Wednesday, April 29, 2020

At Home

This time around, I'm posting something a bit different. I had just finished reading Empire of Borders by Todd Miller, and felt a fire in my belly. So I decided to use that energy to sit down and write for the first time in a while. And thus came about this poem. It's a reflection on the complexities of the word "home" and the implications of a simple four-letter word. I have been extremely grateful for the home I have during the "stay at home" order. Not only my home here, but the places I call home here, there and anywhere. Enjoy :)

Here, There, and Anywhere by Katelyn Rediger

Home… what is home? Where is home? 
Is it in this four-walled shelter that I’ve been stuck inside for the past month or so?
Is it my parents’ home where the majority of my belongings are still being stored?
Is it the university where I made life-long friends and memories? 
Or maybe it’s the place where my umbilical cord was buried. 
Home sweet home…. 

Where do I feel that I belong? The place where I know that I am loved and safe
the place where I feel that I would have the strength and support that I would need
to overcome whichever obstacle that might come my way. 
Or more practically,
a place where I can rest my head for the night and wait for the storm to pass.

Does home have to be one place or can it be many? Can I leave pieces of my heart 
in the homes I make along the way, because it sure feels that way. 
Why have I been given so many homes and some people are robbed
of the only home they had? 
Why am I openly welcomed to create new homes 
wherever my wandering heart desires 
while others are denied the mere idea of establishing a home 
not just for themselves but for their little ones? 

I have memories- a home here, a home there. 
A home where I dreamed one would be and a home where I never thought one could be.
I’ve grown to need home, to love home, and to expect home
Here, there, and anywhere. 

Some homes are built from the ground up. Some homes are burnt down. 
Some homes are fixed up. Some homes are torn down. 
Homes are unaffordable, homes are unsupportable. 
Homes are a benefit. Homes are a prerequisite. 
No address, no employment, no employment, no address. 

Homes are a necessity...then why do only some get to be 
Lucky enough to call some place home.
Not just for a minute, not just while we wait our turn, not just because it’s all we got 
But because it’s the home we’ve imagined. A good school around the corner
Safe streets and a park near enough to walk
here, there, and anywhere

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Take Care of You

         The new year has started, and with the new year always comes a bit of self-reflection, goal-setting and anticipation for what is to come. So this blog is going to be a look into how the new year has been for me thus far, what I am looking forward to and how I am hoping to change.
        Since October, I have been sick. I would feel normal for a couple days but then my throat would feel swollen, the coughing would start, followed by a stuffy nose, and the cycle would start over again a couple weeks later. But, the beginning of January, the symptoms became stronger and more persistent. So, I finally decided it was time to go to the doctor. After an unsuccessful round of antibiotics and visits to three different doctors, they decided I had developed allergies to the cold and had bronchitis (raised in Colorado and allergic to the COLD-go figure!).
         When I got the final diagnosis and medicine that was sure to help, I wept. I was so tired of being sick and tired! The tears were a response to the relief I felt to have found an answer to a problem my body had been combatting for a long time. I didn't even realize I was so desperate to feel better. I had gotten so wrapped up in the work I wanted to do and in showing up to help that I told myself to suck it up and keep on going… until I couldn't take it anymore. The following week was spent recovering. I slept more than 15 hours a day and mainly just layed in bed when I was awake- I did not have energy to do anything because I had burned myself out!
          I am goal-oriented and energized by completion of tasks, so it was hard for me to just be when I was sick. I was thinking about the kids that would not have classes, the laundry I needed to do, the events I would miss and all the other things I wasn't capable of doing. I was frustrated by my lack of ability and tired of not having enough energy to do all the things I had on my mind to do. But, while I was sick, I had a lot of time to think about how else I had neglected to take care of myself. I forgot about my mental, spiritual and physical health. I started to become negatively affected by the stories the migrants would share, and was less likely to make time for meditation, stretching, exercising, journalling, praying and other activities that I know help me to remain centered and healthy.
         When you are working amidst need and spend everyday thinking about how you can help the situations of others, it is very easy to forget about your personal needs. I had heard that so many times in seminars, presentations and anecdotes, but could not have understood how easy it was to fall into that trap until I was knocked off my feet. Thank God, I recovered quickly after proper treatment and well-needed recovery time. I am allowing myself time to ease back into my work and trying my best to be attentive to my personal needs as I go about my daily activities.
           God is so kind to us and so good about helping us grow and learn. I am grateful for the things he has taught me about myself and that even though being sick was not fun at all, I found God in the midst of sickness, exhaustion and frustration.
            My word for 2020 is “focus”. I decided on this word for many reasons- the most relevant here being to focus more on what I need to do for myself to remain physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy in the context of heavy humanitarian aid. This is my first time working so closely with people who have seen suffering like I can't imagine and I have to be patient with myself and care for myself in this context in ways that may not have been as necessary in other contexts. I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of my time here in Agua Prieta will play out and how I can use what I have learned to be a better and healthier servant and friend to those I meet.

