Finding My Place

WOW! What a busy and exciting week. I can’t believe how much has happened. After being commissioned by the Palisades Presbyterian Church last Sunday it seems like the people meeting and new experiences are never ending. On Monday I set out from Newark on my 20 hour bus ride to Indianapolis.

bus stationpittburgh

Flat Jesus is all set to head to Indianapolis. We passed through Pittsburgh at midnight. The next morning I new I had to have hit Indiana…I was surrounded by corn fields.indiana

Once my fit hit Indianapolis I have been on the go. From a tour of the city to interviewing for my job placement we have done so much. We have also had time for fun.

water clockturtleschildrens museum

This was our visit to the Children’s Museum.  The first picture is a water clock, the middle is our group photo, and the last is the front of the museum. That night we also went to a Young Adult picnic. It was a nice evening with people our age. We are excited to get to hang out with this awesome group throughout the year. Last night we went to a concert in a big park. 5,000 people brought food, wine, chairs, and their dance moves to see The Hit Men.  It was a wonderful time and we got to spend time with the YAV Ministry team. They were responsible for bringing us to Indy.

conner prairie

On Tuesday I start my work placement with Building Tomorrow. They build schools in Uganda and support and foster the education of the students. I am excited to be a part of this amazing team. Check out their website and be sure to uneducate yourself to see the role education has played in your life. http://www.buildingtomorrow.org

I will try to post weekly. As part of living simply our house is going without internet . So we will be spending lots of time in the library! Have a good week!

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We are Praying, We are Singing, We are Crying

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?

And So It Begins

After months of paperwork, fundraising, and packing it is finally time to leave for my year of mission work. This afternoon I leave for New York for a week of orientation before heading out to Indianapolis. I am so excited to finally get to meet the two other people serving with me in Indy as well as the whole team at our host church at Second Presbyterian. I have been packing and repacking and I think I am ready. I look at bags and think maybe I have too much but considering I came home from college in a uhaul I think I am good.

packingSo off I go to start my amazing journey. I will be sure to update at least once a week and share this journey with all of you. A big thank you goes out to all my friend and supporters at the UPC of Alpha. Without them I would not be going on this amazing trip. Thank you!!!!

What Would Jesus Do?

It is a simple phrase. One taught to Sunday school children for ages. As we grow older it becomes harder to really stop and think what Jesus would do. I am currently reading a book called At the End of the Game it all Goes Back in the Box. Isn’t it true? We play the game of life racking up money, success, and stuff, but in the end all those things are temporary. Jesus knew that. As adults it becomes less about stealing cookies or telling a fib and more about what kind of points we are scoring with God. Are they temporary or eternal? The author goes on to say that LOVE is the ultimate score. Love you family, your friends, love your neighbors, and even love the people you hate. God is love and love makes God happy. But you have to love the right things. You have to love the eternal things. You have to love the people and God. Loving the temporary things only leads you away from God. Ok so maybe I am just rambling now. My point is that there is a lot of crap in this world. What Would Jesus Do? What Did Jesus Do? Did he build a mansion with servants and blame jealousy for his crucifixion. No, he lived simply, preached love, and died for our sins. So the next time you feel like giving someone a high five to the face remember that in the end, at the end of the game, do you really want to be the sore loser? Rack up those love points!

So now on to my adventures. I have been so busy! Last week I went on vacation to the Poconos with my family. A cute little rundown resort with a great staff and all the family time we could muster. We swam, we played games, and we even won a few candy bars at the horse race. The week before however was even busier!

Last year I decided to get my church’s name out into the community by setting up a booth at our local county fair. It was a hit! So two weeks ago I spent eight days sitting in the scorching heat selling prayer rocks and handing out our church’s information. About three days in someone asked if we took prayer requests. Of course we do! So we put out a small basket and throughout the week adults, children, friends and strangers gave us their prayer requests. On the Sunday after the fair our church lifted these prayers during our own prayer time. Today I would like to share them with all of you. Please hold these people in your prayers as I hold them in mine.

Mr. Robert Keenan

I pray for my cousin Junior. I pray for health and family.

Daniel McCloskey

I hope my mom quits smoking

Prayers for Ray Smickle for surgery Wed.

Prayers for wisdom, patience and confidence

I hope my dad and his girlfriend stay together

Pray that my mom’s cancer goes away for good

Bob and Holly to get married

Christine to get married to Gus

I hope my sister bes nice to me

For the Peterson Family

For my moms friend Sharolyn for her breast cancer

For my mom to fully heal

For Kevin Holding, who lost his mother

I hope my brother will be nice to me

I add my own prayer request to this list. I pray for my church.  For the friends I have there, for the people our church helps I can only pray that God’s love is enough to continue to connect us and our community. As I find my way into a new community I pray that the community I leave behind continues to do great things for the Lord. I pray that the hearts of those in the church are filled with love for one another and understanding in the unknown future.

So now I must sign off. Perhaps tomorrow I will learn to upload pictures and share the adventures of Flat Jesus with all of you. Until then remember it isn’t about racking up the most points, it is about what you have left once it is all put back in the box.

