Well, the journey is about to begin. I have spent the past week in upstate NY at the Stony Point Retreat Center with all the YAVs (62 in all) getting oriented to our new adventures. It's been an intense week. There have been long discussions about race, gender, culture shock, self-care and other topics but the parts I have enjoyed the most have been the times when I have just gotten to hang out with the other YAVs. Most of them I met during Discernment Weekend but there are quite a few that I had not met yet so that has been great to get to know them. The YAV program is such a fabulous program and I am so glad these people are part of the journey with me.
Today, we were sent out to local churches in upstate NY to be commissioned as missionaries. The Chicago group ended up at South Salem Presbyterian Church in South Salem, NY. It was a really small congregation but it ended up being a really powerful service. I was overwhelmed that all these strangers who had never met us were so accepting and loving and supportive of our journey and what we will be doing. They didn't know who we were and many of them will probably never see us again but they were so willing to accept us into their world. They even "adopted" us and said that they were going to put us on their church website and have us send them updates of our journey over the course of the year. It's that kind of love that makes me proud to be a part of this journey. In this congregation, I saw the teachings of Jesus. The 0nes that say love your neighbor and welcome a stranger into your home.
I have several friends who tend to take a very pessimistic view of humanity and say that we are inherently selfish and only care about ourselves. Yet, when I experience what I did today, I have to say that I don't agree with that assessment. Here was this congregation of people in NY who didn't know us at all and yet were so friendly and loving toward us that I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by it. When you see a true example of Christ's love, it really does change your outlook on society and humanity in general. We had lunch with the Associate General Presbyter of the Hudson River Presbytery (former member of my home church, Chris Shelton). It was good to have somebody from back home up there to be part of the cloud of witnesses as I embark on this journey. It let me know that God really is going to make everything alright. It was as if God was saying "My good and faithful child, do not worry for I will provide everything you should need." I've gotten to know my housemates some this week and that has helped a lot. I think it really is going to be a great year. I'm not as worried anymore. Now, I just feel a sense of peace about the whole situation.
Well, tomorrow afternoon, I board a plane bound for Chicago and start the next chapter of my latest adventure. I'm looking forward to what else will happen to me over the next year. It's sure to be an exciting chapter in my story. Be sure to keep reading this as I will continue to keep you posted on all the latest news. Right now, I have to go finish laundry and re-packing plus enjoy my last few hours at Stony Point.