Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Team Asia

Sean Brown is from the Diocese of Hawaii and will be serving in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (The Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan). He'll be serving as a volunteer at the Asian Rural Institute in Nasushiobara.

Will Bryant is from the Diocese of Western North Carolina and will be serving in the Diocese of Western Kowloon. He will be the Chaplaincy Assistant with the Mission to Seafarers in Hong Kong.

Margaret Clinch is from the Diocese of Southern Ohio and will be serving in the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. She will be working at Easter College in Baguio. 

Charlotte File is from the Diocese of Indianapolis and will be serving in the Diocese of Yokohama. She'll be the Education and International Exchange Program Assistant at the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project in Kiyosato, Japan. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Team Africa

Emily Barker is from the Dioceses of Nebraska and New York and will be serving in the Diocese of Cape Town. She'll be the Project and Administrative Assistant at HOPE Africa in Cape Town, South Africa. 

Paul Daniels II is from the Diocese of North Carolina and will be serving in the Diocese of Grahamstown. He'll be the Student Minister at the Cathedral Church of St. Michael and St. George of Grahamstown, South Africa. 

Maurice Dyer is from the Diocese of El Camino Real and will be serving in the Diocese of Grahamstown. He'll be an assistant teacher at the Holy Cross School in Grahamstown, South Africa. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Meet My Fellow YASCers!

I feel blessed to be a part of such a wonderful, enthusiastic, caring, and passionate group of young people! There are 24 of us this year, two of whom are from the Dominican Republic, being sent out across the world to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Watch the video below which I put together during orientation to learn who these people are, where they are from, where they are going and why they are excited about being a part of YASC!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's Happening

My plane ticket is officially booked! 

I'm leaving for the Philippines on August 22nd. Fortunately, I am not traveling alone! I am meeting up with Margaret Clinch in Detroit. It's going to be a long journey to get there. I'll be leaving from DC at 9:30am on Thursday and arriving in Manila at 10:45pm on Friday!

So this makes it all real. It's happening. It's really happening. I'm going to the Philippines!

"Hallelujah Anyhow"

This article was originally posted on Global Partnerships of the Episcopal Church blog on June 25, 2013. I wanted to share it not only because it was written by my friend and fellow YASCer, Paul Daniels II, but also because the message is one that should be shared to all. 

Paul Daniels, II
The following is a reflection on Luke 21:1-4 offered by Young Adult Service Corps missionary Paul Daniels, II of the Diocese of North Carolina at this year’s missionary orientation. He will be serving as a student minister at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George in Grahamstown, South Africa.

“As Jesus looked up he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Nichelle is a woman that attends a church I once attended. She is a fairer skinned African-American woman whose smile is so brilliant that her eyes close in reverence of its radiance. Her hair, worn naturally, is a thick black crown of curls often wrapped in some traditional African fabric.

Nichelle shuffles into church, embraces me as if I am her child, the women as if they were her sisters, and the men as if they were her brothers; she heads to the fifth pew from the front and begins her morning prayers.

I love to preach when Nichelle is at church because I am sure to get a “HALLELUJAH.” And she was the first person I heard profess “Thank YA!” in the middle of an 18th century Anglican hymn.
But, life for Nichelle, as Langston Hughes put it, “ain’t been no crystal stair.” In fact, it’s been a life full of cracks and dings and brokenness. Nichelle, like many of her neighbors, struggles with severe poverty. And poverty holds real consequences for Nichelle’s health and well-being. Yet, Nichelle always manages to say, “Hallelujah anyhow!”

“Hallelujah anyhow” is an existential and verbal supplement that has sustained systematically oppressed people for centuries. It is the personal acknowledgment that I might not have what I want, and I may not be where I want to be—tempered by the transcendent reality that through the grace of God I have what I need and I am where I need to be.

Nichelle is much like the woman in our scripture reading. Nichelle doesn’t praise God on Sunday, put money in the collection plate, or love her fellow parishioners so intensely as a status symbol, to showoff what she owns in material possessions. Most Sundays she has not the money nor the energy; yet, what she does have is faith that God will provide. So, she gives without ceasing, complaint, or apparent limitation. She gives out of her poverty and depletion as an act of letting go of fear; thus, making room for God to show up and show out!

