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."

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