When thinking of what this year has been like, I’m often at a pretty significant loss of words. How do I summarize the hundreds of relationships I’ve created? How do I sum up all the realizations I’ve made? How do I put together all the times God has comforted my heart? How do I summarize the many ways I’ve been challenged by people here in New Orleans?
A verse that sticks out to me is Psalms 13:6 “I sing to the Lord because He has taken care of me.” I applied to the YAV program pretty late, after I took my last 2 college courses last summer, after I’d been applying to jobs for months, after I couldn’t find anything else to do with my next year. But how great is God to provide me the opportunity to be in this program? He took care of me.
As I was doing my interviews with organizations in New Orleans, I had hoped to work somewhere other than Project Homecoming; however, after interviews, I was placed there. I didn’t know it at the time, but God was taking care of me. As I was waiting to hear what position I’d have at Project Homecoming, I wished for a position that I didn’t receive. Again, God took care of me in His own way. I imagined the people I’d live with during my year—how disappointed was I when I showed up to 6 people who were nothing like what I’d imagined. But God was still taking care of me by providing me with what I now view as 6 people I needed, not 6 people I thought I wanted.
This year has been full of times when what I wanted wasn’t what God was providing for me. The roommates, our fearless leader Kathy, my mentor Catina, and a whole slew of others are all people who I’m sure have purposely been placed in my life. They are relationships that aren’t always easy, but are relationships that force me to look deeper and face my scary emotions, negative stereotypes, and close-mindedness to become a better Christian, human being, and friend. My life is richer and fuller becuase of these people—better than I could have imagined before I got here. God has taken care of me beyond what I could have comprehended.
My job serving the Presbytery this year has been as a village manager at Olive Tree in New Orleans East. I was hoping for a job that involved me interacting much more closely with the residents of New Orleans—jump right in, get my hands dirty, meet the people, and figure out this amazing city. Instead, I was given the job of village manager. My job at Project Homecoming has shown me the truest meaning of “life of service.”
I’ve seen 90 year-old men and 14 year-old girls and everything in between come through Olive Tree to give a week of their lives to God and the city that has undoubtedly crawled its way into my heart. This to me is what lifetime service really looks like. It’s taking half a year’s vacation time from work, sacrificing time with parents, kids, and friends; and forking over some cash, all so someone can come to New Orleans and get sweaty and dirty, sleep on terrible beds, and eat mediocre food. And it happens every week because people heed Christ’s call to serve.
Lastly, serving this church has been a huge way God has taken care of me. Before I came down to New Orleans, I was indifferent about PC(USA). I was a member of a church, but hadn’t really been involved since I was away at school and didn’t know much about how the larger church worked or what was happening in it. During my year, I’ve met hundreds of Presbyterians who’ve come through Olive Tree since August and have enjoyed the stories and experiences we’ve shared.
I’ve met the Presbyterians of the Presbytery of South Louisiana and marveled a their love, concern, mercy, dedication, compassion, patience, grace, hope, and faith. I’ve served PC(USA) during a very important year, and I’ve never been more proud to be Presbyterian. I’m proud to be a part of a church who’s committed to loving, nurturing, and developing all people; a church who’s committed to its young people (through programs like YAV) who will one day be pastoring our churches and leading our missions; a church who’s commited to righting wrongs and hearing the voices of those who’ve been left behind and forgotten—the homeless, the addicts, the disabled, the poor, the elderly, the widows, the taken for granted. God provided me a place to find hope for our future world through PC(USA). God has rested my heart this year. Not only do I sing louder because God has taken care of me, but I also trust more, hope longer, laugh louder, and love deeper.