I got back into town on Monday night from one of the most amazing trips of my life! As I said in my last post, I was one of 3 adults who went with a group of 8 teenagers to Taize, France for a week. I went on this journey with an open heart and an open mind, hoping to take in as much as I could, not really expecting what I found there.
We began our journey in Paris, France with what can only be described as the fastest all day sight seeing tour in the world. We took in a modern art museum, walked around outside the Louvre, ate croissants outside at a little café, and walked for what seemed like the whole day. After 16 hours of travel and our tour, we were all ready for a good night's sleep!
The famous glass pyramid at The Louvre
The next morning, we took the Metro to the train station, a train to a bus station, and a bus to the Taize community. It was a really slow week at Taize, with only about 500 people. We were welcomed by a team of volunteers who served us honey bread and tea then helped us figure out what our week was going to look like. I received my room assignment, meal card, and my assigned "practical work" for the week.
Then, I began a week of spiritual reflection. I spent my mornings in quiet, writing in my journal or reflecting on the previous day's Bible study. My afternoons were spent in song practice and at Bible study. Each day, one of the brothers of the community presented the day's lesson to the large group of 20-29 year olds. The theme for this year at Taize is "Uncovering the Wellspring of Faith," and our readings reflected this. The brother helped me look at the lessons from all different sides, something I like to do anyway. Then, we broke into small groups of about 8-10 people to discuss the lesson.
My group changed quite a bit during the week. The nature of the Taize community is such that, while most people go for an entire week, it is not common for someone to stay for only a short time. There is also the opportunity for those my age to finish the week in silence. Because of this, our group never looked the same two days in a row. I did, however, have the opportunity to discuss the Bible and faith with people from Germany, France, Ukraine, South Korea, and Pennsylvania. Having the experience of discussing faith in English with people from all over the world was AMAZING!! Here is a short 7 minute video about Taize that gives you a really good idea about what the experience is like.
You aren't asked to do much in Taize. "The program" (as they call it) includes practical work, Bible study, and prayer 3 times a day. This last part was, for me, the most important part. A service in Taize includes music and readings from the Bible. It was here that I really felt close to God. As I sat on the floor in silence and my legs fell asleep, I felt connected in a way I have never felt before. This experience is hard to describe, but I couldn't get enough of it!
Inside the church at Taize
One of my goals while at Taize was to be there. I didn't want to think about anything happening back home, including my YASC year. I quickly realized that this was not going to happen. I had several opportunities over the week to talk to others about Tanzania and the work I will be doing there. My small group was particularly interested and continued to turn our conversations on faith toward me. We talked about going on a journey and the things we leave behind, and we talked about Tanzania. We talked about having faith that the things we are doing are right for us, and we talked about Tanzania. We talked about welcoming others into our lives who are more different than similar, and we talked about Tanzania.
I also had a conversation with another American woman and her friends. She is a Lutheran Deaconess and spent a lot of her childhood in Kenya. The group she travelled with contained several women who had all taken part in overseas mission trips, a few of which took place in Africa. Our brief conversation was full of tips for living in Africa, ideas of things to bring with me, and well wishes. At the end of the conversation, she asked if they could pray for me. She called over her group of friends and invited a couple of other people who were nearby to join us. It is a powerful experience to be supported in prayer by people you hardly know.
At the end of our week, we said goodbye to our new friends and returned to Paris for an evening on the town. We ate at another café, took a boat ride on "La Seine", and climbed the "Tour Eiffel." It was a great way to end a fantastic week!
So, why the title "Faith Like a Chairlift?"
During one of our small group discussions about the importance of faith, one of the members in my group compared faith to a chairlift. He said it's not always easy to get on or off, there are other ways to get where you're going, but they aren't nearly as easy, you have to keep coming back to it, and sometimes you get painfully dumped off. This is a great reminder as I look at my coming year!