For the record, I would have liked to make a blog post sooner but unfortunately we are without WiFi in our house until Wednesday so I’m writing this in the public library! In my opinion, if the YAV program really wanted us to embrace “living simply” than we wouldn’t be allowed to have WiFi because life without that is simple living at its finest! We are all more motivated to read and explore and actually talk to each other! What a concept?! No.. but in all honesty the YAV house in DC and meshing wonderfully and we all appreciate each other’s company since we arrived from orientation on 8/31.
A few highlights of orientation in Stony Point, NY were the people! I was surprised by the variety of YAVs there of various backgrounds, religions and how nice everyone was. As someone who has been struggling with their faith in recent years I really thought that I’d be kind of an outcast but everyone was super welcoming and friendly, even when I shared my struggles some shared their own faith journeys and made me feel better about my own. Another highlight was on Sunday when we were all shipped out to churches in the Stony Point area to be commissioned by local Congregations. The church I went to was a small one in Patterson, NY (as pictured).
The congregation was small but strong and incredibly welcoming. Afterwards we were taken to a church member’s house and were shown incredible hospitality by the host including SO much food! My fellow YAVs and I were eating all we could since we knew that free food would probably become hard to come by in our upcoming year of living simply! I want to send my utmost gratitude to Patterson Community Church for ALL the hospitality they showed us the day before we embarked on our new adventures. Perhaps the biggest highlight of the week was when we went into the city for a day and my group went to the PC(USA)’s Ministry at the United Nations. There we attended a service to commemorate 500th day since the 219 Nigerian girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. It was a deeply moving multifaith service with a variety of strong speakers but my favorite one was a local Imam who spoke about many things but specifically the fact that groups like Boko Haram, ISIL and al-Qaeda do not represent the true word of Islam, just like how the KKK and Westboro Baptist do not represent the true message of Christianity. Orientation in Stony Point was a great week and I strongly suggest stopping by the Stony Point Center if you are ever in the area.
My fellow YAVs and I are living in the Petworth neighborhood in DC and one of my favorite things about my neighborhood so far is what I affectionately refer to as “preschool on a leash”. There are usually about three adults walking around with about 10 or 12 toddlers strapped into a leash with multiple harnesses! Whenever you walk past them they all say “Hi!” and “Good morning!” and it really makes my day.
For those of you who don’t know, I will be working at the Church of the Pilgrims and their sister organization the Pilgrimage. I’ll be responsible for some admin related responsibilities, working in their urban garden and helping out with their lunch program for the homeless after church on Sundays. What I’m most looking forward to is the work that I’ll be doing with the Pilgrimage, where mostly youth groups and college groups volunteer to come to DC and learn more about homelessness, hunger and poverty from hands on experience. After they volunteer they are led in reflection and encouraged to really think about what some of the root causes of these issues really are. Feel free to check out their websites:
One of the things that I have done that probably resonated with me most is when my fellow DC YAVs and I were getting a tour of the more troubling parts of town by the Pastor of Church of the Pilgrims, Rev. Dr. Jeff Krehbiel. The spot that resonated with me most is when we stopped at DC General, a building which used to be a hospital but is now a homeless shelter. The building is 90 years old, severely deteriorating and shares land with a clinic for meth rehabilitation and sexually transmitted diseases, a working jail, and the former city morgue. According to a Washington Post article, residents go days or sometimes weeks without heat or hot water among other mind-blowingly dehumanizing practices by the staff which are supposed to be providing to and protecting the residents. As we were sitting outside listening to Jeff talk about the troubling situation that is DC General and noticing the constant police presence outside the building, I felt an urge which I haven’t felt in a long time which was simply to pray, specifically for the people living there. I prayed for their strength and patience and that even in the midst of a dehumanizing struggle, they might still be able to see God’s light. I was reminded of a couple quotes I heard at Orientation, that the people in the places that we will be working in don’t need our help, they need us to work with and alongside them. The other was that their is no such thing as giving a voice to the voiceless because everyone has a voice, it is our job to make sure that their voices are heard. I ask that you keep the residents of DC General in your prayers as well.
Thank you to all who have and are supporting me in my YAV year, financially and prayerfully! It is your support that gives me peace of mind and know that I made the right decision by undertaking this journey in my upcoming year. God Bless and Thanks again,