Saturday, 28 September 2013

How I Spent my Summer

Six months ago I walked out of the office for the last time.  And life changed.  Three months earlier as I turned 21, I wouldn't have thought I would make such a move.  And there I was, feeling free, unsure of where I would go next.  I knew I was going to Staten Island for one week, and later to Haiti for a week, but I didn't know what I would do after that.  I was content to take a break from the workforce for awhile and figure things out.  I had no idea what would all come out of my decision.

I did go to New York for a week, the experiences of which I relate here.  The following week, I applied to return long-term and was soon after accepted.  And I did go to Haiti for a week.  The week after I came home from Haiti, I flew to Calgary to receive some training with International Justice Mission.  A week later, our youth girls had a Set-Apart Girl Simulcast Conference and the following weekend I flew back to New York, where I ended up serving two separate terms with Mennonite Disaster Service.

Three weeks ago I returned home, and again, I didn't know what I would do next.  Although I loved serving away from home and most of my needs had been met, I knew it was time to take on my role as Mobilization Associate with IJM and prepare to re-enter the workforce.  This seems to be no small task, since my lack of education and geographic location alone presents a number of barriers.  But try I must.

What have I learned through all of this?  Much.  You don't come home from months of traveling and serving unchanged.  I've learned a lot about my character, I've learned new skills, and gained a wider perspective for ministry.  I have also learned that God uses every experience for good and for preparation of what He has for me next.  The bookstore prepared me for the office, the office for NY, and they have prepared me for my next role back home, even if that role remains to be seen.  God has a purpose for each experience, even when I can't understand it at the time.

Something I used to wonder about is how young people could leave home and go to another country and serve for so long, only coming back to see family and friends about once a year for a short time.  I don't wonder about that anymore.  When you are where God has called you, you enjoy what you do, you know you're making a difference, and your daily needs are met, it's not hard.  New York became home and the people became a family.  Yes, I was busy, there were challenges and was often very tired.  But I loved living in community with people who were all there for the same purpose.  Coming home and returning to a seemingly self-serving kind of life was actually very frustrating.

I will not forget or regret how I spent this summer.  Nine months ago, I longed to go on a mission trip this year while I was still single.  Little did I know that I would spend months away from home.  I met some amazing people and made some incredible memories.  I was able to touch a few lives in unexpected ways.  I saw a mission field right within North America, where we could minister to those so many have forgotten about.  I have been able to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  And just to give you a taste, here are a few of the highlights of my travels.
  • First trip to NY with my youth group
  • The trip up a mountain in Haiti I wasn't sure I'd come back to tell about
  • Helping take care of a baby at an orphanage in Haiti
  • Going to another province in my country for the first time
  • Throwing a spontaneous birthday party for the project director and presenting the best cake ever: a tub of ice cream with candles that relight after you blow them out
  • Going grocery shopping for enormous amounts of food at Costco and have people look at us weird
  • Laughing with my friends until we cried and growing closer in our friendships
  • Worshiping with the local church on Staten Island that we partnered with
  • House dedications
  • Singing hymns and worship songs on trains, subways and the ferry with an amazing group of people
  • Listening to the story of a homeless couple and praying with them in front of Times Square Church
  • Meeting up with a friend in Manhattan that I hadn't seen in almost two years
  • Visiting a client in the hospital and later taking her home
  • Eating New York Pizza, so I could say I had it.  Yes, I even folded it.
  • A walk down the boardwalk, enjoying the ocean breeze after a week's work
  • Visiting the Brooklyn Tabernacle
  • After a long, tiring day, when I finally thought I was finished working, spilling an unseen bowl of grease all over the floor and down the kitchen cabinets.  No, it wasn't fun cleaning it up, but I won't easily forget it.
With all the joys and wonderful memories, it is bittersweet.  For now, this season of traveling and serving is over.  I met some amazing people, many who I may never see again.  There are places I would have loved to visit and didn't have a chance to. 

I embark on a new season, figuring out a new kind of life.  A life of wrestling between desires and meeting necessities.  A life of putting dreams on hold again, wondering if or when they will come to pass.  A life of remembering that my joy must be in the Lord, not in my circumstances, and knowing that my identity is in Him, not where I am or what I'm doing.

Although this year has had its challenges and pain, I will not forget the Summer of 2013.