I recently returned from a YAV Transition Retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, one of my favorite places in the world. The desert landscape is absolutely stunning as you can see below.
The retreat was medicine for my soul that I was not even aware I needed. In addition to the breathtaking atmosphere, I was surrounded by my fellow YAVS, fantastic young people who have been around the world this past year giving the whole save the world thing a try. From Kenya to India to Nashville to Atlanta and beyond, we have experienced suffering and injustice at all levels, and it is often hard to make others truly understand what has happened to us. It was wonderful to be able to unite once again and share the feelings that were running through my veins.
We talked about getting asked the question, “So, how was your YAV year?” I have found this question nearly impossible to answer because it is difficult to combine everything I did and experienced into an accurate, short 10 second summary (any longer and the person will most likely wander away disinterested). What is “my story?” I don’t view my year as a separate chamber of my life. It was not “time off” by any means but rather full immersion into the realities of life and how does one handle those realities as a Christian, as a representation of the Church.
I left the Retreat feeling more comfortable with where I am now and more hopeful about my future. I have been feeling a little lost since I came back from New Orleans as it feels like everyone around me is racing towards a finish line that I cannot even see. But now I know I need this time,this calm wave amidst the crashing tide. This Neutral Zone as the YAV program calls it. I linger between Letting Go and Letting Begin. An essential stage that the fast paced American society chooses to ignore. This stage does not fit society’s expectations of where I should be and is most certainly not a common rung on the life ladder of upward mobility. However, I am perfectly content in this phase of my life. I have grown accustomed to the constant questions, “What are you doing now? What are you doing next? Do you have a plan? Are you going to go to school? What for? Are you going to get a real job?” The questions used to frustrate me, used to make me feel like a failure. But I now know that is far from the case, and no matter what anyway says, I am right where I need to be. God is with me and will continue to guide me to where I can use my gifts to best serve and provide for this world.
I would like to share with you a poem that my friend and fellow YAV Luke wrote about our community. It encapsulates the YAV experience beautifully and speaks to what is written on my heart.
This community will not be broken.
too much love
too much compassion
too much hope
too much energy
too much contagious enthusiasm
too much life.
We are full of life.
This community is a living thing.
This community will not be broken.
We separate tonight
so many different directions
to many places
to endure many pains and sorrows.
We will struggle.
We will hurt.
We will cry out to God
and ask, “Why do you let this happen?”
But the community will not be broken.
We will lift each other up
in prayer and in action.
the kind word.
the loving gesture.
God has put us together,
a community that will stand in solidarity and partnership
with the poorest of the poor, the victims of
that would have us believe they aren’t human. Not worthy.
We will ache.
We will feel a longing for God’s love for all unlike anything
we’ve ever felt before.
We will cry.
We will yell.
We will break down.
Hit rock bottom.
But when we need someone
that very moment
when we feel we’re useless
powerless against forces so far
beyond our control
we’ll stand as a community
we will not be broken.
and we will change the world.