Saturday, November 24, 2012

A New Kind of Thanks, a New Kind of Thanksgiving

I spent Thanksgiving here in Miami this year & was able to have an entirely new kind of celebration.

Wednesday night I was able to attend an Interfaith Thanksgiving service at my church, where a number of congregations, from different religious traditions, came together for worship. I was so happy to be a part of it and to have the chance to be thankful for congregations who are seeking to come together in respect and celebration of one another during this time of recognizing thanks. This service was like nothing I had ever been a part of. We had a Native American call to worship, an opening prayer by a local Rabbi, a reading from the Quran on gratitude, as well as songs and messages from various religions and denominations. I loved it. Here is the benediction we shared:

"May an abundance of gratitude burst forth as you reflect upon what you have received. May thanksgiving overflow in your heart, and often be proclaimed in your prayer. May you gather around the table of your heart the ardent faithfulness, kindness, and goodness of each person who is true to you. May the harvest of good actions bring forth plentiful fruit each day. May you discover a cache of hidden wisdom among the people and events that have brought you distress and sorrow. May your basket of blessings surprise you with its rich diversity of gifts and its opportunities for growth. May all that nourishes and resources your life bring you daily satisfaction and renewed hope. May you slow your hurried pace of life so you can be aware of, and enjoy, what you too easily take for granted. May you always be open, willing, and ready to share your blessings with others. May you never forget the Generous One who loves you lavishly."

An organization here in Miami, called South Florida Urban Ministries, holds a Thanksgiving outreach each year that is able to serve over 6,000 families. (Woah, right?) There are a number of locations spread out across the area where people from all over South Florida come to help prepare & deliver meals to families who may not otherwise be able to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner together. I was in awe of how many people came out to help on Thursday morning (and I only saw one of the sites!). There were so many people, that I ended up coloring cards alongside an elderly couple for them to deliver to the families on their list. I think it’s a pretty great problem to have when there are too many people wanting to serve. It was inspiring to me to see that so many wanted to give their time on this day to recognize their ability to serve, and to place their focus on creating opportunities for others to be thankful as well.

Thursday afternoon & evening were spent preparing and partaking in our campus ministry’s international student Thanksgiving celebration. FIU is an international university, so we have a number of students associated with us that were away from family during this break & some who also were able to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time. We set up the backyard of one of our Wesley houses with a long line of tables and chairs, hung lights all around the house & tree, and finished preparing all of the food. I had about forty people to celebrate Thanksgiving with this year. Gosh. Friends from Nepal, Saudi Arabia, China, Argentina, India, Japan, Brazil, Ecuador, Libya, Venezuela, Ghana, South Korea, Nigeria, and more. Along with our traditional Thanksgiving foods, we also were able to share Arabic coffee & dates, Indian samosas along with mint rice with curry sauce, and Argentinean empanadas that were shared by our friends. We ate, talked, gathered around the fire in the backyard, and even did some dancing! (Introduced the wobble & Cleveland Shuffle to the group, and it was quite an enjoyable time. I know I loved it!)

Never have I had a Thanksgiving like this one. I continue to be so thankful for the new experiences and new friends that Miami is able to provide. I missed being with my family on this day, but am so glad to have been able to spend the holiday having new experiences, meeting new friends, sharing in new cultures & traditions, and embracing one another as family when ours were far away. I am genuinely thankful for this Thanksgiving and all that came along with it. I hope you were as well!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Passionate People

 Passionate people are something to be celebrated. We should celebrate ourselves, celebrate one another, and celebrate the fact that somewhere, in some way, we all care. I’ve been realizing this a great deal lately in various ways, but I’d like to share a bit more about a more specific instance. The Wesley Foundation at FIU has now put on two incredibly powerful weeks, one last spring and one this October, to bring about awareness of human trafficking (sex trafficking, specifically) to the students on our campus.

