Flash blogs are short posts written to a shared prompt during community discussion time -- with a ten minute time limit. This practice helps us get used to blogging, stay in communication with our followers, and challenge ourselves to not overthink how we share with the world. See each YAV's response to this shared prompt below!
PROMPT: According to the PCUSA, you are in Mission service. What does that mean to you?
During orientation as we talked about serving during our YAV year, we had a day where we unpacked the word mission and that definition, what it has meant in the past and started thinking through what it means to us. That was one of the last days after a pretty heavy week of orientation, so I don’t really remember exactly what we talked about. I know we talked about mission briefly, but I am pretty far from knowing what I think “mission” service means. During that day we did talk about the fact that something about the word mission may make us feel icky or like it doesn’t really describe what we are doing.
For me I think it’s easier to think about the word service, and say I’m doing a service year. I’m using my gifts and strengths, and growing in my weaknesses as I serve others. One thing during orientation that continued to stick with me was a story our YAV coordinator Richard told us one of the first days. When he served one in his YAV year, I believe a bishop from his host country told him a very humbling and powerful message. As I paraphrase, Richard was told something along the lines that the people you have come to help, do not need you, they have been working and serving one another for many years before you and they will continue their work many years after you are gone. You are wanted, you have been invited, but you are not NEEDED. Richard reminded us this throughout our week of orientation. That has been something I have continued to hold in my thoughts during this year of service. For me service means being invited and welcomed into community to accept the many blessings, that are in the community that is allowing me to grow my different gifts of service.
have struggled a lot with what it means to “do mission”. For most of my life, mission has been broadcasted and labeled as a very damaging thing- damaging a culture, boosting a white narrative/ ego, self servicing rather than uplifting of a community as it is meant to be. But last year, working in a retirement community in Asheville, hearing stories from past missionaries and their experiences, I began to realize the most important lesson- mission service is what you make of it (like all things in life, this too is soley based on what you do with the knowledge you have and how you share it (which is what makes writing blog posts scary and also why I will be doing “yadvocate” training next week).
At orientation, we were warned all too well about the dangers of “white savior complex” and even for me, that experience being over a year ago” I still hear the warnings and remember the message. most of last year I was scared to ever post a picture or share my experience for fear of getting the wrong attention on social media- this year on the border is so much worse. Its hard to talk, share, and “promote” this year of learning and experiencing immigration- without that fear of “white savior”.
For me- mission, is accepting that God is calling you to a place for a purpose and accepting that that purpose is not what you may have thought or intended. That sometimes its hard and although you thought you were ready for the challenge and wanted more of it in your life- you had no idea what you were signing up for. Mission for me, means showing up in those hard times and learning how (as a seven) to admit when they’re awful but knowing that its okay and it may or may not get better— that’s also okay. Mission, is taking the leap and diving into the unknown with fear and uncertainty of what comes next– but also open to the possibilities of what can happen.
Being “In Mission Service” feels weird to me. What does that even mean?
It makes me feel uncomfy because I think of the harm that people with the title “missionary” have done in the past and are continuing to do. There is a lot of oppression, killing, and erasing of culture that has come in the form of what has been called mission work.
I am not in Tucson to do any of that though because of all of that is horrible and part of the horrible narrative of white supremacy. But that brings up the question of why am I here at all?
I am here to learn, grow, and change. I am here to serve others. I am here to show love and build relationships.
I don’t consider that to be mission work. But also, isn’t that kind of the definition of mission work?
Being “in mission service” to me is just showing up for people. I do that by showing up to repair houses with CHRPA. I have shown up to events around the city to support other groups doing good work.
But in all of this I am learning so much, which is part of why I feel weird calling it mission work. But I think that is ok.
Mission service to me is serving others and learning from them. I don’t know how to best serve people unless I first listen to what they need. That is mission to me.
Let us go across to the other side
In the Gospel of Mark there are a lot of times when Jesus and the disciples cross from Jewish land to Gentile land and vice versa. This gospel is read by the delegation groups in preparation for their trip to Agua Prieta/Douglas, and I too read and have been discussing with each group various verses from it.
