This reflection was written by Emily Brewer (Guatemala 09-10, Nashville 10-11). Emily serves on the YAVA Leadership Council and is an M.Div student at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York.

I am still trying to catch up on sleep from YAV orientation that ended on 5 days ago. I am also still feeling full of gratitude and community from the week spent with YAVA facilitators from many sites and years, the YAV staff, and, of course, the newest group of 80+ YAVs who have all made it to their respective sites (all 20 places this year!).

I was trying to explain to a friend what happens to me when I spend time around YAVs and YAVA, whether for an official event or just a gathering of YAVA friends, and the best way I could describe it was that this wide and amorphous community both reminds me who I am and reminds me who I want to be. You remind me to live simply, to ask questions that don’t have answers, to be ok with discomfort, to stretch myself, to share stories, to dare to hope for the kind of world we want to live in and to work for it, to take care of others and allow myself to be cared for by others, to build community, to pray together, to remember that “being” is often better and harder than “doing,” to remember to be silly sometimes. It’s a joy to journey with you all.

photo 1

Jim Simpson (India 2010-2011) shares a story from his YAV year at vespers

photo 2

Kiva (Chicago 2011-2013) sings to Nathaniel Potts (Chicago 2010-2012) while Thomas Lloyd (South Korea 2012-2013) looks on skeptically as YAVA facilitators unwind at the end of the day

photo 3

YAVA plan for closing worship over lunch.

photo 4

YAVA dump water on the YAV staff as part of the ALS ice bucket challenge while YAVA Joe Tobiason catches it all on video.

photo 5

YAVA Jason Woods (Peru 06-07) sees the Peru YAVs off at Newark Airport.