Saturday, December 31, 2011

A surprise

Yesterday I got a surprise, I found a couple of lice in my hair.

Now be honest with me, what was your reaction when I said those words.  Disgust? Eww? Thoughts like, “I’m glad she’s not in my house” or “Maybe she should bathe more often” or “I wouldn’t want to touch her.” In the past I am sure that I have had some of these exact thoughts.  I certainly felt a little ashamed when I went to the drugstore to buy stuff to get rid of them.

I was a little nervous about how people would react when I told them I had lice. But I was shocked by how everyone reacted. My friends predictably were teasing me about it, but they still acted normally around me. We still greeted each other with a hug and a kiss on the check, even with the chance of some of my hair touching them. Instead of reactions of disgust from people at church, there were reactions of sympathy as well as sharing of home remedies to get rid of the lice.

Many of the kids I work with have lice right now and there is a good chance that I got it from them. But does this mean I am going to keep my distance from them now, not let them touch my hair? No. Because giving and accepting love from them is far more important to me then the annoyance of a few bugs crawling in my hair.

So here’s to a new year filled with love, and hugs, and laughter, and hopefully no more lice (but if a few come back to visit me then its not the end of the world).

To do or to be?

This past week I was at camp with the kids I work with at the Hogar. It was a fantastic week filled with lots of time at the beach, camp games, and of course a campfire. I was able to deepen my relationships with many of the kids. But as fun as the time with the kids was, one of the highlights for me was the conversations that happened with the other leaders at night after the kids had gone to bed. We would go sit on the beach, look at the stars and the waves and just talk about life.

One of the nights we were talking about the differences between American culture and Uruguayan culture. I described the go, go, go culture that we have. The pressure to always be doing something, that there is always something more or better that you can achieve be it a nicer car, a better job, etc. To not be “doing something” is often seen as lazy, a lack of drive. The Uruguayan in our group couldn’t even comprehend a culture like that. He couldn’t believe that we don’t have times where people just sit around talking or go to the park to hang out for hours.

Uruguay has a culture of being, not doing. When you run into someone you stay and talk for a while, even if there is somewhere you should be. Getting together with friends to “do” something usually means going somewhere like the beach, the park, the roof to sit, drink some mate or cerveza, and just talk for a couple hours. Sitting in the office for an hour or so with some coffee and talking is considered a good use of time. Time spent together with others is deeply valued and rarely seen as a distraction from what “needs” to get done.

This was something that took some getting used to for me. At times I still struggle with it. Feeling like I need to do something instead of just sitting around. Getting frustrated when I am at a meeting or a rehearsal and it seems like it will never end because people are “off topic” and talking about other things instead of focusing on the task at hand. I can feel my little American mind wanting to tell people, “come on, lets get this done first and then talk.” But I don’t say it. Because the relationships that are being built, the life being shared together is so much more important than anything else that we could be doing.

At orientation one of the former YAGMs gave us this piece of advice, “Remember the you are human being not human doings.”  As we transition into a new year full of busyness and doing, I challenge you to find times to just be. Be with family and friends. Be with nature. Be with God. To embrace the joy that is found in being with others and to release yourself from the pressure to get things done. I think you will be surprised by the blessings that can come out of just being.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hand in Hand

An abbreviated version of my blog A Mate Story was posted on the ELCA Global Mission blog!! I invite you to go check it out as well as sign up for periodic stories and updates from ELCA missionaries around the world (including some of my fellow YAGM).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A mate story

 Accompaniment is hard, at least for me. The ELCA model for global mission is at the same time fantastic and frustrating. Let me try to explain. The basic idea is that we are coming alongside people and "walking together in solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality." Basically it is all about relationships. It is a drastic change from other models of mission in that we are not bringing something new to a community, rather we recognize that God is already active there and join in with the mission that is already occuring.

In theory I love this idea. Everyone coming together as equals, and supporting each other so that together we can further the work of the church. So what you might ask is the problem? Well, living out accompaniment is not as simple as it sounds (or at least sounded to me). Because the focus is building relationships, there is often not a tangible project to work on, thus there is also no tangible result. I had never realized how much the importance of this was ingrained in me by growing up in American culture.

