Monday, August 26, 2013

The beginnings

Well, I definitely intended on writing a blog before now, but there has been so much going on and so much I would like to write about that I felt like couldn’t do the experience justice... and in the end never wrote anything! So I have decided that I will just sit down now and write.

I was blessed to spend a fantastic week in Chicago with a wonderful group of 60 other YAGMS (Young Adults in Global Mission). We had important sessions that were designed to help us this next year, we were able to talk with alums of the program, we drank a lot of coffee, and we cried and laughed a lot together. There is a certain bonding that happens when all of you find yourself on the edge of a life changing experience and you are jumping in together. 

YAGMs hanging out at LSTC

I wish that I could share ALL that we learned, talked about and shared during that week. But since I can't, I'll share one interesting exercise that we did in small groups. We went around and told in depth stories about what has brought us to where we are today. We were free to share our stories and knew that our stories were valued and heard. What surprised us all was the diversity of our stories. It was a small glimpse into the lives of the people in the group, beautiful stories I wouldn't have seen coming. 

My awesome small group

During this exercise we used the “Covenant of Presence” that included some important points that I challenge you to use and will serve all of the YAGMs well this next year as we build relationships with those in our host communities:

Author your story. We all have a story. Some might say, “I don’t have a story,” or “a story worth telling,” but you do and the world is in need of hearing it. You must claim authorship of your own story and learn to tell it to others to they might understand you, be inspired by you, and discover what calls you to be who you are, do what you do, or love what you love. 

Turn to wonder. If you find yourself becoming judgmental or cynical, try turning to wonder: “I wonder why she shared that story or made those choices?” “I wonder what my reaction teaches me?” “I wonderful what he’s feeling right now?”

Hold these stories with care. There are many people who will benefit from the stories they hear during our time together. Imagine listening to another as you could listen to scripture - attentively, mindfully, and open to the holy. 
The Full "Covenant of Presence"

Then on August 21st I left with Rachel, Liz, Anna, Gabe & Jake to begin our journey in Mexico for the next year. So far our time in Mexico (which feels a lot longer than it has been!) has only touched the surface of what the country and people have to offer. We visited the “Zocalo” (Main Square) of Mexico City and the Basilica of La Virgen de Guatelupe. We have had some very informative and touching conversations with our hosts at the convent in Mexico City. 

Inside courtyard of the convent in Mexico City

Outside my window this week in Tepoztlán!
Now we have moved to a smaller city about an hour and a half outside the capital called Tepoztlán for a week of language school. We have walked around town, climbed the Tepozteco mountain and eaten the “exotic” ice cream flavors the town is known for. Through this time in Mexico our country group has grown pretty close. We are all looking forward to entering our site placements and meeting our host families in a few weeks, but in the meantime we have become each others family as we adjust to this new culture. 

Arriving in Mexico City

Alameda Park in Mexico City

After climbing Tepozteco (We are over looking the city I'll be living in this next year!)

That is just a quick overview of my last few weeks. Hopefully I’ll fill in some of the other stories and details soon and stop procrastinating! 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Remembering The Old and Making Room for The New

FYI: If you make it all the way through my ramblings you will find out my placement information or you can just skip to the pink lettering :)

I just returned from a run/walk around my college campus that started out as a way to stretch my legs after spending 14 hours in the car after our cross country journey home. It turned into a walk down memory lane. (For a visual inside my mind think Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me”). As soon as I took my first steps into the hot August night air, it felt like the beginning of a new year and moving into the dorms on campus. I turned my music on, began to run and around every corner the was an old memory. It felt as if I could give a specific memory for almost every square foot on that campus. At first it was a feeling of sadness because I know that in a few weeks students will return to campus and I will not longer fit as an undergraduate. Gradually, however, the sadness subsided and was replaced by happy nostalgic feelings. My feet traced the same steps that I had walked countless times with so many different friends. I passed places where I studied for tests and procrastinated from writing papers. My mind remembered all the times that running would help clear the worries from my head and my heart remembered all the joys from the last four years- all on these same paths. 


Next images from the last few weeks of visiting the Midwest filled my mind as well. I thought of walking the streets of my hometown in Wisconsin with a childhood friend and passing the home I grew up in and the church that raised me. Later I made the three hour journey that my family used to take into Iowa to see extended family. As I drove the road I soaked up the familiar landscape that is so different from North Carolina. I drove past my grandparents’ farms and sat at their grave sites. Each visit came with a flood of memories.

(Now remember- I’m still walking around campus!) Lastly new images of what my new home might look like started to share space with all these other memories. One year from now I may be taking a similar walk around Tepoztlán, Mexico, retracing my steps and receiving a flood of memories. (As I write this entry there are several 2012-2013 YAGMS that are in the process of doing just that.) I can’t wait to start creating these memories.

My old memories began to slide over and make room for my hopes for new experiences and together they both share a place in my heart. Communities from all parts of my life have helped shape me into who I am today and I thank all of you that have been apart of my development. My move to Mexico will be similar to my other moves in that there will be new faces, new traditions and new memories in this new place... and it will find a place in my heart no doubt. 

It has been both the approaching date of my leaving and the news of my placement that has sparked all these thoughts. Perhaps you're interested in hearing what I will be doing while I’m in Mexico? Well you’re in luck I found out yesterday! :) I will be working with SARAR ( in a town called Tepoztlán which is just south of Mexico City. I was told that I will be doing “un poco de todo” (a little bit of everything). There will be a combination of office work (which may include learning about and working with things such as grant writing, reporting, social media) and environmental education in the community. They just started a new project that is focused on preschoolers and elementary school age kids. I’m pretty excited about this site! Most people who I have shared this information with have said that it sounds like a good fit for me. The cool thing is I never told the program coordinators that in that childhood home in Wisconsin is a memory of a young Rachel who wanted to be a botanist when she grew or that walking those paths around LR I contemplated a major in environmental science.  

Lastly, as I finished my time on campus I wanted to sit on the arch and stare at the stars like I used to do with my roommate. But because Elizabeth wasn’t there I thought it might look a little weird... so I refrained! But from wherever I look at the stars, I know and am thankful that the same sky covers all of the communities I have lived in and that the same God is present among all of us... wherever we are! And with that knowledge I will take the first steps of my new journey.

“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there; if I make a bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.”

-Psalm 139:7-10