, there is a top deck seat right in the front available, and the SUN IS OUT – this makes for a beautiful view of some of the city with the bright blue sky beyond and above the London architecture. Then I take the bus back to Peckham for an afternoon in the Springboard room at Harris Peckham Academy, the secondary school.


A view of London from the Springboard room at Oliver Goldsmith at 4:15 PM a couple of weeks ago. It’s so dark! But can you see St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Shard?


A beautiful street I found with a new acquaintance after church between Peckham and East Dulwich.

I WORK! I work for a London-based charity called Springboard for children. Through Springboard, I teach literacy to twelve students in the primary schools – I teach each of them one-to-one in 40 minute long lessons. We practice our reading and writing with books, games, and visual or kinetic activities that help the kids engage their literacy in a variety of ways. On Thursdays, I’ve recently begun teaching literacy lessons in the Harris Peckham Academy Secondary School as well, which is another new and exciting experience. It’s very different from the primary schools, but the needs and trends of the students I interact with are generally the same. The students who come to Springboard for Children usually have a lot of other challenges stacked against them in British society, like poverty, unstable family situations, malnutrition, special education needs, or learning English as a foreign language. A struggle I’ve had as I’ve been settling into my volunteer placement is figuring out what my role is in helping these children. I teach literacy to students who struggle in reading and writing, but the things that make it hard for my students to succeed in the classroom are outside of my power to change. It’s most definitely outside of my power to change the kind of support the students get at home, the institutionalized racism and classism that keeps their families down, the poverty they may experience, the way that society adjusts to their special educational needs. On the flip side, there are countless children around the world who experience variations of these learning and LIFE barriers every day, and I have the privilege of seeing what the faces of justice and injustice look like in this London context. It is also a privilege to work alongside such amazing people as well…my supervisors and fellow tutors are inspiring people, and I take comfort knowing that we can wrestle with difficulties of our roles together. 🙂 (You can look forward to some pictures of me and my co-workers, although I won’t be allowed to post pictures of my students for their protection.)


The sky on my way home from work last week – it looks like candy floss! (aka cotton candy in British English)

I HANG OUT AT HOME! I come home to my flat in the late afternoon/early evening. According to Google, London’s sunset today was at 3:57 PM…so it really doesn’t have to be that late for me to call it evening now. 😉 I’m usually hungry right away, so I cook dinner and usually snack later. If I need to go shopping for boring grownup things, like food or toilet paper, I can do that as well. I don’t have much of a routine at home, but I started to go running more now that I’m not afraid of being out after dark in a big city! I’ve learned that if I go running where there are other people about, especially families, everything’s okay. I also joined a Christmas Choir at my new church, and we rehearse every Monday night for the carol singing we’ll have in a few weeks. I had been watching a bunch of Doctor Who (a popular BBC sci-fi television show that I started watching a few years ago…words cannot describe how much I love Doctor Who!) in my evenings to get ready for the big 50th Anniversary episode last Saturday. I also enjoy watching the BBC news on the telly (aka television) in my flat, reading A LOT of books for fun, writing in my journal, hanging out with my flat mates, doing art projects, and exploring Peckham. There are some other things around Peckham I’m looking into like book clubs at the Peckham library, and some community choirs. And since we live in London, there are plenty of things we can go out and do (museums, the theatre, music concerts) but since we teach energetic young people each morning, we stick around the Peckham area on the weeknights…unless there’s something extra special.


The bus ride to the Camden Markets a couple Saturdays ago…this is underneath the bridge at the Elephant and Castle tube station. This is the route I’ve gone running along, as well as the bus route to the Springboard main office or other Central London destinations.

WEEKENDS! Generally a combination of “playing tourist” in Central London, cleaning the flat, going to the grocery store, practicing my amateur photography skills with the camera I was given before I moved to London, movie nights and exploring with my flat mates, bringing tea to the library and enjoying the literary atmosphere while reading, visiting various coffee shops, exploring my neighborhood, going to church at All Saints Church in Peckham, doing art projects, shopping at markets, going to museums and galleries, letter-writing, talking with strangers, Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral, hanging out with other volunteers…and I’m looking into taking a lesson on how to ride a bicycle in London traffic! Also, I’ve discovered how fun it is to go running in the city. There is so much to see!! And I surprised myself last Friday by going for a five-mile run. On Sunday? Eight miles. I am a sprinter, not a long distance runner, so I’m just as confused as you are. Apparently, London has this magical ability to turn Emily Kimball into a long distance runner??

