Sunday, August 25, 2013

London Untold

I say London… what’s the first thing you think of?  Buckingham palace guarded with stoic and mighty sentries – crisp red coats with high, black bearskins? The architecture of Westminster Abbey with every crevasse and corner detailed with sculpture, scripture, and beauty beyond your eye?  The pure power of the height of Big Ben? 

I have to admit; I experienced all of these fascinations yesterday and fully enjoyed soaking in the royal, historical beauty central London holds.

But this is not the story I will be living this year.     

Instead, picture diversity. People living in close quarters... originally from all over world - but arriving here to live in a city scarce of trees, but abundant in concrete and culture.  Picture a street filled with noise in all forms: traffic, music, and different languages being spoken.  Street vendors offering food from all over the world, Africa, Asia, Central Europe… and bright artistic colors of scarves, jewelry, and advertisements.  Housing where clothing is hung to dry and dishes are washed by hand. 

This is the story of London that I will be living.  In a part of town that tourists never see.  But just because it has been hidden from the money’s eye doesn’t mean it isn’t worth telling.  It’s a different picture, but it’s beautiful.         

I invite you to look at your own town you live in.  I imagine there are the highlights of places you would recommend to a visitor – the best food, entertainment, and thrill.  But what about the areas where we are quick to turn our eyes blind?  Why don’t we speak of those areas as well?  What prohibits us from learning the stories from the people who weren’t given the privilege to have a voice?  My hope is to give this voice.  To never turn a blind eye but instead have the courage to look straight into the layers of injustice and poverty… and ask why.    

It’s about solidarity.  Interdependence.  Mutuality.   

Thursday, August 22, 2013


25 October, 2012: A YAGM alum comes to Wittenberg to talk about her experience in Uruguay.

1 February, 2013: My YAGM application is turned in

7 February, 2013: I have my first phone interview with a YAGM alum

28 February, 2013: I have my second phone interview with a YAGM staff member

Tuesday, 19 March, 2013 4:20 PM: I receive my invitation to the discernment interview process

18 April, 2013: DIP weekend arrives, travel plans are changed, and a small road trip commences

21 April, 2013: I receive my placement with the United Kingdom

Thursday, 25 April, 2013 12:46 PM:  I accept!

11 May, 2013: I walk across the stage at commencement to receive my diploma

4 August, 2013: Peace Lutheran’s arms outstretch as I receive a blessing to continue God’s mission

14 August, 2013: I say my final goodbyes as I head to Chicago for Orientation

21 August, 2013 4:05 PM: We say a prayer as our flight takes off for the UK

22 August, 2013: I look out my new bedroom window into the London landscape, thinking of the timeline that brought me here and the many people that carried me along the way.     

Romans 12: 2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good, and acceptable, and perfect.”

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Going on a Treasure Hunt

Saturday night we were greeted with a challenge:  “Get into your country groups and take these clues to find your dinner location. Your YAGM alum from your country will be waiting for you!”  We were given the clues along with a bus pass, and scrambled to collect ourselves to journey through the city – we were really hungry and determined to find this place fast!

About 40 minutes later we were famished, but greeted with a victory – a quaint British pub equipped with fish and chips and shepherd’s pie. 

 We realized each country group was able to dine at a restaurant that was unique to our country’s culture, but in order to get there we had to navigate the way.  This required a lot of walking, dependence on public transportation, and not being afraid to ask for help.  Reflecting back, it was a great way to glimpse into the coming year, when I’ll have to blindly trust I am going the right direction and depend on human kindness to offer me help along the way.

I think one of the important lessons I am learning this week is the use of public transportation.  Growing up in the suburbs, I never had to rely on a bus or train to travel.  I had the luxury of a car, with spacious room, and air conditioning or heat to control.  As one who becomes overwhelmed in crowds, I’m learning a fast lesson that this simply does not matter when riding the bus or train.  We all pack in together because we all have somewhere to go.   While thinking about navigating all of this by myself next year, instead of worrying about getting lost or claustrophobic., I anticipate a great feeling of accomplishment when I’ll be able to venture out on a destination by myself successfully (and safely, of course!). 

