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