** Shout out to my Agua Prieta/ Douglas family that took such good care of me and challenged me to rest and take care of myself.**

Monday, November 4, 2019

Teaching, Learning, and Loving

        So much has happened since I wrote my last blog that I am not quite sure where to begin. I have been working now for about a month in both the Centro Comunitario Nueva Esperanza (Community Center of New Hope) and the Centro de AtenciĆ³n Para Migrantes en Exodus (Attention Center for Migrants in Exodus- CAME). My job at the community center is to teach English and geography to students ages 6-12 who are behind in school. They come to the community center after school to continue to learn in a safe environment that challenges children to grow academically, socially and spiritually. I am also helping to replicate this learning environment in CAME by teaching English, geography and mathematics to children between the ages of 3 and 18. This facility is a shelter for families that are waiting their turn to enter into the United States in order to seek asylum, because their home country is not safe for various reasons. In both of my work places I am supported by so many staff members that love their work and care for people whole-heartedly and without reservation.
          Everyday I am amazed by the hope that is so prevalent in the midst of difficult circumstances. I am greeted every morning by so many little welcoming arms that wrap around me accompanied by joyful shouts of, “Maestra! Maestra! Que vamos hacer hoy?” (Teacher! Teacher! What are we going to do today?). I've been reminded what a privilege it is to learn and I feel so honored to share the gift of knowledge with these young ones who hunger to know more about the world we all live in. I’ve learned that it is about more than just English, geography, and mathematics. Vocab, maps and numbers are important, but more importantly I get to bring life to children’s everyday experiences. I can use English vocabulary such as “today I am angry, happy, or excited” to help them realize that we do not always feel one way or another and that it is important to be aware of how you feel right now versus how you felt an hour ago. Or, I can talk about the culture of Agua Prieta in a way that helps the children understand that Agua Prieta was not always this way- certain parts of the culture are the same but many things have changed and will continue to change with time. I have learned a lot about what it means to hold a child’s attention for an extended period of time and what I must do to make learning a valuable experience for us all.
          I never knew I would be teaching English to young children in a classroom setting, and I definitely did not know I would ever teach geography entirely in Spanish...but I would not trade this experience for anything else. I have already learned so much! Everyday my Spanish is improving, my relationships with the children and my coworkers grow stronger, and I become more and more confident in my job. It never gets easier to say goodbye to the children who will continue their journey into the US after a two or three weeks waiting in CAME, and it never gets easier to tell a child for the six-hundredth time to sit down and keep his hands to himself. But it's all worth the smiles on those innocent faces and the twinkle in those curious eyes when they learn something for the first time or understand something they’ve never understood before. 
         So I'd like to say thank you to all the teachers who stick it out even when you’re at wits end and your patience is running thin. I’ve only been teaching for a month, but it is surely one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. And I’d like to say thank you to all those who search for hope in the midst of despair and joy in the midst of heartbreak. Love truly does conquer all, and to love one another makes the world a much better place.
 A group of children at CAME drawing pictures of their families

The children and teachers at the Community Center

MCC Mexico Staff Retreat in Bahia Kino

Just having a little fun :)

