I'm finally back blogging again. Sorry it has taken me so long to post a post, but I have had very little time.
Where do I even begin? So many things have happened in the past couple of weeks, and they are all weirdly blurred together while also being distinct in my mind, if that makes any sense. I suppose I could start with orientation.
Probably the worst thing about orientation was the trip to New York from Alabama. I have never in my life encountered so much difficulty in air travel, and this day made up for my former lack of such problems greatly. Delays, missed connections, misplaced luggage, you name it, I experienced it. At the time, I couldn't help but wonder: Is there some sort of message in this? Is God trying to send me a sign? Should I just accept defeat, and take the next red-eye back to Birmingham? Looking at it now, I know that the answer to the first question was a resounding yes, but not in the way that I thought. At discernment and orientation, we YAVs were constantly reminded of the need for flexibility, for the ability to adjust our expectations to reality, and I got my first lesson in that my first day as a YAV. Would I have preferred a smooth transition? Absolutely. However, I learned that day that I have a lot to learn when it comes to trusting God and not getting worked-up or stressed-out. Hopefully this year will allow me to explore these things.
At orientation, I got to reunite with the International YAVs that I had met at the discernment event, and also meet the many National YAVs who had done their discernment process over the telephone. There were so many people with so many interesting stories and backgrounds, and I wished I could have met them all, but I didn't. We engaged in discussions about cultural competency and sensitivity, self-care, and many other important things. We were also led in bible study each day by Rick Ufford-Chase, co-director of Stony Point Center and former moderator of the PC(USA) General Assembly. He led us in difficult yet enlightening discussions on familiar passages, and attempted to open our eyes to new ways of biblical interpretation in light of poverty, evangelism, and reconciliation.
Of course, there was also plenty of time for fun. Just existing and talking with so many like minded people was fun in and of itself, but there were also big group games, dance parties, late-night gas station excursions (particularly important to me, as I attempted to gain 10 pounds of American junk-food prior to departure), bowling night, a talent show, and just plain good ol'-fashioned fellowship. I made so many new friends, and I can't wait to follow their years, just like I hope they want to follow mine.
The final true day of orientation was when we YAVs got commissioned at local churches. For me, this involved an unexpected trip into New York City, or just "the city" as seemingly everyone but me knew to call it. I went with three other YAVs to Broadway Presbyterian, which was close to Columbia University and Union Seminary. After the sermon (which, by the way, the pastor closed with a musical theatre number he sang himself with a Broadway calibre voice; AKA my kind of sermon), we were sent out to do our work by what were once strangers, but now more friends on the journey. They might not be coming with us, but they will be in our hearts as we journey on to new places and experiences.
And then it came. The moment. The departure. My van left at 2:30 AM, so instead of sleeping, I stayed up, soaking in the last moments with my YAV family for a while. There was music, there was laughter, there were tears, there were countless embraces and countless smiles. We knew our time together was coming to a close, but we also knew something bigger was about to start and only God knew how it would change and influence our lives and the world around them. Being in the presence of those people, I knew we were that much closer to the Kingdom on Earth.
The goodbyes made, the vans loaded, we headed for the airport, each of us with our own destinations in mind. What would my life look like in a year? How would I change? I didn't and still don't know, and it scares me. But I did know, that regardless of delays and missed connections, lost bags and interminable lines at security, that I was with my new family, and with them came their music, their laughter, their tears, their countless embraces and countless smiles. And I did not fear, for in them was God.
I'll try to post Part Two as soon as I can, most likely tomorrow. Stay tuned!