It might be out of some small or large place of privilege in our own lives that has led us to this place, into the knowledge that we can be international bearers of the Good News. But, we have been reminded time and again that it will not be, and dare I say should not be, privilege that defines how we do mission. If our wise and loving leaders in Mission Personnel tell us that we should not lead with the mentality that out of our abundance we have much to give, perhaps it is to prepare us for the many days and nights ahead—nights when we will feel a deep poverty of things or spirit. Perhaps it is to say that in these moments of isolation, or loneliness, when all we can think about are the people and things that we have left behind, when we are “stripped down to the literal substance of ourselves”—as Howard Thurman writes when describing a Jesus that cries out in Mark’s crucifixion story for a God he cannot see, but trusts is still there—that that is when God will be most vibrantly and powerfully available to us, for us, and with us—to hold and to share with others.

And perhaps that is when we should say “Hallelujah anyhow” and trust that what we have left to give, even when we can’t see it or name it, is more than enough. It will be the most divine gift because it will be ALL we have to give, it will be our true selves. No pretense about it.

Leonard Cohen writes, “Love is not a victory march…it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah!”

I hope that when we find ourselves financially, spiritually, and physically broken (and I’ve heard that there’s a good chance of that) that we will remember Nichelle, say “Hallelujah anyhow” and deeply and divinely love those with whom we live and work. In moments of poverty I pray that each of us will love richly—the kind of love that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Find your Way in NYC

The Task:
Learn about different neighborhoods within New York City. Talk to people about their stories, how they got there, what they do, and what it is like to live there.

Answer the following questions about each neighborhood:

  • What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? When you have lunch, what do you taste?
  • How did you feel walking around the neighborhood? (Anxious, uncomfortable, at home, blown away, etc.)

When in the neighborhood, walk around with your partner and try to find a few people to talk to. You can go into shops, talk to street food vendors, etc. Keep to public place and use your street smarts.

When meeting people, introduce yourself and explain why you're visiting the neighborhood. Get them to tell you their story - or as much of it as they're willing to tell.

Take pictures of the neighborhoods, not of individuals or groups of people, to help tell the story.

You should leave your last neighborhood by 4:15pm at the latest. You need to be at Ping's Restaurant in Chinatown (Manhattan) by 5:30pm.

The Experience:
We were all broken into three groups of eight. Each group was assigned between two and three subway stops to get off at and streets to walk around. I was in Group 1 with Julie, Keri, Pierre, Tom, Heidi, Zach and Rachel. This is all we were given:
Group 1: Manhattan and the Bronx

  • Concourse Village - Train B or D to 167th
    • Be sure to visit the Sheridan Ave & McClellan St intersection
  • Washington Heights - Train C to 168th Street
    • Be sure to walk between 168th St and 175th St
  • Harlem - Train 2 or 3 to 125th Street
    • Be sure to walk between 135th St and 135th St on Lennox Ave
At first, it was nerve wracking to think about walking up to complete strangers and asking them about their lives. Actually not at first, the whole time it was nerve wracking and hard to accomplish. When we got off each metro stop we would break into partners, give ourselves about 30 to 45 minutes and then meet back at that location. Therefore even though we were in the same group, we all had different experiences. 

Group 1finding its way in NYC
For this post, I am going to simply write my notes and observances of each neighborhood in bullet points. 
Washington Heights: Rachel and I were partners and to ease into the process we thought it would be best to go to schools and try to talk to people there. Turned out it was the last day of school and all the administrators were too crazy busy to talk to us. However, we did enjoy simply walking around the school and seeing everything on the walls. 
  • A little Dominican Republic
  • Spanish, Spanish, Spanish
  • Cutest little girl driving a pink cadillac down Broadway
  • Number of veggie and fruit stands on the sidewalk
  • Major security to enter into the schools
  • 97% of the middle schools is hispanic
  • Good number of restaurants and stores were closed up or not open
  • Spanish/Latin American looking mural on side of building that symboled prosperity
  • Graduation occurring across the street from where we ate lunch
  • Huge number of inspirational quotes on the walls of the school
  • Felt like "the other" in the schools because we immediately stood out and people would say "are you lost?" "can I help you?"
  • Colombia University Medical School appeared completely out of place
  • Little diversity, did see a Vietnamese church, though

