I have spent the last year of my life investing love, enthusiasm, and passion into the places I have visited and the people who have become my life. My time as an ABQ YAV is over and I don’t know what’s next. Not knowing has its benefits because I will have some transition time to travel, relax, and reflect. Here are 4 things I do know I have learned about during my YAV year:
Importance of Community
Two incredible women who have been by my side through our whole ABQ YAV experience were my main community. If you have never lived in an intentional community then this is a concept you might not understand especially because I just spent the last year of my life living in a community and I didn’t always understand it. My experience living in a community provided me with a space to be loved even after I made mistakes, a space for fun and frustration at the same time, and a place to be authentically myself. The three of us together became invested in each others everything. We had hard times and happy times and through it all, we were resilient together. My intentional Christian living community impacted my experience and I will miss our times sitting on our front porch, the way we stuck together in new social situations, our trips to The Range for fries with ranch and desserts, our nightly walks, driving places windows down blasting a song on repeat until we reached our destinations, and many more experiences.
The community I was placed into at work was one who provided me with so much support and an incredible amount of joy. Heading Home allowed me the opportunity to grow their volunteer program while learning about the organization as a whole and taking a hard look at the social justice issue that is homelessness in Albuquerque. Many people at work invested in me and made me feel loved and valued. My community of coworkers positively influenced me and I will miss walking around the office to bounce ideas off different people, having people stop by my desk to discuss a wide variety of topics, and many more situations.
Putting Faith into Action
This year has provided me with many opportunities to subtly put my faith into action. I have learned to value and put into practice walking humbly and loving genuinely and to read more about that please click here. The two Bible verses I have consistently used to guide me through my YAV year were Matthew 25:31-46 and Micah 6:8. Click here for a previous reflection on Micah 6:8. These verses are important to me because both call us to boldly and compassionately engage in the spaces and places we are.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” -Matthew 25:31-37
My work placement has no religious affiliations but that never stopped me from interacting with clients in the office or residents at the shelters in a compassionate manner. Kindness and compassion matter to me please click here to read more about that. I will miss the work I did because being the volunteer coordinator at Heading Home because I consistently had the opportunity to host all kinds of awesome groups and individuals and to be an advocate and educator about homelessness in the community. To read more about being their volunteer coordinator click here.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” -Micah 6:8
Over the course of my YAV year, I had the opportunity to visit the United States-Mexico border two different times. Frontera de Cristo, a boarder ministry, does an excellent job of humanizing the experience of living on the border and providing multiple viewpoints by incorporating stories and organizations that fall on both sides of the immigration discussion. To read more about my border experiences click here and here.
Honoring Native Land and Enjoying the Outdoors
New Mexico is a truly beautiful state with a lot of different terrains to offer from mountains to forests. Being in New Mexico has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation for native lands and Native American culture and more of an appreciation for nature in general. I had the opportunity to worship at a Presbyterian church in Laguna Pueblo, to visit a few other pueblos around the state as well as visit several National Monuments. There is something powerful about the way the land is appreciated in New Mexico whither its native land or not. At the start of different public events I attended held on native land there was an acknowledgment of the traditional Native inhabitants of the land. That acknowledgement is an easy way of showing respect and making a step towards honoring the truth of the Indigenous people’s history. Taking a moment to struggle with the history of the incredible outdoor spaces before enjoying them and being invited to learn about different pueblo cultures and traditions has been a meaningful part of my YAV year.
Throughout this year I have intentionally practiced vulnerability. I have been reflecting on being vulnerable from the start of this experience and to read a previous reflection click here. Vulnerability for me has been about letting go of the need to be in control and having the courage to continuously be authentic and to enthusiastically show up and be present no matter what. This has not been easy and I am blessed to have so many different individuals in my life who can have meaningful conversations with me and who continue to push me to maintain vulnerability even when it’s difficult.
At this point, I will be seeking employment opportunities in Albuquerque and Minneapolis. I have fallen in love with the Southwest and I don’t know that my time there is done. Even if I return to Albuquerque things will be different because I will no longer be an ABQ YAV and the thought of continuing to work on other relationships I have built makes me happy. To read more about how important building relationships was click here. I have been truly fortunate to have built such a strong support system in Albuquerque and to have entered into my YAV year with such a strong support base in Minneapolis.
