So as many of you know I am in New York for one week of orientation before heading off to Indianapolis for the year. As part of our training we have been forced to examine or own backgrounds, expectations, and short comings going into this year of service. After the initial get to know you games were out of the way we began a deep and meaningful process of looking at our lives. The first day was rough. We were told that all our hopes and dreams of going to our sights and making a big difference were going to fall short. We were told that we would fail and fail again. We were told that we were privileged to even have the option of participating in this program and that we would struggle with this throughout the year. Needless to say I was ready to come home. I was feeling guilty at having what I have, inadequate to deal with the problems I would face, and discouraged that this year would be life wasting instead of changing. We all smiled and said we were good when asked by our small group leader but inside we were tormented by how this year would play out. Day one and I was ready to pack it in.
I started day 2 with a heavy spirit. I carried it with me throughout the day until after lunch. It was then that we spoke with J. Herbert. He has had years of service to the church, mission in his community, and doubt in his heart. He said that we may be folding paper for six months thinking “what am I doing here?” He said we may think our jobs are not important. We may think we have failed, until one day it clicks, that by doing one small task we have helped grease the wheel to make change. We may not be signing the bill but we helped with the leg work to make it happen. I finished day 2 optimistic.
Today, day 3 has changed my life. Today was a day in the city. We were split between four sights. I was sent to the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. Introductions were made and job details were shared. And a man name Mark said something profound. He said that “we do not speak for the voiceless. Everyone has a voice, it is our job to enhance that voice and let it be heard.” He then took us to a multi faith service for the 219 girls still held in captivity in Nigeria after 500 days. The ramifications of that service did not hit until chapel this evening. It was there that what I had been struggling with one day one came back to slap me in the face. My mother misses me, I went to school everyday without fearing for my safety. I didn’t have to fear that I would be kidnapped, raped, beaten. I AM PRIVILAGED! I have lived everyday of my life in comfort, safety, and privilege. We walked into the chapel at the Church Center of the UN, took our seats nervously, and sat. I was handed a piece of red paper with the number one on it. Everyone had a different number up to 219. I had number one. I flipped it over and there was the name of a young woman, thousands miles away, lost, scared, hurting, maybe losing hope. I was sitting, feeling slightly bored, slightly hungry. As the service began I felt the anger rise in me. Anger at the situation, anger at silent governments, anger at myself. I was part of the problem. I have been so privileged in my life that I had not even heard about these 219 girls still captured after 500 days.
500 days of my life. Where have I been for 500 days? Where have you been? What have you complained about, worried about, been angry about? 500 days. 500 days of parents not knowing where their daughters are. 500 days of government lies, and unanswered questions. 500 days of parents being killed for talking to those they hope can help. 500 days that I have spent stressing about my thesis, mad because Netflix took away my show, worried that I wouldn’t have enough room in my suitcase for all my things, and upset that my privilege was thrown in my face on day one. 500 days of trivial crap that doesn’t matter in the scheme of life. Where have you been for 500 days?
This evening we recapped our days. It was there sitting in my chair that I have been complaining about all week, talking with my friends that it hit me. One speaker this afternoon said that it took courage for us to be there. Now, while the bus ride was scary, it wasn’t courageous. I wasn’t brought to that chapel by my outrage. I was brought by God’s design. I would not call it courageous, but I was there. When I think of courage I think of the 57 girls who have managed to escape, I think of the 219 still being held, I think of the parents, activists, and officials working to bring these girls home. I do not think of myself sitting in the chapel. During vespers this evening I cried. I cried for the girls, I cried for their mothers, I cried for myself. I cried for my ignorance to such evil. As we sang We Are Praying I cried.
Looking back on my day, on my week, on my life, I feel blessed. Blessed that I do not have to worry about where I will sleep, if I will eat, or if I will even wake up in the morning. Look at your lives! Are the worries on your heart going to matter in a week, a month, 500 days? Is the anger you feel toward you neighbor going to last a week, a month, 500 days? The Lord has given us so many blessings and opportunities. I stand today and say no more! Never again will I let 500 days go past unappreciated. No more will I let 219 girls go unnoticed in my life because I was busy. No more will I let my privilege be a curtain hiding me from the truth. What will you do with what the Lord has given you?