I had the privilege this year of being a part of the Freedom Campaign—seeing it come to be through planning, preparation, and through the actual week itself and all that it entailed. It was a week of creativity, newfound realizations, indignant responses to such a harsh reality, and hopeful pursuits of wanting change. This week entailed so much. We had artwork put up around campus to both draw in attention, as well as inform about the reality of human trafficking. We had speakers come in to talk about what trafficking looked like specifically in Miami, considering it is in the top 3 cities in the United States where sex trafficking occurs.  In addition, these women talked extensively on the psychological manipulation associated with trafficking. There was a panel discussion where various individuals (from a representative from the Department of Homeland Security to workers from organizations that work with recovery for survivors) from the Miami community came to share their knowledge and experience about their personal relation to trafficking. There was a day when a survivor came in to share about her personal story of being trafficked in Miami and what she is now doing with her life in response to that. There was a documentary, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, screened to give a more comprehensive understanding of the issue of trafficking itself and what it looks like around the world. There was also an outreach event in which the students were able to gather for a training on what trafficking may look like in relation to prostitution. We were able to go out to various hotels and motels in the area and educate the establishments on what to look for and on how to respond.

The week was chalk full of opportunity for learning and for providing an opportunity for the desire for change to grow. Regan, a woman I work with at FIU-MDC Wesley and the one who had the vision for this week last spring, and I just got back from Imagine What’s Next in St. Louis, which is a conference for young adults involved in collegiate ministries. We were asked to come and speak about the Freedom Campaign and share with all present how we both came to be passionate about this issue and the lives behind it, how the week came to be, as well as the influence that it produced on our campus. It was incredible to be able to share about such a powerful week & to seek to recognize that all of us have our own passions, opportunities, and spheres of influence. We were able to share about our particular experience with the intended purpose of inviting others to call to the forefront their own passions, and to evaluate how those excitements could and should be encouraged. We were able to get excited about the fact that caring about something matters, that recognizing that that care exists matters, and that figuring out what to do with that care matters. Passionate people are something to be celebrated. Something that I tell myself so very often is that simply trying is worth so much. I hope that we can all continue to allow ourselves room to care with intensity and to allow ourselves room to figure out what that can encourage us to try.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Realizing Difference in New Ways

 Something I’m not sure I’ve elaborated upon about my time in Miami has been the excitement I have towards the culture and the people here. We need to first sit and recognize that Miami in & of itself is a diverse place. We then need to recall that my placement is with a ministry at an international university where a significant number of students are here from other countries. Lastly we need to remember that my housemates & I are living within the area of Little Havana in Miami, a historically Cuban area and an area with the largest Hispanic population in Miami.

Never in my life have I been able to have so many new friends from all over the world. From my roommates, to the staff I work with, to the students that I meet, to the people I interact with at the store, I am surrounded by difference and uniqueness of background, experience, and understanding in a new way. It’s wonderful, people! Wonderful! Sometimes I feel like an overexcited animal or something when I am talking with some of these people…just calm it down, Sarah. Act cool. But really, it is just a refreshing thing to build relationships in a way that I have never before experienced and be able to learn in a such a new way.

I took a class last semester at App called Race & Minority Relations. We talked a lot about privilege and what that looks like, especially the seemingly unnoticeable instances of privilege. I remember coming to the realization one day that I have never had to wake up and consciously be aware of my race. I have never walked around thinking, “I’m white. I’m white, I’m white, I’m white.” And that in and of itself is privilege. When you are in a place where you have the ability to go around without that subconscious thought constantly reminding you of your difference, that’s huge.

There is a grocery store down the street from us called El Presidente, and I walk to it every now and again to get groceries. If you’ll remember that I live in Little Havana amongst a primarily Hispanic population, you can also take a gander that this grocery store also falls into this. Now, even though I am trying to brush up on my Spanish skills, I have sadly realized that I am unable to brush up on my “I am not going to stick out” skills quite as easily. I go into El Presidente and literally feel eyes on me. I am unable to communicate as effectively as I desire, I am painfully aware sometimes of wishing I wasn’t white, and I feel an overwhelming feeling of self consciousness. I’ve had a startling realization that I have never, never had to feel this way before (minus my mzungu days in Kenya). And that is an example of privilege.

I will never try to compare a feeling of slight self-consciousness at a silly grocery store to the feelings of prejudice, judgment, and discrimination that so many have faced and face because of something as inherent as race. Never. Because I will never be able to do more than attempt to learn about being a minority in that way. I do write about this realization, though, because it really is the first time that I’ve been aware of my “whiteness” and even wished that I could tone down the amount I stick out because of something such as my race. It has been a strange and important recognition for me that I am not only thankful for, but strongly hope I can continue experiencing and learning from.

