After leaving home and traveling to Chicago for orientation, I wasn’t sure what I would find. I was full of lots of emotions and not sure which one would surface when. After the initial shock of being with 93 other YAGM wore off, I settled in. We are all in Chicago for a week of learning and growing as a group before we head out to our country of service. In only the few days we have been here, I can feel that this is where I am meant to be. From the hugs at the airport, to worshiping together, to tackling the hard questions of life, I have loved it all. There are a few main things that have stood out to me this far that I would like to share with you.
Today is my birthday. I wasn’t sure how I would feel on this day. My family has always been a huge part of this day for me so I was a bit saddened. But, I have to say that I haven’t been sad at all. From new friends getting me a scratch paper notebook and buying me bananas after craving them all day, to an old friend working with a new friend to send me a cupcake from miles away. Friends went even as far as telling everyone that they could that it was my birthday and others saying it to me every time they saw me (like every 30 min in the lecture we were having). I feel the love and for that I am so so thankful! What an amazing year it is going to be.
In one of our lectures today we were talking about our story and where we are from. We filled in a few words into a template and it became something beautiful. Hearing these poems was wonderful. We are a diverse group, but we are all coming together for this mission that we have been called to. I share my poem with you:
I am from books, from tents and dishes.
I am from water and wind, from Karen and Trudy, from kindness and humor.
I am from Christmas dinners, from mac and cheese and ice cream.
I’m from laughter and compassion, from “you are loved” and “dare to dream”.
I’m from the Lutheran church, where grace runs deep.
I’m from America whose long-gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.
Lastly I leave you with a reading that was shared with us our first morning together. It spoke to me. I loved the images it brought to mind as I prepare to take this journey. Alum shared their stories between verses which just made it even more meaningful. We heard this poem read multiple times, so I encourage you to take a moment and read the poem below with an open heart. Maybe even read it a few times. Contemplate what it says to you! I pray that it speaks to you as it did to me!
Passover Remembered by Alla Renee Bozarth
Bring only your determination to serve
and your willingness to be free.
Don’t wait for the bread to rise.
Take nourishment for the journey,
but eat standing, be ready
to move at a moment’s notice.
Do not hesitate to leave
your old ways behind—
fear, silence, submission.
Only surrender to the need
of the time— to love
justice and walk humbly
with your God.
Do not take time to explain to the neighbors.
Tell only a few trusted friends and family members.
Then begin quickly,
before you have time to sink back
into the old slavery.
Set out in the dark.
I will send fire to warm and encourage you.
I will be with you in the fire
and I will be with you in the cloud.
You will learn to eat new food
and find refuge in new places.
I will give you dreams in the desert
to guide you safely home to that place
you have not yet seen.
The stories you tell one another around your fires
in the dark will make you strong and wise.
Outsiders will attack you,
and some who follow you,
and at times you will weary
and turn on each other
from fear and fatigue and
You have been preparing for this for hundreds of years.
I am sending you into the wilderness to make a way
and to learn my ways more deeply.
Those who fight you will teach you.
Those who fear you will strengthen you.
Those who follow you may forget you.
Only be faithful. This alone matters.
Some of you will die in the desert,
for the way is longer than anyone imagined.
Some of you will give birth.
Some will join other tribes along the way,
and some will simply stop and create
new families in a welcoming oasis.
Some of you will be so changed
by weathers and wanderings
that even your closest friends
will have to learn your features
as though for the first time.
Some of you will not change at all.
Some will be abandoned
by your dearest loves
and misunderstood by those
who have known you since birth
and feel abandoned by you.
Some will find new friendship
in unlikely faces, and old friends
as faithful and true as the pillar of God’s flame.
Your flesh will be torn
as you make a path
with your bodies
through sharp tangles.
Others who follow may deride
or forget the fools who first bled
where thorns once were, carrying them
away in their own flesh.
Such urgency as you now bear
may embarrass your children
who will know little of these times.
Sing songs as you go,
and hold close together.
You may at times grow
confused and lose your way.
Continue to call each other
by the names I’ve given you,
to help remember who you are.
You will get where you are going
by remembering who you are.
Touch each other
and keep telling the stories
of old bondage and of how
I delivered you.
Tell you children lest they forget
and fall into danger— remind them
even they were not born in freedom
but under a bondage they no longer
remember, which is still with them, if unseen.
Or they were born in the open desert
where no signposts are.
Make maps as you go,
remembering the way back
from before you were born.
So long ago you fell
into slavery, slipped
into it unawares,
out of hunger and need.
You left your famished country
for freedom and food in a new land,
but you fell unconscious and passive,
and slavery overtook you as you fell
asleep in the ease of your life.
You no longer told stories of home
to remember who you were.
Do not let your children sleep
through the journey’s hardship.
Keep them awake and walking
on their own feet so that you both
remain strong and on course.
So you will be only
the first of many waves
of deliverance on these
It is the first of many
beginnings— your Paschaltide.
Remain true to this mystery.
Pass on the whole story.
I spared you all
by calling you forth
from your chains.
Do not go back.
I am with you now
and I am waiting for you.