Monday, April 15, 2013

Just to get an Idea....

This is a wonderful, short video by The Episcopal Church that gives an idea of what a year as a member of YASC is like. The three YASCers in the video are located in South Africa which is faraway from where I will be. However, I still believe this showcases the core themes of Young Adult Service Corps!


YASC teaser from The Episcopal Church on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

YASC Discernment Weekend Reflection

This post was originally published on the Episcopal News Service on March 6, 2013. 

Fortunately while I was in El Salvador, I met an editor for the Episcopal News Service. After chatting for a while and me explaining how I had applied for YASC, she asked me if I would write a reflection piece about the discernment weekend. After some thought, I said, "yes." So here it is.

A group of amazing young people discerning if YASC is the most faithful next step for them!

A friend recently shared this prayer with me, “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of work, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone.”

I believe the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) embodies this. I saw it when 25 potential YASC missionaries with a wide variety of skills, gifts and passions from across the country came together to discern the best way for them to serve out God’s mission.

In our own Baptismal Covenant we are asked if we will, strive for justice and peace among all people, to see and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself and to proclaim by work and example the Good News of God in Christ.

But how do we know in which way we can best serve God? What is our next most faithful step to come and follow Christ?

This is where discernment comes in.

Even though I grew up Episcopalian and work for the church, the word discernment is not part of my everyday vocabulary. What do they mean by a discernment weekend? To all my friends who aren’t religious, they were just as stumped. I simply explained it as a long interview weekend where the staff will get to know me. For me, going into an interview is nerve-wracking enough but a whole weekend of it? Terrifying. I had the complete wrong idea, though. The word interview doesn’t even come to mind.

We built a spiritual community within 72 hours; a support system where everyone opened up and felt comfortable in guiding one another through this decision making process.

There was time for us to ask questions, talk to former YASC missionaries, and learn about the responsibilities and expectations of being a member of YASC. I thought the most important part was when the facilitators broke us into small groups of six or seven people to meet for an hour, three different times throughout the weekend. The confidential space allowed us to reflect out loud our strengths, weaknesses, fears, doubts, hopes and joys. There were no wrong answers, no judgments and no interruptions. It was the perfect place to relax, open-up and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you.

I joked throughout the weekend that all we did was talk, eat, talk a little more and then eat again. But the truth is I came into the weekend with an unfaltering certainty that this is what I wanted to do. I didn’t think I would learn much more or be changed in any way. But I came away with a deeper understanding of my own spiritual journey, 24 wonderful new friends who I yearned to be reunited with the minute we departed ways and energized to dive head first into this journey I am about to embark on.

As Jan Richardson wrote, “And we will open our hands to the feast without shame. And we will turn toward each other without fear. And we will give up our appetite for despair. And we will taste and know delight. And we will become bread for a hungering world. And we will become drink for those who thirst. And the blessed will become the blessing. And everywhere will be the feast."

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Story...

Everyone has a journey that leads them to where they are currently. Many wonderful opportunities have impacted me to become a Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) missionary. So here is my story....

My Story

I am twenty-three years old and grew up in Loudoun County, the Northern Virginia area. While a majority of my extended family lives in North Carolina and my family and I could only visit a couple times a year, so we found an extended  family through St. James' Episcopal Church. It became a second home and a wonderful, supporting community to grow up in.

The church gave me numerous opportunities to participate in mission and outreach starting at a young age. From participating in the 30 hour famine at age 12 by standing outside grocery stores hungry and gathering donations to visiting women and children's shelters to cooking meals for the hungry, these experiences gave me a firsthand look at the importance of serving others.

For my first mission trip in 2006, I travelled to New Orleans to assist in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. That was the first time I was faced with the sight of devastating poverty. I didn't realize until after the trip how deeply affected I was by what I saw and did. I couldn't believe that such poverty existed in the United States. It opened me up, as a teenager, to the possibilites of how I could help someone in need.

In the summer of 2008 after I graduated high school, I was given the opportunity to go to Liberia, Africa on a mission trip. Our group partnered with Solar Lights for Africa and installed solar panels onto an Episcopal School called the Bromley School. After 10 days of hard work in the African heat, the solar panels were up and the lights were ready to be turned on. I have never seen so much joy come from a light bulb turning on. This light changed these people’s life as well as mine.

In Liberia with Bromley girls, July 2008

That fall I packed my bags and moved to Fredericksburg, VA to attend the University of Mary Washington. As I worried if I would find a faith community as supportive as St. James', I stumbled upon the Campus Christian Community (CCC). And yet again, another mission opportunity was presented to me. The group goes on an annual mission trip during winter break. That year they were going to Honduras to work with a group called Students Helping Honduras. To sign up I had to put a deposit down in October, only a month after I came to college and met these people. So I signed up, raised the money and in January of 2009, I flew to Honduras and helped build a village.

CCC Group in Villa Soleada, Honduras, January 2009

And I didn’t know at the time that the trip would shape the rest of my college experiences. Originally, I wanted to study International Affairs. In Honduras, I met an economics professor who influenced my choice to major in Economics. And later introduced me to La Ceiba, a student-run microfinance institution at UMW. 

La Ceiba serves about 35 women in the Honduran community where I helped build the village my freshman year.  When I first joined the MFI, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I did not know much about microfinance in general or how La Ceiba worked. This was not just another class in college where I learned a subject and took a test on it. The decisions we made affected the lives of our clients and their families. In the beginning there were some days where I felt like I did not have the knowledge or skills to make these decisions. And I questioned my role in this institution. However, I found my stride eventually.

La Ceiba team in Honduras, December 2011

There were times in La Ceiba, where as students we would question whether we had the skills and knowledge to run this microfinance institution. None of us had degrees, none of us had previously worked for an MFI, and some of the students didn’t even speak Spanish. But in the end, our bottom line was we wanted to help these people who had no other way to access a banking system, formal or informal. La Ceiba taught me that I did not have to wait for that degree or wait to find all the answers before continuing. I was willing to participate and I did not have to wait for someday.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington in May 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Economics and Spanish. A month later, I moved to Richmond, VA to begin working as an intern for one year for the Office of Mission and Outreach at the Diocese of Virginia. This opportunity has allowed me to assist others throughout the diocese in organizing mission trips, outreach projects, and gather all this information to share. It has been a wonderful experience and first job and I will miss it dearly. But it is thanks to this job that my boss told me about Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) and encouraged me to apply. 

University of Mary Washington graduation, May 2012

Many who know me, know I love to travel and about my passion for mission. YASC is a perfect fit for me. YASC is a ministry for young adults who are interested in exploring their faith in new ways by living and serving in communities around the Anglican Communion. Most importantly as a missionary of the Episcopal Church, I will be developing relationships and connecting the Diocese of Virginia, its parishes, and parishioners with the church in the Northern Philippines. 

We have all been called to share God's love and carry out his work. We are called to serve the least of these. And they don't just live in Richmond or Virginia or the United States. We have brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world who we need to reach out to. As God once asked, "who should I send?" and Isaiah responsed, "Here I am. Send me." 

And so I say to God, "Here I am. Send me."