I think it’s important to take a step back and recognize our privilege—recognize the things that we do not need to think of each and every day. “I just woke up from a bed.” “If my family is hungry I can hop in my car and purchase food without the blink of an eye.” “I am going to college right now.” “I have a skewed power that others do not because of my gender or my race.” Gosh, how easy to forget how big those are. I never want to become numb to those things. I am honestly scared of how easy it is to dwell in power and privilege and simply forget that anything else exists.

I think I’ll end this puppy with a quote from a Rob Bell book that I came across about a month ago that I’ve been pretty fond of lately. It said, “Central to the way of Jesus is serving, which is the loving use of whatever power we possess for the good of another.” I am repeatedly hopeful in the realization that we are all able to both serve and be served despite the sometimes unchosen privilege (or lack thereof) we posses. I am hopeful in the words of the quote because I am reminded that there are some forms of power I hold, some forms of power others hold, and we are able to serve one another, this world, and the people in it regardless.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

South Beach Teachings

My roommates and I went to see a friend’s band play in a hotel lobby down on South Beach this weekend. I’ve never quite been anywhere like South Beach. It brought on an onslaught of thoughts and feelings for me. As I sat outside with my housemates, waiting for another friend who had the car to take us home, I witnessed a handful of moments that simultaneously turned my stomach and put me into a very specific “Sarah mode”.

Last night, in such a new way, I was witnessing women being approached and exploited because of physical and sexual intentions, with men feeling confident in their position to do so, and with the women in a mindset to accept it. It was a very confusing place for me to be. The emotions that I can associate with last night are of simply of utmost concern and sadness. Last night I was reminded in a new and scary way of something that instantly makes my heart race, and one in which I believe I will be living the rest of my life trying to counter. What a sick and infuriating view of masculinity and femininity we hold onto in our society. What a manipulative power struggle and perception of worth that exists.

It becomes alarming and honestly terrifying when we start to deconstruct and manipulate an understanding of one another into what is “right”, “normal”, “expected”, or “natural”. When a decision is made that women need to be this and men need to be that. That women are frail, needing to be led, are na├»ve or lack wisdom and ability, are approached first and foremost for their physical nature, that they can be seen as lesser, as well as greater in varying circumstances. That men must be defined by strength and power, that they are less loving and compassionate, that they are seen as domineering, that they must lead, that they also can be seen as lesser, as well as greater in varying circumstances. That there can be no overlap, interconnections, or spilling over into allowing people to be people…into allow them the opportunity to live out and bless the world with who they are and what they have to offer, without being limited to how they may have been gendered.

All of these limiting, and many times incorrect, understandings are hurtful and restricting. These understandings of power and worth that exist between men and women have serious, dangerous, harmful flaws. Men and women are not the same…because people are not the same. It isn’t about your gender. It isn’t about your sex. It isn’t about the genitals you were born with. Each person on this earth is capable of buckets more than what fits into what it “acceptable” and “understood” by gendered norms. Each person comes to be themselves in so many ways…by who they are, which of course includes their gender, but who they are and who they are capable of being is not confined to an understanding of gender.

Men and women. People. Individuals who are equally capable of having a capacity for wisdom, compassion, insight, kindness, strength, humor, empathy, power, love, initiative. Individuals who all carry a story. Individuals who are all seeking love and goodness in some way. Individuals who love and are loved.

Last night I sat, dumbstruck and hurting, as I watched the interactions between the women servicing themselves on the street and the men who were seeking to be serviced. What is the perception these people have for themselves? What is their perception of one another? I saw a man screaming at a woman as he was trying to drag her down the street, threats spilling all over, false understandings of power being used to scare and dominate as well as oppress and belittle. As they were walking by, I lost it. This human being speaking to another human being as though they were nothing…as though they were so deserving of the way they were being treated. Without even thinking I began to stand up and go towards them, wanting with all that I was to stop what I was seeing. It was panic mode. It was an automatic response. It was me not being able to stomach this treatment, the sick and terrifying understandings that people can hold for one another.