Saturday, September 7, 2019


        I have spent the past four weeks at four different orientations in four geographically and culturally distinct places. My first week was spent in Akron, PA then I travelled to Mexico City to meet the MCC Mexico staff before heading to a third orientation in Tuscon, Arizona to meet my Agua Prieta roommate and the other Young Adult Volunteers that would be working in Tuscon. Finally, Hannah and I arrived in Agua Prieta for my fourth and final orientation to get to know the ministries and staff here.
           This month has been nothing short of overwhelming! But, not the bad kind of overwhelming. Just the kind of overwhelming you would expect to feel when living out of a suitcase, travelling long distances, learning to think in a secon language and meeting completely different groups of people week after week. I really have enjoyed every step of the way. Each place I've been, I've met people that could relate to the journey I was about to take in specific ways. I met people that I knew would continue to support me throughout the year and that I could offer support to in return. It was a whirlwind, but amidst it all, I was able to see joy, love and peace.
            In Pennsylvania I learned how to play the "Mennonite game" in which everyone's sister's cousin's uncle went to school with his mom's best-friend's daughter. Here I made friends that would be going through my same situations in various corners of the Earth. In Mexico City I found creative ways to communicate sarcasm through facial expression and jokes through charades and strange dance moves. Here I met the people that I am confident will have my back in any and all circumstances. In Tuscon I learned that it is very important to stay hydrated when attempting to bike in 100+ degree weather. Here I met friends I never knew I would have and a group of strong, supportive women just north of where I would be living. And in Agua Prieta, so far, I have learned that communication across the language barrier is something that should be taken lightly- I've been learning to laugh at my mistakes. Here I am surrounded by so many people that radiate love for others and for God throughout their daily events and responsibilities.
           Most of all, this week taught me that people truly are wonderful when they chose to live and breathe love, peace and joy. Not to say that the people I encountered were perfect, but just that I am so happy to be walking and living amongst people that love God and love others without borders- whether it be borders of language, culture, or physical, joy and peace cross borders and I am grateful for that.
An outing with the SALTers and IVEPers in Akon, PA
Hannah and I outside of our new home in Agua Prieta

The Young Adult Volunteers in Tuscon

Signing of the contract between Mennonite Central Committee and Frontera de Cristo

An outing with our MCC Mexico reps to Mexico City  

MCC Mexico staff having lunch together 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Preparation and Orientation

           Well, I have officially packed my bags and started on my way. In typical, stubborn, "Katelyn fashion", once I decided I was only going to bring one suitcase, that was the way I was determined for it to be. So, I packed the items that simply could not be left behind into the remaining cracks and crevices of my guitar case and headed on my way- all luggage bursting at the seams. Leaving was a challenge- having just met my first nephew three days prior and finally having all six of my siblings in one place for the first time in forever, I had to say goodbye. As adventurous as I like to say that I am, it's not easy to leave a place that is comfortable and familiar for one that is foreign and new. I had gotten back into the swing of my jobs at home, did't quite have the time to accomplish all of the summer goals I had set for myself, and felt like I could've stayed and caught up with close family and friends for much longer.
             I reluctantly woke up at 3:30 am on August 14th after only three short hours of sleep to begin my travel to Philadelphia International Airport. By 4:30pm, I was on my way to MCC headquarters in Akron, PA with three other travelled, tired, SALTers. We reached Akron and ate a highly anticipated it was time to meet the other 60-something participants in MCC's 2019 International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) and Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program. I walked in to a giant game of Dutch Blitz. People were heading from their team's corner to the middle with giant laminated cards, trying to outrun their opponent that was attempting to play the same card. If you've played this fast-paced, competitive game before, you know what I'm talking about and can understand why a version of this game with 20"x25" cards would only increase the chaos.
        And here my story begins. From the outset, I was not looking forward to going to orientation. I knew that God had called me to serve with MCC in Mexico, but I did not feel prepared. I did not care to meet new people, have a stranger for a roommate, share meals with awkward silence or explain who I was over and over again. All the worry and complaining left no space for me to consider that everyone here might be feeling the same way about this new adventure that we would all be embarking on together. As time went on and I met more and more friendly faces, I realized what a comfort it was to be surrounded by people that felt just as lonely, overwhelmed and tired as I did. Rather than being at home with people that could support me but not relate to my upcoming journey, I was surrounded by people who knew exactly how I felt without having to say a thing.
         Thus far orientation has been a true gift and a much needed space for reflection on what the summer has been like and what the future holds. It is so special to share this week with other young people that feel called and confused- the future is so unknown and intimidating. But the future is also long-awaited and promising. Together we have faith that God has called us to be here together and to go from this place with the support that family and friends, MCC staff, and our peers here at MCC are able to offer.
          Once again I am reminded of how grateful I am that God knows me better than I know myself. I needed the rest that home offered, and orientation came just in time- even if it felt like it had arrived before it was welcomed. This place has turned out to offer a sacred time of reflection and renewal. I was sure I was making a mistake in coming here, but God knew what I needed all along.

Driving past the Eastern University exit was a reminder that this year
would not be the same as it had been for the past four years

The MCC SALT and IVEP groups