I’m sure I will continue to learn from my YAV experience for years to come, those four things are just the start of my reflections and processing. Not everything about me has changed but during my time as an ABQ YAV, I have had so many different challenges, experiences, and opportunities that I am not the same person I was a year ago. Moving forward wherever I end up, I want to continue to challenge myself to grow, to take hard looks at social justice issues and systemic problems, to practice vulnerability, maintain my enthusiasm and optimism, and to continue to find meaningful ways to put my faith into action.
To read more from Kim, click here.
My time as an ABQ YAV is coming is wrapping up at the end of July, which has led to a number of conversations surrounding my future plans. Throughout my time here I have fallen in love with many different local spaces and people. When I mention potentially staying in ABQ I always get asked things like “What do you like about Albuquerque?” or “Why would you want to stay here?” So, here are four things I like about Albuquerque.
If you have never had New Mexican food you are missing out. New Mexican food from enchiladas to sopapillas is rich and delicious. New Mexico is known for putting green and red chile on almost everything. After living in New Mexico for a while now, I am confidently prepared for when a waiter asked if I want red, green, or Christmas (both). I’ve been enjoying the added heat from the green chile on everything from cheeseburgers to ice cream.
I love being 15 minutes from several foothills hiking trails and always having a nice view of the Sandia mountain range. At night when the sunset is reflected on the mountains and they turn pink is my favorite time to be facing the mountains. Having such breathtaking natural spaces to experience has reminded me of natures wonderful ability to help me release stress, clear my head, and remember that the best views come from the hardest climbs.
Hot Air Balloons
Not to get carried away but attending Balloon Fiesta is my favorite event from my time in Albuquerque. Fortunately, that time in the fall is not the only opportunity to see balloons. Seeing hot air balloons in the mornings brings me quite a bit of joy and there is a childlike wonder that rushes over me each and every time I see a balloon going up, up, and away.
I have been fortuitous enough to be able to surround myself with so many lovely individuals, who are motivated, open minded, passionate, and kind. People who have invested in me and have pushed me to continuously challenge myself to grow. People who remind me to not take myself too seriously, people who make me laugh, people who have accepted me for who, and people who empower me. I am grateful for my people who have helped me like Albuquerque so much.
There are many more things I like about Albuquerque and New Mexico as a whole but I have yet to make a decision about staying here for more than a year. Right now I am happily finding a balance of being mindful and enjoying the time I have left as an ABQ YAV while looking ahead at the ever-looming question of what’s next…
To read more from Kim, head over to her blog here.
As I enter into the last 1/3 of my year, I’ve put together a few pieces of advice for future YAVs – but I think they also double as life lessons I’ve learned over the past 7 months.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED.
There’s no such thing as a normative YAV year. Let me say that again – there’s no such thing as a normative YAV year! After knowing several fabulous women who have completed their own YAV experiences, I could not help but enter into my YAV year with grand expectations, and I don’t think I’m the only one that does this. Afterall, there’s a reason we feel called to do this program. We all have our own reasons, intentions, and goals for the year and these things tend to lead to having a certain level of expectations, whether we acknowledge it or not. However, in my experience, nothing’s turned out how I imagined – not my work placement, not our community life, not our intergenerational housing situation. These things have been challenging and difficult, even disappointing at times, but the unexpected has also been delightfully surprising and beautiful.
INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY DOES NOT MEAN YOU’LL NEVER BE LONELY……but it does mean you’ll have people to support you when you are.
We arrived in Albuquerque seven months ago as independent individuals and as different as can be. I think we all thought to ourselves, what the heck are we going to do this year? But over the past few months, humanity has taken over and bound us together through the good and the bad. Today, I’m unbelievably grateful for this community, the strong women I get to see every day, and the ways in which we love and support each other. We aren’t a perfect intentional community, and often, we tease and annoy each other like siblings – but we always extend grace to ourselves and others and manage to make it through. There’s certainly times I miss my family and friends back home and the feeling of being truly known, but the beauty of intentional community is that we are all in this together. Each day, we chose to be here with each other, and we continue to learn how to be supportive and show up for our community members in the ways that they need. We can have honest and sometimes difficult conversations with each other and remain a loved and valued member of the community. We are going through real life together and that means we have good days and bad and that we are experiencing real emotions.
BE PATIENT. THE CHANGE AND GROWTH WILL COME.