In my work with the church here I am doing a lot of accompanying. I literally go along with the pastor when he goes places and then sit there and listen while he does stuff. Most of the time it is hard to see how this is any different from him going by himself to these things. Though I know that accompaniment is about relationships and so my presence there is important, it is often hard to remind myself of that. But every once in a while I will have a shining ah ha moment where I feel like I really get it. This is the story of one of those moments:

A week ago I went to Buenos Aires for the weekend to go to a churchwide assembly about life and mission in the church. One of the people who went with us to represent Nuestro Salvador (my church here in Montevideo) was Marisol. She is the mom of the kids me and the pastor work with on Saturday mornings and she also cleans the church. She is really nice, but I hadn’t really talked with her before last weekend. But in Buenos Aires we drank a lot of mate together and had some bonding moments. On Friday while I was in the office we got to have a good conversation and drink mate together. Then on Saturday morning when we got to her house she wasn’t there, but she had left her mate and terma with hot water ready for us on the table.  Drinking mate together with someone is how you share community here. When someone offers you mate they are inviting you into their life. I felt so loved and included by the simple action of Marisol leaving her mate there on the table for me.

I felt like for the first time I really understood how accompaniment could work. The relationships that I am slowly building here are more important then any project that I could do. My presence is enough and I need to stop trying so hard. But this is easier said then done so I pray that God will continue to remind me of this when I get focused on "achieving" things, that I won't lose focus on the people I am here to love.

I am a caterpillar

"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty." ~Maya Angelou

I feel like that butterfly.
Let me rephrase that,
I feel like that ugly caterpillar.
Confused by what is going on around me, inside me.
Am I changing, am I growing?
Or am I stuck here, trapped
Unable to see beyond the present
To see the end result of this struggle
To see the purpose of this pain
Why does it have to be so hard?
Like the caterpillar I feel trapped in my cocoon
Confused, frustrated, angry at times
Unable to understand what is happening
But as hard as it is to understand, 
To have hope
I must continue the struggle
For only in the struggle
Can the caterpillar break free
And finish the transformation
Into that beautiful butterfly.

*Just to clarify the quote is from Maya Angelou but I wrote the poem*

Life as a leaf

The wind is swirling all around her
the tree branches sway
the clothes on the line flutter, like a butterfly's wings
a single leaf blows by
and comes to rest by her side
as the wind blows
the leaf scuttles around
forward, then back
a pause, forward then back
unable to control its destiny
it continues to scuttle
when the wind pauses, it does too
all the while, the girl continues to watch
fascinated, where will the leaf go next
"oh to be a leaf" she thinks
"no cares in the world, simply floating along in the wind"
she imagines it for awhile
up in a tree, floating in the breeze
gently falling down to earth
a small child gleefully smashes the leaf with his toe
the leaf, unable to do anything must simply lie there and accept his fate
the girl ponders this for awhile
maybe the life of a leaf isn't so grand after all
maybe life, with all its crap and difficulties but also moments of glee, joy, happiness,
is worth the pain
"I can do something to change my situation,
I am not a leaf"
and so, she got up and walked off
in search of a friend, a hug, and some quality time together
and while she walked she though of the others
who hadn't yet realized that they are not leaves,
that they too can get up
and she felt a single tear roll down her cheek
she thought "I'm gonna help them to realize what they truly are,
God's querridos, created to live and to love"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Being sick as a blessing in disguise

This past week I have been sick. Really sick. And let me tell you something, being sick sucks. No matter where you are.

But being sick is even worse when you are in another country, especially a country that speaks another language. At least for me.

I didn’t know how the medical system works, where to go, what to do. My brain was barely functioning in English, let alone in Spanish trying to answer questions about how I felt. I really just wanted to curl up in my bed in Edmonds with my kitty, and I wanted my mom (and no I am not ashamed to admit that!). It was a recipe ripe for disaster and misery.

But strangely enough that’s not how everything happened. Rather it was an opportunity for my community here to really absorb me and shower me with love and affection. Let me show you what I mean.

