I was called to serve in the Young Adult Volunteer Program last year during my last semester of undergraduate. After receiving a degree in History with a minor in Sociology, which has very little to do with the act of ministry, I knew I wanted to serve others in a more long term setting, more than just a day or a week. I wanted to walk along side humbly with individuals who yearn for someone to listen to and just sit with them. I want to be a supporter and an advocate to those viewed as social outsiders. I do not want to be their voice, but someone who will listen to them without them fearing repercussions. I have witnessed joy during my YAV year so far by seeing perfectly eatable food not going to waste, but rather feeding our sisters and brothers in need who would have not been able to afford such food in the first place. I see God at work in so many ways in Austin and in Keep Austin Fed. In Austin, there are so many people from all across the country, as well as globe, who are working towards a world of acceptance, love, and grace for every living being. These attributes can be seen through the work of Keep Austin Fed’s over 130 currently active volunteers who together have gathered and distributed over 3 million pounds of food since Keep Austin Fed’s founding in 2004. Although this is just one small organization with just a handful of regularly active volunteers, these individuals show that there is still love and generosity for those who God would want us to sit at table with. The people that Keep Austin Fed serves include the poor, the single parents and their children, those living on the streets, the people recovering from alcohol and drug abuse, as well as individuals and families in immigrate shelters. In Isaiah 42:1-9, God calls and leads us to open the eyes of the blind, which is sometimes our own blind eyes, that have so often turned away from those most in need. God calls us to bring those out of the darkness into the light of liberation. God calls people to be a light to the Gentiles, the non-Jews, the outsiders, the outcast. Although this liberation may not be as immediate as one would hope for, work is still happening and still needs to be done. We must keep working through the darkness and fog to find the joys of the work that is being and will be done. This joy can be found in smiles, laughter, tears, sadness, celebrations, heartache, and milestones. We must be God’s hands and feet to serve others showing that God’s joy is so much more powerful when we work together. Look for the spark that God shows you so that you do not miss the moments of joy around you. Look for ways to humbly serve and walk along side those in the darkness so that they too can experience God’s joy and love. Who knows what will come of those events when hearts and minds are opened and broadened.
The following video is about one young woman and her journey of homeless in the U.K. She is among the countless individuals who face homelessness all around the world. Young children, teens, and adults of all ages, races, nationalities, gender identities, sexual orientations, mental health, and education levels face homelessness on a daily basis. However, so many of these people do not have the access to or knowledge of resources like that of the young woman in the video. Although she maybe in the U.K., this is a reality of people close to and even farther away from the comfort of your home and community. This video forced me to reflect on the work that I am doing this year and to look at the way I interact with people of all walks of life. It pushes me to continue to work outside my current perception of the government system and comfort levels of what security and safety mean to me. I will keep this young woman in my thoughts and close to my heart. I know that she is not the first or the last to face living a life without the comforts of a warm bed and knowing when and where the next meal will come from.
*This video, made and posted by BBC Three, is about a young 18 year-old woman who was kicked out of her family’s home by her own parent/parents. Since she was 18 at the time, she was not a top priority to receive much, if at all, assistance from social services. This is about her reality of being homeless for 49 days and how that time period put a toll on her mental and physical health.
Names are so important in our society yet we often over look how a name alters our view of someone. Names alter the perception of business owners and managers. The first thing they often ask for is your name and where you are from. Why judge someone who applies for a job because of the name their parents gave them or by the name of their home town? Shouldn’t the first thing they ask be if the applicant is qualified or not for the job? When looking at an organization to be affiliated with, does the name they go by represent their beliefs as well as yours? Is the name of a prospective partner or current partner that of someone you would want your family meeting? Although names are important in our society, shouldn’t we look at the person’s character and personality before we judge them by their name? Look at the story of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. The story is about two families that keep fighting each other just because they don’t like their enemy’s names, never truly looking to resolve their conflicts by looking deeper. Two teenagers, from these fighting families, show little to no care for the names of their opposing families. They show true love by caring for the personality, character, and soul of the other.
The name of my blog is important to me because it shows my family history and love for where my family has come from. My families history is deeply rooted in Texas and American history. My middle name is Houston because I am a great-great-great granddaughter of Sam Houston. I included Houston in my blog name because of how important Sam Houston was in the freeing of Texas and parts of the U.S. southwest from Mexico in 1836. I also included my last name, Dallas, because I am proud of where my family has been, the growth we have had just in the last few generations, and the places we are going. Also, since I was born and raised in the Dallas area I thought it would be nice to include it for sure. Since I am living in Austin now, I thought it was only fitting to have a Texas city dominated blog name.
