A Year Of Service, A Lifetime Of Change

Service is more than a hour, a day, a week, a month, or a year. Service is a lifetime and what we must all comprehend is that the steps we take for the betterment of the world needs the full input of those we are coming into contact with and those who will be effected. We, the one person or church group on a mission trip, are not going to be their Savior or be the one to make a community a better place. We also do not need to force God and the Christian view on to them. They’ve lived in their community for many years and know more than we could ever know about the land and what it has to offer. We need to come in as someone who wants to learn more about the world, see God in the little things in this community, and walk alongside these people. We do not have all the answers and do not know everything. We are people coming into a place that had been inhabited for generations so do not think that you are the Savior. We will provide tools for that community, but make sure they are tools that they actually need and will be able to use. Do your research, ask questions. Do not assume that they have not thought of events or tried to apply different tactics. They have made it this far without you.

It makes me sad but grateful to think that I have only 1 week left in my YAV year. I am so happy to have had this experience in seeing Texas and the world through a different lens and in the way that people, whether they be Christian or not, interact and live in community with one another. I will cherish this experience and the growth I have had. I am also happy to see that there is hope in the world. This is through the little strides that we are all making to make the world a safer and more unified place to live. Yes, these changes will not occur in our lifetime, but it is the small changes and steppingstones that we are all making together and building into what the world and human race can become. I think that what the PCUSA church stands for and the work that is being done with our brothers and sisters around the world, whether they are similar to us or not, speaks volumes about what they think is important in the togetherness and community of the whole world. The changes, even though they may seem very slow, that are being made are in our own personal, day to day community. The changes are that more and more people are being more responsive and respectful of those in their community, those who look different, sound different, and believe in different things. These individuals are someone’s child and could be someone’s parent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin, friend. We must walk alongside them so that we can show each other the possibilities and opportunities that we both have and what we all could do to strive to make a world where we are all equal.

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The kindness in faith

In the last couple of years I have had issues with the structure of the Christian faith and how the larger organized church has rejected those who follow the most common ideas of the Christian faith, love, acceptance, and sacrifice for those we love.

Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith. – Prophet Muhammad

This year has made me question even more of the ideology that I was raised on and how toxic and hypocritical the church can be for those in the church as well as those who are not a part of the Christian faith. Yes, there are good and bad people who say they are Christian who fall on the extreme right and extreme left as well as anywhere in between. However, Christians are taught from a young age to love our neighbors who are of all color shades, shapes, and sizes. I mean come on Jesus was a man of color and the Christian faith praises and worships Him!

True love is born from understanding. – The Buddha

God and Jesus are the ones that we should be following because they are the true foundation of the Christian faith. Their love is what we should know and show, not a church that shuts its doors to those who look, act, sound, believe, feel, or are sexually different than ourselves. Yes, church is a good place to go to get spiritually and emotionally recharged to go out into the world to say it is okay to be different. God made you the way you are for a reason and God loves every bit of you, even what you see as the messy bits. Church needs to say that beauty is in everyone’s messiness, tears, fears, and darkness, because this is the foundation of the Christian faith. The love, grace, and mercy of God and Jesus are the foundation of faith.

Let the beauty you love be what you do. – Rumi

Jesus was a person who spoke out and challenged the normalcy of the everyday law. He talked to and came in contact with those who were seen as dirty and outsiders by law. If God sent Her only son to do this for those on the outside who needed acceptance and love the most, shouldn’t we be doing the same?

Joys of a YAV year

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.

Just One Face of the Countless Facing Homelessness

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.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Vk7dAHzHm9w

*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.

What is in a name?

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.

Stony Point Orientation

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.

Arriving in Austin

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.