Hey everyone, I was asked to write in the PC(USA)’s Mission Yearbook for Human Rights Day this Year. I wrote a poem and prayer that you can check out here.
Today is the International Day for Volunteers at the United Nations, and I decided to write a little about my experiences serving as a volunteer. What is a volunteer? According to Webster’s Dictionary it means to offer, give, or bestow.
Well from my experience I have been a volunteer as long as I can remember. Even my days as a kid, my mother was always signing me up to help at community projects and church functions in any way I could possibly serve. As I grew to adulthood I never lost that willingness to help others. Currently I have even chosen to drop the life I had back in Minnesota to serve with the Young Adult Volunteer Program through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I have moved to both New Orleans and New York City to help others in ways I could never have imagined.
From being a professional volunteer for the last 18 months you would expect me to know everything about it, but this is where I struggle to find the words. What does volunteering mean to me? Well for me its means giving or helping others for the better good of the world. Giving is a very important part, it’s a selfless act. Volunteering teaches us about mercy, empathy, and even grace. It even teaches us how to look for the needs of others and put those needs above ours. Serving others has played such a major role in my life, and has shaped me to be the person I am today.
What you do to serve as a volunteer is not the only part, I feel that what you receive from volunteering may be more import than we realize. From experiences I have come to the conclusion that the work I do volunteering is more life giving than any job I have ever had. I believe that is why I continue to serve. I receive joy from helping others, the opportunity to have a new experience, or learn new things, and even meet new people.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for ransom for many.
Volunteering is so important in our society and especially in our world today. We forget that we can’t do everything by ourselves and its okay to get help from others. It’s good to let our guard down and be vulnerable. We need to be willing to help or let others help us too. I believe that there will always be a need in the world for volunteers, so no matter how young or old you are you should always go out and volunteer.
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
Going in to my second YAV year I was so excited to find out that I would be working with the Presbyterian Ministry of the United Nations. I dreamed of all the ambassadors and delegates I would see from countries all across the world. I even dreamed that maybe if I was lucky enough, I could even see President Obama. But I knew that would be a really far fetch for me, because I’m just a Young Adult Volunteer trying to learn the ropes within the United Nations.
Well today that dream actually came true. Today was the first day where heads of state spoke at the United Nations General Assembly. At today’s meeting I heard from the Sectary General of the United Nations, the heads of states from both Brazil and Chad, and finally the the President of the United States himself, Mr. Barack Obama. It would also be the last time Obama would address the UN as president.
President Obama began by stating “I want to suggest to you today that we must go forward, and not backward. I believe that as imperfect as they are, the principles of open markets and accountable governance, of democracy and human rights and international law that we have forged remain the firmest foundation for human progress in this century.” These words ring so true in our society today. We are in a time of an overwhelming amount of changes happening; like the High Level Summit to Address Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants that was held yesterday, the Black Lives Matter movement, wars and conflicts are happening all across the globe, and many other issues too. These words remind us to not be afraid of what will come next, but to stand up and play a defining role in these changes. We, both as individuals and the Church, cannot be silent, for silence leaves us in the dust.
So far most of my time here at the United Nations has been mostly attending, listening, and learning from meetings ranging on topics anywhere from refugees and migrants, women, peacemaking, and even the death penalty. Most of my work has been related to human rights. President Obama mentioned this in his speech stating that “We need to be investing in people: their skills, their education, and their human rights.” What I have learned so far shocks me to the core: How is it that we are in the year 2016 and the basic needs so many peoples around the world needs have not been met? Well this is just one of the many questions that the UN struggles to solve on a daily basis. But I don’t believe that there is just one clear or obvious answer to this question.
President Obama next quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Human progress never rolls on the wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men [and women] willing to be co-workers with God.” Well this quote speaks to me, it is a constant reminder of the work that I and all my fellow YAV’s do across the United States of America and the world. President Obama went on to say “I have seen that spirit in our young people, who are more educated and more tolerant, and more inclusive and more diverse, and more creative than our generation; who are more empathetic and compassionate towards their fellow human beings than previous generations.” These words define the generation of youth today; who cares more about service, human rights, and grass roots movements than politics and capitalism. Change is a vital step in our journey forward, and from my experience with the ideas and actions of my generation. I believe that we can do so much to make a difference in the world, especially when it comes to human rights. From all of my experiences so far I’m proud to be apart of all the influential work here at the Presbyterian Ministry of the United Nations.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
I’m so thankful for my amazing YAV year in New Orleans. I learned so much about the city, the people, and even myself. I can’t say thank you enough to all the people I met and friends I made while I was there. I will greatly miss all my housemates, coworkers, friends and students that have truly made a huge impact in my life this last year. I am so thankful for all your support and hospitality you have shown me. I can’t be grateful enough for all of you! It was very hard for me to leave a city that easily became home for me, and New Orleans has stolen my heart! But I know this is not “goodbye forever”; more just a “see you later.”