Along with fellow 2018-2019 Austin Young Adult Volunteers, I returned to Austin from a week long orientation for the YAV program for the class of 2018-2019. At first I was very nervous about going to orientation at Stony Point Center in Stony Point, New York. Soon after arriving to Stony Point Center we received information about what we were going to do during the week. The information presented to us during the week, as well as the activities conducted, related greatly to topics that we are encouraged to reflect on throughout our year of service in the individual communities and site placements, our individual volunteer positions, where we will be serving. The facilitators encourage us to look beyond ourselves and our immediate communities, helping us to show that God is a loving and gracious God. Through this, we should keep our eyes, hearts, and minds open to walking alongside people that we, as a general population, perceive as outsiders or different from the typical view of the 1950’s television family image, a father, mother, 2.5 kids, and a white picket fence. I soon came to the realization that I was not the only one who was nervous about this experience of walking alongside the poor, the hungry, or the outcast. I was one of many who had questions, but the facilitators were there to help us. They want us to be prosperous in our journeys of serving others. We did a lot of reflection of our place in the greater community and view of the world, as well as the challenges that we might face. This week was very important when coming to see who we are as individuals, as Americans, as people of diverse backgrounds, as people of a Christian denomination and faith, and as people who are serving others in God’s name.
I arrived in Austin a couple of days ago, on Friday. Since today is Sunday, I am super excited to go to the University Presbyterian Church that is a little over a mile away from where I am living on the Seminary campus. This is super exciting because that is where my grandparents met when they were college-age. They met there for a free Sunday night dinner when a man had to accompany a woman through the line. Not only is it a special day and location in that sense, but today is communion Sunday at University Presbyterian, which is really great. This to me signifies new beginnings, new hopes, new dreams, and new ventures. However, this also signifies leaving behind experiences and a life in Dallas.
Since I drove down with my dad the day of arrival, we arrived soon after/before or a couple days after some others who drove from different cities/states in Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, and Colorado. The girls from the YAV program and the AmeriCorp program were the first to arrive. The boys from the program will be arriving later this week or early next week. This is not a house rule, it is just how it worked out this year for us and our travel/arrival plans. I am super excited for different perspectives and interests from not only my house mates, but the people that I will be working with.
Keep looking for a post for why I call my blog ‘Houston Dallas in Austin,’ which will be coming soon.
A few months ago I accepted the call to serve as a YAV in Austin. I’m super excited and looking forward to the many things that Austin has to offer and what I have to offer Austin. I am in the last stages of deciding what exactly I will be doing for my volunteer position from August 2018 to August 2019.
I applied late last year in October 2017 for a position with the Young Adult Volunteer program with the Presbyterian U.S.A. church. I was lucky to have been apart of the application and placement process in finding my Young Adult Volunteer location earlier on. I had discernment conversations with my top 5 favorite YAV sites via phone, Skype, and FaceTime. A lot of the people who go through the discernment process often have their favorite locations narrowed down to their top 3 favorite sites. Of course, I’m an over achiever, or just couldn’t make up my mind. I was scared at first to even apply to Austin much less have a discernment conversation with the site coordinator because I am from Texas, I had family in Austin, and I wanted to experience life outside of Texas, even if I have traveled to other states and countries. However, I knew that God would lead me to a place that He thought I would be productive in and a place that would provide eye-opening experiences.
Fast forward a few months after applying and discernment conversations with the five locations. Once I accepted the call to Austin I started the process of finalizing paperwork with the Presbyterian U.S.A. national office. I am on the last leg of finalizing the process of figuring out which local Austin volunteer program I will be volunteering with. There are about 4 to 5 local organization’s in Austin that the Austin YAVs will be working with. It just so happens that there are 4 Austin YAVs for the 2018-2019 YAV year. We will each be working with one local organization for our year of service.
I will be moving to Austin in mid-August 2018 and will be going to a week of orientation with fellow national and international YAVs in Stony Point, New York.
~Many Blessings, Erica~
we all begin somewhere. new day + new information = different point of view. life is a gift that we need to cherish and protect. the people we come across from day to day provide us with different perspectives and challenges. loved ones, who we think we know the best, are even unpredictable in the way they react and change in scenarios. we learn to adjust our lives to the crazy ups and downs, twists and turns, and the unexpected reality of life that we thought would never happen to us. i never thought that i would apply for and become a volunteer for a year in a city that i have never lived in before. i am super excited about being able to learn about God’s love and grace while doing His work in helping others. i learned about this program at point in my life where i did not know what to do next. i was in my last year of my undergrad knowing that i wanted to do more with my life while doing more in the service of the Lord. what His love and grace has shown me within the last few years has directed me to a life of giving all that i can offer while gaining more than i could have ever imagined. i have been given the opportunity of a life time for showing compassion, acceptance, kindness, and love to those who need such things. one does not need money or expensive items to necessarily show the true value of what an open heart, open mind, and open arms can mean to someone who is lost or scared.
When you act in love, you leave legacies.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” ~ Jim Elliot