Facing the storms of life

By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Mission Advancement communications

If you could pick the weather for a perfect day, what would it be? Perhaps you love the warmth and sunshine of the summer. Or maybe the cooler temperatures and breezes of the fall are more to your liking. In any case, it would be lovely if we could reside in a place and season with wonderful weather all the time, but unfortunately the skies don’t always offer good news. And even on days with perfect conditions, there can still be storms of health, emotion, or thought that stir within us. Just as we need homes that can endure the weather, so also do we need lives that are weather-proof.

On one occasion (as found in Matthew 8:23-27), the disciples encountered a storm while sailing. As fishermen, some of them previously had experienced poor conditions on the Sea of Galilee, which was vulnerable to quick-forming storms. Nonetheless, the severity of the wind and waves on that day was reflected in the height of their fear and their urgency to ask Jesus for help. Just like the disciples, it’s natural to worry; however, do we let the storms amplify our anxieties or do we see our difficulties as an opportunity to call upon the Lord? As we recall the experience of the disciples on the raging seas that day, Jesus reveals two reasons why we can face any storm and accompany others through them.

First, we can face any storm because Jesus is present. As the disciples endured the storm, so also did Jesus. There isn’t a struggle we face that the Lord doesn’t face with us. Like a comforting friend in a time of need, Jesus is right next to us through it all. Even when conditions continue to give us concern, Jesus is available to hear us and to help us.

The second reason we can face any storm is because Jesus is powerful. As the disciples called upon Jesus for help, it is as if they believed that the Lord was capable of more than what they had witnessed. Jesus first attended to the concerns of the disciples and then addressed the chaos around them. With the same power that God used to bring all life into being, Jesus spoke into the storm and restored peace—to creation and to his companions.

As the body of Christ, we are called to care for others as the Lord cares for us. Our mission is to be present with those who are vulnerable and hurting, and to allow the power of Jesus to flow through us to bring comfort and hope.

It’s a privilege to hear how Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services prepare volunteers to be present with people who have survived natural disasters or endured trauma from violence. It’s a blessing to hear how Brethren Volunteer Service volunteers and representatives for the Office of Global Mission share and receive love as neighbors in communities near and far. It’s wonderful to behold Discipleship Ministries, the Office of Ministry, and the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy as they inspire leaders of many places and people of all ages to live into the restorative work of God that continues through both good and bad days. Your support of the missions and ministries of the Church of the Brethren allows the presence and power of Jesus to go out into all of the world and make a difference in people’s lives—both immediately and for eternity.

While some days offer beautiful weather, others are marked by storms. While it is natural to worry, every concern is an opportunity to call upon the Lord and see what he will do. Indeed, we can face each and every storm that comes our way because the Lord is present and powerful. May our faith in Jesus give us strength to find peace—and to share it—no matter the weather.

Learn more about the faith-building, life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/greatthings or support them today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Unwavering hope

A skit during the closing worship service of National Youth Conference acted out the story from John 21, in which Peter leaps from the fishing boat to swim to shore to meet Jesus.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

By Erika Clary, serving through Brethren Volunteer Service as the 2022 National Youth Conference coordinator with Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Over the last year, I coordinated National Youth Conference (NYC), which took place at the end of July.

I would like to thank Church of the Brethren staff, volunteers, members, and supporters for your encouragement over the last year. Thank you especially to those who worked behind the scenes to make NYC a success. I’m sure many times as staff or even as advisors, planning this event may have felt thankless, so I want to explicitly say right now–thank you so much. NYC takes more than just a village; it takes a whole metropolitan area.

It feels almost impossible to sum up all the emotions that arose from NYC. The one thing that has consistently come to mind is a feeling of unwavering hope. Time and time again throughout the week, the youth showed why we should have no problem entrusting them with the church.

One thing the worship team was adamant about this year was youth involvement. We initially struggled to assemble the NYC band, but this challenge ended up being a perfect opportunity to ask youth to participate. Through singing and the playing of a variety of instruments (viola, flute, drums, guitar, and more), the youth showed courage and extraordinary leadership. They also brought their gifts of reading liturgy and acting in scripture dramas. We saw youth literally jumping out of the boat (as seen in the photo above).

