First of all, I apologize for not writing a blog post since January. Nearly 5 months later, here is a new one. As you read, listen to this song by John Mayer.
Secondly, in April, I started a new part time work placement. I still work at YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly. But I am also an “intern” at Black Mountain Presbyterian Church (BMPC)! I have been a youth advisor there since January and I am still helping with the youth group as well as viewing the behind the scenes roles that happen in a church. This church has done nothing but support and love me throughout this year. The members have made me a part of their church family and for that, I am eternally grateful. Leaving this church at the end of my YAV year will be the hardest part about leaving Asheville.
Third, after this YAV year, I will be attending Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary!! YAY!!!!! I know me going to seminary may come as a shock to you (kidding), but I am excited. I am hoping to get my Masters of Divinity as well as my Masters of Social Work. What I want to do with both of those degrees, I have no idea. For now, I am taking a break from discerning and will just enjoy being a seminary student.
As part of my work with BMPC, I attended a Montreat Youth Conference with 14 youth and 4 other adults from BMPC. I was also a small group leader where I had 31 youth and 4 adults in my Small Group. The theme for this summer’s Youth Conferences is “A World of Difference”. We spent the first couple of days talking about how differences are good and God made each of us different for a reason (Tower of Babel Story and 1 Corinthians 12 – Unity and Diversity in the Body). The second half of the week, we talked about how to be the difference among our families, churches, peers, and in the world.
As a youth group later in the week, we took time to discuss and reflect on what happened in Orlando early Sunday morning at 2:00 am. When we get into the rhythm of our lives, we make no time to process events that happen in the world. We might feel sad or angry, but then we go back to our normal lives. It is easier and happier to turn away and not pay attention to what is happening in the world around you. But, when we take the time to process events like Orlando, we allow ourselves to break up our rhythmic cycle of life so we can more deeply feel and sit with those emotions. Our emotions help us to realize that something needs to change. We want to take a stand for something, like gun control, because what we are seeing in our world makes us angry and most people I know do not like to be angry.
I also believe that when we do not take the time to process events in our lives and do not take the time to grieve for our brothers and sisters in Christ and when we keep seeing these tragic events year after year, then it is easy for us to become a little desensitized. We grieve for a day, and then we move on with our lives until the next tragedy happens where we will then be angered yet again. But how do we keep those feelings of anger and sadness long enough to make us want to take a stand? And how do we create change? This week, the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history happened in Orlando. Last year, nearly a year before, 9 church-goers were shot and killed during their weekly Bible Study. When will this end?
Buzzfeed is usually a source of funny videos. But, after the shooting in Orlando, some of the Buzzfeed Staff created this serious video that pretty much sums up my feelings and our time of processing with the youth. Watch it here.
“I turn on the news; I try to understand. But we fight and we argue. Nobody is to blame and everybody is to blame…We are to blame but we aren’t doing anything. Throwing opinions like punches…But nobody listens. Nothing changes. And it happens again and again and again. So tell me. What do I do?…And what are WE doing? I am offended that our children are growing up in a world afraid of going to school or the movies or the club…I am offended that this is our new normal. There is NOTHING normal about this…I am tired of talking. Tired of praying, tired of wet cheeks and raw eyes. I. Am. Tired. Do we love freely or restrict freedom? Do we change our laws or acknowledge our illnesses? Do we crack down or straighten up? Or maybe, we do all of the above, because I don’t know much, but I know I have had enough.”
Friday during keynote, we listened to John Mayer’s song “Waiting on the World to Change”. “Me and all my friends we are all misunderstood…Now we see everything that’s going wrong with the world and those who lead it. We just feel like we don’t have the means to rise above and beat it. So we keep waiting, waiting for the world to change.” This speaks to every single human. We are so far removed from the problems of our world. We think there is no way a tragedy like this could happen to us so we go on with our normal routine in life. We were urged by our keynoter to not be like John Mayer and his friends and to take a stand. But how? How do we create change in our society? If you have been following the news this week, Congress voted on four different measures. Two came from the Democrats and the other two came from the GOP. They both voted to block each other’s measures. In other words, nothing has changed in the realm of gun control. So what do we do? If Congress is not creating change, who is? How do we, as young people who care about our world, create change? What if Congress creates change but nothing in our world changes? These questions are often asked rhetorically. But this time, they are not rhetorical. What do young people like me do? What can we do? Is speaking out about our frustrations enough?
I asked my small group a question not really expecting an answer: “Why does it take tragedy to bring people together?” On this day, we were talking about Job and Job’s friends before they sucked at giving pastoral care. Our Keynoter, Rodger put it in a good way. Job’s friends sat with Job in silence for 7 days and then as soon as they opened their mouths, they messed it up.” When tragedy happens, it seems as if communities come together to support one another in this chaotic world. After tragedies, no one cares about the color of your skin or what God you believe in or who you will vote for. The community supports one another. What would our world look like if we loved on each other every single day instead of just when tragedy strikes? What would the world look like if we took the love and acceptance we have on Sunday mornings and every summer at a Montreat Youth Conference and made that be a part of our daily lives? The days following the event in Orlando when there was much anger, sadness, confusion, and frustration present on social media and in our lives, I was grateful to be in Montreat surrounded by 1200 youth who have so much hope and so many dreams for a better world.
The last thing I will leave you with is a song written by the Head and the Heart right after the shooting in Newtown, CT at Sandy Hook Elementary. Give it a listen.