Sunday morning I woke up and I was in bad shape. I had barely slept all night with a horrible fever and a throat that was starting to hurt. It was all I could do to get out of bed and stumble into the other room to tell my friends that I wouldn’t be going to church with them. I stumbled back to bed and when I woke back up Pastor Octavio was there to check on me and had brought with him a doctor who is a member of the church. She was able to examine and diagnose me right there in my room! (I have a bacterial throat infection that is in the same disease family as mononucleosis) She gave me her cell number and told me to call whenever I need anything and that she would be back with medicine with me.

I spent the day in my room, feeling crappy. But every hour or so one of my friends would come in and check on me unless I was sleeping. I was miserable, but a manageable miserable. But as the evening went on my fever was getting higher and higher. We couldn’t get a hold of the doctor or Octavio (their phones were dead). My friends were really concerned about me and decided that the best option was to go to the ER. So we went, and when I say we I mean we. Everyone who was around that night accompanied me to the ER so that I wouldn’t have to go alone. So instead of just me, there were five of us sitting and waiting. We got the diagnosis and some drugs and headed back home.

But the love didn’t stop there. One girl offered to let me sleep in an empty bed in her room so I could just poke her if I needed something. Another friend offered to, and did, sleep in the tv room right next to my room so I could bang on the wall in the night if I needed anything. It continued like this all week. The doctor came to check on me almost every day, and brought more medicine and home cooked meals with her. My friends were constantly coming in to check on me, and worrying about what I would eat when they weren’t around to cook something for me. When an older couple from the church found out I was sick they stopped by with cake, and the first words out of her mouth after “how are you feeling” were “why didn’t you call me?”

It was such an outpouring of blessings, that at times it was almost overwhelming. And as hard as it was at times, in some ways it was almost better then in the US. When I am in the US I don’t have a doctor that I can call any hour of the day to come and visit me at my house. I wouldn’t have had this many people who would have wanted to go to the hospital with me.

I was shown in so many ways that I am an important part of this community, one that is deeply cared for. My being sick allowed them to show me this in ways that might have been difficult or taken longer in “normal” life.  Maybe being sick was a blessing in disguise because of the way it allowed me to be loved by my community. Would I want to go through it again, no (fingers crossed!). But was it worth it, yes!

Towards the end of the week when I was doing more than just sleeping and watching tv a couple of the girls were joking around with me saying, “You aren’t sick anymore, you just don’t want to go to work do you.” I was arguing back saying that I am still sick even though I look a lot better. One of them looked right at me and said, “You can’t lie to us, we’re family.”

“You can’t lie to us, we’re family.”

How can I make a difference?

I struggle with my purpose here. In the grand scheme of things is my presence here even making a difference? There are so many things that are beyond my control, that at times it seems almost hopeless.

I can’t give the kids at the Hogar parents who aren’t idiots, families who can take care of them. I can’t give them or the kids in the Cerro an educational system that meets their needs. A school adequately staffed with well trained, caring teachers. A school where there is actually a teacher there on all school days. A school where they aren’t treated differently by the adults (let alone the other kids) because of their family or economic situation. I can’t change the fact that their life opportunities are limited simply by the part of the city that they live in. And frankly, that sucks!

I see a lot of injustice here on a daily basis. And it pains me deeply to know that no matter what I do in this next year, I won’t be able to change those injustices. I can fight as hard as I want, but ultimately it is a fight that Uruguayans must take on themselves.

So what can I do when faced with all this brokenness? Though I am unable to treat the root of the problem I can help to alleviate the symptoms. Into these places of pain and hopelessness I can try to shine the light of love and hope. All of the kids at the Hogar need some more love and support in their lives. So maybe, as hard as it is to accept sometimes, the most important thing I can do for them is to push them on the swings. Or to teeter-totter. Or play a couple hours of ping pong. They don’t need someone to tell them life isn’t fair, they already know that. What they need is someone who can tell them, and show them with actions, “You are important and I care about you.”