It has had me thinking a lot about who is willing to cross and who is able to cross these borders. For example, there is a passage in which Jesus and the disciples cross into Gentile land. Jesus leaves the boat and begins healing gentiles, and in this passage, the longest in Mark, none of the disciples are mentioned at all. My boss pointed this out to me, and questioned if they stayed behind in the boat and let Jesus go to do his thing alone. Where they not willing to go across to the other side?
Though I have physically crossed the border, I question, in what ways have I stayed behind in the boat? Have I been fully present in the community of Agua Prieta? Am I fully present with each of the migrants?
And then there’s the HUGE question: who is able to cross?
All of the delegation groups will testify how surprisingly easy it is to cross into Mexico- no lines, no presentation of your papers. But with over a thousand migrants on the list to stay in CAME (the shelter for migrants), it is clear that the reality is not the same when crossing the opposite direction. Beneath blankets tied to the fence-style wall that borders the US, sleeping on mats laid on top of the concrete, are migrants that could testify how surprisingly (?) hard it is to cross into the United States.
My white skin and my “passport privilege” make this a reality I am blind to. And as I ride my bike past the 2 hour long line of cars waiting at the port of entry, I greet the migrants staying in la línea, I am able to “go across to the other side” with an ease they’ll never know.
There multiple realities here, regarding “the other side”, “el otro lado”.
I am really grateful to be here to take it all in. Both by sharing in the experience of living amongst a border, and by learning from those whose realities have to be different than mine due to which side we were born on.
It's National Coming Out Day! YAY!!!!!!!!
A few weeks ago, the Tucson YAVs all attended a Pride Festival together as a community event!
I love pride! This was my second Pride Festival and I fully believe that Pride, not Disney World is the happiest place on earth. There is so much joy. Its a celebration of everyone getting to express their gender, sexuality, and self in anyway they chose.
We did all of the typical Pride things: collected free stuff with rainbows on it, watched live performances, and took lots of pictures. And it was so much fun!
Pride is a great time knowing that I can be fully open about my sexuality with everyone there and I will be celebrated and affirmed.
Even as much as I love the affirming space that was created at Pride, I recently had another experience that affirmed me in my identity more.
This event was a worship service called More Light Sunday.
More Light Presbyterians is an organization within the Presbyterian Church (USA) that has been advocating for LGBTQ people in the PC(USA) since 1992. The name comes from saying that there was “yet more light to shine forth on the scriptures” in terms of LGBTQIA+ inclusion.
When walking into the sanctuary on that Sunday, the first thing I saw were ribbons hanging from the center over the communion table. One set of ribbons hung down to form a rainbow pride flag and the others made the pink, blue and white trans+ flag.
The ribbons that hung in the center of the sanctuary on More Light Sunday to represent the LGBTQ+ community.Everyone was given a sticker that said “Be-Loved” on a background of either the gay pride flag or the trans+ flag. And many people donned rainbows on their shirts and other parts of their clothes.
For all of those aspects and the joy felt within the room, it was very simliar to Pride. But the difference came during worship.
Many of the songs and liturgy could be used in a variety of contexts. Micah 6:8 was one of the scriptures and “this little light of mine” was one of the songs. These are used in a variety of worship contexts.
But even with scriptures and songs that I am familiar with, it was so powerful to hear them in this context. To hear it being said from the pulpit and directed toward the LGBTQIA+ community. A community of people who are all too often forgotten about and demonized by the church.
It was so powerful to be able to listen to a woman preach who was invited there not despite her sexuality, but because of it. It was more than a church saying that they are inclusive. It was showing it right there from the pulpit as they literally preached inclusivity.
This was a much different feeling for me than the Pride Festival because it was at church. I have been affirmed in my sexuality by family, friends, and strangers countless times. But this may be the first time that I have felt affirmed by an institution.
I have always had weird feelings about being open about my sexuality in the church. This isn’t because I think that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that God created me this way and will always love me just as I am. Embracing my sexuality makes me feel closer to God, not farther way.
No, the reason I have weird feelings about my sexuality and the church is that I never know how other Christians are going to react if I say that I am not straight. It has always been the judgement of people that makes me more nervous than the judgement of God.
But having a worship service dedicated to LGBTQIA+ inclusion and affirmation changes that narrative entirely.
Seeing a rainbow flag hanging at a church is great, but it having an entire worship service planned out and dedicated to praising God with the LGBTQ community that was so impactful for me.