I don’t know what I was planning to do, really. It didn’t matter to me. It just couldn’t be left there as if it were nothing…or worse, as if it were normal or acceptable. As I shot up out of my seat to walk towards them, my roommate grabbed my arm and didn’t let go. She firmly said over and over to sit down, that it was dangerous, that the police were walking over at that moment to deal with it, that I couldn’t do anything about it. What a terrifying realization. I couldn’t do anything about it? But what can be done about it? Because it is not okay. Because it cannot be seen as normal. This isn’t something that can be defined or understood simply. It is big. It is the perception we hold for one another. It is the way we assume what we are each capable of, unfortunately and infuriatingly, simply on the recognition of something such as gender, which easily becomes definitive.

This issue, along with so many others, is big. They’re big & they cause us to feel as though we can’t do a darn thing. But we can try, can we not? We can make changes in our lives that affect our thoughts, interactions, perceptions of those around us. We can recognize the inherent worth that we all hold, especially, for the love of goodness, regardless of our gender. To believe in that for ourselves and for others. We can be responsible for ourselves to vow to try to change these things that exploit, demean, oppress, or lessen people, in whatever way we are able. There is worth in that. I am going to keep trying…and I want us to try together. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Good Feelings

Some good things to share in bullet form:

-The other week I mentioned that I was going to venture out, brush up on some Spanish, and go meet some of my neighbors. It went so well! People are so patient and understanding with my Spanish and it was such a great feeling to be so accepted when I was putting myself out there, unsure of how it was going to go. We have a lovely older couple that lives behind out house named Teresita and Juan who invited me into their house and we chatted for a good while. Teresita speaks no English & Juan speaks only a little, so he was able to help me with some words when I wasn't sure if I was remembering them correctly. I just loved it. I really did. I am so eager to continue building my friendships with them and hopefully being able to get better through practice at my Spanish so we can speak more deeply.

-Small groups at Wesley are starting this week & I am so thrilled for this to begin. Part of what I am so excited about with my position through US-2 & through Wesley is the act of simply helping to bring about a greater awareness of social justice issues & striving to learn alongside the students as we become more knowledgeable about them together. This excitement also stems from the response we got last year at the Appalachian Wesley Foundation from the start of 'Service Through Awareness'. There was a wonderful support of that effort, recognizing that these things are important to discuss and that it is important to try and figure out our place in how to respond, particularly as people seeking out God. I will never forget having a freshman coming up to me last year and saying, "What you are trying to do through 'Service Through Awareness' is one of the main reasons I want to be a part of this campus ministry. So many churches and people seeking after God don't see the importance of caring about injustice and how it affects people's lives, but I just don't understand how that is possible. We need to care about these things." Gah. It just keeps me excited & continues to remind me that it is good.

-My car is back, fixed, & taking some time to calm down and realize we're not going to let it be stolen any time soon. I mean, it is flattered really that it is among the other Honda Accords that are number 1 on the 'car stealing Christmas wish list' here in Miami. However, it likes just being safe in the garage for now. The celebrity life really just is too much for this car. It has also been given a new gift...Chad sent a club in the mail last week. Lookin' right, Honda. Lookin' right. 

-FIU's Wesley puts on this incredibly brilliant event called The Exchange. It happens every other week and international students (and anyone else, really!) are invited to come enjoy lunch and get to know other students. IT IS AWESOME! I went on Thursday and had the chance to sit and talk with a number students from all over the world. I can't wait for more of these. I just wanted to sit and listen for hours!

-That same day I was walking on campus & had someone call out my name to stop me and say hi. I was called by name! On a campus of 60,000 students! By someone I had only met once! You have to try and sympathize with this excitement because this has not happened yet in Miami. FIU is huge. I am still new and feel like my head is in the clouds sometimes. And I got to say hello to a new friend :) This was a concrete feeling of belonging...a reminder that I am slowly making my place here and building relationships with others outside of my co-workers, housemates, and Wesley leadership. What a fantastic feeling it was.

-I excitedly posted on Facebook about Critical Mass, but goodness, what fun! I went along with some friends, borrowed a bike, and proceeded to experience downtown Miami alongside about twenty five hundred other people biking through the streets. We had families and children coming outside to wave and holler hellos at us, cars honking and smiling, etc. I just pedaled along, smiling and taking it all in. What a fun event. I can't wait to be a part of more. If you live in a big city, you need to check it out! If you don't, (or even if you do!) come to Miami and we'll go together :)

-The beach happened this weekend! Wee! First experience at the beach in Miami was quite pleasant. It is so cool that I live so close. I can't wait to continue going back & hopefully trying some new things...snorkeling? Water sports? Surfing? That thing where you stand up on a board and paddle? PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING?! I just want to try it all.

