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God’s Presence During My Time in Cincy

This is one of my favorite Bible passages:

He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind, and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake, (12) and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire, and after the fire a sound of sheer silence-1 King 19:11-12

How and where do we see God’s movement in our lives? I have to admit I’m the type of person that prefers God to act in clear and undeniable ways. Maybe not necessarily an earthquake or splitting mountains, but could God perhaps send down a detailed map describing what I am supposed to do with my life?

I don’t need a burning bush, but I’d settle for a burning leaf. But the reality is, while God does occasionally perform large, undeniable feats, more often than not God makes themselves known in small ways. God is found in the sound of sheer silence (or as the NIV version states: in a gentle whisper) and in acts that on the surface seem unremarkable.

One of my goals for my second year of service is to notice and take note of the ways in which God is working in my daily life. How is God making their presence known through the people I interact with on a daily basis?

1) First and foremost, God’s presence is made known through my relationship with my community member, Faith and my local support team.

I was nervous beginning a second year and starting the community living process again. It seemed just as I was getting used to living with three other people during my first year of service, our time was over. Now I needed to get used to being a community of two with someone new.

Plus, I am an introvert, it’s always nerve wracking having to meet new people. However, Faith has been a great support. She provides a calm and steady presence to my frantic overthinking and she indulges my need to plan things in advance. She has also been one of my biggest cheerleaders. This past year I have been given opportunities to preach at the local Episcopal Church I attend and at my friend’s virtual church, and Faith has shown up to listen and encourage me.

My local support team has always been incredible. They encourage my passion for theology and they provide a listening ear to discuss everything from my time at my service site, to my worries about my future, to my 30-minute-long soliloquys on the future of Western Christianity.

2) I see God In my co-workers at Intercommunity Justice & Peace Center (IJPC). This is my second year at IJPC, and just like my first, I have been surrounded by the extensive care and support of my coworkers. One of my biggest sources of anxiety was actually co-teaching the sessions for the Strategic Nonviolence for Peace Advocacy Certificate Program. My first year was spent doing massive amounts of research and attending numerous trainings on nonviolence and crafting the certificate program.

This year, I had to actually teach. No more hiding behind a computer or a stack of books. However, my colleagues, especially my co-presenter, Bekky, have been a major help. Bekky has more experience leading workshops and trainings, so she helped me figure out what activities would keep participants engaged, she modeled how to facilitate discussions, and her social work backward has proved invaluable especially on the sessions regarding nonviolent communication and self-care.

My other colleagues and my supervisor have also been willing to help ensure the success of the certificate program in any way they can from creating the registration page, to advertising it, to stepping in to teach when either Bekky or I had to miss a session. Plus, they also support me in my love of Taylor Swift. I will forever remember how they each registered for the Ticketmaster verified fan process, in the hopes that it would increase my chances of being chosen to buy concert tickets.

3) I see God in the church I have made my home while in Cincinnati. During my first year of service, one of my community members and I stumbled upon Church of the Advent, an Episcopal Church in Walnut Hills. I have continued attending that church in my second year and absolutely love it. They demonstrate a deep love and concern for each person who attends, and for their neighbors. The church has opened a free fridge and

has a weekly food pantry to address the scarcity in places, they have a community garden and the produce helps stock their food pantry, and they donate produce to other local organizations. They support the co-opt supermarket that will be opened in 2023/2024.

They also embrace a God whose love knows no bounds. As a queer, nonbinarish person, not all churches welcome me for who I am. Church of the Advent, embraces my full humanity. They also encourage me and my gifts for preaching by offering me opportunities to speak to the congregation.

My time with MVC has encouraged me to be open to the ways in which God is present in the world. I especially have been lucky to experience God’s love through the support and care of numerous people I have met in Cincinnati. No matter what my next steps are, I will carry their love and care with me.

Naiomi Gonzalez: Cincinnati, Ohio

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