Maybe this is enough. To try to be that person of love and encouragement while praying for those who are fighting. I hope so. Because those kids need me and I don’t know how else I can serve them. And I can hear a swing calling my name…

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Ode to Stuff

Stuff, stuff, stuff
Why are you always such a focus in life?
You were so hard to deal with in preparation for leaving home
You were hard to leave behind (I really do love you hooded sweatshirt!)
But now I am here
And honestly I am a little, or maybe a lot, embarrassed by your influence in my life
Why did I bring so much of you along with me?
I really don’t need all of you, you are really too much for me
And there is so much of you back in Edmonds, yikes!
What was I thinking?
Sorry, but you really aren’t what is important in life
People are what I want to focus on in my life
So I guess this is your eviction notice
We have had some good moments together
But you have just held too much power in my life
So we need to part ways
So in true Uruguay fashion I say to you, CHAU CHAU!

“Live simply so that others may simply live.”

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The problem with names

I’m discovering that I really like having names for the new things and experiences that are now a part of my life. It helps me to understand and process what I am experiencing when I am able to actually stick a name on it.

Words hold a lot of power. A simple word or phrase can conjure up a myriad of images in your mind. And with those images come a set of expectations. Thus comes my struggle when I am unable to come up with a satisfactory name.

My work at the Hogar Amanecer exemplifies this tension. The name Hogar Amanecer literally means Home of the Dawn (it works a lot better in Spanish). For lack of a better term I have used the word orphanage to describe it. But this creates some problems.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word orphanage I make certain assumptions.

•    The kid’s parents are dead.
•    It is a place without a lot of hope.

These are some pretty significant assumptions, but they don’t actually apply to my work here. Most (possibly all) of the kids have parents that are still alive, they are just parents who made extremely poor life choices and are unable to care for their children. As for hope, all of the kids have some type of family with whom there is hope that they will be able to live with at some point in the future. In fact, in just the last two years a number of kids have moved out of the Hogar to live with their family. The kids are always telling stories about their family and what they did when they spent time together. They are full of hope that they will be able to go and live with their families once again.

So where does that leave me as far as names go? It reminds me of the power that word choice has to influence our thoughts and feelings.  Maybe it is not so important to fixate on the “name” of something, but rather on the reality of what is occurring there. So instead of orphanage, the Hogar is a home. Because when it comes down to it that’s what it really is, a new family for kids who got the bad draw the first time around.

On an outing to the zoo

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Things I have learned so far

Today marks exactly two weeks since I have arrived here in Montevideo, Uruguay.  Craziness! (To see where my new home is click here) There have been a lot of transitions and waiting and confusion and learning, at times it has been a bit rough, but overall it has been going really well! I figured that I should share some of the things I have learned so far, some silly and some serious. So here goes!

Kari and me on our first full day in Montevideo!

•    Just cause there is an empty bus at the start of the line, waiting to leave, doesn’t mean that it will let you on, it may just drive away and leave you standing there…

•    Smiling and nodding can get you a pretty long way when you don’t understand what is happening…but sometimes smiling and nodding doesn’t work, like when the fruit guy yells at you for touching the apples after he already told you not to and you smiled and nodded in agreement…

•    I never knew how much I appreciated shower drains and their placement in the bathroom until now, when I have to squeegee the bathroom floor after my shower

•    You should probably know more than the general direction of the beach before attempting to walk there, otherwise you may walk for an hour and a half to find one and later discover that there is one a 25 min walk away

But sometimes wandering has its benefits, like finding this place after 1.5 hours of searching.

•    Even though you are purchasing things in a large store, they may not have the right change to give you and may get mad at you for not having closer to exact change

•    That the Spanish words for push me more on the swing and stop pushing me sound very similar, and are especially hard to distinguish when you are standing behind the kid pushing them on the swing

•    Just because you already know 2 or 3 Spanish names for something doesn’t actually mean that you know the name they use here

•    Uruguay has the biggest cows I have ever seen!

Giant cow!
Big momma!

•    That what I really should have been doing these last couple years to build up my forearm strength for pitching is push small or not so small children on swings for hours, it really builds up your muscles

•    Another good workout for your legs is to teeter-totter with kids who weigh a 1/3 or ¼ of what you weigh

•    That mate is so popular here that they need to have signs in the buses saying not to drink it there because of the dangers of the hot water, bombilla, etc

The wikipedia image of mate, a drink to which I am already getting addicted to.

