Pilgrimage Post

Part Two!  Thanks for all the positive feedback on the last post, I do it for you guys afterall!  A big thank you to all of you out there who have been supporting me this year in so many different ways.  To those of you who financially donated to my year, to everyone who keeps up with this blog and gives me positive feedback, not to mention all the prayers and even everyone in the District that has taken me out to meals or given me rides home.  You are truly appreciated and I could not have accomplished all that I have this year without you!  

This blog is going to focus on the work that I’ve been doing with  The Pilgrimage groups in the past month.  

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This the first thing our groups see when they enter The Pilgrimage!  I change the stats shown to reflect the states of where our groups for that week call home.

As some of you might know, March was the beginning of the busy season at the other half of my site placement, The Pilgrimage.  Throughout March we had about 3 groups staying with us every week! All of these groups were amazing in their own unique ways and I was thrilled to work with and meet so many people in such little time.  However, the three groups I’m going to focus on are the three that had the biggest impact on me.  These groups were an interfaith group from Villanova University, a Catholic campus ministry from Iowa State University and a youth group from University Presbyterian Church at Chapel Hill.   What I loved about working with these groups was getting to know these different, fun and passionate individuals but also seeing them grow as a community and the transformations that they can go through in just a week of service learning!  What set these groups apart from the other ones was their desire to learn, be engaged, support each other and support the people that they served throughout the week.  

These transformations were most clear to me in our closing reflections which we usually facilitate the day that the groups leave.  I’m going to share a few blurbs from those closing reflections that really made me say, “Wow! THIS is why what I do is important.”

At the beginning of the week we facilitate an Orientation.  One of the questions we ask groups is “what makes you angry?”  We usually get answers like careless drivers, ignorant people, having to wait around, bad professors and so on.  We ask this question again at the end of the week and I love hearing how their answers change after a week at The Pilgrimage.  One of my favorite responses was when a young woman from Villanova.  She said that people who judge a person before they get to know them still makes her angry but now she’s seen and experienced things that she can point to that can back up those beliefs, specifically when it comes to Muslims and our unhoused neighbors.  Villanova did a lot in their week at The Pilgrimage which included a street outreach run and going to the nation’s mosque, Masjid Muhammad.  By taking the time to talk to these people they were able to learn that there is more to them than the reputations that are built up for them by society and the media.  Learning that Muslims are peaceful people who believe in empowering women and giving back to their community.  Learning that not all homeless people are lazy, uneducated drug addicts.  It’s important to learn that everyone has their own story and we have no right to put labels on people until we’ve heard their own story.  

One thing we really try to make clear to our college groups is that as college educated individuals with a US passport, we are people of privilege.  We try to challenge them to think about the fact that since we are people of privilege, what can we do with this privilege especially after a week of meeting and witnessing folks living in homelessness and poverty.  When we asked Iowa State this question one of them reflected on a time in their week when they went down and had a Bible Study down at the Washington Monument cuz why not?!  At one point the thought crossed her head, should we be doing this here?  Is someone going to ask us to leave?  But then she remembered what country she was in and how we have religious freedom! She went on to realize that she can dedicate her life to working with people on the fringes of society and embracing the Jesus narrative in her own life if that’s what she want to do!  SO she came to the conclusion that she wants to do a year of service with a program like YAV after she graduates because she wants to do just that, EMBRACE the Jesus narrative for a year–and maybe more!

One question that I LOVE asking college kids is what can you take from your time in DC that you can apply to what you’re studying or what you want to do after college?  There was a student who wants to be a lawyer who realized that he doesn’t have to wait until he’s old to give back to his community.  There were a couple of students, one who is an Optometrist to be and the other a Speech Pathologist, who want to lend their time and knowledge to volunteer at homeless shelters on a regular basis, once they get certified, because they saw a need for these professions in that setting.  There was a business major who realized that he can work for a place like DC Central Kitchen to organize food donations, monetary donations and volunteers.  I love having the opportunity to open these young people up to the idea that they can ALWAYS find time or outlets to serve and embrace the spirit of giving back to people who are on the fringes of scoiety.

My last gem comes from the middle school group from Chapel Hill.  These guys really reminded me of how much I miss the days of working at Montlure Church Camp back in Arizona!  They’re kinda awkward and full of energy, as all middle schoolers are, but at the same time they’re just like little sponges ready to soak up anything and everything they can.  At every closing reflection we lead the groups in a guided meditation where they focus on sacred moments from the week that really had an impact on them and then they create these images and tell a little story about them.  Naturally, a popular one was an unhoused gentlemen that they met at Charlie’s Place who talked a lot about the fabulous art of flatulence.  However, some of the other themes were recognizing that God loves EVERYONE, period.  Also, that you don’t know someone until you’ve sat down, talked with them and heard their story–in respect to our unhoused neighbors.  I was blown away when these kids started saying these things!  It made me wish that I was thinking on that level when I was their age!  

