Dear Prospective Volunteers,
Over the past few months, I have felt incapable at times. I have felt immensely under-qualified. I have felt so ignorant of the world and lost trying to understand systems I see failing people I’ve come to love so quickly. I have despised injustice, my own perpetuation of it, my silence in the midst of it, and the way I feel seemingly powerless to do anything to correct it. Others have challenged me in a way I have trouble even articulating. In the midst of this, I have felt deep joy, genuinely loved, connected to God, and amazingly cared for in relationships. More than a few times, I have stood explaining reducing fractions for what seems like the seven hundredth time to my class and wondered what got me in that exact position, what made me think I was qualified for this, and what change was coming from that moment. When I arrived at my new South American home for the year back in August, there was a magnet on the refrigerator that read: “Ask yourself what makes you come alive and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive (Howard Thurman).” For some reason, in those moments standing in front of my class, I know I’m here because I want to be alive, the only qualification I need (other than the ability to reduce fractions) is to be alive, and that if the only change is that I am one more person in the world who is alive and loving the person in front of me, that’s enough.
I thought that I wanted to do a year of service to remove myself from a space that I felt I had come too accustomed to. With expectations to surround myself with a new culture, new service experience, new purpose, expectations to meet God in a different way and live in community differently, I said yes to a year of service. This year, while experiencing so much newness, the simple fact remains that people are people no matter where they are or what surrounds them. I found myself having the same response that I have always tried to have and that I hope to hold on to for the rest of my life: to simply love the person in front of me. Jesus explains quite clearly that whatever we do for the one in front of us, we do for Him. Service, I have found, is not about being the hands and feet of Jesus, but about serving Jesus through the person He has put in front of you. One being present, listening, and validating another, is how injustice begins to be corrected. I realized quickly that a year of service is not about changing an entire system nonetheless about “changing the world,” but about committing to always having another person in front of you to love, and to never say no to loving one more person.
This experience is woven with hard questions, great intentionality, and immense joy. I have learned that God is bigger than I thought He was, that He is not hard to find, and our response to Him is to overflow with His love. Your definition of community may, like mine, come to include pieces of so many other people’s hearts. You may experience that hospitality means to welcome someone not only into a house or space, but a home, a place where others may lay their burdens for a while; that to be hospitable, you must let others be hospitable to you too. This experience is about so much more than a service site and daily volunteer work. Listen to the dreams that have been placed on your heart. Ask God to speak and listen to what He may say. Perhaps this is what it means for you to come and be alive.
With Love, Anna FedorykMercy Volunteer in Georgetown, Guyana, South America