One thing about these youth that has given me so much hope is how they simply showed up. Youth groups struggled to fundraise and hadn’t spent imperative time together in community because of the pandemic. They could have remained scattered and their minds could have been drawn to so many other things, but they still chose to show up. And they didn’t just show up to NYC itself or to play in the band or read liturgy like I talked about; they showed up for one another.

Youth cheered on their friends who played in the band or read liturgy, and they held each other tight after being anointed. They sat with one another in small groups, and shared meals in the dining halls.  Amid the stress and anxiety that went into planning NYC over the last year, the fact that the youth showed up and showed up for one another reminded me why I did this job in the first place.

One of the things that strengthened my unwavering sense of hope was the youth speech contest winners. The theme of this year’s youth speech contest was “Bring Your Own Jesus Story.” The worship coordinators asked youth to consider how Jesus is foundational to their lives, pick a story about Jesus that relates to their story, and then preach on it. Kara Bidgood Enders talked about the story of the Good Samaritan, Hannah Smith talked about Jesus calming the storm, and finally, Anna Schweitzer related to the story about Jesus healing the blind man.

I remember watching their video submissions months ago and sitting in my office crying because of how vulnerable and wise those young women were. They weren’t just representing themselves, they were representing their peers, too. The three young women talked about being neighborly, about crying out to Jesus in waves of depression and anxiety, and about doing good things for people without hoping for any credit. Their words inspired not just the youth, but everyone in attendance. They definitely inspired me. It wasn’t that long ago that I was their age, and I can’t imagine going on stage in front of 900 people and being that vulnerable. And yet, they did it. They showed up. And they gave us hope.

There are many lessons I’ve learned in the last year, but one of them is that we need to simply learn to pass the microphone to the youth. They are strong, fearless, and adaptable, and always lift each other up. Though the verses may be familiar, 1 Timothy 4:12-14 is worth repeating. I like how the Message translation says it best: “Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed–keep that dusted off and in use.” If I had to sum up the hope the youth at NYC made me feel, it would be through these verses. They are teaching with their lives. I know they are teaching me.

We need to give our youth space to show up, to pass them the microphone, to listen to their stories, and to show up for them the same way they show up for us. They are the future, after all.

In closing, I want to share a sending that Cindy Laprade Lattimer, one of our worship coordinators, wrote for the NYC worship that the youth speech contest winners, after sharing their speeches, proclaimed together (as seen below). I teared up when I heard it.

We are all made of stories. Go and embrace God’s story by loving others, no matter the circumstance. Go and live your story, knowing that you are never alone, whatever storms arise. Go and share the story, doing the unexpected and acting neighborly. Amen.

Learn more about the 2022 National Youth Conference at www.brethren.org/nyc or support Youth and Young Adult Ministries today at www.brethren.org/giveyya.

Kara Bidgood Enders, Hannah Smith, and Anna Schweitzer, the 2022 youth speech contest winners, sharing a sending during worship at National Youth Conference.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Loving your neighbor in an unusually good way

By Roger and Kathy Edmark, Brethren Volunteer Service Unit #319

Loving our neighbor usually involves people we run into everyday–the people next door, those in stores we frequent, those we encounter on the streets, our family, friends, and work associates. There are many opportunities to help people in their time of need, or maybe just with a smile. In our day-to-day lives these encounters make a difference and change the world around us. This is something we all can do each day.

But sometimes we get an unusual opportunity to meet new people in a place we have never lived before. An opportunity to help serve and love our neighbors in a little different way you may never have thought to do.

My wife and I did just that in August of 2019. We were sent by Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) to Hiroshima, Japan to serve with World Friendship Center (WFC) as the volunteer directors. We were met by dedicated volunteers, English class students, and staff who all became our friends.

For seven months, before the pandemic closed the borders of Japan to tourists, we also received people from all over the world who wanted to study peace at WFC. World leaders of many countries consider atomic bombs to be “strategic” weapons of mass destruction. Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors (hibakusha) know of the personal pain and devastation that atomic bombs indiscriminately wreaked havoc on everyone within the shadow of their destructive heat, hurricane force winds, and radiation. Barbara Reynolds, in 1965, established WFC as a place where people could come to hear the stories of the hibakusha and to work together for peace. The hibakusha’s cry is “No More Hiroshimas, No More Nagasakis!”

