Some of the picture of my Year in New Orleans. I hope you enjoy them.
My first year as a Young Adult Volunteer has changed me. It has changed the way I view people of color and how I see my own whiteness and privilege. Before this year I was blind and deaf to the struggle that has been going on around me and I feel like I woke up and now I can see the injustice all around the country and I want to fight it. It was lead to relationships with all of my housemates that I hope will last a lifetime. My YAV year has also caused me to grow. I have grown in my knowledge of the problems facing us. Like social justice, world hunger, and human rights. I have learned about myself in ways I couldn’t fathom before this year. When we started talking about the enneagram, a personality test that I highly recommend, I thought it was crazy and that I couldn’t be put into a box like that. A week later I am reading some papers about type Nine personalities and it could have been my life story. I now understand more about myself then I thought I could, like how I shape myself into each group, how I run full speed away from conflict, and many other things. This YAV year has pushed me in so many ways. It has pushed me to sit in the uncomfortable. It has pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone and then just kept going dragging me along behind it. It has pushed me to confront things about myself and my relationships that I would have rather not. But mostly this YAV year has pushed me to grow up. Living with six strangers in a completely new state and having no connections to anyone there is harder then it sounds. I love my community now, but living here in New Orleans has caused me grow up. I now cook, work two jobs, clean, do my own laundry, and I am not responsible to anyone but myself and my housemates. That has pushed me in ways I haven’t been pushed before and it is a good feeling.
The YAV program was everything that I was hoping for when I started looking at mission programs last year, and after actually doing the program I can say that it is was what I was hoping for. I wanted to go to a completely new place and learn about the culture and the people who lived there and I got that. New Orleans in an amazing city with a rich cultural full of life and happiness that is also full of darkness and pain. New Orleans is a city of duality. New Orleans is Mardi Gras, good food, better music, and life. New Orleans is gun violence, mass incarceration, highest homeless ratio in the country, and death. The city and people here have taught me a lot about myself and my faith. I wanted to grow in my faith and my understanding of God and his path for me. I wanted to live in intentional Christian community and see what that was like and though some days are harder than others it has been an incredible time. I want to change more. I want to grow more. I want to be pushed more. I want to go to a new city and explore. Not just explore the city, but explore the people and the culture that makes each place unique. That is why I applied for a second year as a YAV.
That is why I am so thrilled to announce that I am definitely going to be doing a second YAV, Young Adult Volunteer, year!!! I am going to be living and serving in the Big Apple, New York!!! I am so excited for this coming year. I don’t know exactly what I am going to be doing next year, but I am hoping to working with the homeless. I will be living in the Manhattan in the Upper West Side on the border of Harlem and Morning Side Heights. Right now I will be living with two other volunteers, one other guy and one girl, but that is subject to grow as we get closer to September. I will be starting my fundraising soon and I want to thank everyone who donated and Bayside Presbyterian Church for the money that they donated so I could go on this amazing adventure. I will be sending more information out soon about how to donate this year as it will be a little different than last year. I also want to apologize for not keeping up with my blog. It is one of the things I hope to better at as this year continues and to keep it going into next year. I have learned so much this year and I am hoping to learn and grow more in my second YAV year.
The beginning of my time in New Orleans has been wonderful!!! From my housemates that I am getting along with, to Frenchman Street where we go to have a little fun, to City Park where it’s nice just to relax with friends, to my work which has been brilliant; I am enjoying what I am doing. I feel that New Orleans has welcomed me with open arms and I am falling in love with it. I have met great people, seen many amazing and powerful things, and had even better food.
One of the places that I am working this year is Lakeview Presbyterian Church. It is an amazing church that has welcomed me into their church family. My main job at Lakeview throughout my year there is as the mission coordinator of LAMP, Lakeview Agape Mission Project, which is a project where mission trip groups come stay at Lakeview and do a wide range of activities around the city. Right now I am in more of a recruitment phase as I get groups to sign up to come in the summer, but as my year gets farther along I will start hosting groups and working with them as they come into the city. I also help out with worship and do other mission-based projects with the church around the city and in the Baton Rouge area. For the last six weeks every Saturday Lakeview, and I with them, have gone around the Baton Rouge area and handed out food to the flood victims. This is just one of the many projects that I am doing along with Lakeview.
The other placement that I am working at is Mid-City Ministries. It is a tutoring program that is run out of a local Church of Christ that tutors 1st to 4th graders on Monday and Tuesday and 5th to 7th on Wednesday. My average day is that I go to pick up the kids, about 20 on Monday and 13 on Wednesday, we walk back to the church and then go play on the playground that the church owns for about thirty minutes. After we tire them out, we take them inside to have snack and we work on their homework and play educational games till about 5:15 pm when their parents come and pick them up. On Wednesdays with the older kids we join the church for a dinner and bible study until about 8 pm. I am enjoying working here with the kids and I am happy and excited to be helping the kids learn and grow.
I am enjoying my time in New Orleans immensely, and I am excited for the rest of the year. I wish you all the best and go with God.
Peace be with you!
This is my first time doing anything like a blog so we will see how it goes together. The last few days have been intense—I just got back from our week of YAV orientation and it was a hard week. Not that it didn’t have its upsides because it did. I got to meet all the other first year YAVs. It was great to get to know them and just be with people who are all on this journey with me. It was hard, there were many hard conversations, a lot of hard realizations about myself and the world that we live in. It was hard to be away from my family and friends… it was hard. The first thing that we talked about when we got to the conference center, after about 13 hours of travel by car, plane, and train, was how we were not needed. Not needed. The places that we all are going to this year do not need us. If we all stopped and didn’t go, they would keep chugging along and keep doing the good work that they do so well. We are not needed. Hearing that was shocking—here I am about to go on a year of mission work and I am told we are not needed. If we are not needed, why am I going? The answer: even if I am not needed there, that does not mean that I still shouldn’t go. It was hard to hear that and that was only in the first hour of being there. Over the week we had long, hard talks about racism and sexism and privilege and institutional white privilege and many other hard topics that make you question the why’s and how’s of our country and world. And that was just Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, we went into New York City in small groups and looked around and noticed. We noticed the visible and invisible boundaries throughout the city and that was hard and uncomfortable and that was the point. The point was to make us notice these things and to be uncomfortable in them as we should be. This week was hard and it was good. We laughed and we cried. We learned and we changed. We made bonds that will last a lifetime and we did all of this together as an intentional Christian community that pushes each of us to be better and to look inside and outside of ourselves for growth and change. It was a wonderful week, and I don’t think I will be able to look at things the same and that is important. I am now in New Orleans and all settled in and ready to start. Tomorrow I am meeting my new bosses and will learn exactly what I am doing this year and I can’t wait to get started.
Peace be with you
My name is Patrick Long, I am 20 years old, going to be 21 in September 2016. I have recently got my associates degree in business admin from a local community college and am taking a year off to be a part of the young adult volunteer program(YAV) in New Orleans. I leave for New Orleans this August 19th and I can’t wait to get there and start this new chapter of my life. I hope and pray that I am ready for this upcoming year of service and I am ready to get going.