•    That gas ovens cook very differently from ovens in the US, but that chocolate chip cookies taste amazing no matter where you are and what kind of oven you are using

Yum yum!
•    No matter where in the world they are or what language they speak all kids really just want someone to love and care for them

•    It is crazy how fast a place can feel comfortable and like home!

Monday, September 12, 2011


 "In the conflict between the powerful and the poor/disposed,
to want to be neutral is to ally yourself with the powerful."
       ~graffiti in Montevideo

Which is worse: the wealth disparity in the world or the fact that we don't think we are rich?

Thoughts from Chicago

I know that I am already falling behind on my blogging…oops. But here I am attempting to get caught up. Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed by everything that I want to write about, so instead I am going to try to focus on some important things and not write about absolutely everything.  So here goes…

Chicago was a packed week of awesomeness.  Though at times it was a bit of an information overload, it was all good stuff that will be helpful in this next year. But I think the most useful thing that we gained was the strong YAGM community both with our fellow volunteers and with the alumni that were there all week serving as small group leaders and hanging out with us. I have already begun depending on this community as I have begun my time here in Uruguay. It is really comforting to know that I have a solid group of people behind me who I can talk to about struggles and good times here, and who will really understand what I am going through. As supportive as people at home are (and thank you everyone for your support, I love you all!) it is impossible to fully understand this experience until you yourself are put into it.

It was pretty crazy to see how close our community was after only spending a week together! It feels as though I have been friends with some of them for years already, rather than days. The intensity of our time together combined with the strong emotions that many of us were feeling helped to build deep relationships faster than might normally happen. It was really hard to leave that physical community behind.  Because we are serving all over the world we left at different times throughout the day on Thursday (plus Nicole earlier in the week). It was a surreal experience watching other country groups leaving one at a time, moving the countdown closer to my own departure. 

My emotions had been running high the second half of the week, alternating between excitement and freakouts.  I was able to hold it together (mostly) until it was our turn to leave. As each group prepared to leave, those who were still around surrounded the departing to lay hands on them and say a final prayer. That was when I lost it and the tears began to flow. It really hit me that I was leaving this community that already means so much to me behind. I know that I still have them there behind me, supporting me, but being physically separate is a daunting thought. I was feeling very overwhelmed by everything that I knew was coming. Even now sitting here and writing this I can feel all the emotions that were swirling around then.

But obviously I survived and ventured out on the journey. A short flight to Atlanta (where we had a short freakout when we realized we had no address in Argentina to put on the immigration forms), an elevenish hour overnight flight to Buenos Aires, a short line to pay for the right to enter the country, a very long wait to get our passport stamped (where the lady didn’t believe my passport photo), and a taxi ride to ISADET later and we had arrived at our next temporary home, in BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA!

My awesome small group!   
Going Cajun dancing downtown Chicago
YAGMs in the Bean!
Waiting for the L
Leaving our mark on Chicago
Hanging out downtown
Swimming in the lake
One last hug goodbye, miss you guys!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I tremble on the edge of a maybe

As I finish my third full day here in Montevideo and prepare for my first day at my placements tomorrow, this poem that my country coordinator Kate shared with us at orientation is on my mind.

I Tremble on the Edge of a Maybe
O God of beginnings
as your spirit moved
over the face of the deep
on the first day of creation,
move with me now,
in my time of beginnings,
when the air is rain-washed
the bloom is on the bush,
and the world seems fresh
and full of possibilities,
and I feel ready and full.
I tremble on the edge of a maybe,
a first time
a new thing,
a tentative start,
and the wonder of it lays its finger on my lips.
In silence, Lord,
I share now my eagerness
and my uneasiness
about this something different
I would be or do:
and I listen for your leading
to help me separate the light
from the darkness
in the change I seek to shape
and which is shaping me. Amen.
from Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder, 1984

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Journey Begins

The first step has been taken...I have arrived in Chicago for a week of orientation with the other 49 YAGMs who will be serving this next year.  We will be at the Lutheran School of Theology Chicago where we will be spending time on topics ranging from how we got here to how to work cross culturally to how to spiritually take care of ourselves in our time abroad.  But there will also be lots of free time for bonding and craziness! One of the really cool things they do is have YAGM alumni come and spend this week with us, leading our small groups, but more importantly to hang out with us and share about their YAGM experiences.

