This past week (Friday, June 19 – Friday, June 26) I was in Brooklyn serving with an organization called YouthWorks. YouthWorks is a short terms mission organization that partners with long termers serving in cities all over the United States and Canada (and in one city in Puerto Rico). Every summer hundreds of college-aged Jesus people are hired, trained and placed at these sites. I was hired and placed in Brooklyn in 2012 and Indianapolis in 2013. Last year (and this year) I was able to spend one week in Brooklyn, the first week of programming which means the first week with actual youth, using my expertise and experience to help the week go as smoothly as possible.
This week in Brooklyn was full of emotions. First of all, I had to leave the Dominican Republic which meant leaving my church, my apartment, my city, my friends, my couch, my dog, my cat, my fan, my job, etc. During this first week back in the States since Christmastime (which wasn’t actually that long ago) I felt homesickness like I haven’t felt since my first time at sleep-away camp in fifth grade. Even while I was enjoying myself I was aware of this ache for home. I tried to yoga-it-away but I wasn’t really focused, so I mostly had to Will-&-Grace-it-away and also mexican-food-with-Aaron-it-away and Brooklyn-Bridge-it-away and nap-in-my-favorite-park it away. Which is to say that for perhaps an hour or two at a time I could forget that where I really wanted to be was in my apartment on an island far away and really enjoy myself.
That kind of bliss also came in moments like these:
- hearing a teenager tearfully share about their interaction with a senior at a resident home for the elderly.
- singing worship songs every night in club.
- hearing teenagers pray before meals.
- washing dishes with a cool kid named Alex and talking music.
- watching the manliest man of the week choke up while talking about how a woman brought a bunch of high schoolers to tears with stories of her life. “She’s what a saint looks like,” were the words of one youth.
- sitting on a bench looking at the water eating cheese fries with Aaron.
- hugging a birthday girl who felt safe enough to come out to her church group and a bunch of strangers.
It was a beautiful, stressful, funny, exhausting, car-accidenty, stretching week and I’m thankful to have been a part of it. I hope I never get over how Jesus loves all of us crazy people bumbling along trying to figure it out. I hope I never forget that when the common goal is serving Jesus by loving on people no other denominational facts really matter.
This week my personal schedule took a backseat to the YouthWorks schedule, which starts at 6:45am with breakfast prep and ends around 11pm with setting up for the next day’s breakfast. It’s the circle of meals. But now I’m in Michigan and I’m committing myself to maintaining some kind of structure. The only way to combat feelings of discontent and homesickness are to keep my mind and heart active. My goal for the next three weeks (and beyond!) is to complete the four following tasks DAILY:
This means that you can expect more blog posts. You can also expect DAILY posts on my Tumblr, where I’m exploring a Psalm a Day in my humble little way. You can also expect that I will finish my novel eventually. I haven’t forgotten about it and I’m hoping that this summer vacation will give me the undivided time I need to finally get back to work on the darn thing. Soon and very soon I will be posting about my first half of this year’s book challenge! Three more books to read and I will be half way to 100, which is a nice time to reflect on the 50 books I will have read this year.
I will be traveling a bit starting next week, but staying with friends is flexible. About as flexible as I’ll be after three weeks of daily yoga! I’m planning on being back in the Dominican Republic (back to my apartment and my puppy!!!!) the week of July 20, but that is visa-dependent. The visa process starts early Monday morning and I’m going to work hard to mail that stuff in ASAP. The United States are nice, but I can only resist the siren call of Target for so long and my bank account is only so full (which is to say, not very full).
Life lately has been extra travely and extra cold. But I’m not letting all the changes get me off track. I am committed to the Word, to a healthy body, and to my craft. I am also committed to Taco Bell and television and as many trips to the library as I can squeeze in. I am also definitely committed to convincing my parents to get two kittens! My mom is totally on board (it was her idea) and the Humane Society even called the other day letting my mom know they’re especially full of cats, so they’re clearly on board. I’ve committed to a lot these next three weeks and hopefully staying true to all these commitments will stave off the homesickness and help me to be intentional about enjoying my time with friends and family in these United States.