I would like to start by telling you a little bit about my story and how I have come to do this missionary work for the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corp.
I am a cradle Episcopalian and 21 years ago I was baptized as a baby in Mitchel Hall because my mom told me, apparently, the main sanctuary was in the middle of renovation back in 1995. My immediate family and extended family were also in attendance on that day. Amazingly, my family has been members of Holy Communion since the late 1960s and are still active members of this church family.
At around 3 years old my mom start making me go to Sunday school EVERY Sunday, but little did she know that was not on my to do list. Whenever she would take me to MY classroom, I would RELIGIOUSLY follow her back to her class where she was teaching the older kids. After this happening over and over and me following her back to her class, she finally let me stay and I had won that battle! I may have gotten to color, BUT I was STILL listening to the lesson too.
As I got older I knew I could no longer play that game so I started to stay in my class and really enjoyed the lessons that were taught. Being older also came with the title of being in the Youth Group, which I had always looked forward to being old enough to be in! There were lock ins, flashlight tag, hiding and seek in the church, field trips to places like the city museum and lunch dates and pizza parties all with the youth group under the leadership of Karen Sterbenz at the time. I always invited a few school friends to be part of my church adventures. All of my friends, co-cheerleaders, co-basketball, co field hockey players or neighborhood friends knew that if they spent the night at my house, they were going to church on Sunday. I guess I was an evangelist even back then!
Later came the mission trip to Bay St. Louis, New Orleans to help people who were victims of hurricane Katrina and a trip to Memphis, under the leadership of the now Rev. John Stratton and Rev. Rebecca Raglan. I learned that giving of yourself is a lot more rewarding than receiving. I think the mission trips started my hunger for traveling. Of course we traveled to different places on family trips but a trip to do service seemed to be a little different.
My service to Holy Communion was to help in the nursery during church service, where I assisted Amela, the babysitter, and I looked forward to the snacks just as much as the kids because Jerome made the best popcorn ever! For as long as I can remember, I helped my family serve a hot lunch for our guest at Trinity Episcopal Church in the Central West End. I was always in charge of handing out the sack lunch for our guest to take with them as they left. I thought it was all fun and games as a youngster but later realized the reality was that some people’s nightmares were during the day and I always felt good after serving them.
When I became senior at University City High School it got harder and harder for me to go to church, BUT my mom was relentless and made me go every Sunday. I really didn’t put up a fight, I just didn't want to get up.....until she pulled the covers from over me and pulled me up. I would drag out of bed and would wear whatever I had worn the night before. Little did I know that the foundation was being laid and I was learning even though I was half asleep during the service.
Fast forward to my senior year at Missouri State University where I received my degree in International Business Administration. I remember telling my mom that I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. She proceeded to tell me that it’s okay and not all people have it figured out by graduation. You get out of school, get a job and figure it out along the way.
Then one day a friend of mine from my business fraternity told me about this program called YASC and how it was just like the Peace Corps, which was something I was highly interested in. I went home that night and did my research and found out it was through the Episcopal Church. I knew at that moment this sounded AWESOME. So I called my mom and told her about it and that this was something I really wanted to do and she was all for it. My mom told Father Angell about it and by chance he had gone through this program as well spending his time in Honduras! BUT when I went to fill out the application I thought all was lost because I had missed the deadline. But by the grace of God Father Angell told my mom to tell me to submit it anyway because they were still looking for young qualified people. After I submitted the application, about a week or so later they told me I was selected to go to New York for an interview.
While I was in New York I had a whole new awakening. In the interview process, about 18 others and I gathered at The Holy Cross Monastery in Poughkeepsie, New York for a weeklong discernment process. I had never been to a monastery before and had no idea what to expect but I can say it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. While I was there I learned so much more about my self and who I am and began to get and idea of what I actually want to do with my life. In this monastery I experienced a whole new level of fullness and wholeness. When I felt that, I knew that this opportunity was right for me and that this was my calling. When I left that monastery after the interview process I felt like a new person with a clearer direction of my purpose in life.
After a week I was due to give them my decision if I really wanted to do this, which was a YES and a week after that they gave me theirs which was also a YES.
Once I was in, I began my long waiting period of finding out my assignment. Although I was anxious, I was willing to go wherever the lord saw fit. My assignment finally came late May where I would be going to San Miguelito, Panama to work at the Bella Vista Girls home for girls 0-18 years old who are no longer safe in their own homes.
I know I will be tested and challenged everyday but with Gods hands on my shoulders and my heart in his hands I will prevail.