I spent the first few months of my YAV year searching for that personal growth and change that everyone promises you will have. I was frustrated when my year wasn’t like all the alumni had promised at YAV orientation. We weren’t fighting over the dishes. I wasn’t making lasting connections with my students, who couldn’t even remember my name for the first few months, and we had way too much going on in our community life to even take a crack at discussing the many systemic problems in our world. How was I supposed to accomplish all my goals for the year and grow in the ways I wanted to when things weren’t going as planned? I knew YAV was intentionally designed to be challenging and that we were supposed to embrace the uncomfortable, but for some reason, I thought our challenges were supposed to look like everyone else’s.
I’m learning to let go and be patient. Life happens at the speed it’s supposed to. I didn’t always think that this was going to be a transformational year for me, but it is – just not in the ways I thought. When I envisioned my YAV year, I always imagined participating in protests, serving food to the hungry, and becoming really good at reading the bible every day. While I’ve done all of these things (okay, I’m still not great at reading the bible), these aren’t the things that I’m going to remember from my YAV year. Instead, the moments that surprisingly stick out the most when I reflect on the last few months are the everyday, mundane things that demonstrate how far we’ve come. From conversations we’ve had walking around the track in the evenings to the people we’ve met and formed relationships with, I’ve learned that growth and real change happen when you least expect it.
To read more from Julie, click here.
We as ABQ YAVs spent this past weekend on a silent retreat at the beautiful Norbertine Community here in Albuquerque. The Saturday of silence started with morning prayer at the Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey, followed by 10 hours of silence, and then evening prayer once again at the Abbey. There was quite a bit of build up and anticipation for this silent retreat because being left alone with your own thoughts for 10 hours seems a little scary but I was looking forward to the experience. The silence provided a nice opportunity to turn my phone off and to choose to be present and aware of God while knowing the rest of the world continued to live their lives as just another day and that everything would be okay.
The idea of engaging in complete silence, thinking of nothing and just being is not new to me. Unfortunately, I am often forced to use the meditative and biofeedback practices of focusing on nothing, blocking out the world (especially pain), and focusing inward when I get migraines. For those of you who aren’t familiar with biofeedback, it is a technique used to learn to control some of your body’s functions such as heart rate by monitoring yourself by using electrical sensors. Biofeedback was presented to me as a way to manage pain by focusing on my whole well-being meaning body, mind, and spirit and has been highly useful to me not just to control pain but to relax.
When I experience migraines and have taken my medication the only thing I can do is just sit and be in silence. I can concentrate to relax one muscle at a time, use internal imagery in order slow my breathing and open blood vessels to increase blood flow in my body and get rid of the bright aura colors I often see. Biofeedback and meditation are two practices I quickly learned and put into practice when I was 14 and have since perfected due to necessity but I always like to have the opportunity to them into practice for enjoyment as well.
Taking intentional time to just be with nothing to do and nowhere to go in what otherwise is a relatively busy and scheduled life provided a nice peaceful space for deep relaxation. I didn’t bring any activities to do except for two books to read. We had nice weather this weekend so I time enjoying the meditative walking path as well as just sitting outside. I liked embracing the silence. I am not going to pretend this retreat was some life-changing experience for me or that I think continuous hours of silence will reveal some deep insights for you. The silence was nice, peaceful, calming, centering and relaxing. Being in silence isn’t something you need to go on a retreat to do but being in our intentional community before and after the silence added to the experience.
Simple silent breathing techniques and meditative practices are things I like to include in my day to day life at work and before I go to sleep as a way of remaining grounded, centered and calm. For Lent, I will be taking on an increase in the amount of time I set aside for meditation each day. I would encourage you to try to increase your relaxation and meditation time in an effort to know that you are loved by just being.
To read more from Kim, click here.
Change …it’s inevitable. It’s always gong to happen and come around. The question is do you want to be a part of the change that will inevitably come for the better or for the worse? I think most privileged people are always saying change is hard, it’s too hard why not just keep everything as it is? No, what's actually hard about change is realizing the injustice that has integrated itself into our society to where we now think it’s the normal. Changing our perspective on how we function as a person, a community, a society, social group classes or on the grander scale a nation as a whole.