I am so grateful for each and every person that comes through the Pilgrimage and I pray they continue to see God in everything that they do as they go home and return to life as they know it.  Here are a few of my pictures of groups while they were staying at The Pilgrimage.

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Villanova at the Washington Monument!  Congrats on the big win guys!!

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A few Villanova women at the on going nuclear protest outside the White House

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I LOVE this picture!  Villanova came to Church of the Pilgrims the Sunday they were here and here a couple of them talking to one of our youngest Pilgrims!

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I really think Villanova became friends with everyone that they met the week they were in town.  Here’s Annabel with a couple of our unhoused neighbors who call Dupont Circle home.

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And these guys are so sweet, they wanted to get a picture with and my hairy self at the end of the week!  It should be noted that Kimmy gets photo cred for all these pics.

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We use Statues as a form of reflection at The Pilgrimage!  Here’s Villanova showing us what being physically crushed looks like after someone in the group found out that the Metro Rail doors don’t work the same way as elevator doors….

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And Mary Kate really summed it all up right here!  This post made my day/week/month.

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Here’s our Iowa State group at the beginning of the week just after volunteering with Washington Parks & People

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And here’s our lovely Cyclones after a day of advocacy on the Hill!  We send groups to Bread for the World to learn about a bill related to hunger then they get to go to their Senators’ and Representative’s office and advocate for that bill.  This is one of my favorite things that we have Pilgrimage groups do.

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Sometimes they are lucky enough to meet their Representative in person!  Here’s Richard and Maggie with their Congressmen David Young.  Cuz why not come to DC and talk to your Congressmen about hunger on your spring break?

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Here’s one of my favorite pictures with one of my favorite organizations, Martha’s Market! Martha’s Market is a program put on by Martha’s Table where they bring healthy food to food deserts and teach the kids how to cook with the food provided!  At this event in particular Sara and Allison threw on these costumes and entertained the kids because everyone wants to be entertained by dancing fruits and veggies after a long day at school!

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And here we have UPC Chapel Hill’s middle school youth group and their AMAZING leaders.  Another group that wanted to get a picture with me and my hairy self!

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Another Statue!  Above,they are showing us what it looks like to ride the Metro and beneath is a picture of them on the metro–such an accurate depiction!

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To finish this up, I’m going to share a really great reflection that with all of you.  In the DC YAV house we often talk about how we’ve seen ourselves change and recently, I came up with what I think is a fantastic metaphor for what I’ve gone through over the past 7-ish months.  At YAV orientation in August there was a poem that was read every night and there’s a certain part of the poem that always bugged me.  It said, “some of you will change so much that some of your closest friends won’t know who you are and some of you won’t change at all.”  My response to that was, can’t there be a happy medium?  I want to change and grow but I still want to be close to my besties!  Well, I think I found that happy medium by looking at myself as a bookshelf.  The wood, the paint and the the screws have always been the same and will stay the same. But it’s the books, movies, supplies and decoration that will change throughout my life.  I’ve given up a lot of things that have been on these shelves for a long time. I’ve donated some of them to Goodwill, I threw others away. Along the way I’ve found some things that are really worth having on these shelves and I truly believe that these new things positively benefit the look, feel and overall functionality of my bookshelf.  To sum it up, I’m still the same Andy but over the course of this year I’ve learned a lot of things that I’m very grateful to have learned and I’ve given up a few things that I’m happy to give up.  I believe that these new things have made me a better and more enjoyable person for other people and myself to be around and I have God and the YAV program to thank for that.

On that note, I’d like to once again thank everyone who has supported me this year financially, prayerfully, taken me out for a meal or coffee and for believing in me.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity of experiencing the YAV program this year and everything that it has to offer.  

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Peace and Thanks to All

Andy

P.S. My sister’s wedding is only 10 days away!  I’ll be making a trip out to California to be her Man of Honor so prayers for Britney and Ryan in this fantastic new chapter in their life!

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This is one of my favorite and oldest pictures of us.  It was Britney’s first day of kindergarten and I don’t remember hat I said but looking back on this picture she says that this pretty much sums up our relationship.

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And here’s the two of us at Christmas with my felinephew, Howie!  See a family resemblance??

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