A couple times during worship I was close to tears. There were so many LGBTQ people leading parts of the service. It was incredible.
To be fully affirmed by a church for who I am was so powerful. This may be the first time that I have felt fully included into a church and it was only my second time being there.
This made me take time to reflect on how important inclusion is. Not just LGBTQ inclusion, but the inclusion of all ethnicities, languages, beliefs and people.
Standing there and witnessing a church taking steps to be completely inclusive of LGBTQ people meant more to me than the secular world being accepting of me.
Christianity as a whole has so much power as one of the major world religions. This power can either be used to make every person feel included or it can be used to create divisions among us.
I hope there are more instances of the former. I have hope that people can be amazed and moved by how inclusive and loving Christians can be of all of God’s people.
On my first Sunday in Tucson, the YAV’s and I went to Trinity Presbyterian Church for worship and fellowship. As we worshiped Will You Come and Follow Me (The Summons) is a hymn I’ve heard many times before. As we had already spent a week in New York and a week in Tucson thinking about what service means to us and reflecting on what the year ahead may hold, the fourth verse has stuck with me:
Will you learn to love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you found to reshape the world around, through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Alongside the powerful verses, the sermon has also stuck with me. The pastor talked about confidence in one’s self is something God calls us to do. But she noted an important distinction between arrogance and confidence. In order to be in relationship and use our gifts as God calls us, confidence in those gifts and one’s self is necessary.
There’s a lot of me I hide that I know comes from fears of vulnerability. A lot of insecurities I deflect through laughter and sarcasm. These parts of me require vulnerability, because there often parts of me I don’t really love or are confident enough in to share with others. There are big parts of me I remain hesitant to share. Some of the ‘me’ I hide, includes parts of me that help drive my passions. When I’m not confident in the parts of me that are very entwined with what I’m passionate about how can I be confident in the work I will do to serve others. I think even more so thinking about gifts and talents, I have; if I am not confident in the gifts I have been given, if I am hesitant to share my gifts, how am I really serving or being in relationship with others to the best of my abilities. I feel like I really struggle being confident in all parts of who I am, because I have many fears of what others may think of me, or whether my most vulnerable parts of myself will be accepted.
Perhaps a reason I’ve struggled even writing this first blog post, and sharing with a lot of my community the different experiences I’ve had thus far, is a pretty big fear of vulnerability and putting my thoughts out there for others to read.
I hold a lot of fears everyday. Fears of being a women out and about each day, especially at night if I’m ever biking alone. Fears about biking and being on the road with cars that may not be paying attention. Fears of being vulnerable around my roommates or my co-workers. Fears about saying something wrong or hurtful to others in my community. Fears of causing tension in the house. I have lots of questions about these fears. I wonder often where they come from, what places of privilege some of them come from and what places of past trauma they come from. And my biggest question what do I do to acknowledge them, but not be crippled by them. If I learn to not just suppress or ignore fears I have but quell the fear inside can that lead me to never be the same. Googling the definition of quell it means “to put an end to, typically by the use of force.” I like the use of this specific word, cause it call attention to some of the intentionality necessary to combat fears that are rooted in privilege, racism, or holding on to past traumatic experiences. Put an end to fears of vulnerability or saying the wrong thing, or being scared of people based on stereotypes by using force, by making conscious decisions to take a second to look at where this fear is coming from and how healthy it is to continue to hold on to that fear. I think there are fears and gut feelings that keep us safe, but I think there a lot of my fears that just keep me feeling comfortable. If I learn to recognize some of these fears and put an end to them, how can that allow me to be open to many different experiences, community with different people, and connect with them in a very intentional and deep way where vulnerability is appreciated and necessary.
I will learn many things from my year of service. Some may be new physical skills like how to use power tools or install a water heater, some may be how to listen, and discuss tension and conflict with housemates. But what I think or hope I will learn about most is myself. Learn why I hide parts of myself from others, what confidence can look like, where my fears come from and how can I confront them, and perhaps one of the harder questions I’ve had a harder time thinking through, the question the verse of the Summon ends with will I use the faith I found to reshape the world around? I hope in a year of service, with a program focused on intentional Christian community I can start to think through how me and my faith (something I have hesitance in sharing) can be used to confidently and fearlessly serve and help others.