As you can imagine, this opportunity to live and serve in Hiroshima had a great impact on our lives. We are thankful that BVS works to connect people willing to serve “in a little different way.” BVSers serve with organizations all over the world needing volunteers, side-by-side with amazing people and groups making a difference.

You may have a heart to do something a little different too. If you decide to do something unusual or go someplace you have never been to, it may, like it did for us, change your life.

This article was originally featured in the summer issue of The Volunteer newsletter published by Brethren Volunteer Service. Learn more about this Core Ministry of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/bvs or support its ministry at www.brethren.org/givebvs.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Called for such a time as this

Erika Clary, NYC coordinator, and NYC 2022 logo
www.brethren.org/nyc

An interview by Jenna Walmer with Erika Clary, serving through Brethren Volunteer Service as the 2022 National Youth Conference coordinator with Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Tell me about your journey to becoming the National Youth Conference (NYC) coordinator. Were there any “God moments” where you knew this is what you wanted to do?

I attended NYC for the first time as a youth in 2014. Until that point, I went to National Junior High Conference and district events, but I never experienced anything quite like NYC. NYC 2014 was a mountaintop experience for me, both physically and spiritually. I remember thinking about how cool it would be to be an NYC coordinator and plan something that influential. I was a member of the 2017-2018 National Youth Cabinet, so I got to help plan NYC 2018.

There have only been a few times in my life when I feel like I truly thrived somewhere, and NYC 2018 was one of those times. It was so rewarding to pick the theme and watch it come to life in 2018. When I was a student at Bridgewater (Va.) College, I served on the inter-district Youth Cabinet, which plans Roundtable. In 2020, I served as the Roundtable coordinator. Roundtable is like a mini-NYC, and I loved coordinating that conference, so I knew I would love coordinating NYC just as much, if not more.

As much as I knew I wanted to apply to be NYC Coordinator for 2022, I still had some reservations—like living so far from home. That is where my major “God moment” comes into play, I have always loved the “for such a time as this” scripture from the book of Esther. In the fall of last year, someone sent me the theme song from NYC 2002, when the theme literally was “For Such a Time as This.” I really thought about the words in that scripture and in the theme song and realized that I could let my fears overcome me and not apply to be coordinator, because someone else could do it. But if I didn’t even try, I would never forgive myself for not applying for something I was (and still am) so passionate about. After that moment and realization, I began to realize that Esther 4:14 was following me everywhere. I would see it/hear it at the most random times and I just knew that was God’s nudge to me to apply. Thankfully, I took what I like to call my “Esther moment.”

What is your advice for people thinking about being a BVSer?

BVS has truly changed my life! It provides so many valuable life experiences. I barely knew how to cook anything before BVS, but since I live in a community house—and cook for myself and my housemates—I have learned how to make so many dishes. BVS, but specifically orientation, has made me realize so many things about myself and about my faith that could have taken me much longer to realize otherwise. This is the first time in my life when I’m not a student, so I am truly learning who I am outside of academics, which has been quite beautiful. If you are thinking about serving in BVS: do it. I could talk about my experience for days! It will change your life for the better.

Do you have any final words, advice, or wisdom to share about spiritual direction, following the call, or being in ministry or service?

I think my best advice is to do things in your own time. If you feel like the time is right to serve, whether through BVS or in ministry, try it! If you want to wait and try that later, then do that. I think we are conditioned to think that we must work on everyone else’s schedule and that we must know exactly what is going to happen next, but neither of those things is true. When you are called to do something, I think you will know the right time to take the leap of faith. When you are following God’s plans for your life, timing and perfection really don’t matter all that much. Following God’s plan is messy and doesn’t always feel perfect, but that’s okay. Do what you need to do for you and your relationship with God.

This interview is excerpted from the spring issue of Bridge produced by Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Learn more about National Youth Conference at www.brethren.org/nyc or support Youth and Young Adult Ministries today at www.brethren.org/giveyya.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

May our hands tell our stories

“Las Historias de Nuestras Manos (The stories of our hands)” (center) featuring Marta Rivas is the first photo from a collection by Claire Horrell (right) that tells the stories of the people’s hands.

By Claire Horrell, Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 328

Marta’s hands caressed and took attention to each plant, not ignoring any small detail. I was infatuated at not only this routine task, but the form of her hands. The hands of Marta and many other elders in El Salvador told much different stories than those of my own grandparents. They were strong and almost squarish—weathered and with little sensation to heat.