I love living here.

Adventure is out there! 🙂

Cheers! (British for “thanks! good bye! I toast to your health!”)

P.S. Please let me know if there are specific things you want to know about my experience. I love sharing stories, but I don’t always know where to start since there’s so gosh darn much to share. I’ve already received a request to talk about Christianity, religion, and spirituality in London and the UK (comparing and contrasting with the US)…but if there’s ANYTHING that piques your interest (from the more abstract ideas about gender roles or human migration or the British education system, to the more concrete things like how I do laundry or ride a bus or make tea) just tell me. 🙂

This Abundant Life

We all need things – food, water, air, shelter, companionship, happiness. The culture I was immersed in growing up was one that tells us that we should be in control of our needs at all time, and that if we plan enough we can get it all. However, my adventures continue to remind me that there is a difference between wants and needs, that I usually have no idea what I need, and that the what/where/when/how aspects of these needs are never predictable. And God always provides.


The YAGMs finally got to hang out for the first time since we left Chicago. 🙂 Scarlett, Erin, Mike, Katharine, Elie, Abby, me, Kari, and Vickey. Once again, Nick mysteriously vanished when the camera appeared.

After a few weeks of teaching literacy in Peckham, I finally got to see the other nine YAGM volunteers for the first time since our arrival in England. We met up in Derbyshire where we’re enrolled in a two-week course called “Christian Life and Mission” at Cliff College with fifteen or so of our British partners who serve as church workers, youth workers, teachers’ aides, and non-profit interns. Together, we studied what it means to be a disciple of Christ, and we’ll reconvene for a week in March to study the meaning of mission. And it’s worth mentioning that if you want some eye candy, just do a Google image search for “Derbyshire Peak District” to see some of the views we got. 🙂

The pleasat looking man in the marroon sweatshirt os {iers, one of our fabulous lecturers. He helped lead us on our expedidition - both the abstract one of learning about our roles as disciples in the world, and the more literal one of tripping up a cliff on the hike.  To the left of Piers is my flat mate Katharine, and to the right are Nick, ANdy "Has a Party," Xav, and Kari.

The pleasant looking man in the maroon sweatshirt is Piers, one of our fabulous lecturers. He helped lead us on our expedition – both the abstract one of learning about our roles as disciples in the world, and the more literal one of tripping up a cliff on this hike.
To the left of Piers is my flat mate Katharine, and to the right are Nick, Andy “Has a Party,” Xav, and Kari.

God fed me so much:

I was given the intellectual stimulation of being back in a classroom, and we were given theological knowledge we could apply to our lives right now. We had each other – I made so many new friends who can relate to having no idea what we’re doing as we discern what God calls us to be and do. We prayed for each other – I was able to entrust my struggles to others to bring to God, and I was able to act in the same loving way in return. We had spontaneous worships with a guitar and some joyful voices…and a drum set, keyboard, and speakers in the college’s chapel! We hiked up a cliff and I got to jump and scamper around in the wild wearing my “barefoot running shoes.” Best of all, I made new friends who understand my sci-fi/Pokemon/Shane Claiborne references, don’t stare at me like I have three heads when I sing in funny voices or dance at random times, and who made deep conversation feel incredibly natural with them. People who “get me” is something I forgot I needed, and I’m so grateful I have yet another abundant network of empathy and love as I venture onward.

To be honest, it was really hard to leave. I mean seriously, look at these pictures! Who doesn’t want to hang out with these people? 😉

My friend Mike and I, in full appreciation of the beauty around us, decided to re-enact the Lion King after a bunch of us sang "The Circle of Life."

My friend Mike and I, in full appreciation of the beauty around us, decided to re-enact the Lion King after a bunch of us sang “The Circle of Life.”


My new friend Jen and I! As you can see, we never have any fun together. 😉




My rock-running, prayer group organizing, sci-fi buddy, Ryan!


Hiking back down – Claire and Ryan in the lead with Amelia and Jen right behind them. 🙂


This is my friend Kari! It was really windy on top of the cliff – don’t worry, none of us blew away. 🙂


Look Mom! No hands, on the edge of a cliff, with my eyes closed!


