I didn’t want to do service. It would mess with my plans, really great plans. From the time I was a sophomore in high school, I thought I knew what college I would go to. By the time my senior year came, I had my letter of intent signed and ready to mail. Service wasn’t a bad thing; it just wasn’t going to be my thing.
But the letter just sat on my desk. All I had to do was stick it in the mailbox. But I didn’t. I wasn’t ready. After 12 years of education, I was exhausted, and the idea of another four years just made me dread the future.
When I finally got the courage to honestly ask myself what I wanted, I realized that my college plans did not appeal to me. This took me a while to admit because I felt as if I should be going to college. It certainly looked like what most of my peers were doing.
I was frightened when I let go of my plan. But it taught me a lesson that I have since learned many times over: Every once in a while, we are presented with alternatives to our plans, and none of the options are bad. When I finally decided to let go and do service, I felt free.
Before I went to Brazil with Radical Journey, I feared that I wouldn’t connect with the other three young adults on my team. However, through grace with one another, we came together and they were my greatest support.
They gave me permission to let go of certainty. They taught me that sitting with the difficult questions can be a holy place. Through them, I learned how to love God amidst ambiguity, because until then, even my faith had been full of certainty.
I didn’t know that my teammates would have such a powerful impact on me or that my host families would so profoundly care for me. How could I have known that life lessons hide in everyday interactions?
I didn’t see those life lessons when they were happening. Like most things, I have learned from them much later.
Brazil continues to teach me. I walked away having witnessed and experienced different faces of Anabaptism. My Brazilian host families and friends showed me what hospitality can look like in its wide variety of places, faces and dinners. They never hesitated to include me in their community.
Today, from afar, I have the opportunity to rejoice with them as children are born, graduations accomplished, and marriages celebrated. We also mourn together, as dear friends have suffered illness and others have passed away.
Our worlds continue to move forward, and I am honored that I was able to be a part of theirs even for a short while.
It is impossible to sum up in this short piece all of the significant learning and transformation that took place during and because of my time in Brazil.
It is impossible partly because it is still happening. As I move through life, this experience follows me. Lessons once learned are re-learned and they help propel me to continue a lifestyle of service.
The adventure did not end with Brazil, and perhaps this is the lesson I live with daily. Service is a lifestyle. It is a constant choice that can fit into any plan.