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Good morning! Half way through the week – can you believe it? Maybe it’s flown by, maybe it feels like it’s dragged on, but regardless: You’re at the halfway point!

The past few days, as we moved through the themes of our week of social media blitz, you’ve largely heard from me. Now, I’m excited to bring you the reflections of others on the YAV Alumni Leadership Council! Today’s theme: What’s the best skill you learned as a YAV that you still use today?

Monisha Smith (co-vice-moderator): “While living in West Bromwich, England, the number one thing I learned was ‘It’s not wrong; it’s just different.’ ”

Maggie Leonard (moderator): “As a YAV, I experienced unconditional love and grace through my host family – a family that had no reason to extend such patience to me other than being sisters and brothers in Christ.”

Emily Miller (recruitment): “I have learned to challenge where my assumptions about life have come from. I’ve learned to take a critical look at why I think the way I do or what my privileges are, and how am I leading with them instead of with the love of God. I’ve learned that I cannot be a leader in the church (ordained or not) without first being a follower of Jesus, who taught and is teaching us to live intentionally in community each and every day.”

Sarah Leer (event planning/reunion): “My YAV project was unique – I led and produced a traveling theatre production which shared storm stories from people affected by Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans area. I learned so much from that project: how to communicate more effectively, how to frame an advocacy issue, how to handle conflict more effectively, but most importantly, I learned what it meant to be present in people in crisis and to share one’s story. Each member of the team each had their own storm stories and had their own experiences to process. I learned that as a YAV, I was an outsider, invited in to be a part of the healing process, two years after the hurricanes swept the Gulf Coast…It was a gift to be part of that project and I was honored to  share powerful storm stories throughout the country.”

Blair Buckley (advocacy): “During my YAV year, I first learned the tools of active listening. It is very much a lesson I use in my work as a chaplain now.”

Andrew Barron (fundraising): “I’m reminded of my year as a YAV every year around this time because it is time for parent-teacher conferences. Parents of my students, who are mostly Latino, come and want to hear how their daughters and sons are doing in 10th grade English. The most obvious skill I use at these conferences is speaking Spanish. As a YAV in Argentina, I had an entire year of practicing the language that many of my students still speak in their homes. The more important skill, however, is empathy. I know what it is like to be a stranger in a foreign land, unfamiliar with the dominant language, and alien to a culture. I was only away from home for a year, and I left home by choice. When I sit across from the families of my students during conferences, I try and remember what it was like for me when I was a stranger.”

So there you have it: A bunch of lessons learned during a year of intentional Christian mission service & living. Do any of them sound familiar?  What was the best lesson you learned?

Remember to share them with us here in the comments, via Twitter (#YAVrocks), or FaceBook. Hope you’ve enjoyed hearing some of these stories, and that you continue to tell yours to others in your communities, churches, and presbyteries, maybe even people who don’t yet realize that they very much want to hear them!

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