I write to you all from the beautiful Stony Point Center in New York. Out here the leaves are green, the Hudson river is blue, and the weather is a balmy 85 degrees on a hot day. Nothing like home whatsoever.
|This is my home for Orientation. It's beautiful!|
Monday - arrival/travel day
Tuesday - Cultural Competency (Recognizing Privilege and the lack thereof)
Wednesday - Sexual Misconduct, Setting Healthy Boundaries, What Advocacy Work is
Thursday - DAY AWAY! Everyone go out and see stuff! (more on that in a second.)
Friday - The Presbyterian/YAV Theology of Mission
Saturday - How to tell people (mostly via social media) about your experience
Sunday - Commissioning ceremonies, relax
While I could write pages about what I've learned and how my eyes have been opened to see a system that's already fairly broken I want to focus on just one day.
THURSDAY - VISIT THE PRESBYTERIAN MISSION AT THE UNITED NATIONS
So imagine you have 193 friends together and you all decide to get lunch. Everyone debates and argues over what to eat, but at the end of the day you still have to vote on what to eat. If two-thirds of you agree on somewhere to eat then you're going there. Then, if such event happens, you vote on how you're going to get their, who's car you're going to take, who's going to call ahead, etc. It's gridlock diplomacy. But that's the best way to metaphorize how the UN functions.
I learned this from our two hosts at the offices right across from the UN Building in New York. Presbyterians have worked alongside the UN almost from the get-go. What we do is meet with UN delegations and talk to them about issues important to our church and convince them to help us out. Sounds simple enough right?
Except being there... Life is crazy. We attended a vigil to recognize the 500th day that 219 young women in Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram. An Imam, Cantor, parishioner, and city councilwoman all spoke in this red-velvet lined chapel about an issue I had not known about.
For more info read: Wall Street Journal - Chibok Women interview
We had to duck out early (I was dying a slow death from hunger and feared my stomach rumbles would interrupt the service) to grab food and meet with some hosts.
Three different people: A Middle Eastern Policymaker for the UN, an NGO Food Justice Advocate, and a Middle East Foreign Analyst all sat in a room with twenty 20-something presbyterians and discussed how they arrived to where they are today. Stories of starting as a volunteer and seeking a more meaningful impact through direct work with the UN or with other NGO's brought them here. I was a little disappointed that they had little to say about how their faith influenced the work they did, but when all you do is try to make justice in the world I imagine it can be hard to step back and focus on your spirituality.
After that we took a short tour around the area before hopping on a schoolbus to sit through two hours of traffic to make it back to beautiful Stony Point.
It's rewarding to know the church I grew up in has been an international figure and done so in what feels like an appropriate manner. We believe it is best to walk WITH people in Mission instead of just telling them what to do. Our work at the United Nations centers around bringing awareness to others and spreading the word. It's a comfort to see that a volunteer year can lead you to unexpected places. I couldn't say if that's a life I'm leaning towards, but I know the option exists. That's more than enough for me.
|Meet the 2015-16 Young Adult Volunteer Class!|