So it has been a long time since I have posted anything to this blog and for that I am sorry. However, here is the latest update on my journey. I decided to do a second YAV year. This year I will be serving in Austin, TX.
As I start my year of service as a Young Adult Volunteer in Austin, I wanted to thank everyone for their support of my year in New Orleans and for continuing to support me this year. You are in my prayers every day. One of the many amazing opportunities that I have as a YAV in Austin is the opportunity to take classes at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The Austin YAV site is run through the seminary, and we live on the seminary campus. Our community is intricately interwoven with the seminary community, and we are encouraged to participate in that community in any way possible. For my YAV year, I will be involved with the community through the Faith and Service Cohort at the seminary. This Cohort is an opportunity to explore theological education through the lens of service with a nonprofit agency. I will have the opportunity to apply what I learn in classes to what I am doing at my placement. I will be taking two classes and working part time at a local non-profit organization. I will be working with Texas Impact. Texas Impact is a non-profit agency that works with grassroots organizations to get their message out and get their voice heard. They work on public policy issues on a wide range of topics. I hope to be meeting with them and starting my job on September 8th. So, I will be able to tell you more about them in my next article. My two classes for the semester are Church History and Theology. I hope to share with you what I learn during my studies and what I learn through my placement. I want to thank you for your prayers and support. If you would like to support me financially you may do so through the St Philip website through the online giving tab, or you may write a check to St Philip and include my name in the memo line. You can also check out the Support My YAV year tab to find out more ways to support me.
I encountered an interesting challenge while talking with a Captain of a ship tonight after he saw a snippet of news on CNN. CNN was talking about what is going on in Ferguson in the wake of the Grand Jury decision on the shooting. The conversation left me with some questions. How do you explain to someone the situation of Ferguson when they are from another country? How do you explain to them why people are shooting and hurting when they do not speak English very well? How do you understand what they are thinking about the situation when you don’t know how you feel yourself? How do you explain what it means to be privileged in America when the sailor or Captain is working everyday, including holidays, to provide a better life for his/her family because they cannot do so in their home country? These are questions that I am coming to consider during my work with Global Maritime Ministries. We as people of privilege take for granted the concept of communication with those we love and care about. We take for granted the idea of going to Wal-mart to buy what we need anytime we want. The household I grew up in was not one that called into question these ideas. If we needed something, we went to the store to get it. We did not have to think about whether transportation was available. We did not have to think about whether the money needed to be sent to family members in another country instead. (Part of what we do at Global is providing a Money Gram service so the seafarers can send money home if they wish to or need to and transportation to the store when they are in port.)
Another concept that we are looking at right now is the concept of simple living and living locally. This provides an interesting discussion for me because I am working with seafarers, whose job it is to provide those things that we do not buy locally. How do I explain to the seafarers about this concept, if they were to ask? This concept of buying locally, buying used, growing the food needed or buy the food from local farmers, is a very new concept to me. Growing up we just bought what we needed when we needed it. This concept of living simply and locally also makes me wonder if relationships in communities would be stronger by it being practiced by more people. If relationships were stronger what would the Ferguson situation look like? What would America look like?
So, I figured that since I have been in New Orleans for a few months, I would let everyone know what I have noticed about the city, what I love about the city, and what I don’t like about the city. As a YAV coming to a city I have never been to before, it allows me to have an interesting perspective. Here are a couple of my observations:
- Possibly the most confusing thing about this city, especially for someone driving, are the streets. You can be going down a road that you think will take you where you need to go only to find a Do Not Enter sign. Why? Well, because the one-way street you were driving on has suddenly changed directions. Confusing? Yea I think so too.
- However, one of the best things about this city is the hospitality. I have never felt more welcomed anywhere in my life. Maybe it is because we are Young Adult Volunteers, (I’m not sure.) The people here always want to hug you or feed you or both. We went on a tour of the bayou a few weeks ago and the church that hosted us fed us so much amazing food. I could barely move from being so full.
Jambalaya, Sweet potato crunch, and peas with onions
- So I have told you something confusing, and something I love, now I will share with you something that I don’t like about this city. It has to do with the rampant poverty that is in New Orleans. It is the tension of New Orleans. You will have the very poor right next to the very rich and it seems like everyone is ok with this. There are organizations that help, like Program of Hope, but these organizations can only do so much. At times, it can feel hopeless and infuriating. It can often even leave me wonder if as Young Adult Volunteers we are making any difference. However, I also talk to my roommate who has worked with Program of Hope and she has told me of stories where the programs are making a difference.
One person at a time, a difference is being made. Maybe that is what the heart of ministry is all about. It is not about saving the whole world, but about making a difference of any kind in one person’s life.