Friends: Nerd and Old

What an amazing week! Hello again everyone and welcome back to my blog! I apologize for not writing sooner but I have been busy. Last weekend I spent three awesome days getting my nerd on. I attended the Washington DC third annual Awesome Con. From going to panels on how to be a fit nerd to playing in a Munchkin tournament, I had an amazing time. I am a country girl but I love walking through the city with all its life and activity. Last year I attended the convention and as I was walking back to my hotel with a bag of McDonald’s in my hand, I was asked by a homeless gentlemen for change. I apologized for not carrying cash on me and walked away. As I sat in my cozy bed in my air conditioned room eating my cheeseburger and fries it hit me. I had had the opportunity to share the love of Christ with a fellow human being and I had kept it to my self and IT WAS EASTER WEEKEND! Needless to say it haunted me. My selfishness and disconnect followed me for a year. I would look back on my trip and be disappointed in myself. So this year I brought packs of crackers with me. When asked for money I would offer the small snack instead. All of them accepted. It was not much and part of me wondered if it really mattered to them, but I had tried. After a busy weekend in DC I travelled back to my alma mater, Wilson College.

I LOVE WILSON!!! I spent five years there earning my Bachelor’s in Religion and another two earning my Master’s in Humanities. This year was my five year reunion and having worked for the alumnae office as a graduate student I knew my help was needed. I spent the week working with the staff that I had grown to see as family. On Tuesday morning we hugged, we caught up, and then we got to work. From stuffing welcome bags to washing coolers we planned, set up, and executed an wonderful weekend for Wilson alums. Watching the smiles, hearing the shouts of surprise and being a part of making more Wilson memories was inspiring. The class of 1965 celebrated their 50th year reunion. WOW! I can only hope to be half as successful in all the aspects of my life as these women. From careers to family to travel, these women have done it all. Their stories of Wilson taught me that it does not matter what rules have changed, what students are enrolled or what buildings are left Wilson will never change. She may be ever changing, but as they stepped on campus those women were transported back to their time. What Wilson becomes cannot diminish what she has been. This year’s theme was I am Wilson. How fitting. As the pastor said at Sunday chapel, not only has Wilson left its mark on us, we have left our mark on Wilson. The alumnae, students, staff, faculty and friend of the college are Wilson. Sure the buildings and campus grounds hold fond memories but I think even if they were gone, it is the people that make Wilson what she is today.

So now that I have babbled on about my love for Wilson and my nerdtastic weekend at Awesome Con it is time to get back to the real world, back to work and back to getting ready for my life changing adventure in Indianapolis!!! Stay tuned for more from the exciting life of Liz!

First World Privilege

Hello Again! I know it has only been two days but so much happened yesterday that I felt I had to share. To start I was commissioned by the Presbytery of Newton to serve as a YAV. And of course there was a lot of hand shaking and explaining where I am going. I also had a ton of people sign my suitcase and raised $234! But more important than the money  now have an even bigger support network as I head west. The prayers and thoughts mean more to me than all the cash (not that it doesn’t help). While sitting at the service I had to chuckle. During communion there was a gluten free wafer option. Talk about feeling privileged in my community. It reminded me of a cartoon depicting Jesus feeding the masses and from the crowd comes questions. Is the bread gluten free? I’m off carbs! Is that fish wild caught? Can we really be picky about body of Christ? Either way it made me chuckle and feel like the work I am going to do will throw me into a whole new world.

I was also pleasantly surprised while watching the PC(USA) Peacemaking Affirmation videos to see they were set at Camp Johnsonburg. If you have never been, it is a great camp that runs programs throughout the summer and I used as a retreat center in the off season. Having worked there for two summers I was so excited to see the lake, the back porch of the dining hall, and the outdoor chapel in the background.

So I am feeling blessed so far this week. I have a wonderful family,  great network of supporters, access to all the things I need and the ability to work and play at an amazing organization. I work for the YMCA and I am able to see generosity at work through our scholarship programs, youth activities, and senior healthy lifestyle seminars. I have gotten to know some amazing people and learned a new sport. Who knew pickleball would be so much fun! Well I am off to work. I will write again soon!

Liz

The Beginning of an End

Welcome all! Thank you for stopping by my blog. As I get ready for my amazing year as a Young Adult Volunteer, I have come to realize that it is the beginning of the end of who I currently am. I will leave it all behind to put others ahead of myself. I am looking forward to Indianapolis more than you can know but saying my goodbyes is hard. Last week I told my boss that I would be leaving at the end of July. She wished me luck but I am going to miss this crazy place. I have only been here for a few months but already I am going to miss them. As I fundraise to get me to Indy I am excited by all the support I am receiving but at the same time I am saddened that all these lovely people will be hundreds of miles away. But enough about all the things I am leaving behind. I have been blessed to have all these people in my life, but just think of all the new people I am going to meet. As my summer wraps up I have lots to do and look forward to. From vacation and my 5th year college reunion to Vacation Bible School and the Warren County Farmers’ Fair I am excited for the last few months I have at home. I am also excited to begin packing for the grand adventure that I set off for on August 18th. Now I am off to work, so have a blessed day and I will write again soon!