From Thursday to Sunday this past weekend, I attended the YAV Transition Retreat at Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico. All YAVs that completed their year of service were invited to spend these days working through the emotions the experience produced. Once again, we had small groups where we could share our stories.
The community of YAV, that connects those who served in the US and abroad, is a vital part of what makes this program unique. The leaders of each small group are current ministers who were once YAVs. We have shared a common experience that bonds us together.
One evening each site group set up a table with items that represented where they had served. Also, we were able to creatively express moments from the year through skits, poems, and such. Team Perú did a quick skit highlighting what it is like to live in Lima.
The weekend provided us with tools to process our experience and use it as we move forward in life. After all, it is a year of service to produce a lifetime of change.
I’ve been at home for about a month and a half now. Lots of people want to know what’s next. Others may want to know what sort of concrete benefit I received for giving a year of my life toward service. I can now give the same answer to both questions.
Both “what’s next” and “what did you get out of it” can generate a multitude of replies. I’ve started reffing youth soccer and I’ll be traveling to New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Texas before the end of October. I have a deeper sense of how it is to live in very different circumstances and I’ve gained a better understanding of our interconnectedness. My year of service also landed me a job.
Come October, after I’ve gotten some of that traveling out of the way, I begin working for Fisher & Thompson, a dairy supplies dealer for Pennsylvania, as a bi-lingual consultant, among other things. Turns out, that just as I returned to the US, they began looking for someone who is an able communicator in Spanish and English as well as having an understanding of animal agriculture.
Before arriving back home, I had no idea this was where I was headed. The Lord works in mysterious ways. Maybe he has found something for me that will translate beautifully.
Now that I am home, my role has become to bridge the gap between the realities of central Pennsylvania and central Perú. I have been surprised by the interest shown by family, friends, and surrounding churches in learning about my year of service as a YAV.
My goal when I started this blog was to bring people together; to make the world a little smaller. I wasn’t just representing the USA in Perú, but I have been charged with presenting Perú, as fairly and clearly as I can, to the USA. That role is on-going, maybe for the rest of my life.
Last week, I spent a lot of time in airports. The Perú YAVs flew out on three different nights, and I was the last night, so I visited the Lima airport three nights in a row. Finally, it was Hannah’s and my turn.
Fortunately, we were only about an hour late leaving Lima. We had a smooth flight to Houston and made it with plenty of time to go through customs and immigration to get Hannah to her next flight. I had over five hours between flights and was able to munch on some of my favorite snacks to pass the time. Thankfully, my flight from Houston to Washington – Dulles was on time and, after eleven months, I was reunited with my family!
So many goodbyes and hellos in such a short period of time are overwhelming, but it’s good to be home.
By Thursday, July 19th, all Perú YAVs were in Lima to begin closing our year of service. We had a lovely time on Friday saying goodbye to the people of Joining Hands – Perú who are part of our receiving organization here.
Saturday through Tuesday was the YAV final retreat with the Hornes in Paracas, on the coast south of Lima. We did fun things, like riding in dune-buggies and trying to sand surf, along with reflective times where we looked back on the year and forward to what’s next. During our last session together as a complete group, we had the opportunity to share how we have been blessed by each other. It is clear that we are the most awesome YAV group known to man.
The final retreat brought closure to our journey in Perú and I valued having one last adventure with my friends.
I have been in Perú for 330 days. Do I really leave tomorrow?