After passing time in a coffee shop one afternoon, I met a woman in her 90’s. I was immediately drawn to her hands, and she asked if she could share her story with me. It was not important that I fully understood Spanish because, as she recounted her life, she wept. I held her hands and could feel the life lived in them. This moment inspired in me to document not only her hands, but also the hands of others who spent their lives working the land, battling loss, raising kids, and sheltering their families from war.

With my experience in photography and videography, I have started to create videos and collections of photos displaying the hands and stories of these people. This was not in the description that I read about for my project site, nor was it something listed as a need. However, I believe this to be absolutely necessary. I will never fully understand the lives of other people—especially those that have gone through war. But I can, at the least, show them how beautiful and strong they are through this creative outlet.

Here at Centro Arte para la Paz, the mission is to help aid in the restoration of peace and healing of the trauma that individuals have undergone. My videos and photos will be presented and archived at the center for future tourists, students, and citizens of the area to learn a bit more of the history of the people. My vision is for others to take away from these videos the experiences that I have had through encounters with people such as Marta and the lady in the coffee shop. Chasing creativity is, in itself, chasing after God’s will for ourselves. Through artistic methods we learn more about him, ourselves, and the people around us. May our hands forever tell our stories.

This article was originally featured in the winter issue of The Volunteer newsletter published by Brethren Volunteer Service. Learn more about this Core Ministry of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/bvs or support its ministry at www.brethren.org/givebvs.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Thanking God for you, overflowing with love.

www.brethren.org/year-end-offering

By Traci Rabenstein, director of Mission Advancement

“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? . . . May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” ~1 Thessalonians 3:9 & 12, NIV

As I write this final reflection for 2021, it’s hard to believe that the year is almost over. My grandparents used to talk about how fast time was moving along. As a young girl, I didn’t really understand. Now I do. Each year seems to go by more quickly than the last, and near the end of each one, I find myself wondering:  what impact is the Church of the Brethren making in this world and in our communities?

It is easy to get caught up in the drama and chaos of our country, to move to one side or the other of a discussion or political view, or to use that view as the lens in which we mold God into the image we prefer. We are called, however, to discern with scripture and the Holy Spirit what the shape of God actually is.

In his speech to the Greeks in the Areopagus, Paul told them that we cannot think of God as an object that we can shape. He said, “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17:29). Instead, we are called to increasingly embody the image of God through our transformative relationship with Jesus Christ and through him seek to love one another as he loved us.

The words of Paul to the church in Thessalonica contain encouragement and blessing for them. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 was also written as a prayer for them. His words are a reminder to those who followed the teachings of Christ to be centered, not on themselves or their struggles, but on loving each other and showing compassion to all who were suffering. Indeed, by encouraging them to love generously, he was inviting them to “live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ”—a mission that we now carry together.

Through loving one another, we join together to show compassion to those who are in need and with whom we can serve and share God’s blessings. Your support this year allowed for the Global Food Initiative and Brethren Disaster Ministries to send grant monies across the globe to our partners who were in need of assistance during this pandemic season. Your contributions made a way for National Older Adult Conference to gather online and for our Intercultural Ministries to offer webinars to stretch us to think outside ourselves and toward survivors of all kinds of injustice. Your partnership has made it possible for Brethren Volunteer Service and FaithX to provide opportunities for service and workcamps in areas where support was needed. In all these ways and many more, the ministries of the Church of the Brethren have made a difference in 2021 with your help.

As this year ends and the next one begins, we thank God for you and celebrate all that we do together. Thank you for your generous gifts of finances, prayer, and service. Together our love increases and overflows for the glory of God and our neighbor’s good.

Learn more about the ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/greatthings or give a year-end offering.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Community as a call for justice

Brethren Volunteer Service - winter The Volunteer newsletter

By Naomi Yilma, Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 325

“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

According to a press release from the People’s Vaccine Alliance, 9 out of 10 people in poor countries are set to miss out on the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021, while rich countries have hoarded enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly 3 times over. During a pandemic that has affected millions across the globe, the need for a beloved community becomes ever more urgent. This is a community that, according to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is based on the love of one’s fellow human beings and, in turn, puts the just treatment of all humans at the center of its values. In recognizing the humanity of those around us, we would work towards systems that give everyone in the community access to healthcare, food, and shelter, especially in crisis situations. In a beloved community, we would prioritize giving vaccines to those who bear the brunt of the health and economic fallout from the pandemic.

