Charlotte's Journey

 If you don’t have a definite call to stay here, you are called to go.- Keith Green

         I know what a lot of you are thinking reading this. How in the world did a former bartending manager at Abercrombie choose the life of a missionary? That's a question I continually ask myself because I know this route isn't an easy path to comprehend for others and I worry people might think this is just some passing phase, a whim that I woke up one day and chose to go out on. So how did this path that had strayed so far from the church somehow meander back?

        I had attended UCF in Orlando for four years when, right before graduation in 2011, I lost my mom suddenly. It was something that rocked our whole family (friends included because the line between friends and family is quite blurred) and I knew I didn't want to try and adjust to this new life without being close to my family. So I decided that after graduation I would move home to Indianapolis. I left the comfort of the Florida sunshine and of my friends that I had grown into adulthood with for a place I realized was almost foreign to me even though I had lived there for eighteen years of my life. Living day to day life without the constancy of someone always there to hang out with or talk to was a completely new concept to me. Sure, I had my family, but I was used to the constant comings and goings of a sorority house. How in the world was I going to fill that void left by 150 girls?  My dad had been going back to Christ Church Cathedral for sometime before my mom passed away after the family had bounced around to different parishes over the years. I decided to go back with him one Sunday and saw an announcement for the Catechumenate, which is described as an adult confirmation. I thought what better way to come back to the church than to take "Episcopal 101" and really dive deep into what is was that I believed. It couldn't have been a better decision. The group in the Catechumenate was amazing. We had discussions each week about our faith in an environment that encouraged questioning everything. It was exactly what I was looking for, a constancy and fellowship in my life that I didn't realize I had been missing or needed so much. So there I was, trading chapter meetings for church services and socials for confirmation classes. On May 17, 2012 I was confirmed after completing the Catechumenate and really understanding what was being said during the baptismal vows, because let's me honest, when we're infants and baptized we have no idea what is going on on our behalf. I also had the privilege of joining others on their journey this year as a leader for this year's class. Just to plug the Catechumenate program at Christ Church Cathedral, and because I make a cameo, here is the church's video explaining it more. 

Catechumenate from CCCIndy on Vimeo.

       Of course, once you become a more involved member of a parish, you learn more about the church's different missions. I had heard about the Diocese's mission with the parish of St. Andre's in the village of Mithon, Haiti. I knew immediately that I wanted to be apart of their trip that was coming up. After all of the immunizations and packing of mosquito nets, I hopped on a plane to Port-Au-Prince in March of 2012. In no way was I prepared for the utter devastation that we were met with. Coming from the Midwest, all I could think of was some sort of tornado had to have come through here, but nothing was rebuilt in the year since the earthquake had happen and people are just living in the temporary lean-tos and shacks built out of Red Cross tarps. Even with the devastation at the forefront of my mind, the one thing that struck me the most was how resilient the Haitian people were. They were a people that were living in houses next to canals that once flowed water, but now were just cesspools that created the cholera outbreak, yet were always immaculately dressed and never without the biggest smiles. You could tell these people were proud of their culture and never took anything for granted. As we traveled to Mithon, which was a village that was an hour drive into the mountains from the nearest city, I witnessed kids walking to the school that was attached to St. Andre's. You can't even get kids in the US on the bus without some sort of knock-down, drag out over breakfast (well at least that's how I was as an angsty, young teen) and here were kids walking up a mountain to get an education in a school that was leveled by the earthquake. It put a lot of things into perspective about what is truly important in this world. What made this trip especially unique for me was the young lady that was our liaison with the Bishop of Haiti's office that coordinated the whole trip for us was a member of this "YASC" thing that she kept talking about and it just so happened that while we were there her boss, the man who incidentally will now be my boss here in the US, was making his visit to her placement. They talked the program up and really ignited the spark of mission in my mind. To say it was a life changing experience would be an understatement. I thought to myself "These people in Haiti have been given next to nothing and seem to lead a fuller and happier life than most people in the U.S. It would be selfish of me as a young, able bodied person, who has been given everything on a silver platter, to not give back to people." If it wasn't here, anywhere.

Canal in Port-Au-Prince
Temporary shacks outside the Presidential Palace

Devastated homes in Port-Au-Prince
Temporary school in Mithon
Permanent structure being built in Mithon

With some of the students of St. Andre's in Mithon

          Fast forward to December where I was having, as most recent college graduates I assume also experience, what some people lovingly call a "quarter-life crisis". What was I doing with my life? There has to be more than just selling overpriced jeans and hoodies to bratty nine year olds (the whole Abercrombie manager thing really turned me into a cynic of humanity for awhile). That's when I found the business card of the man I had met in Haiti. I researched this YASC, which I came to find out meant the Young Adult Service Corp. Their website listed all of the current young people stationed around the world and their blogs. I read each one until I felt I had a good grasp on what a commitment like this meant, leaving friends and family, and in my case my dog Minnie, and moving somewhere completely foreign in customs and work ethic. So I filled out the application, sent it in and heard back that I had been chosen to participate in the Discernment process for YASC. Discernment? That's one I had to Google. Google told me "Discernment- noun: The ability to judge well".  I thought to myself "Ok. I think I can handle that." So back in February I flew down to Florida for a weekend of this so-called discernment. I didn't know what to expect. Was everyone I met going to be super religious and catch on to me as the relative newcomer to the group? Was I going to meet a bunch of holy rollers that made me uncomfortable at every turn? Was I going to feel like I wasn't cut out for this in any way shape or form? What I didn't expect was meeting  twenty four truly amazing people that I clicked with right away. I couldn't have been more wrong with my assumptions of the people I would encounter. Not only were these people as scared and apprehensive as I was, but they were just like me trying to deepen their faith and figure out if this journey was something they were ready to embark on. As the weekend went on and our bonds strengthened, I learned that yes there are some people that are further along on their spiritual journey, but that doesn't mean they thought any less of me. In fact I could learn so much from them. My favorite part of the weekend was just sitting and talking with people and learning their stories. It reaffirmed in me that this was something I wanted to do. I wanted to share in this journey with these people that I had become so close with in such a short time. When it came time to discuss where we wanted to be placed, I knew I wanted to go back to Haiti. I had fallen in love with the country and the people and their culture. Plus, I held on to some of that French from high school and knew I could take that on. I went into it thinking that I wanted nothing to do with any of the Asian countries at all. When they came to me with the offer of Japan, I had to admit I was disappointed for a split second until they told me that I would be given an opportunity to use my degree in hospitality management in this placement. This point also lead me to develop what I now consider my personal mantra "Do it for the challenge." I considered this my first challenge in a year that I am sure will be filled to the brim with things that will challenge every part of my being. If it doesn't make you really think and question are you really learning anything from it?

      So here I am, about to embark on a year long journey that I am so excited that you have decided to take with me! Make sure to take a look around the blog and explore the different placements of my new YASC friends. We all need your support now and in the coming year to follow through with our commitments. Thank you again! 



1 comment :

  1. I look fowd to following your adventures and progress in Japan. Good luck and God bless you in this endeavor. I have a hunch that you are going to be amazed where this eventually leads.

    Ken Kemp