As for now, we travel in wonderful groups as we learn and experience Christ (and Chicago) together! 
God's peace, 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Wipe away all tears for the dawn draws near and the world is about to turn

Orientation has begun! And with this week rolling conversation have started of deep faith and welcomed discomfort.  Connections are made fast here.  YAGMs do not waste time finding out a person’s favorite color or movie.  Instead, the conversation seems to immediately jump to expressing our hopes of what this year could possibly bring, our deepest fears of the unknown grace, and how we can shake the foundation of the church for a positive change.  Deep. Stuff. 

I have to admit, saying the final goodbyes were hard.  Something I had long been dreading and was maybe deliriously thinking would never actually have to happen.  There were tears before the airport.  Tears at the airport.  Tears through security.  At the gate.  However, I wish that those who were tearful along with me, but had to stay behind, could have been able to somehow experience and see the community I was immediately welcomed into the moment I arrived in Chicago.  It was very comforting to be surrounded by peers who also just had to make some hard goodbyes, but understood and deeply knew they were on the right journey as well. 

Vulnerability is a key theme this week, as we discuss and question the meaning of becoming a servant for Jesus.  This morning’s discussion focused around the idea of accompaniment, in which the values of solidarity, interdependence, and mutuality connect a community together.  As I try to grasp about the idea of being labeled as a missionary, I can really hold on to these key ingredients of building relationships wherever I may wonder.

As for now, I just want to keep listening.  Every YAGM has a story to tell, which to me means a new story to learn from.  May we always keep our eyes to serve… our hands to learn.  Come walk with us, the journey is long.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Let me be a neighbor to the world

I volunteered for vacation bible school for two main reasons 1) I love kids and 2) I thought this could be a small way of giving back to the church that has so deliberately and compassionately supported me into my journey with Young Adults in Global Mission. I didn’t know what I would be doing at vbs, or even what the theme of the week was. All of my intentions were focused on serving God and allowing children to shine.

When I stepped into Peace Lutheran on Monday morning, I was greeted with colorful and larger than life decorations, many of which included flags from different countries. My eyes immediately focused on the United Kingdom flag, and many of the London decorations surrounding me. Without knowing it, I had volunteered myself to lead children (with an outstanding and amazing team of other volunteers) through a week of games focused on the theme of neighbors around the world.

Talk about a shout from God saying “Your journey is unfolding as it should be!”

The main scripture of the week: Luke 10: 27-28 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself”

Each day we would “travel” to a new country and learn how while we might be in a different place, we are still all neighbors and should treat each other likewise. On Wednesday, we traveled to the United Kingdom and, through the story of the Good Samaritan, learned how neighbors should be bold; always looking to help and serve other people. It was quite a surprise to learn that while I was leaving for London in 2.5 weeks, I would first be teaching a lesson about being a neighbor wherever we might go.  My hope is that I can carry this lesson with me as I live a year in another place and remember this simple message of kindness.

As if that week already wasn’t the perfect reminder I needed about why I decided to embark on this journey, Sunday was greeted with a commissioning service from my congregation that included scripture, prayer, and the most spiritual support I’ve ever felt at one time from so many people.  A reading from Romans brought me close to tears, as I was reminded of the direction in which to view and experience life: how to live as a true Christian. 

Romans 12: 9-13 “Let love be genuine: hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.“

As I start to really prepare for this journey and get caught up in the stress of packing and planning, may I be reminded of children singing “let me be a neighbor to the world” and showing their innocent knowledge of how to love others.  Let me be friendly, let me be giving, let me be bold, let me be forgiving, and let me be welcoming.  Let me live out the lessons I taught at VBS and continue to spread the love of Christ that was instilled inside me.       

This day, I give thanks for my family.  For my friends.   For all of the many notes, cards, phone calls, texts, and e-mails of support.  For treasured time spent with loved ones.  For simplicity.  And for my mom’s homemade puppy chow.    

God’s Peace,