Adorable poster at one of the schools. Each kids says
what they want to be when they grow up.
The Bronx: Zach and I were partners and simply wandered around. It was more residential than Washington Heights. We did talk to a group of girls about ages 9-13 who were selling some frozen drinks, rice and some homemade goodies. We didn't learn much, though, because they were all talking over one another. 
  • Not much time to explore, only 30 minutes
  • Mostly residential with a scattering of stores
  • Witnessed classic NYC moment with fire hydrant spraying and the cutest little kids running through it in the street
  • Felt extremely out of place as a preppy, white girl
  • Still many hispanics, but also more of a mix of Africans
  • Heard African languages being spoken
  • Saw African men with long muslim tunic shirts and caps and girls in headscarves
  • Supermercado next to an African market
African Market next to Supermercado
Harlem: Rachel and I were partners again. We walked into a Starbucks to get some iced coffee to give us extra energy. While we were there a man started talking to us and come to learn he's a published author and poet. "Blue" was his name and he's performed at the Apollo. Interesting character but we were able to find out a little about the area and read some of his poems. Pretty good stuff. By the time we finished talking to him, it was time to meet back up with the group to head to Chinatown for dinner.
  • Crowded sidewalks
  • More commercial with H&M and Gap but still many street vendors
Famous Apollo Theatre
Street art in Harlem
Group Debrief:
The group was able to debrief and share lessons from the day. Here is a list of only some of them:
  • It was harder than we thought
  • It was easier than we thought
  • External signs (like appearance) are important
  • A lot of these neighborhoods were the land of immigrants and their storefronts reflected the places from which they came
  • Language is key! It's harder to form connections when you can't understand each other.
  • Communicating is much easier when it is organic rather than trying to get information from people using the direct approach.
  • There were blurred cultural lines for most of the neighborhoods and they became a melting pot for all cultures involved.
  • Transportation was a privilege, some places were a Subway desert. 
  • We carry and reflect our own culture. Watch what you say that is unspoken!

Friday, July 26, 2013

"Experience Your Neighbor's Faith, Deepen Your Own"

People of faith more than not grow up with one religion or within one sector of a religion. They don't explore outside their own faiths or learn about other world religions. I know I am guilty of this. I have a basic understanding of the guiding principles and foundation of other religions but that's the extent of it.

On Monday, June 24th, we went into the city for a day with Faith House. Their slogan is "Experience Your Neighbor's Faith, Deepen Your Own." Throughout the day, they did just that. They opened my eyes to new spiritual practices and I got to experience firsthand other faiths.

Before we got started one of the leaders explained it this way, "think of the picture you are building up in your head of the different faith houses and religions we are about to experience. Now as the day goes on, consider what is missing in that initial image."

It was a jam-packed day and the HOTTEST in the city, in the mid-90s. Since, we were visiting houses of faith, everyone dressed respectively and conservatively in long sleeves and pants. Needless to say, we were all DYING! However, overall it was an impactful day.

Our first stop was Kossar's Biali's, the oldest Jewish kosher bakery (and bakery, period!) in the U.S. where we all got bagels. The BEST bagel I've ever eaten. I almost took it for granted because the feeling of starvation was setting in when we finally made it after a horrendous 2+ hour bus ride.

Stop #1:
From there we walked over to Eldridge Street Synagogue. Now picture in your head this enormous, spectacular synagogue in the middle of Chinatown. Everyone was speaking chinese and fish markets were right around the corner making it appear completely out of place. The neighborhood over the years has completely transformed.

Outside of the Synagogue
The entry hallway.
The synagogue was originally erected in 1887 and a thriving place of worship for hundreds of Jews until the Great Depression. After World War II in the 1940s, attendance began to dwindle and the synagogue closed its doors. Somebody rediscovered this beauty in the 1980s and in 1996 it was marked a National Historic Landmark. $18.5 million later and the building stands in its original grandeur. The synagogue is now home to a small congregation and a museum for tours, school programs, and cultural events.

Our tour guide was wonderful and painted us a complete picture of what it would've been like to experience a service in the early 1900s.

