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– by essie buxton

Over the past month, I have had the opportunity and blessing to participate in not one, not two, but three YAV-related events—one YAV orientation, introducing young adults to the community that will support them during the year; a YAV alumni reunion, bringing together alumni from different sites, years, and current occupations to celebrate the bond that is YAV, and the YAV transition retreat at Ghost Ranch, where recently-returned YAVs are just getting an inkling of what their time in service will mean for the rest of their lives.

When he introduced Sarah, then Tuttle (now Tuttle Edgecombe), at the beginning of her YAV year, Pastor Petz told his congregation in the Philippines that she was a “new kind of missionary–”a missionary to the U.S., who would spend a year learning, and return to her home to tell the story of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, those who work in the Church to end the human rights abuse, and what we, as Christians, U.S. citizens and citizens of the world, must do to aid them in their work. This task comes with so many complications and shades of gray, that we can sometimes be overwhelmed, paralyzed. It is the YAVA community who understands that, despite this confusion; we have to try—try to shed light on injustice and poverty of all kinds. After more than 15 years, more than 1000 YAV alumni are serving as these “new kinds of missionaries,” in the U.S. and all over the world. The gift of the YAV alumni community is that we have over 1000 colleagues to support us in the challenging work of mission—that’s a really big YAV site!

Luke Rembold (who just finished service in Tucson) wrote this poem on the final night of orientation, one year ago, and sent it to all of the 2010-11 YAVs and facilitators after the transition retreat last weekend:

This community will not be broken.
There is
too much love
too much compassion
too much hope
too much energy
too much contagious enthusiasm
too much life.
We are full of life.
This community is a living thing.
This community will not be broken.
We separate tonight
so many different directions
to many places
to endure many pains and sorrows.
We will struggle.
We will hurt.
We will cry out to God
and ask, “Why do you let this happen?”
But the community will not be broken.
We will lift each other up
in prayer and in action.
the kind word.
the loving gesture.
God has put us together,
a community that will stand in solidarity and partnership
with the poorest of the poor, the victims of
that would have us believe they aren’t human. Not worthy.
We will ache.
We will feel a longing for God’s love for all unlike anything
we’ve ever felt before.
We will cry.
We will yell.

We will break down.
Hit rock bottom.
But when we need someone
that very moment
when we feel we’re useless
powerless against forces so far
beyond our control
we’ll stand as a community
we will not be broken.
and we will change the world.

Blessings and gratitude,