After this week I will travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a week of orientation on life in South America and specifically in Uruguay and Argentina. There are five of us that will be serving in South America this next year: me in Montevideo, Uruguay; Kari also in Montevideo with me; Lauren in Buenos Aires; Katie in Resistencia, Argentina; and Emily in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. At the end of the week me and Kari will catch our boat to Uruguay and be off to our new home!

Even though I am here, it doesn't quite feel like it is really happening. But that could be partially due to lack of plane left Seattle at 7am this morning meaning that I got up at 4am after not going to bed until 2am...needless to say I have been a bit out of it at times today. But it is good to be here. Though I miss some things about home already, It is exciting to be hanging out with friends I haven't seen since April and to be starting out on this new adventure.

Thanks for all the prayers and support I have recieved. Please continue to pray for me and my fellow YAGMs as we spend this week preparing for our time abroad. And please pray for my family as all of us are going through big life changes (Kerry leaves Friday for her freshman year of college at Pacific University, Kristen leaves Tuesday for her senior year at PLU, meaning that my parents and our kitty Reilly will be all alone starting Tuesday night).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I was just realizing that I never posted anything about my placement, so here it is! I was super excited to finally find out a few weeks ago and to be able to answer some of the questions that everyone was asking me. I still don't know tons, I will find out more when I get down there, but this is what I know...

I will be one of the two YAGM volunteers who will be in Montevideo, Uruguay.  I will have 2 placements:  Nuestro Salvador, the one congregation that our companion church has in Uruguay, and Hogar Amanecer, an orphanage connected with the Methodist church on the outskirts of Montevideo.  I will live in my own room in a small student residence that is connected to Nuestro Salvador.  

Here is some more that my country coordinator Kate wrote:
Nuestro Salvador:  You will most likely be helping with activities of Nuestro Salvador 3 days a week.  This will include accompanying the congregation in all of its ministries such as Sunday service, Christian education, Bible studies, some administrative tasks, visits, homework help, and camps and recreational programs for kids and youth.  You will also be invited to participate in Nuestro Salvador’s diaconal project, MisiĆ³n San Juan, where the congregation offers Christian education and homework help to kids in a community on the outskirts of Montevideo.  You will also help to serve as a bridge between the congregation and the students who live in the residence where you will be living.

Hogar Amanecer:  Hogar Amanecer is an orphanage where approximately 30 kids live, about an hour bus ride from Nuestro Salvador.  You will most likely be there two days a week.  Some of your activities will include:  accompanying the children and staff in the everyday tasks at the home and enriching the home’s programming by organizing games, crafts, story-time, cooking projects, puppet shows, gardening projects, sports, and/ or outings.  More than activities, your presence is what will be most important for these kids.

I am really excited about my placements! Montevideo sounds like a great place to be and I am excited that there will be another YAGM (Kari) there also.  We will have different placements, but it will be nice to have her there to help process and debrief what we are going through.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Thursday night at work we had preschool graduation. After the singing and the presentations of graduation hats, certificates, and coloring books the graduates were asked what they wanted to do when they grew up. The first few answers were pretty standard: firefighter, race car driver, policman...but then came Cora. Five year old Cora said "I want to go accross the ocean and tell people about Jesus."


