Monday, July 22, 2013

Go with Grace, Not Knowledge

It has been over a month since I arrived at YASC orientation and training. I apologize for the delay in posting about it. I went straight on a two week vacation afterwards, but also I've been trying to process all that I learned, felt, and discussed during the two weeks at Stony Point Retreat Center in Stony Point, NY. I'm going to do multiple posts about orientation, but here is a general overview, first. (Also, I apologize in advance for the low quality of my photos, I didn't bring my DSLR and was so disappointed with myself. I took all these with my iPhone.)

As I mentioned in my last post, my grandmother died right before training which delayed my arrival. While everyone else arrived on June 16th, I flew in on June 19th. After such an emotional couple of days, it was wonderful to be joyously received by 20 supportive friends and a couple of new ones! It was a wonderful setting to transition into after the funeral.

The amazing group of people I spent two weeks with!

I recently read on the Shrine Mont Camps blog that the camp chaplain, the Rev. Susan Daughtry, said, "community is one of the places we meet God." After two weeks of building a community with the other passionate YASCers, I can say I met God in a different way through each and every one of them. Community is a defining word for YASC. We build a community of support between one another. We gain support from our surrounding communities as we embark on this journey. We will build new communities in our placements.

On our last day of training, we all sat in one big circle and passed a ball of string around, in no particular order, to one another. When we were passed the ball, we said one thing we learned during orientation. Mine was that, "I've learned I can find love and support through all these people. And that they will be there for me throughout this coming year." And hands down, I was not the only one who expressed that. In the end, it showed we are all connected to one another.

We have become a family.

Our web of interconnectedness.

Overall, we had sessions and small group activities facilitated by Chris Pullenayegem, our cultural competency consultant. He taught us how to perceive and assess cross cultural situations with an open mind, properly communicate in cross cultural situations, and simply how to widen our cultural knowledge. All of that information will greatly help us as we assimilate into a new culture and community far from our own. In my mind, the most important aspect of training were the times we all had outside the classroom.

Chris Pullenyegem, our cross cultural guru!
Photo Courtesy of David Copley.

Outside of the conference room, we were able to share our hopes, fears, expectations, concerns and digest all that was being thrown our way. The conversations, laughs, and silly times bonded us all together to form a tight knit support group. While our friends and families will be there to support us, they will not being going through the same ups and downs.

This is how it was when we weren't in the conference room.
Photo courtesy of Charlotte File

One of our guest speakers, Natalie Finstad, Executive Director and Co-founder of Tatua and former YASCer, said, "Go with Grace, Not Knowledge." In our culture, we all want to be the smartest in the room and have all the answers right away. But in other cultures it's about 'Being' and not 'Doing.' We can gain as much knowledge and prepare thoroughly before leaving for our respective placements, but if we don't leave with an open mind, an open heart, with grace then we lose the potential of gaining much more than we already think we know.

I'm not only going to constantly remind myself of this, but all those about to head out on a mission trip, "Go with Grace, Not Knowledge."

Gaining cultural knowledge.

Play-Dough helped us pay attention.
Map of Team Asia!
I got an honorary spot in the North Carolina Group picture!
We loved to all hang out by a bonfire at the end of the day!
Thanks to Will P. for making them for us!

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