This weekend as ABQ YAVS we were blessed enough to be able to attend the 23rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr community commemorative breakfast. At this breakfast we got to hear from some amazing speakers, the Honorable Tom Udall Senator of New Mexico, Mrs. Elizabeth Kristen-Keller First Lady of the city of Albuquerque, Reverend Dr. D Charles Wharry, presiding elder Arizona New Mexico district, Reverend Donna Marie Davis pastor Grant Chapel AME Church, Reverend Michelle Sumbry Albuquerque New Mexico and Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Presiding Prelate 10th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. These men and women stood before hundreds of people and talked about injustice, change and most importantly faith and having the courage to stand up against oppressors to enact social change and to always remember that it’s up to us to keep Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream alive. To not have violence against violence but to have kindness be the weapon of our choosing, to using all of our voices as a whole over the use of our fists or firearms to be heard.
We will never be able to control people’s opinions but we can show them how to change them if that is their wish, through selflessness, standing up for what is right, even if it makes you uncomfortable(especially if it makes you uncomfortable). Change happens all the time changing houses, jobs, friends, lifestyle, etc…what should never ever change is being kind to one another. Respecting someone as a human being standing up for the unjust, for the ones who are meek, the ones who get passed over without a second thought, the ones who voices get taken away just because they’re different or weren’t born here or because one(or more) group(s) think that they’re superior because of who their parents are or what school they attended or whatever their mindset may be. I personally forget some of this. I get too caught up in my own trials that I forget to use my voice, my power, my vocation to assist. Am I going to be the person to change the whole world? Probably not. Am I going to be the person who strives everyday to assist and stand up for whats right no matter how “uncomfortable” it makes me? Absolutely!!! Knowing your strength is crucial, knowing that yeah I may just be one person but I do have the power of change for the better. Just accepting thing because that’s the way they’ve always been has come to an end. This is a battle of unjust that has been going on for centuries, it’s time to quit being scared to stand up for what you know is right. it time for change.
Change….it's inevitable…know where you stand.
Click here to read more from Lauren.
I typically find myself to be a joyful and enthusiastic person, however, lately, I have been struggling to remain joyful. To maintain a positive outlook in my life as an ABQ YAV I have found myself redefining joy to focus more on the little things in my life.
Finding joy in the little things helps me to not become overwhelmed by negative people or situations. I recently found a lot of joy going on long walks and cuddling with Mica (an adorable dog we were watching). I find joy in daily conversations with kind, passionate, and dedicated people I have the privilege of working with. I find joy when I am able to joke around in Spanish with some of the residents at the shelters. Some days I find so much joy and fulfillment in doing my job I forget to set aside time for self-compassion and rest and I am working on that.
My intentional YAV community brings me quite a bit of joy when we spend time together and I find joy in listening to what is going on in their lives and at their work placements. I have been finding joy in setting aside time to read and setting aside time to just sit, slow down and be. I find joy wearing wild socks. I also find joy when I see hot air balloons in the sky on my way to work and when I see beautiful sunsets on my way home.
Some days joy is evasive, and I find it in seeing some bright colors incorporated into the southwest adobe architecture around me. On days when finding joy seems impossible, I am lucky to have people who I know can easily help me add a little joy to my day. Focusing on finding joy in ordinary moments has helped me relax because I am no longer worried about chasing extraordinary moments and I am finding it easier to be fully present in every moment.
Being able to find joy in ordinary moments has become important to me so how do you define joy and where do you find it?
To read more from Kim's blog, click here.
I recently spent time crossing between the border towns of Douglas, Arizona, U.S.A. and Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico with a group of 11 other YAVs, our site coordinators, and leaders of an organization called Frontera de Cristo. During this week, we were continuously welcomed into homes, resource centers, bible studies, and churches as we struggled to learn what life is like for those on the other side of the border. All throughout this week, we carried with us the privilege that will forever keep us from fully understanding – the privilege of being able to cross smoothly through the port of entry over and over and over again – the privilege of being U.S. citizens.
Now, I invite you to struggle with me, as I try to figure out how, as a white privileged woman, I can share the stories of those I met and what I experienced without shifting into the all-too-easy white savior. I don’t claim to be an expert or to fully understand the complexities and nuances that affect our Southwestern border and all those that come into contact with it, but I do know that as a U.S. citizen, as much as I don’t want to believe it, this is my border. My wall. My responsibility.And I think it’s probably yours too.
