“An Orientation to a Year of Training for a Lifetime of Service”

tumblr_ntruo8cKIC1uquym9o2_1280Miami, Little Rock, Boston, Hollywood, and Atlanta YAVs at the Al-Khoei Foundation
tumblr_ntruo8cKIC1uquym9o1_1280Enjoying a meal at a mosque (Al-Khoei Foundation) in NYtumblr_ntruo8cKIC1uquym9o3_1280Playing a game called “Bafabafa,” a sort of cultural simulation. My “culture” finds it polite to touch others and stand very close during conversation. If you know me well, you can guess how uncomfortable this made me.

After spending a very short 33 hours in Miami, I spent most of Monday traveling by planes, trains, and automobiles. For orientation, all of the YAVs who are about to serve their first years nationally and internationally are staying at the Stony Point Center in NY, a little less than 50 miles north of NYC. We’re spending our days eating meals*, worshiping together, and engaging in meaningful and necessary conversations regarding the next year of our lives. We’ve done far too much for me to type and you to read, so here are some highlights!

On Tuesday, we had an excellent speaker, Jessica Vazquez Torres, who spent most of the day teaching us about cultural competency. Even though we’d known each other for less than a day, I was amazed at how everyone was able to open up and be very honest about our own perspectives on the current status of race relations in the United States. As a person with many privileges, learning about the systematic oppression that happens in the United States was an eye-opening experience.

Last night, we had interfaith night with a panel of members of the Community of Living Traditions, a “multi-faith residential community dedicated to building community, engaging faith, and cultivating nonviolence.” They were an inspirational example of what intentional community looks like, which is something each YAV household will strive to maintain. The members of this community live and work at Stony Point Center and find themselves becoming stronger human beings and stronger in their individual faiths because of their interactions with each other.

Today, we had a day in the city. We split up and went to different places dependent on our work sites. My group had the pleasure of going to Queens and visiting a mosque. Our guide for the day was a woman from the Community of Living Traditions, which made it nice to know someone upon arrival. Sahar was filled with delight to share her sacred space with us and to teach us about her faith. She was a true example of hospitality in going out of her way to make sure we were comfortable and enjoying our time. I’ve been to a few mosques before, and quickly learned that it was incredibly ignorant of me to think that I may not learn anything new today. One of the most beautiful things I got from today is that some practicing Muslims use a special rosary with 99 beads on it and each bead represents a name of God. Looking at the list, some of my favorites are The Gentle and The Incomparably Great.

Orientation has brought me an incredible amount of emotions, but the loudest emotion has been excitement. Yes, I have essentially no clue what I will be doing when I get to Miami on Monday, but that’s just something I have to accept for now. There’s not much I can do from here besides enjoy myself in the moment and wait anxiously to see what’s in store for me. What has helped me be so comfortable in this new place and group are the several friends that I met at General Assembly 2014 and the many facilitators who are friends of my sister and familiar faces for me. The folks that were strangers on Monday have connected so much in a few days and it’s really thanks to the strong bond we have – wanting so much to be a part of the greater Church that we’re voluntarily moving to new places and working unfamiliar jobs, all because we feel called to do so.

If you’ve made it to this post in the blog…WOW. Thank you for sticking with me. I’m already overwhelmed with stories of people I have met and places I have been; I can’t imagine how hard keeping these posts a reasonable length in the future will be.

*Delicious meals, to be specific. Mom, I have never willingly eaten so many vegetables before. I tried beets tonight. Stony Point has an awesome farm program and most of our veggies, fruit, and eggs are from here. If you have a chance to come here, you should.

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