“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. ~Mark 10:14-16

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” ~Mark 9:36-37

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

El Fondo (backgound)

In case you hadn't heard, I'M GOING TO SOUTH AMERICA!!!  I am super excited about taking this next huge step in my life! I thought, though, that first I should give a little bit of background on why I wanted to go abroad and why with YAGM here it is:

I have always had a passion for traveling and learning about all the world has to offer, all the different cultures, languages, food, people, you name it it fascinates me! I grew up in a family that valued traveling and seeing all that our country has to offer.  I thought that the month long road trips we took every summer were normal, but have since learned that they definitly aren't! I am extremely grateful for all that I have gotten to see and do with them.  While our only trips "abroad" were to Canada, we have been to almost every US state! (I am only lacking Alaska, Hawaii, New York, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Michigan)

In high school I got the chance to go on a mission trip to Hermosillo, Mexico that was life changing for me. I was deeply influenced by the faith of my host "mom" Lety and by being exposed to a kind of poverty that I had never experienced before. I knew that I wanted to continue to travel and to try to make a difference in the world, though I wasn't sure how.

I went to a small Quaker school for college, George Fox University.  I wan't really sure what I wanted to do with my life but I knew that I liked learning about international issues, current events, different languages and I decided to double major in International Studies and Spanish.  As a part of my studies I got the chance to study abroad for a semester in Cuernavaca, Mexico and to go on Juniors Abroad in Central America (Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica). These experiences convinced me that I needed to spend more time abroad in the future.

While at school I faced a lot of challenges that I wasn't expecting. Ultimately I think it was good for me and forced me to grow (but I didn't think that while it was happening).  I learned a lot about myself and the world and what I value, but I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my life.

I had always thought that I would do something abroad (volunteer, teach English, etc) for a while right after I gradutated from college.  So I went through the process of applying to programs. I applied to and got accepted into a pretty prestigious program teaching English in Japan (the Jet Program).  I had applied on a whim after a friend told me about it, but I was never really that into it. I kept trying to convince myself that I wanted to do it, but I knew deep down that it neither the program nor the time were right for me.  But it was scary to say no to a good program when I had absolutly nothing set up for post-graduation.  Some people thought I was a little crazy to turn down such a good opportunity.

So I graduated and moved back home to begin the job hunt.  The first bit was depressing since I got no replies and kept thinking that maybe I had made a mistake.  Finally about halfway through the summer I got what I thought would be a good job as a SAT prep/English/Spanish tutor at a tutoring center. But I ended up not getting the hours I needed and the boss treated me badly.  I knew that it was a bad situation to be in, but I wasn't sure what to do when God literally stepped in and saved the day!

Some good friends of my mom run the preschool/daycare at my old church and they needed someone to fill in.  I showed up the first day and it turned out that they really needed someone to be an assistant toddler teacher on a permanent basis! I took the job and it was really the best position that I could get put in. I get to work with awesome kids who shower me with love daily! But even more importantly I got the best bosses for me! They are really strong Christian women, and they really support and encourage me both at work and in my daily life. I have never worked in a situation like this before, and I love it!

While I love my job, I know that it is probably not what I want to do for the rest of my life. I still had in my mind that I wanted to go abroad, to be challenged and grow. I remembered a program that my sister had told me about while I was still at Fox, YAGM. So I decided to apply. But being me that meant procrastinating and turning in the application on the final day :)  A couple of weeks later I got an interview, which I did while sitting on the floor of a hostel hallway in Seattle (but that is another story). On my birthday I got the best present ever, I got in!! I was running around my house screaming and literally couldn't stop bouncing while talking on the phone.

In April I went to Wisconson for a long weekend with the other YAGM participants for Discernment, Interview and Placement (DIP). It was the most stressed I have been in quite awhile, with lots of emotional swings. Luckily I had such awesome people to hang out with throughout the process, I can't wait to see them again in August! At the end of the weekend I found out that I was going to South America.  I needed a few days afterwards to process the whole thing, but I ended up being super excited about the year ahead of me! I think that I ended up in the right place.

YAGM will be a really good fit for me because it will challenge me to grow in all aspects of my life.  But I won't have to do it alone, I will have my fellow yagm and my country coordinator there to support me. I am really excited to really put my values into practice, especially living simply and in solidarity with the poor.

I know there will be things that I will miss (it will be especially hard to leave some of the kids at work) but I am super excited about leaving! I am ready for it! And I am excited that you want to be a part of this with me. If you have any questions for me, want to talk/hangout, or whatever please let me know!