It’s time we own this.
What I witnessed in the ways our immigration system is implemented each day simultaneously shatters my heart and enrages me. However, out of my experience at the border also come stories of love, gratitude, faithfulness, and hope. I hope that these things will stick with you as we begin examining the ways in which we as U.S. citizens are implicated in this.
On our first full day, we were invited to dinner at a migrant resource center called C.A.M.E., where we heard about the work that they do in helping migrants and asylum-seekers in all stages of the process. C.A.M.E. provides warmth through a place to sleep, the filling food they offer, and the kind people that work there non-stop each day. Over the simple act of sharing a meal, our YAV group each heard stories of those that were staying at the shelter. Spread out around the dinner tables, some listened to migrants who had spent twenty years working in the U.S. to only be suddenly deported. Others heard the stories of a group of trans women that had experienced terrible violence in their home countries and were traveling together to seek asylum in the U.S. I listened to a pregnant women from Honduras who was traveling with her teenage daughter and hoping to be granted asylum so that she might join her family in Georgia.
Through a few tears and a brave smile, this women, who shall remain anonymous, shared with myself and a couple others in our group the details of her journey and her hopes for the coming months. She described the unstable nature of her home country and the intense poverty they could not escape, and how, to her, this was her only option. She was leaving behind two young children, who were staying with her mother, and though this seems unthinkable to someone of my privilege, she had to do something to create a better life for her family. All she wants is a steady job that will earn enough for a small house for herself and her children.
Part of the beauty in this interaction was the lack of Spanish speaking skills of myself and the other YAVs at my table. After many Spanish classes, I can keep a conversation going (all in present tense, of course), but I don’t have the knowledge to fully converse on a subject of this magnitude. However, this meant instead of talking, we listened, and I think that is incredibly important as we strive to do liberation work in solidarity with those that are directly affected.
Our new friend was continually patient with us as we tried our best to understand. At the end of the night, we thanked her for her courage and for sharing her story with us. We wished her the best as she went to the port of entry the next day to request asylum. I walked away grateful for hearing her personal journey but also thinking that I’d never see her again.
As often happens, I was wrong. The next evening as we crossed the border to join a weekly prayer vigil, I heard someone say my name. I’d vaguely noticed people sitting along the wall, but we were running late and I was digging through my bag for my passport. When I heard my name, I looked up, and there was our friend from the night before. Immediately, a rush of embarrassment flooded through me, and even writing this now, I feel it again. It was in this moment that I felt the weight of my privilege crash down on me in a way that it never has before. As we were being waved through the port, I barely made out an “hola, ¿como estás?” I immediately regretted not getting out of line and actually acknowledging her and her daughter. I felt ashamed that I was too caught up in my own life to notice her, and I felt furious that I was able to cross so easily yet she could not.
As we continued on with our evening, I could think of nothing else except our friends sitting by the wall, not being allowed to set foot on U.S. property, meaning that they couldn’t get close enough to request asylum. I also couldn’t stop thinking about the ways in which I had just been personally a part of perpetuating our broken and oppressive immigration system.
Later on that night, a few of us went back to the border crossing to see if our two friends were still there; they were. The two asylum-seekers, one 8-months pregnant with bronchitis, were made to wait in the cold for almost 24 hours since the processing office was “full.” We were told 8 asylum-seekers a day are let in at the Douglas/Agua Prieta port of entry, but in reality, we saw that maybe 1 or 2 were actually allowed to begin the long process of requesting asylum, many of which are eventually denied.
We brought blankets and hot tea and sat with them as they waited, unwilling to leave in fear of losing their place in line. Because there was nothing we could do or say that would solve the problem in this moment, they only thing we could do was show up. To be present and to show our solidarity. We tried to use our privilege for something good by asking the border patrol officers that sat on the other side of the fence why they were having to wait so long. We sat as witnesses to the injustice being done to human beings each and every day along that wall. The border patrol agents did indeed have their heater turned towards our friends, but I kept asking myself, where is the humanity in this situation? Why are they made to seemingly “prove how much they want this” by waiting hours in the cold? Why is this our system?