As I said in my previous post, I was also able to spend almost a whole month back home in Minnesota before I traveled off again. It was amazing to see and catch up with all my loved ones, friends, and family. You all welcomed me back so warmly. I can’t thank you enough either. You all spared no expense to show me how much I was missed, and for that I love you all.
So, now as of two weeks ago, I have lived in New York City to start my second YAV year. It’s been a little bit of a rough start for me, but I keep fighting my way through it. I even had to learn the hard way on my first day in the city; I got majorly scammed by a fake Uber driver who charged me almost four times the rate of what my fare from the airport to my new apartment would have been. So I had to learn real quick to toughen up a little bit, and not be so naive. I’ve also been struggling with getting used to the subway system. It’s my first time really constantly using public transit. I have been noticing it’s been getting easier though. Finally, my last struggle is with my job. I am working at the Presbyterian Ministry of the United Nations. I am so excited to be working there, but the office is going through all the transitions right now. We are figuring out how to move on from multiple staff members and interns, to just my boss and me. We are also moving offices at the moment, too. Finally, this month is one of the busiest months of the year for the United Nations, because the General Assembly starts up this week, and I’m still trying to get trained in to my position. So please send lots of prayers for me as I work my way through these transitions and new experiences.
I don’t want to sound whiny and make you think that New York is bad, because that is not the case at all. I have seen the beauty of the architecture of the buildings, appreciated the nature of the parks around my apartment, and felt overjoyed by the extensive diversity around me. I even feel comfort from the random smiles or doors held open for me from the strangers that I never met before, which proves this city isn’t as rough and tough as it seems. This city may be vast in size and people, but it has so much to offer and learn from that I feel so blessed to be able to experience all it has to offer!
So I leave you with this bible verse that has helped to encourage me these last few weeks:
1 Corinthians 15:58
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Well it’s now July and I have a little less than a month left of my YAV year in New Orleans. I can’t believe how fast this this year has gone. It feels like yesterday I was getting off that plane from orentation last August.
Well as usual I’m quite the procrastinator so of course it took me to almost the end of my year to get my plans together! So here it is, I have been accepted back in the the YAV program for a second year. I will be serving in New York this time though! Yep that’s right from the Big Easy to the Big Apple!
So I’m a little (ok a lot) nervous for my next steps, but I know I will muster up the courage. I also know that God will be walking with me too. So we will have to see if this small town girl can take on the big city of New York.
I am very excited that I do get to go home for at least a little bit in between my years of service. So if you want to catch up and hear a little more about my YAV experience I will be back in Minnesota for almost the whole month of August. So feel free to hit me up!
Being from Minnesota, I have a very deep connection with water. Minnesota is known for its thousands of lakes, which I greatly miss splashing around in during the Summer. Minnesota also has the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi river. So when traveling down to Louisiana is was quite an experience to follow the Mississippi river all the way down, and see how it grew along the way. I have noticed my connection to water is still quite prominent. My housemates have noticed my love for water too, because I tend to take the longest showers in the house, oops. Some of my favorite things include taking walks by the lake in City park or gazing over the Mississippi River.
I have noticed that being around water calms me. I love to watch the shimmer of sunlight as it dances on top of the waves. The water comes in beautiful hues of blues and greens. I yearn for the sound of the waves as they hit the shore. I also enjoy the cool feeling as water runs over my hands. My love for water runs deep in my soul.
I find that faith reminds me of a flowing river. Sometimes its the gentleness of a small stream, or its the rushing waters of a waterfall. I feel that our faith is ever flowing. At times we may doubt our faith and cause the flow to be more of a trickle. Other times we may be so overflowing with faith that we end up gushing like Old Faithful. I don’t think there is anything wrong with changes in faith like this, if anything I believe it makes our relationship with God stronger.
“Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.” John 7:38
I’m happy to say this verse has really impacted me as I have grown in my faith these last months. It is a constant reminders that I need to come vulnerable and open to God and he will fill me and make me whole again.
Here are just a few pictures I wanted to post to show everyone what I’ve been doing and a little bit of my job. Hope you enjoy!
We went to Whitney Plantation. It is the only Plantation in Louisiana that shows you the experience from the slaves perspective.
Steel cage that was used for punishment against slaves at Whitney Plantation
Me, Vinnie, Jocelyn, and Jean in front of the Plantation house
Vinnie and I got the opportunity to go to Montreat College Conference in North Caroliona, we made lots of new friends from all across our presbytery.