So, when I was fundraising for my YAV year, I had many people ask me to explain what I was going to be doing this year. Now that I have had my first week at Global Maritime Ministries, I feel that I can answer this question. Global Maritime Ministries is a port ministry that provides services to seafarers, port security and port officials. They have a facility located 5 minutes from the port that has computers with internet, a ping-pong table, a TV, private booths with phones, and a large assortment of books. This facility is available to the seafarers from 9am until 9:30pm. They also have phone and internet cards for sale that allow the seafarers to call home and use the internet while they are in port. Many of the seafarers that I have met so far work on cargo ships. They usually have contracts that range from 6 months at sea to 11 months at sea. Some of them have families and some do not. They come from all over the world. This last week I met people from China, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Italy, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and many other places. The cargo ships are very fascinating to me. I understood how stuff arrives in the stores that I shop at, but to see this process in action is amazing. The ships come into port with many cargo containers on it and the crew has 9-12 hours before they are back at sea with a different set of containers on the ship. While the ship is in port, the containers are taken off the ship by cranes which are operated by the port personnel and placed on the trailers of 18-wheelers. Then once the ship is empty, they put new containers on the ship. During this process the seafarers are taking shore leave to go to stores and other places in the city. That is where Global Maritime Ministries comes into play. One of the many services Global offers is free transportation from the ship to the Wal-Mart or to the near by Riverwalk. We will also bring the guest to the center for them to use the facilities. Then, whenever they are ready to go back to their ships, we will take them back. This is just a short description of what I have participating in so far. I am excited to meet all the new people and hear their stories. If you want more information Global’s website is portministry.com. Here are some pictures from my first week:
I get to drive this big 15 passenger van!
The Mississippi from the port.
A cargo ship
Cargo containers on the port
So one of the ships that we visited with, we were invited up to Captain’s cabin to talk to him about our services. This is me in the Captain’s cabin.
So it has been a little over 2 months since I have posted anything and it felt like now was the right time. I am currently in the house in New Orleans while a dance party goes on in the kitchen. I am loving it here. Last week we were in New York at YAV orientation, or disorientation as we called it. We covered so many different topics and some of them were incredibly difficult topics. Now that we are back in New Orleans, we have unpacked some of those topics in casual conversations but I think we will be dealing with them and seeing them all year. I am looking forward to seeing what this year will hold.
A few observations: I have already notice is that the houses here are gorgeous. My housemates are awesome. One of them totally looks like Will Wheaton. It rains here a lot.( Like so much that I wish I could send it to Texas and help end the drought.) This year is going to be a year of challenges and stretching and growing for me.
I think this year is definitely going to present some interesting challenges for me. I am a conservative Christian living in a liberal town. I have a strong desire to make friends but I don’t know how to make friends outside of the house. I have lived on my own by myself for 5 years, yet now I am sharing a house with 6 other people. My prayer for this year is that God grants me an open mind to all the possibilities around me. I also pray that those people reading these blogs will leave comments so that we can be in conversation and be understanding of what I am learning about and going through. I am going to be real on this blog and it will make some people mad. I am writing this as not representing anybody or any organization but myself. For now, I am off to go work with my community and site coordinator to write a community covenant. Here is a picture of our community:
Welcome to Jennifer’s year in New Orleans!!
So much has happened since my last post, I figured I should give everyone an update. I am in the process of getting everything ready for my move to New Orleans. I will be leaving the morning of August 16th bright and early with my car packed. I will be arriving in New Orleans sometime late in the day on the 16th after driving for 8 hours. I will then be leaving for orientation at Stony Point, New York on August 18th. We will be back from orientation on August 25th. Then, we will be starting on the ministries in New Orleans. I hope to be working with Global Maritime Ministries. They have a website at http://www.portministry.com/ if you would like to visit it and find out more. I am very excited about the possibilities God has before me.
I am also continuing to raise money for my year with Young Adult Volunteers. For this program, I need to raise a minimum of $3,000 to help cover costs of living and other expenses. I have been blessed by my presbytery towards this goal. On May 31st, Grace Presbytery presented me with a check for $1,500. I am very grateful for this blessing!! Thank you Grace Presbytery.
If you would like to help me raise money towards my goal, you can find out how the tab label Support my YAV year.
I started this blog to invite people on a journey. It is my journey with the Young Adult Volunteers Program. The program is run through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) Mission Agency. I first started on my journey when my pastor encouraged me to apply for the program. I got accepted into the program and went to the Discernment Event in Little Rock, Arkansas. During that weekend, I found out where I am going to be serving. I am going to (drum roll please) NEW ORLEANS!! I am so excited and nervous at the same time, if that is possible. I also have so much to do to be ready. I will be leaving for New Orleans from Hurst,TX on August 15th. I don’t know yet where I will be serving, but I will post more as soon as I know. I do know that my church, St. Philip is supporting me through prayers and fundraising. If you would like to support me financially, I would greatly appreciate that. You can find the information in the Support my YAV year.