After an hour or so, when it seemed like they might want to try to get some sleep, we got up, said goodbye and good luck, and resumed our normal lives. Our outsider status was never more apparent to me as we left. We can never fully understand what it feels like to have to leave your family and your home because it’s too dangerous or unstable and flee in search of something better – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I probably will never find out if our friends seeking asylum will be able to reunite with their family in Georgia, but I now have a better grasp of the system and know that they are a long way from the life she dreamed of. Their story is just beginning.
The courage, determination, and unfailing hope our friend shared with us as she waited to seek asylum in the U.S. will remain with me always and sparked my acknowledgment of my role in the issues affecting our Southwestern border.
After all, this is my border. My wall. My responsibility. And yours, too.
Moving forward, I’m asking myself these questions: What does it mean to be a responsible U.S. citizen? How does our faith inform our response to social issues?
For, I have called you by name. You are mine.
This is my story of being called out by name to no longer ignore my responsibility. I believe that we called to do the work of God not just with our hands but with our voices.
To read more from Julie, click here.
God has a funny way of sending us exactly where we need to be when we least expect it. When I signed up in June for the 2018 Pilgrimage for Unity , a three day ecumenical journey through New Mexico, I was mostly focused on the 50 miles of walking, simultaneously feeling excited and hesitant about that long of a distance. However, at the time, it was far enough away that I gave it very little thought, except when my mom reminded me every so often that I should maybe at least think about training for it. For about two weeks, I was great at completing practice walks, and even recruited my dad to do a practice 20-mile day with me on Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit Trail (Thanks, Dad!)
However, as I moved to Albuquerque and began transitioning into being a YAV, all of that went out of the window. When the week of the Pilgrimage arrived, which also happened to be our first week of work, I was woefully unprepared and even had to be constantly reminded by my roommates that I was leaving for the weekend. Somehow, I made it with all my gear to the vans on Thursday, and the journey could begin.
We started our journey at Ghost Ranch, a Presbyterian-owned retreat center and a favorite site of artist Georgia O’Keeffe. We began walking on Friday with each morning starting at 4:30 am with breakfast and an opening prayer. Though rising before the sun was not fun, it made for stunning views as it rose over the mountains and gave us a head start on the imminent heat.
On the first day, we walked from Christ in the Desert, a Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery, and back to Ghost Ranch, about 15. 5 miles. Within the first few hours, I found myself falling into an easy rhythm. Despite the fact that I’d barely readied myself for this experience, among the 32 other pilgrims, the vast landscapes, and the prayers, silence, and singing, I felt all the stress leading up to this journey melt away. It no longer mattered that I was still not quite settled in to New Mexico life or that my job wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined. Instead, to the tune of synchronized steps in the gravel, we walked, we prayed, and we talked. Life as a pilgrim was simple, and I could finally catch my breath. This was where I was supposed to be, even if I hadn’t stopped long enough to realize it.
For the next two days, we kept moving in this rhythm. Each 2.5 miles/50 minutes, we would be met by our amazing support team with water, snacks, sunscreen, and the port-a-potty (yes, quite a luxurious trek!). After about 10 minutes, we continued on, sometimes with particular intentions for the next stretch; other times, purely focused on getting to know each other and being present in exactly where we were in our journey.
Day 2 of walking brought us from Ghost Ranch along Highway 94, on a path by the Chama River, past Georgia O’Keeffe’s house, and to the historic village of Abiquiu, where we stayed for our third night in an old boarding school; a total of 17.5 miles.
As I walked, I found myself constantly looking at the ground. The paths we traversed were often uneven, so in an effort not to trip, I watched my feet. However, I realized that by focusing on my feet, I was missing so much around me. The surrounding views were breath-taking, completely different from anything I’m used to, and I was missing it. I was walking right by, focused on keeping myself safe and getting to the end. I vowed the moment I noticed this to remind myself to look up. To take in the views and the people around me – even if that meant I might stumble.
This wasn’t an easy thing to remember, but I kept at, allowing myself to just soak it all in, remaining present and reflecting later. On our last day, Day 3, we walked from Hernandez, NM, through Española, and to our final destination, El Santuario de Chimayó, one of the most visited pilgrimage locations in the US and a significant site associated with healing – 14.5 miles. As we embarked on our last stretch, two miles from our lunch stop to the end in Chimayó, I was surprised that I wasn’t that excited to reach the end. I had enjoyed walking and the simplicity and focus that it had allowed me. I was surprised to recognize that (as cheesy as it sounds) it truly wasn’t about the destination but about the journey that brought us there. If I hadn’t made the intentional effort to look up and take it all in, I would have missed it. Perhaps because I was so unprepared, I had entered into this journey with no expectations, which allowed me to truly just be.
