In the summer of 2001 I went on my first domestic mission trip with my youth group church, Trinity Presbyterian. We went to Chattanooga, Tennessee with an organization called YouthWorks.
Many things stand out to me from that weeklong trip, nearly 18 years later. I remember the hum of the projector (the old fashioned one with the transparencies) while my friends and I were introduced to the song Prince of Peace (classic YouthWorks jam). I remember wearing my favorite outfit at the time – a yellow shirt that said “Cheerios” on it with matching yellow shorts with “Cheerios” all over them. Of course I remember the boys from the other church (from Gifford, Illinois). I think that was the week we played Spoons Till You Pee for the first time. Nick from Gifford, Illionois was the first one to give in to a full blatter.
I remember being part of an assembly line in an old, very full building in order to move things from upstairs to downstairs or the other way around. I remember our van breaking down while going up a mountain and dancing on the side of the road. I remember stopping on the way home to celebrate Laura’s birthday (or was it Joslyn’s?).
We slept on the floor, not on air mattresses like kids these days do, but just the floor. Every night Jessica would say, “Good night, little lambs. Thank the Lord you are well. Now go to sleep, said Ms Clavell.” Every morning Tracy would sing, “Good morning, good morning! It’s great to stay up late. Good morning, good morning to you!”
In two months I’ll be back in Chattanooga, Tennessee with YouthWorks, this time in a very different position (and hopefully a different outfit). 18 years after my first YouthWorks experience, I have (for the second time) accepted the summer position of YouthWorks Area Director.
As my first summer as an Area Director was winding down in July of 2017, I considered applying for a full time position with YouthWorks, moving my dogs and all my crap to Minnesota, and making this a thing. I thought that it would be very hard to move forward with YouthWorks otherwise, splitting my time and my heart between Jarabacoa and various communities in the Eastern United States. In the end, I decided not to apply for the full time position, to come back to my life (and my dogs) here in Jarabacoa and to continue with YouthWorks in the same way I had done for the previous three years.
So early this year, 2019, I was all set to be a Starter with YouthWorks. A Starter is a one week support position I have done four times before. It allows me to be a part of YouthWorks in a way that doesn’t upset my schedule or take me out of my life here for months at a time.
Then last week (was it really only last week?!) one of the YouthWorks big wigs sent me an email, just checking in to see if my availability had changed and if I would be available to serve as an Area Director this summer. Logistically and practically my availability had not changed. The YouthWorks summer still started over two weeks before my school year ended. My pets are still thriving and need daily attention and care. And yet I couldn’t bring myself to send the, “Sorry, no, I can’t,” email. Because my heart was screaming, “But I want to!”
I talked to my mom, I listened to my heart, and I sent a very different email back. An email saying, “Let me talk to my principal, but tentatively, I’m in.” The next day I met with my principal who said, “You should do it! As long as you’re coming back next year, we can make it work.” Later that day I sent an enthusiastic confirmation email to Drew at YouthWorks and two days later I interviewed and was offered the job.
In LESS than two months, I will be packing up my crap (unfortunately not my dogs) and heading to Minneapolis for training. This summer I will have the immense privilege and blessing to serve FOUR communities in the South. I will be the Area Director for the aforementioned Chattanooga, Tennessee, Savannah, Georgia, and two cities in North Carolina (Wilmington and Blue Ridge). To say I’m pumped would be an understatement.
Last year was not the time for me to pack up all my crap, leave my dogs behind, and drive around the US for over two months. 2018 was a nesting time for me in many ways. I was settling in to my jobs, my home, my life here in Jarabacoa.
Do you remember what Pam said when she joined the Michael Scott Paper Company? She was feeling restless. She was feeling bored. She was looking at her life and thinking, “Is this it, then? For the next fifty years?” I watched that episode a month or so ago and found myself relating to Pam in that moment in a big way. I found myself looking around at my life, content and grateful, yes, but asking myself, “Is this it, then?”
So I’m telling myself what I tell my friends. “Now’s the time! Go for it!” Now’s my time. I’m going for it. YW 2019, let’s do this.
Would anyone like to stay in a furnished home in the mountains of the Dominican Republic for the month of July? The cost of lodging is merely keeping my pets alive.