-Two of my great friends, Garrett & Caitlin, are getting married this weekend & I am just jumping around with excitement to celebrate with them as we all come together to celebrate this beautiful marriage that is about to begin. I am thrown on the ground sometimes just thinking about what great friendships are present in my life--about what incredibly passionate, caring, beautiful people I can call friends, who are constantly showing me love and support and care. I am just so excited for this. We get to celebrate two of our wonderful friends and the beautiful, good, inspirational lives I know they are going to live together!

It is just good stuff. I just love good stuff.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What a welcome!

Hurricanes, attempts to steal cars, and more support than I feel I deserve. Let’s recap, shall we?

-Hurricane Isaac:
You see, I have no prior experience with any sort of, how you say, hurricane, tropical storm, or anything in that region of natural disasters. You also need to understand that my roommates & I have been joking about the fact that we are cut off from the outside world currently. We do not have any TV channels, we have to travel to nearby locations and steal their Internet, and our only time listening to the radio is in our cars on the way to campus (more about said car later in the post). This hurricane thing is coming out of nowhere, I’m telling you! People sending out warning messages, schools getting cancelled, hurricane safety and preparation craziness popping up. This is the real deal, people. Our hurricane shutters are in position & ready to roll! We’ll see how this whole thing goes down…

Right as I was leaving for the drive to Miami, I was saying farewell to my wonderful friend Ryan & he made up a great song/rap for me. At one point, he starts spelling out my name & when he gets to R he says “R is for the rain…because she brings the rain”. How right he is. The rain is a-comin’!

-Poor, poor car:
Just your normal Saturday morning—you wake up to a cancelled beach day due to your good friend Isaac (see above), and after getting dressed and brushing your teeth you stroll on out to the street to hop in your car and drive to get some Internet & do some work. Harmless. Oh, but what’s that? Registration and car papers strewn about? Arm rest console items thrown haphazardly into the back seat? All potential hiding places for valuables left open and empty? Woah. I thankfully realize that nothing of worth was in my car & that nothing was taken. I mean, what’s someone to do with written out directions from Boone to Miami, an ice scraper (there’s not even a hope for snow here, y’all…still coming to terms with that one), and a small figurine of a sea lion? Not a whole lot. But then you look over & realize that your ignition is torn to shreds and sitting in pieces on the floorboards. Your car can’t start. And you begin to realize that it wasn’t just a break in, but an unsuccessful attempt to steal the car itself. The rest of the day becomes this blur of phone call after phone call to the police, insurance agency, family, boss, repeat, repeat, repeat.

A great deal of shock and fear came out of yesterday to be honest. It’s an overwhelming day for your mind when it does not stop racing for hours on end. However, the car has been towed to my boss’ house to take a break from life’s excitement until Monday when hopefully I can figure out where it needs to go to be able to work again. Things are figuring themselves out slowly but surely.

-Shout outs:
My mother is incredible. I spoke with her more times in one day than lizards I see scamper when I open the front door. Now that’s a lot! I am so thankful for her & the wonderful, strong, supportive, loving woman that she is. I have roommates that make up songs to sing and dances to dance, who give me hugs and support and care. I have the deepest caring friends who will sit on the phone with me for hours and listen to the craziness that has been this transition. I even have a boss who will drive out to my house while suffering from laryngitis, unable to speak, to help me attempt to unsuccessfully push my car around the corner into our janky old garage. Who are these people? Why are they so great to me? All I know is that I feel so loved, supported, and encouraged. And what more can you hope for in such a crazy transition…plus some unexpected dashes of additional crazy along the way?

Excuse my language…or don’t…but the people aren’t kidding when they say that shit happens. Because wow-ee, does it! But thank good golly goodness gracious that there is so much more that surrounds us. It really is there, even if sometimes it is hiding under all that other stuff.