As I continue reflecting on the three days of the Pilgrimage for Unity, I am setting the challenge for myself during this next year to not forget to look up. If I’ve learned anything from this experience and my fellow Pilgrims, by cultivating a stronger awareness of the world outside of my own, I am sure to find more compassion, peace, and joy than I’ve ever known.
“When I lose my direction, I look up to the sky.”
– The Once and Future Carpenter by the Avett Brothers
I want to take a moment to express my gratitude for each person involved in the 2018 Pilgrimage for Unity. It was an experience and a community like no other and one that I will never forget. I felt welcomed, supported, and known. Thank you all for making New Mexico begin to feel like home.
To read more from Julie's blog, click here!
The first two weeks of being in Albuquerque was all about orienting ourselves to our new surroundings, meeting key people like ABQ YAV board members, and starting to set up guidelines for our intentional community. Even though we were often busy and on adventures during our downtime I thought it was hard not to want to speed time up and get to work. Along with that desire to jump right in often times came myself and the other ABQ YAVs asking my site coordinator “Luke, can we start work yet?”
One of the first group outings was a drive up to the Sandia Crest to hike a tiny bit and watch the sunset. I enjoyed the beauty of the moment in two ways, one being the physical beauty of the area and the other being the organic opportunity get to know each other and the start of what will be our intentional living community for the year. The sunset picnic was a great chance to explore the area and share a meal together.
Another new exciting experience was Zozobra in Santa Fe. Zozobra is a tradition where burning Zozobra (“Old Man Gloom”) is the enemy of all that is good. The burning of Zozobra represents the hopeful end of a years worth of darkness that had been cast over the city. This event largely represents good trumping evil and a hopeful start to a period of celebrations in Santa Fe. It was a fun day even though it was without a doubt a long day and it rained on us because after all it is monsoon season here.
A key part of our time in Santa Fe was recognizing that Zozobra takes place on public land that is part of the Land and Water Conservation Fund which is in need of protecting. In the morning we went to a rally focused on saving the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Luke was asked to dress up as Ranger Rick and entertain the school kids who came to see Zozobra. That part of the day was hilariously entertaining for us but not a main focal cultural point of the event as a whole. Along with our trip to Santa Fe we had a chance to meet Andrew Black who grew up in Santa Fe and now serves as an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe which is the church he also grew up in. Andrew shared some history of the area, gave us a tour of the church that celebrated it’s 151st anniversary this year and explained some of the work he does with the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
We spent four days of local orientation meeting our community partners and experiencing aspects of each others work placements. This year I will be working for Heading Home, a not for profit organization that is dedicated to making experiences of homelessness rare, short-lived and non recurring. Specifically I will be the coordinator of their volunteers so throughout the year I will get the chance to familiarize myself with lots of different aspects of the organization. I think this will be a valuable learning experience for me because I may want to work for a non profit in the future. Some other community partners that my housemates will be working for and we visited are Hope Works, Menaul School, and Second Presbyterian Church. I think each of the placements will provide us with hands-on real world experiences and I feel I am well fitted with Heading Home and I also think every placement will give each of us a favorable opportunity to magnify our strengths as well as push ourselves and grow.
Two unique experiences we were fortunate to have during our first two weeks were a trip to Santo Domingo Pueblo and a day in Madrid. The uniqueness of the experiences was that in both cases we were invited to dig deeper, be shown around by locals and have interactive experiences with people who were willing to share their stories and history with us. In Santo Domingo Pueblo we were invited to a feast and got to hear about life in a Native American Pueblo and examine how there is huge differences between their culture and lifestyle even though we were only 45 minutes away from Albuquerque. In Madrid we got a perspective of how a mining town turned into a ghost town and has now transformed into an arts community. John grew up in Madrid and had a wealth of information about the changes and past that he was willing to share with us. In connection with the openness of the family in Santo Domingo and John in Madrid, I felt the start of myself investing in the community around me, taking a deeper look at cultural heritage and starting to not be a tourist but living like a local.
