Grace and Peace to all during this holiday season,
from God who is, who was, and has yet to come...
It is a difficult time to be a YAGM.
At least for me, my thoughts are strewn between my life here and back home. A time where in past years I have been immersed in finals and preparing to travel home is now occupied by new culture, new traditions, and new people. The presence of so many new things makes me crave even just one small piece of known ritual.
As much as this year has been about learning new ideas, it has also served to make me recognize the importance of things I have taken for granted. Simple things like peppermints --which I absolutely adore--and watching snow fall while sipping hot chocolate by the fire defined the look and feel of this season. Without them, I even question that we are even in the holiday months.
This is the part of accompaniment that is so hard. Walking with people and encountering these new ideas means being apart from everything and everyone you have ever known. It means missing your family, your friends, your traditions, and your life. But it is in this that the greatest of joys can arise: a new community. A new sense of belonging.
Being a YAGM means breaking yourself down until you are raw and tender; vulnerable and moldable. It forces you to think --thankfully I’m sure we all have enough time to be pensive-- about what is important and then gather the pieces and rebuild with not just old knowledge, but with new insights from the world in which you are immersed. It is an awful, horrible, wonderful process. Miraculous.
It is during this last week of Advent --while we patiently wait for the gift of Christmas-- that I would like to remind you of what God is sending: a message of grace for every living being and a message of relationship. For it was through relationships that Jesus sought to change the world. He sought to define how we interact with one another and taught that we are not meant to love only God, but also love our neighbors.
It is in these very relationships that we YAGMs find ourselves changed. This is where we are torn apart and rebuilt. Our old eyes are plucked from our head and replaced with eyes that see “the other” as part of us. We are surrounded by an abrupt reality of pain, poverty, violence, and injustice. Yet for all the abuses our hearts are shown, we find a love for it all. We find great joy in the communities and relationships we create with our site placements.
My hope for each of you is that you find HOME in your community. That wherever you are in the world, you can realize this is where you belong! And even though you are far away from family and friends, I hope that the people surrounding you become family and become an example of God’s love made real in this world! I hope that every day you find yourself changed by these relationships. For this is accompaniment at its finest. Wherever you are, create community and be love.
May the wide embrace of God’s love envelop the world and bring you both comfort and joy.
Never forget to share the bread!
All my love,