At my project with the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, I have contributed to a series of blog posts on simple living, racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice. My work so far has helped me recognize the interconnectedness of our society and the systems that exist within it. It has helped me recognize that systemic injustices that were fostered over decades play a huge role in magnifying the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. I have also learned that issues of justice are multidimensional and must be approached as such. In the words of former BVSer Susu Lassa, “Climate justice is economic justice and economic justice is racial justice.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached that the end goal of non-violence is a beloved community. As we build a beloved community that encompasses all forms of justice for all people, advocacy geared towards equitable distribution of resources and opportunities should take center stage.

This article was originally featured in the most recent issue of The Volunteer newsletter published by Brethren Volunteer Service. Learn more about this ministry of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/bvs or support it today at www.brethren.org/givebvs.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Service is never unbearable

BVS volunteer Evan Ulrich works at a Rebuilding project in Dayton, Ohio.
Photo courtesy of Evan Ulrich

By Evan Ulrich, member of Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 325

Dayton, Ohio, was never on my radar for places to live after I graduated from Juniata College. However, as a member of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) Unit 325, I found myself signing up to spend my year of service with Brethren Disaster Ministries’ (BDM) Rebuilding Program.

And I am so glad I did. BVS helped steer me toward volunteering with BDM—an organization that allows Brethren (and anyone else willing to pick up a hammer) to act upon our shared belief of serving others. In that case, that means serving others by rebuilding homes that were destroyed or damaged by natural disasters.

What I find unique and remarkable about BDM is its long-term goal. Each site focuses on long-term recovery. After all the media coverage and initial assistance has died down, BDM comes in to pick up where others left off. Sometimes even years after a disaster there is still much work to be done.

As I write this there are two sites open for volunteers—one in Bayboro, N.C., to assist those hit by Hurricane Florence in 2018, and the other here in Dayton. Our site is located a few miles east of downtown, in a recently closed Presbyterian church. Our work encompasses the greater Dayton area as we help rebuild homes damaged when 15 devastating tornadoes ripped through the area on Memorial Day in 2019.

Due to the type of disaster, the majority of our work involves repairing damaged roofs, installing new siding, and performing interior repairs due to water damage. Hanging and finishing drywall seems to be a never-ending project. I’m getting lots of practice! The work can sometimes be tedious, hot, cold, and occasionally quite odorous. Added on top of this is the duty to keep everyone safe during the pandemic and adhering to all COVID-19 safety precautions.

But helping fellow humans through love is never unbearable. It is a true blessing and the highest privilege to lay your needs down and pick up the needs of a stranger. I am grateful for being able to see this occur every day with the volunteers who come out.

Being a part of the site long-term, I have the opportunity to see the timeline of recovery over its full span. Each week brings something new: a different set of volunteers, and a different energy. But what never ceases to amaze me is the amount of quality work that gets accomplished by even the most inexperienced group of volunteers. Everyone has an important job, no matter the skill set.

One survivor of a disaster expressed his gratitude by simply saying how nice it was to not have rain coming into his house. This short statement made me step back and realize how many comforts we take for granted—and how important it is for us to safely serve others through love.

Brethren Volunteer Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries are ministries of the Church of the Brethren. Support them today at www.brethren.org/give.

This reflection was originally featured in
Messenger magazine.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

As the world changes… our goals stay the same

Read a Brethren Volunteer Service reflection by Alexander McBride
Alexander McBride from Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 322

By Alexander McBride, Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 322

Life at my project at Snowcap Community Charities has drastically changed in the past couple of months. Back in March we were able to bring clients into the pantry where they could select what food they wanted. However, within a couple of weeks our operations completely changed because of the threat from the COVID-19 pandemic. To keep our clients safe, we began distributing food boxes to them outside of the building and added changes to volunteer scheduling meant that there were some friends I did not see for several weeks. All of this coincided with a major adjustment to my living arrangement as my housemates were all recalled home early to Germany because of the virus, leaving me by myself. In a matter of a couple of weeks, the world around me had completely changed. How things were in February started to become like a distant memory.