Moving forward in this new place, a big part for me will be remembering to be mindful about walking alongside people, not trying to change or fix things for them and being conscious that I am being welcomed into a community and/or organization but that I am not needed. Also, I need to be cognizant that every person I come in contact with comes with their own valuable perspectives that matter. I find joy in the journey and I am enthusiastically awaiting my first day of work (on 9/11) as well as the rest of year inviting discomfort and knowing that it’s going to be challenging but that there is always good that comes out of the chaos and difficult conversations.
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They warned me that I’d want to stay here in Albuquerque, but I didn’t take it seriously until about three months ago!
February, March, and April were filled with several opportunities for spiritual discernment, exploration, and lots of traveling! I’m happy to have had the OPPORTUNITIES to make the most out of this year and to really challenge myself to seek out what I want this next year to look like. *Truth is… I don’t really know (: but God’s hands are all over it already!
In February, I visited the West coast for the first time, by participating in a visitors weekend at the San Francisco Theological Seminary to visit their campus, as well as the Graduate Theological Union, which SFTF and eight divinity schools are a part of.
In March, I was blessed to have a second trip to the Golden State of California to visit two other seminaries AND visit beloved friends from Texas. In Pasadena, I visited Fuller Theological Seminary and explored Los Angeles area with Sonja, Javier, Maureen and Manuel. Then I headed back up to the Bay Area to spend the weekend at a Signs Along the Way Discernment Weekend at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley.
In addition, my fellow YAVs and I were invited to attend the Synod of the Southwest meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, so we had yet another fun road-trip and the opportunity to share our YAV experience, reflections, and some testimonies.
In April, I brought (figuratively and mentally) my previous seminary visits, reflection, thoughts and questions to the Forum of Theological Exploration, regional retreat in Minneapolis, MN. Through nomination through the YAV program, I was invited to attend and participate in a weekend of seminars, activities, and exploration labs – alongside 90+ other young adults among a variety of faith backgrounds, who find themselves navigating their calling through positions and areas of Christian leadership within the community and the church.
At the FTE Retreat, we learned about building beloved community // a multi-ethnic and multi-racial community, where love is the governing aspect (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) in order to hold space that creates space. In addition, we had the chance to discuss and reenact the Biblical leadership roles of the: Prophet, Priest, Elder/Sage, and King; in respect to past and current movements, as well as leaders, and challenging ourselves to see the different versions of leadership we have and how to best use each role in respective atmospheres.
Once, I returned to Albuquerque – it was time to start making real decisions about what I’d be doing after my YAV year ended. I only applied to Fuller Theological Seminary and had been accepted – which I am glad about! But I wasn’t too sure about relocating to Pasadena, CA. Then, I began entertaining the idea of possibly sticking around in Albuquerque for another year – but not as a YAV – simply to rent, work and continue being involved in this community I’ve grown to love. From the beginning (even before moving to Albuquerque), they said it’s the wonderful Land of Enchantment, but it’ll turn into the Land of Entrapment, convincing you to stay!
So officially, I will be staying in Albuquerque for (at least) another year!!! To my delight, I haven’t been stressing about finding work – God has aligned the right community, connections and a number of part-time positions. I’ll be continuing work within the church, in accepting two new positions as the Youth Group Coordinator at a local congregation, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, and as the Communications Specialist at the Presbytery of Santa Fe (located in Albuquerque). In addition, I’m excited to maintain involvement at Camino de Vida as a place of spiritual growth and connection among their community, but also as I continue assistance through the English as a Second Language program and administratively. I’m beyond grateful for the variety of positions allowing me to become more involved in the Albuquerque faith community individually and at-large. *Beginning classes online at Fuller Theological Seminary is still an option for this upcoming academic year, but not 100% in the plan yet – however, I’m more than interested in pursuing the MA in Intercultural Studies when the time is right.
I also hope to put my minor in photography to good use by seeking out photography opportunities for portrait and special occasion shoots. Please check out my Photography Portfolio – I’d greatly appreciate Albuquerque locals to share the word and my portfolio page for those interested!
I’ve been completely blessed by a spectacular year, a welcoming Albuquerque community for this kick-off ABQ YAV site year, and the greatest group of ladies to share the experience with – as well as the greatest site coordinator Luke!!!
I’m even more thankful to be staying in Albuquerque with my lovely roommate Ana, as we’ve decided to share an apartment together while she starts her undergrad locally.