As I write this sitting in my bedroom at home, it feels completely surreal that a week from now I’ll be in New York starting orientation for my upcoming year of service as a YAV. The summer and time at home has absolutely flown by, as it seems to do more and more frequently nowadays! 🙂 Regardless of how quickly everything is happening, I’m grateful for this time I have left at home and also excited about what is to come. I also want to take a step back and reflect on a few of the things that I’ve learned and been reminded of recently… God’s timing truly is perfect, and it’s amazing to see how these lessons are helping to prepare me for the year ahead. Please forgive me if these thoughts seem a bit scrambled or disconnected – I don’t know how we’ll they’ll translate, but I’ll give it my best shot!
A few major things have happened in my life lately that have served to remind me of God’s love, faithfulness, and provision in truly amazing, surprising and humbling ways. One of the absolute highlights of my summer was having the opportunity to work with a group of exchange students from Spain and China for 3 weeks in July. The students were truly incredible; I admired their courage in their decision to study abroad at such a young age (13-18 years old), and they were all so friendly and eager to learn. My family had the great privilege of hosting a darling 15 year old girl from Spain, as well as the leader of the Chinese group, a 28 year old guy. They were both wonderful, and our family of 4 quickly became a family of 6. It was amazing for me to see how seamlessly we all came together in friendship and love, despite having very different backgrounds, cultures and life experiences.
The weeks went by far too fast for everyone, and before we knew it, it was our last evening together as a family. We exchanged gifts; for Darren, our Chinese guest, they were the first he had ever received. It was an extremely special time in which we shared many hugs, tears, and then laughter as we tried to sing Karaoke to Youtube videos. The highlight song was Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” which we all sang together. It truly was perfect, especially with the lyrics “Listen to the music of the moment people dance and sing / We’re just one big family / And it’s our God-forsaken right to be loved, loved, loved, loved, loved…” In that moment, I realized how we truly had become a family, and how that is how it is meant to be with all people. Love as it is meant to be – God’s love – crosses all boundaries of culture, race, gender, age, social status, and anything else. I had the great privilege of being reminded of this each day I spent with the exchange students and my new friends and co-leaders, but it truly hit home as we said goodbye to everyone. I felt as though we were losing part of our own family, and it hurt my heart more than I ever thought it would. It was incredible to see the deep bonds that had formed in just 3 weeks, not only within our family but between the other students and host families as well.
All of this brought me back to the month that I spent living with my dear host family in La Abundancia, Honduras, from February-March 2011. That experience was one of the most wonderful and impactful of my life. Even after 4 weeks, I felt like I was an integrated part of this new family and community. I loved them deeply and had a strong desire to stay longer; the day I left we also shared a tearful goodbye, very similar to the one I recently experienced with our exchange students. Looking back now, however, I was on the other side of the equation as the host. Having the opportunity of being the host and seeing how much love was truly shared between us and our guests made my experience as a guest in Honduras even richer, though it was a year and a half later. It reminded me of the deep and abiding truth about the strength that bonds of friendship and love hold, between all types of people and across all cultures. This experience also reassured and excited me about the two host family experiences I’ll have coming up this year – first near Antigua, for my first 5 weeks of language school in Guatemala, and then for the remainder of my time there in Pachaj. I know, as with any family, that there can (and will) be miscommunications or misunderstandings, but I also know that the relationships formed there will be unforgettable. I am so grateful and excited to have even more family and friends around the world, and can’t wait to see what happens!
Along with these recent reminders about international / cross-cultural friendships, I’ve also been reminded about all of the friends and support I have closer to home. One of the most unexpected ways in which this showed itself came through God’s incredible blessings and financial provision. A few weeks ago, I found out that I had received all of the financial support that I’ll need for the year! I was absolutely blown away and completely humbled by that fact, but it didn’t stop there. People in my church family continued to share their support by investing in me personally, asking me questions about the placement, giving me hugs, smiles, and offering their prayers. This group of support came from both new and old friends; some were people I had never met until just recently, while others have watched me grow up over the course of my life. It was extremely reassuring to be reminded that I have a family of support back home that is bigger than I even realize. God’s gentle reminders of this fact give me so much reassurance about this upcoming adventure, and it is such a blessing to know that I will not, by any means, be doing this alone.
Finally, a few days ago my family and I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit, a 2 day conference that is put on by Willow Creek Church and televised to different groups of leaders throughout the world. The conference is aimed at leaders of any age, in any field, of any background, and is meant to equip them to lead well. Speakers at the conference included people with positions in the church, government, businesses, non-profit organizations, and NGOs, all coming together to share their stories and experiences to encourage and inspire others. We shared in times of worship and heard about many different types of issues ranging from faith, poverty, education, human trafficking, conflict negotiation, business management and organizational health. By the end of those two days, I felt encouraged, inspired, and re-energized in my faith. I was reminded of God’s goodness and his faithfulness, and of the importance of having an active faith that engages with the world. My time there also challenged me to think about what it means to live a life of humility and courageous obedience to God, especially in the context of what this will look like in Guatemala.
I know that whatever happens, God will be with me. He is faithful and good; he has brought me to this place and will continue to walk with me through it all. Life is so rich, and God is good. His timing and reasons are perfect, and even if I don’t understand it all, I realize I don’t need to. Even after some hardships and confusion this summer, I’m being reminded again and again of God’s faithfulness. He truly is good, and whatever time, place or circumstance we are in can be used for His glory. Yesterday a high school friend got married. She and her husband seem sublimely happy, and she’ll soon be starting her first teaching job. Although my circumstances couldn’t be more different, both of us are exactly where we need to be. As crazy as that is to wrap my head around, it gives me so much peace to know that. I’m so grateful to be on this journey and to continue to learn the lessons before me through all that life brings. If all of these things have happened just in the past month, I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn in Guate!