Sunday, August 28, 2011

We made it!

I’ve arrived in Mexico!  :)

After a week of orientation in Chicago, most of the volunteers --West Bank had to wait for their visas--departed for their countries of service.  It was a great week where we each bonded with each other through singing, worshiping, text study, small groups, and a bit of fun in the Chicago area.  I can’t even express how much this week made me feel like YAGM is exactly where I am called to be.

Our final worship cemented that feeling.  After gathering outside the chapel, we sang our way inside, dancing toward the baptismal font.  Fifty new volunteers, several from past years, and some staff people stood around the font.  We reminded ourselves of our baptisms and the community of people that comes with it.  As we --literally-- waded through the baptismal waters we realized the reality is that everyone in that room cared about one another deeply.  We are all family; a community bound together by the Spirit and a common goal to do justice in the world.

The energy was incredible after that.  There was laughter, crying, praying, dancing, joyous shouting, sadness and happiness.  It was wonderful.

Team Mexico, as we are so called, got into a shuttle around 5:30am the next day.  Bright and early we checked out of our rooms, crammed ourselves into a shuttle and scurried off to O’Hare.  Goodbyes were hard, inducing some more tears, but we had to go.  Our flight was relatively painless out of Chicago and we even arrived to Mexico City half an hour early at 12:37pm.  Andrea --our dear country coordinator-- greeted us there at the airport in Mexico, fed us, and hurried us onto a charter bus for our trip to Cuernavaca.

There are 10 days of Mexico specific orientation, taking us until September 3rd.  Most of it is in Cuernavaca, but 3 days will be in Mexico City.  The orientation is an important piece as it is where we get our phones, first stipends, make site visits, meet our host families, and get some more group bonding time.  I know it will be an adventure.

I am going to be mostly out of internet connection until the 3rd as we are staying in a convent in Cuernavaca which does not have internet.  I will get another post as soon as I can, which hopefully will cover site visits and my host family.

Adios for now!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day One - Chicago

I have made it to Chicago!

Today I left Grand Forks for the beginning of my grand adventure into Mexico.  I will be here in Chicago staying at LSTC for a week long orientation program that will cover many things including talking about our journeys, differences between cultures, well being & self-care, engaging global issues through our faith, and how to communicate our experiences. 

After the excited reunions of all the 50 YAGM volunteers, checking into our rooms, and eating, we were able to meet a few volunteers who had just returned a few weeks ago from their own missions and a few others who had returned in years before.  It was a fun welcome and opening to the orientation.

The end of the night we worshiped in the Augustana Chapel which is a space used by both students and faculty of the seminary to plan and host worship services.  It was a welcome thing for me to open my heart and clear my mind to what is going to be coming over the next year.

The service reaffirmed my need and desire to be here walking this journey.  Most moving was a piece called "For the Healing of the Nations".  In this song, a cantor sings through the countries of the world and the congregation responds with the words "Peace be yours."  After a bit, the refrain is sung:  "For the healing of the nations, we pray to you, O God."  As each of our countries were named, we volunteers were invited to light a tea-light and place it onto our country of service. 

I loved this song and everything about it.  There is just something about an act as simple as praying for healing and peace to each nation that I found inspiring.  The fact that fifty young adults from across the nation can pray and hope for the very peace and justice that God desires and then go to work for it is powerful!  We must seek to enact the very change we pray for. 

We also --thankfully-- did Eucharist.  We gathered in a (big) circle around the table and communed each other around the group.  The very bread that is given from to us from God was shared by each of us.  It helped to define ourselves as a community who is willing to invite everyone to the table and share in the goodness of God.  We seek to accompany the world and in doing so, we come to understand that God's spirit not only works through us, but can be shared with one another.  Shared as easily as the bread and wine we shared tonight.

So tonight, I shall go to bed early since it will be a full week of activities.  I am thankful for each of your prayers, not only for me, but also for the countries of the world.  Pray for that we each can learn to love the world and its people.  That we can each walk alongside each other and share freely of the gifts and relationships we each have.

Share this Bread.