Waddup, Miami. Keep the excitement coming. Let’s do this thing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Start

Things are a-happenin' here! I'm wrapped up in this crazy vortex of the start of the new year here at FIU, the start of this new job, being in a new home, meeting all new, new, new, new! (That word looks crazy when you think about it too long. I just sat here for a second questioning whether or not it was spelled correctly.) It's a situation where I just want to learn and fit and find my place in all of this. And this is a good thing, because I am excited and eager and itching to get things rolling. At the moment, though, I think I need to give myself permission to realize that 'belonging' and 'finding your place' does not happen overnight. I'm allowed to get lost, I'm allowed to tell students that I don't know the campus when they ask me where the chemistry building is, I'm allowed to admit that I have been here less than 2 weeks and don't know how things work, I'm allowed to not know the ins and outs of the campus ministry yet. It's okay. It's allowed.

The Wesley Foundation has immersed itself in all of the start of the year hullabaloo at Florida International University. We helped out with freshman move in day on Friday, have been 'tabling' on campus providing information to students who are interested in the campus ministry, talking to other clubs and organizations about some of the stuff we do, etc. There has been a club/student organization fair the past few days & a co-worker and I have been raising awareness about two awesome aspects of the Wesley Foundation. Starting last year, Wesley began a campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking to the campus and students here and had an amazing response! This year, The Freedom Campaign will occur again in October and she went around telling other clubs about it and gaining a lot of support. It's really awesome! I also went around to various clubs who focus on service, social justice, work in the community/abroad and told them about Wesley's grant program. It's a really cool initiative to provide funding to students or student organizations who are passionate about making a difference and encouraging change for the better. I am so excited about this & am thrilled to have this under my wing...I can't wait to see the applications and the creativity that will come from these students and organizations in order to bring about good in situations that need good.

We also had our first worship, or Community Night, on Monday. Again, it is so interesting to be involved in a new and unfamiliar campus ministry and learn the ropes of how they do their thing here. We are having a glow in the dark ultimate frisbee game in the housing quad tonight (wee!!!) and will be taking a trip to the beach on Saturday for anyone who is either new to Miami & wants to experience the area more (raises hand) or simply wants to go with some new friends to the ocean and play (raises other hand).

In other news, this past Sunday proved to be an amazing experience. I was borrowing internet from a nearby restaurant (hush hush) and realized that I wanted to try out some churches in the area. Having no prior knowledge, no awareness of the area, really, I typed in "progressive churches in the Miami area" and came upon a very cool place. I went by myself and tried it Sunday morning & was immediately thrown into such a warm welcome. What a passionate group of people who are really seeking to love, to include, to seek out good. I liked it so much. I am excited to go back this weekend and continue learning more and more about what they do and what they're about.

I am about to wrap this thing up. My goal for this evening before glow in the dark ultimate frisbee is to walk around and hopefully meet some neighbors. This also means speaking all Spanish. I hear people around 'Little Havana' where we live are quite gracious towards trying...I am already quite appreciative of this.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Welcome to Miami! Bienvenido a Miami!

I'm here! After a couple days of driving, a sleepover with a wonderful family and their dogs, some bitter first run ins with an extravagant presence of toll roads in this city, getting a tad turned around, and realizing just how much Spanish I really need to brush up on, Miami is where I am. This is my new home, people.

Something that is important for everyone to know right off the bat: there are more lizards here than you can even understand. Please join me in imagining a large amount of these small reptiles running around in your yard, on the walls, behind all things, etc. Yes, okay, good try...but you have underestimated. They are taking over. But I like them. I also saw some iguanas! Yeah!

After a couple days of driving, Jeff & I arrived in Miami to warm greetings & hospitality from my new housemates and friends. The next morning, after Mr. Verner was dropped off to continue another trek of bus traveling that would lead back to NC, I met up with the rest of the Wesley staff & leadership to drive to Key West for their leadership retreat. I am so thankful to have been a part of that. What a great time to get to know other new friends, while also getting the low down on this new campus ministry that I am now a part of. These people are so cool...and from everywhere! I just want to sit and listen to everyone and learn about their lives and cultures and experiences. It is going to be so exciting to find my place here and really figure out how to bring these passions for social justice and service into this new group of people. Adventures!