Stop #2:
St. Peter's Catholic Church is the oldest Catholic Church in New York City. It sits in the heart of downtown surrounded by Wall Street and other big businesses of the U.S. For this stop, we actually experienced a noon day mass which was not too different from a short Episcopal service. However, it was different enough to put me out my comfort zone.

Stop #3:
St. Paul's Chapel is an Episcopal chapel part of Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church. The chapel has major historical significance from George Washington worshiping there during the 1700s to being a place of support for 9/11recovery workers. It sits across the street from the World Trade Center. Now a museum to the public, pictures and testimonies from 9/11 cover the walls. The most miraculous story was how the chapel had no structural damage from the towers collapsing. It stood high and strong amongst the rubble.

As an Episcopalian, I had no idea that this chapel served as a sign of hope and became a place of reconciliation for those affected by the tragedy. I am continually reminded of why I am part of this faith.

Stop #4:
Around the corner we walked into what looked like a run down building on a somewhat empty street. Surprisingly, it was Park51, the muslim community and worship center, which caused much controversy throughout the nation and in New York City because of its proximity to the World Trade Center. I remember reading bits and pieces of articles and hearing about it on the news. The way the story was told you would think Park51 is across the street from the World Trade Center with a huge banner on it saying "we are muslims here." However, it is nothing like the image I had in my head. It is a simple warehouse building that sits a couple streets away and around the corner. If I hadn't been told to walk into a certain door, I would have walked right past it.

The outside of Park51

Two muslim community leaders with completely different backgrounds shared information about their stories, the story of Park51, and the Islamic faith. One leader, Hanandi, who is 28 and grew up as a muslim, was attending an Islamic school in Brooklyn when 9/11 happened. Hearing her testimony as a muslim teenager living in New York City post-9/11 almost brought us all to tears. She experienced and witnessed such violence and hate for something she and her faith had nothing to do with. But as much as it could have torn her apart, it strengthened her. Now she is working to help other muslim teenagers and educate others about Islam. She's an inspiration.

Hanandi sharing her story.

Stop #5:
The last stop of the day was to the Soka Gakkai NYC Buddhist Center. In this space we were able to experience another form of worship. We went up to a large space with chairs set up in rows and a couple of people sitting up front with microphones and a gong. The leaders with the mic began a certain chant then everyone followed rapidly chanting one saying repeatedly until the gong sounded and the leader started a different chant. As a guest who did not understand the language and was clueless to what was occurring, I still felt a sense of welcoming. The chanting enveloped me and brought a sense of calm to the point that I almost fell asleep (whoops!). It was interesting witnessing this other form of worship but it left with me with more questions about this Buddhist faith than answers.

We couldn't take pictures inside so here is the outside of the building.
Overall, the day was full of surprises and much learning. However, we only got a taste of different faiths and there is still much to know about each one of them. One commonality is everyone we met were all welcoming and eager to explain the importance and impact that certain faith has had on them. While it may be in a different language, different form of worship, and with different teachings, God is touching each one of us to spread good works, peace and happiness.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Love Found in Tarrytown

On Sunday, June 23rd, the YASCers were graced with the presence of Christ Church in Tarrytown, NY. Graciously welcomed into this community with open arms through a beautiful service which combined cultures to expand our idea of the Episcopal Church.

Many of us grew up in the traditional Episcopal church with an organ playing, classic hymns sung and everything spoken in English. One thing I've come to realize is that is not everyone's Episcopal church.
Episcopalians speak a wide variety of languages and sing a wide variety of songs. Nobody is doing it the wrong way, just a different way.

Photo courtesy of Charlotte File
The Sunday service in Tarrytown combined their Spanish and English speaking congregations to celebrate us YASCers who are about to experience many different ways of celebrating on Sunday morning. It was refreshing and energizing to hear both Spanish and English overlap one another as we all prayed the same prayer. Maracas, tambourines and drums drove our feet to tap and hands to clap along to an upbeat sound. The Venerable Bill Parnell's, Archdeacon of Mission in the Diocese of New York, sermon reminded us of the power of love. (You can read the whole thing here.)