Regardless of these changes, the core mission of SnowCap remains the same: providing food to those in need. Now more than ever, people need help to have enough food to make it through the week. It is wonderful to provide some food security during these tough times. The pandemic has even opened some new opportunities to provide food aid to more people. Earlier in May, Snowcap teamed up with the city of Gershan to hold a distribution drive, handing out food boxes to locals who needed them. Even during a time of great turmoil and change, my project’s mission has not changed, providing some form of stability in my changing life. Our lives may be going through a period of great change, but we must never lose focus of our goals in life. We must always strive to humbly serve those in need and bridge the gaps of inequities.

Learn more about Brethren Volunteer Service at www.brethren.org/bvs or support it today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

On Growing Pains

I have done a lot of growing in this year of service.

And no, it’s not the kind of growth that takes place with a background of sunshine and rainbows and peppy music, but the hard, achy kind of growth. Still I walk around with these growing pains, sitting with questions that push at my own personal perceptions of peacebuilding, service, and what it means to actively build the kind of peace that mandates liberation for all.

Earlier in the year, I wrote about the struggle of maintaining resolve in the face of what seems like a stagnant, and in some cases regressive, time in our political climate. In the time that since that piece, I know that my resolve has weakened, and naturally, anger was poised to take its place. COVID-19 ripped back the curtain on the various systemic problems  in the U.S and worldwide, and police brutality and racial injustice were once again cast into the limelight (with the help of live social media documentation of a phenomenon that is as old as the institution of policing itself).

In bearing cognizance of my anger and the ire that burns hot in my belly, I wondered what to do with this fire. After getting tired of letting it burn me out and leaving me weak, through the help of Audre Lorde, I came to realize its refining power. Through her words, I came to see the malleability of anger and its ability to be used as a powerful source of energy, and I utilized its energy for reflection.

Left to focus on the intent and motivation behind my work as opposed to the outcome -because the outcomes were increasingly unfavorable- I became aware of how little time and reflection I had devoted to this endeavor. As the observatory lens turned away from what change we could effect and towards the why and the how, I was awash in the light of the selfishness of my approach to service. There I sat, questioning why I was doing this work, and not being thrilled with the answers.

I noticed that my approach to this work centered the things I thought would be beneficial to the demographics that I was advocating for; it didn’t center their own needs, wants, and aspirations, and this was a glaring problem. This was something that I also noticed in various of the spaces that I interacted with while in this position, and I felt comfortable in my criticism of these spaces but remained oblivious to my complicit conceptualization of the very same service that I was engaged in.

It soon became obvious that I needed to look at my motivations for service, first and foremost, as an act of service to those that I am in-service of. I needed to make “basic and radical alterations in those assumptions underlining” why I serve as a peacebuilder, and in utilizing the refining fire of anger, I called out my own biases and began the process of reconstructing my perceptions and motivation around service and peacebuilding. This is an ongoing process, and I hope that it only ends with a world where ALL can grow, because we are not free until the most marginalized within our world is free.

This year has been one of learning and aching, and I gleefully rejoice for the work that I have been able to do on myself while actively in service of others. I came into this position with a reservoir of resolve and energy, and that reservoir has been severely depleted. However, I see this not as a bad thing, but as a necessary pre-condition to the work of understanding the assumptions around why I serve, and what the larger implications of my actions are for the well-being of demographics in which I have an active interest.

I know that in what should be a blog post about the work done in service of others this year, I have spoken more so about myself.

I think that is the point.

Service is a necessary, worthwhile, and laudable endeavor, but doing the work of examining why we serve is an act of service in and of itself. This year has helped to clarify my hazy assumptions and preconceived notions about what it means to truly be in service of others, and in that way has strengthened me as a peacebuilder. This work, for me, took place within my year of service, and while I am thankful that working at OPP provided me the conditions to come to this realization, I am cognizant that this is work that should be intentionally done by all who serve others, in all avenues and capacities.

I am better peacebuilder for working at the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy; its been a tumultuous year, but I believe that this refining process has instigated in me a process of discernment that is of paramount importance when working in service of others. I plan to head to Bethany Theological Seminary in the Fall to gain a Masters in Peacebuilding, and I hope to tailor my projects and reading materials to study theology from the perspective of African American Liberation Theology. Afterwards, I intend to continue in the vein of peacebuilding, because this is necessary work.

*Quote from Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of Anger”