So I realized on Tuesday that if I waited until orientation was over to write a blog post, it would 1) take me hours to write and 2) take you hours to read. So I’m writing a mid-week post to let you all know what’s been going on!
I left my house this Monday morning at 4 am. (It’s an hour to the airport, security was a crazy line, and my flight took off at 7) I landed in Nashville for a two hour layover and then caught a connecting flight to Newark, NJ. On my second leg, I connected with a few other YAVs, which was a HUGE relief because flying on my own isn’t nearly as much fun or adventurous as I thought it would be. We took public transit to the train station from the airport and then had a 2.5 hour wait for the train that would take us to Stony Point. The train ride was an hour, and then the van ride to the Stony Point center was an hour. If you’ve been trying to add up my travel time, just don’t. It was an exhausting day. We finally got to Stony Point retreat center at 6pm ish. There’s plenty to talk about without describing the retreat center, so if you’re interested in learning about Stony Point, take a look at their website (it’s worth it) http://stonypointcenter.org/
Tuesday we spent 6 hours talking about critical cultural competency. We discussed in depth what it means to have privilege, and what privilege looks like in the dominant center of our society. Here’s a few quick notes I wrote down about this during the sessions… “We don’t have a language for the norm. It just operates. But we have words for what we do not see as the norm and they are generally negative. This dominant system is so powerful that we end up legitimizing it, affirming it somehow. And then those of us in the Center benefit from it. How do we (as mission workers) help people oppressed by this system when they may very well see us as an embodiment of it?” For this healthy white girl from a stable middle class family and supportive upper level community, it made made think long and hard about my life. So yeah. It was a LOT of emotional and challenging material. We’ve been broken up into small groups for the week (from different site locations) to reflect and discuss throughout the week and Tuesday was a hard day for my group. If I can give you one thing to remember about my experience on Tuesday, please ponder this: “The system, the center, puts conditions on God’s unconditional love. It tells us that we can only love people if they are this, or if they aren’t that, rather than allowing us to love them simply because they are people.”
Wednesday we discussed advocacy and faith. Maybe some of you saw my post on Facebook with the incredible quote from J. Herbert Nelson. He is an amazing speaker, using more stories than lecture and possesses an incredible way of speaking as if God is providing the words through him. I’m just going to give you some more of his quotes, and I think that will give a glimpse into the depth of the wisdom God has given him.
“When bodies are going down a river, mission workers stand on the banks and pull people out of the water. But advocates go up the river to learn why people are in the water, and to stop it.”
“Get angry with God. He can take it. Get angry with Him. But don’t ever stop trusting him.”
“Go places that others are afraid to go because you know in your spirit it’s gonna be ok.”
“Don’t ever let the context you are in to allow you not to believe you are important. And if you don’t feel you’re important, you’ve got a problem because it’s not about you.”
And the one I posted on Facebook…
“It’s not the value of the work [you’re doing] that’s important. It’s the value in YOU that makes the work important.”
This post is already longer than I intended it to be, so I’m going to hold off writing about today. I will mention however, that today we split up into four groups and were driven into NYC for a multi faith experience. My group toured The Mosque in Queens. The ride to get there was almost 3 hours on a school bus (same length coming back) and I have resurrected my hatred for school buses. But the Mosque was a very powerful and eye opening experience and so I believe it deserves more than the very end of a post that I’m sure you are tired of reading. It’s long I know. But prepare yourself because you better believe you’ll be reading some veeerrry long insights throughout the year. Welcome to the creative processing of my brain!
I love you all!
Until next time 🙂