Monday, June 23, 2008

Five Years Later

There are certain dates in my life that I will probably always remember. Dates that had a significant impact on the person I am and the person I am being formed to be. Today - June 23rd - is one of them.

Five years ago on June 23rd, I boarded a plane in New York headed for Miami and then for Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I was traveling with a group of people from my church and some from a church in Norwalk, CT. I wasn't really sure why we were going to Honduras - my mom had explained that our church was supporting an educational mission and we were going to observe it, but that was the extent of my knowledge.

That trip changed my life. I was planning on matriculating into the Ursinus College class of 2007 with a major in Business and Economics. I wanted the high powered, high paying job. I wanted to live through my job. But when I looked into the eyes of devastation, when I saw, when I touched and when I lived in the third world, I realized that there was a cause much larger that I needed to commit myself to.

I spent the week understanding the Children's Rescue Mission, an Christian-based mission that focuses on education for children as a pathway towards a better life. Miguel, the director of the mission, explained to me that education is very expensive in the villages because children need funding for school uniforms and books. If they don't have enough money for either of these, they are denied an education and are usually forced to leave their villages for the closest cities and solicit their bodies for income. The Children's Rescue Mission offers children classes in sewing, music and basic computer skills. Hairdressing classes were once offered as well. Because of Miguel's efforts, children are now growing up with marketable skills. A feeding program was also quickly implemented, responding to the realization that children cannot learn if they are hungry and malnurished.

I don't think anyone can fully understand the third world until they've lived in it. And while I understand that the roots of the problems are much longer and deeper than I can solve singlehandedly, I also understand that I am very capable of addressing some of the resulting symptoms to alleviate some of the pain that is felt on a daily basis. And this was the most valuable piece of knowledge that I brought back to the United States with me.

I started college and immediately knew that the business thing wasn't for me. I'd like to think that I had some great visionary moment where this was clear, but I'm pretty sure my B- in Financial Accounting speaks for itself.

I did, however, find comfort and ease behind the pulpit, something many have told me since is a gift that I should hold onto. A few weeks after my first semester at Ursinus began, I found myself back in CT preaching to my congregation about how our trip to Honduras had impacted my life, and how the truth of the Gospel had come alive to me during the trip and in the days and weeks following it as well. It wasn't a connection that was hard for me to make, and it didn't take long for me to formulate my thoughts into a sermon. It was easy. I quickly realized that the thought of devoting my life to ministry made me so much happier than the prospect of fighting to get to the top in the business world. I quickly realized that the prospect of studying religion - the history behind it and the sociological implications of it today - brought much less anxiety than the prospect of taking an accounting exam. Rather than wanting to live through my job I realized I wanted my job to live through me.

And now here I am, five years later, still responding to a call that I felt so many years ago. It has been such a long journey. Throughout these five years I had a serious bout with anxiety, found comfort once again beyond the walls of the Children's Rescue Mission, was introduced to the Fund for Theological Education and people like me who were similarly discerning, found and explored new hobbies, was lucky enough to travel to conferences all over the country, represented my association as a delegate to General Synod twice, was voted as a Student In Care in the Litchfield North Association of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ, moved 1,000 miles away from the comfort of my parent's house and home church and the list goes on. I also met the person who I want to spend the rest of my life with, someone who believes in me more than I believe in myself. Someone who believes in my ministry enough to give me the strength and the courage to walk forward every single day of my life. Someone who will allow me to let my ministry live through me because it will be his ministry too.

I still have a long way to go. But it's good to take opportunities like this to stop and look back at where I've come from and the progress that I've made.

In Hope and Progress,

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