Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I know, I know... It's been a while.
As promised, here is a brief recap of YASC orientation in New York.
I also added the video Ashley Cameron created introducing my fellow YASC missionaries.  Check it out and meet some AMAZING people!
After flying to JFK Airport on June 16th, I took a shuttle bus to Grand Central Station.  Here, I met up with Becky, Maurice, and Claire.  It was SO good to see Maurice and Becky again, and Claire fit right in with the rest of us.  We ate a quick dinner and took a train to Terrytown, NY, where we were picked up by David Copley and headed to meet the rest of the group in Stony Point.
The center we stayed at for the 2 weeks in Stony Point was fantastic!  We were fed home cooked meals, with much of the produce grown on site!  The center provided us with a meeting room, sleeping rooms, and 3 meals a day in their cafeteria, as well as having huge grassy areas, a fire pit, meditation room, gift shop, Japanese Garden, labyrinth, and a short walk to one of the coolest cemeteries I have seen.  Needless to say, the facilities were fantastic!
Orientation wasn't all about relaxation, though.  We experienced two JAM-PACKED weeks of learning.  The focus of orientation was basically three-fold.  There was the logistical part, where we learned about who to call, when to call them, what to bring with us, how it all worked, etc.  We met with the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jeferts Schori, and other important people at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City. 
We also spent a day at the Holy Cross Monastery learning about spiritual practices and ways to keep ourselves going while serving overseas.  Brother Robert gave us a private tour and lead our discussions.
One of the coolest experiences I had while I was there happened in the middle of another labyrinth.  This time, I took my picture and was snapping some shots of the things people had left on the rock in the middle of the labyrinth when I noticed this Taize cross.  I thought I would take a closer picture of it and happened to see the coin sitting right to the left of the cross.  There was something totally reassuring about seeing a Wyoming quarter next to the Taize cross in the middle of a labyrinth during YASC orientation.  The three parts of my life were meeting up right here, and I got to see it!
On Sunday, we joined the congregation at Christ Church in Terrytown for a bilingual service.  The people in the congregation were incredibly welcoming and hosted a multicultural lunch for us after church.  We were fed on empanadas, chicken, rice dishes, and amazing deserts! 
One day was spent with an organization called Faith House Manhattan.  The people of Faith House organized a multi-faith day where we were able to visit several places of worship throughout Manhattan.  We started with bagels in the oldest kosher bakery in the US and this beautiful Jewish Synagogue in the middle of Chinatown.
 After touring the synagogue, we took a bus to St. Peter's Catholic Church on Wall Street.  This is a picture of the beautiful marble statues and altar inside the church.  We joined a small congregation there for a  Noonday Mass before heading to lunch.
 After a delicious burger at a tiny burger joint, we made a brief stop at Trinity Chapel.  This is the chapel many of the firefighters and rescue workers took refuge during the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath of the events.  It has now turned into something of a museum, but there were still people seen within the grounds taking lunch breaks and seeking refuge from their daily lives.  Just around the corner, you could see the new Freedom Tower, which is still under construction.

We then headed on to Park 51, the Muslim center located a few blocks from ground zero.  Here, we met with a great pair who introduced us to the life of Muslims in NYC and talked about the community center they are building, and the negative press their little operation has received.  Here is a picture of what media has called the "Ground Zero Mosque."  I was amazed at the plain-ness of the building, given the mass coverage. 

 We were also given the opportunity to visit a Buddhist prayer center, but were not asked to refrain from picture taking while we were there.  While we were there, we were given the opportunity to sit in, or join in if we wanted, to part of their evening chanting.  It was definitely an experience I had never had. 
Also as part of our multicultural experience, we were broken into groups and sent to different neighborhoods throughout New York City.  Our assignment was simple: talk to people and discover their stories.  I met the most amazing 87-year-old Dominican man, whom I adopted as my grandfather.  We only had a short time to talk with him, but I would have LOVED to have more.  He told me the best thing I think I have ever heard.  He told me "The people who grow like a tree have it backwards.  You need to sway in the wind before you plant your roots."
In another neighborhood, I discovered something else I thought was unusual.  This Headstart building in Harlem is definitely different than the ones I see at home.  At home, there is no barbed wire or razor wire around a 10-foot fence.  These are the lengths that the school goes through in order to keep the kids inside safe. 

 The experience wasn't all work and no play.  We were given one day roam New York City and see the sights.  Here are four lovely ladies waiting in line for tickets to Pippin on Broadway.  Unfortunately, they had no tickets for us, but we had fun hanging out for 45 minutes!
All in all, it was a FANTASTIC two weeks!  Here is the group of missionaries who took part!  Most of these are my YASC Friends, but you'll see four faces that are a little older than the 30-year-old cutoff.  These are four adults who are dropping their lives for as much as 3 years to do good work outside the USA. 
What a great group of people!  Don't take my word for it, you can hear it for yourself!

Also, I got my departure date!  This is getting LLOONNGG, so I'll tell you more about that later!

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