Back on  campus – we have a ton of musical talent and passion for worship in this group. In this photo are Joe at the drumset, Rae with the bongos, Mike on guitar, and Claire playing the piano. You should have heard our own version of Claire and I singing “Amazing Grace” as the rest of the group played the tune to “Sweet Home Alabama.” So much fun!

But now I’m back in Peckham and this feeling of being understood and held in community is something God continues to reveal to me. Like at church on Sunday when the scripture passage was from 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, which talks about how we are all part of the body of Christ, and that each of us has a unique role in which to give and receive from the world – EXACTLY what I needed to hear. First, all I could think of was the “Big Toe Skit” from my summers doing ministry at Good Earth Village. We act out this exact passage to the kids by being various body parts, excluding Big Toe from our club, and then realizing we can’t walk without him. But I was also reminded of the larger community body of which I am a part, and that I have needs AND can meet others’ needs.  After church, God affirmed this lesson as I took a long route home. I teach literacy to children – but their parents could be the smiley man who called me “darling” when he sold me apples at his outdoor produce stand, the helpful woman I bought dried pomegranate seeds from in the Persian shop, or the man I talked with in the Islamic shop while we were admiring books. And as I finish up another week of teaching literacy, I realize how much I have grown in relationship with my students, centre managers, and fellow volunteers since I arrived.

Let’s hope I can allow myself to be vulnerable enough to let God continue to grow me inward and outward.

Blessings to you!


P.S. Tune in next week for a post about what a so-called “normal” week looks like for Emily! Each of my weeks has been different, so wish me luck in communicating some kind of a quasi-routine with you. 🙂

My Shameless Plug for Snail Mail!

Happy Saturday everyone!

The short version of this blog post: Read the title, send mail to my address below, and I will write you back. (But you can read the rest of this post to get a reminder of how much I care about you and want to stay connected with you during my year!)

My address:

Emily Kimball

3 Credenhill House

Ledbury Street


SE15 1BG




The longer version:

Because I live in an exciting and excitable neighborhood, I was awoken at 5 AM to the sound of people shouting at one another drifting through my window. It’s things like this that remind me that I’m still acclimating to city life – my neighbors who aren’t surprised in the least by sporadic screaming slept right through it. 😉

I, on the other hand, was jolted awake and have been up and doing things since 5 AM.

My primary activity of the morning has been letter writing, which is a little different for me. I will be the first to tell you that I am awful at getting birthday cards, thank you notes, holiday greetings, and invitations of any sort sent to anyone. However, receiving a beautiful, handwritten letter and postcard from dear friends in Fargo, ND and Gien, France (respectively) MADE MY WEEK. As a really kinetic and physically affectionate being, it’s been a challenge for me to nurture my relationships when we’re spread so far apart and I can’t simply pat you on the shoulder or give you a hug.

I would like to take this time to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who have been sending me your love and support through email, Facebook messages, notes, packages, skype, the rare international phone call, prayer and positive thoughts! I really couldn’t be healthy and happy here in London if I didn’t have all of you looking out for me. 🙂

So I spent my morning writing letters back to my friends in Fargo and Gien, writing a letter back to my Mom and Nolan to thank them for the package I got from them today, and three of my fellow YAGM volunteers whose addresses I was able to find via blogs and Facebook. You should have seen me at the post office this morning. “Good morning!…Yes, I have six letters to send internationally…I’m not really sure how much they weigh or what kind of stamps I need…ummm yeah, only one is going somewhere else in Europe. France, actually…and then I have two going to the United States, one to South Africa, one to Israel, and one to Malaysia…and can I buy 15 international postcard stamps please?”


This is a picture of the mail I have received, plus a lovely “Good Morning!” note from one of my flat mates, a welcoming postcard from the Time for God staff supporting me here, a quote from a church bulletin a few weeks ago, and some contact information of loved ones (because it seemed to fit the theme here.) See all that blank space around the little cluster of love in the middle? That is space that can be filled with anything you want to send me!

Some ideas of things you can send – letters, cards, drawings, photos, newspaper clippings, recipes, quotes, doodles, your bills or homework (just kidding!), postcards, song lyrics, poems, paper mementos that show what adventures you’ve been up to, coloring pages (that you have colored or left blank for me to color,) or whatever strikes your fancy!

If you’re interested, you can send mail to the address I gave at the beginning of this post, AND I PROMISE I WILL WRITE YOU BACK. It’ll be like hugging, but with paper instead of arms.


Emily 🙂