Bill Parnell preaching.
Photo courtesy of David Copley
Here are two parts that stood out to me:

"And that is what we strive to be as the Church – a community formed by Love. We don’t have it
all down perfectly just yet – we are a work in progress, continually being molded by Jesus who is
Love Incarnate. He alone is the one who bears our sins and our brokenness. No scapegoats are
needed, only a community of people who have seen Love at work in our own lives and are
commissioned to tell all that God has done for us. We who seek to follow in the ways of Jesus
are given that work of reconciliation which restores people to wholeness and challenges the
powers that prevent it from happening. It will surely comfort some; it will surely afflict others –
and the Church is called to reach out to both. That’s why Paul talked about a community united
in Jesus where all the marks of distinction and sources of division disappear: neither Jew nor
Greek, slave nor free, male nor female....
Today we have among us about twenty-five people who are being sent to some far-flung corners
of the world to serve in the name of Jesus who is Love Incarnate. Love is about to come to town
in some new ways through their presence. I give thanks for their energy and commitment, their
vision and their willingness to risk crossing oceans and borders and barriers to share the Good
News. But most of us are staying put, and there is no less need for us to be in mission right here.
There is plenty of need for Jesus to tarry a while in Tarrytown, and Love has come to town in the
people who are Christ Church, a community that is being formed by Love in new ways all the
time. Whether you’re staying or going, jump that train and catch that flame. Carry Love to town
by telling the stories of what God has done for you. Listen well to the stories of what God is
doing for those among whom you live. Let Love form a community. I bet you will see Love
conquer a great divide."

Love and support is what I felt throughout the morning from strangers but all brothers and sisters in Christ at Christ Church, Tarrytown. They threw a lovely lunch afterwards and sat down to get to know each one of us. And we were able to witness the blessing of their clothing closet. Another way this wonderful community and Church spreads its love.

That morning gave me great anticipation to celebrate with the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, to learn a new way to praise God, and share love with a new community.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Free Day in the City

On Saturday, June 22nd we were given a day off from training and let loose into the city. I've been to NYC three other times in the past. They've always been quick trips and I never get to see everything, of course, because there is so much to see. It was nice to check a couple more items off my list.

Hello, New York City!
Rachel and I started off by standing in line for rush tickets to a broadway with Heidi, Becky, and Emily who wanted to see something that afternoon. Unfortunately, after waiting 45 minutes we learned all the tickets had been scooped up. We went to the next best thing, Ellen's Stardust Diner! It is famous for it's incredibly talented, starving actor wait staff who perform throughout the diner as you eat. They sing broadway hits to Disney classics to current radio hits. It was incredibly fun to sing along and hear these amazing stars.

Chrysler Building
The Streets of NY.
Emily & Becky are extremely happy to be in Times Square!
Rachel, Emily, Me and Becky waiting in line for tickets.
Ellen's Stardust Diner!
Waiter performing at Ellen's Stardust Diner.
Me in Times Square.

Afterwards, we conquered the NYC subway system to head down to the Lower West Side and Chelsea area to explore the High Line. The High Line is an aerial park that spans for one mile on top of an abandoned, elevated New York Central Railroad. It's a beautiful park full of street performers, tanners sprawled out on benches, and a section for local food vendors. We got a far off view of the Statue of Liberty as well as the Empire State Building. It was fun to just explore and walk around as if we lived in the city and this was a regular Saturday afternoon activity.

Can you see the Empire State Building?
Rachel & I on the High Line.
Walking along the High Line

Me, Rachel & Emily at the High Line
Becky & I. That's suppose to be the Statue of Liberty
behind us.

From there we went to the famous Magnolia's bakery, known for their scrumptious cupcakes! Across the street was a shady park with a piano man. We sat down to give our feet a rest and enjoy jazzy tunes. Then the piano man asked, "are there any good singers in the audience?" We all yelled, "Yes, Becky is!" That led to Emily and Becky's breakout, street performance of "Let it Be"!

Magnolia Bakery cupcake!
Relaxing in the park.
Becky & Emily singing "Let It Be" with the piano man!

Next stop was the Guilty Goose, a bar where Becky's old, childhood friend is a bartender. We sipped on some cold beers and met up with more YASCers. And finally, the whole group met back up for a late dinner before our long bus ride back to Stony Point.

Dinner all together! 

I'm glad I didn't try to pack in as many touristy things to do in one day. I enjoyed simply hanging out with everyone and slowly exploring different venues the city has to offer. All in all, a wonderful day!

Goodbye, NYC!