Upon returning to Miami, the next day was moving day and it was in full force. The Wesley Foundation has intentional living communities that they call the Wesley houses. Yesterday the mission was to completely move out all of the things in the old Wesley house into two new Wesley of which I am a resident. What a crazy day, but golly it feels so good to be in a permanent residence. I am in "The Blue House" with 4 other women. My roommates are wonderful. I am so excited to share life with these friends and make this house such a fun and great place to be. After proudly arranging our living room, putting together some bed frames, and admitting complete and utter exhaustion, we went to our first ever "family dinner" and it was so pleasant. I like these people.

I also saw FIU for the first time today! I've admitted to feeling like a freshman, coming for the first time and feeling a bit helpless, lost, and scared. I'll fit right in next week when all of the students start classes. But you better believe that I am going to conquer this campus and these crazy streets of Miami one of these days and it is going to be glorious...even if there will be a couple turn arounds along the way.

Now, I am going to journey for my first trip to the grocery store. And guess what? I'm not even going to get lost. (We'll see.) Maybe I can even practice some Spanish along the way. Thanks to everyone for all of the support, encouragement, and thoughts that have been sent my way through this transition. I am so very grateful!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New adventures to be had!

It's time to brush the dust off of this blog and start documenting a new adventure! This was such a wonderful way to share with supporting friends and family what I was learning and how I was spending my time on my trip to Kenya last summer (already a year ago?!). Now we've been encouraged to use blogs in the same way to share our experiences, adventures, and what we're learning in this new adventure I am about to embark on. Our large class of US-2's and Global Mission Interns are completing our last days of training, preparing for our commissioning ceremony, and will then be on our (very) separate ways and move to serve in our placement sites domestically within the United States, as well as around the world.

So here we are! Let's just do a little recap of what I'm mumbling about, shall we? After completing the application and interview process throughout spring of this year, I was accepted to serve in the US-2 program, which is through the overlying organization of the General Board of Global Ministries through the United Methodist Church. It is this incredible program that focuses on young adults being placed in various locations around the country for two years to focus on service, social justice, and addressing various systemic issues within the United States. Pretty amazing, yeah? I sure do think so.

I found out in late May that I'll be placed in Miami, Florida with the Florida International University/Miami-Dade College Wesley Foundation. My fancy title is campus & community liaison for missions and social justice. But more understandably, I will be placed on staff at this campus ministry to bring awareness of and hopefully excitement towards social justice to the students, the broader campus, and to connect both with organizations around the Miami area that are already working to address injustices. It's wonderful! I am thrilled about this! I have been so greatly impacted by campus ministry throughout college and am eager to see it played out in the lives of students in another context. I am so excited to integrate social justice and service into this Wesley Foundation's pursuit of God and faith and to learn & grow along with them.

So for the past 3 weeks I have been in New York training alongside about 40 other individuals (both from the United States, as well as a variety of other countries!) who will either be within the US-2 program as well, or serving abroad in the Global Mission Intern program. We have been having a lovely jumble of discussions, lectures, sessions, activities, and lots and lots of thinking about what we may encounter in the next few years. We've been addressing issues such as cross-cultural ministry, interfaith cooperation & celebration, racism, sexism, class distinctions, LGBT, worker's rights, mass incarceration, poverty, and so, so much more. It has been overwhelming in such a good way. I am so thankful for the discussions we have been having and feel a wave of relief at the fact that so many other people care about these things. It gives me so much hope!

It has been a great time to prepare for the transition we are all about to make. We are now hopefully feeling more prepared than when we started, we are excited to find our place in addressing systemic injustices, as well as completely unsure about what this will all look like! I am also confident in saying that we all have more questions than answers about the majority of topics discussed...but that's the good stuff. So much more room to learn and grow & that is something to celebrate in and of itself.

We travel tomorrow from New York City to DC to participate in our commissioning ceremony for the next few days & I will be heading back to North Carolina on the 5th of August to say farewell (buh!) to friends and family before I am on my way to sunny Florida. I'll be meeting a wonderful pile of new people, hopefully orienting myself somewhat in the city, and finding a way to call it all home. Once I arrive, I'll head with the rest of the Wesley leadership team on their leadership retreat to Key West (woah buddy!) to get ready for the upcoming year. I'm about to dive right into this thing & I'm so eager to see what it will all look like!

Until next time, friends.