Tag Archives: YAV

Lord, Help Us

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Can I just retreat back to one of my favorite places ever?

**Blog post to come later about our Fall Retreat in Bristol!!**

I started this blog post on Monday, November the 7th. I have added more thoughts after spending a week in a world with President-elect Trump.


This morning, like any other morning, I went to the bus stop near my house and rode to Five Points. I got off and walked to another bus stop that is right in front of the station.

In order to get to the 16 bus stop, I have two options. I can either get off where the bus drops off and everyone piles off. I then have to walk around a corner in front of two convenience stores. Typically, there are a lot of men chilling outside of these stores. Without fail, I will either be catcalled, yelled at, offered a cigarette or weed, or greeted nicely by the men. I usually walk fast, don’t make eye contact, and ignore the comments made about me. Generally, the men are all black, and I notice how people notice me. Perhaps they are questioning why this white girl is in this part of town. I generally feel safe because there are always cop cars parked out on the street outside the station, but I’m sure the men outside do not look at those cars the same way.

So, I’ve learned to get off the bus a few stops earlier. I can walk to the bus stop from the other side of the street. I avoid the large groups of people and encounter only one or two people walking away from the bus stop. So far, no one has talked to me until today.

I was already feeling a little high strung, and my sense of awareness immediately sets in when I step off my first bus. I start heading towards the bus stop and I spot two guys who are about to pass by me. One is shorter than the other and they are walking at a fast pace and are about to pass me.

I hear the shorter person say something in a high pitched voice, which reveals to me that he is actually a young kid, but I don’t hear what he says. I am so focused on getting to the stop, making sure I am ok, that I can’t distinguish what he says. So, I give them a small smile and keep walking.

But the comment the older person says shows me the response they wanted to hear back… he said, “that’s fucked up that she didn’t say good morning to us. What a bitch.”

I get what it must have looked like to them. I looked like a racist white girl who didn’t say good morning to these two guys. I didn’t have the courtesy to say hello, good morning, like a normal, respectable human being. By ignoring them and not responding, they were feeling a snapshot of oppression they face on a daily basis from other members of the white race.

But I had my reasons, and I did not ignore them because they were black. I ignored them because of the fear they would want to talk to me. Often, if I respond back to the men on the corner, they will want to keep talking and pester me. I’ve even had an experience with my roommate Melacia where a guy walked besides us and wouldn’t stop pestering us. I did not want that attention. I did not want to give fuel to the catcalls, gestures, and crude language that could continue for other women.

Yes, I learned that what they said was simply a “good morning,” but my brain assumed it wasn’t a positive comment. I assumed it was a gross statement, a belittling and degrading comment. I assumed the worst.


This week has felt like I’ve been walking through a haze. After spending more time in this President-elect Trump nation, I am disgusted by what I have seen on a daily basis. Not only do I notice what I have experienced first hand, but I am hyper aware of how people are treating others with disrespect, dehumanization, and belittlement because of race, gender, religion, and so much more. It is not ok that the nation elected a man who condones such behavior. Certainly, racism, sexism (or as we like to call it at Mercy Church, genderism), discrimination and more has been around before Trump. But, because of his treatment towards the borderlands, the marginalized, the non-White man, his behavior has been voted acceptable.

Over these past few months, Mercy Church has become my home and my refuge. I have found it to be a safe space where I can expect to be treated with love and care, and I know that goes across the board with everyone. Despite our addictions and our patterns, we strive for balance, respect, and love in a world where we are cast aside because of society’s dictations. We worship, pray, study, break bread, and praise God for our differences and the ability to gather at a shared table because we are all sinners.

Yet,  Mercy is not a perfect community, and I experienced a moment where my “home,” my safe space, was violated. One of the members of Mercy Church cat-called me this past week. I wasn’t doing anything to warrant such a reaction. There is no excuse for why he hollered at me like an animal. I felt belittled and frustrated that he demanded my attention in such an unnerving and assertive way.

In most cases, I typically would ignore such an action. I would keep walking, not make eye contact, and move on with my boiling anger. But I had nowhere to go. Instead, I addressed why he whistled at me and that I did not want that attention. I’m not sure he fully understood why I responded this way, but it is a start.

I think back to the two people who called me demeaning words when I didn’t talk to them. In no way can I understand what they felt, but I think we could both agree we didn’t feel respected. They did not feel respected because they felt I was being rude and racist in ignoring them, whereas I did not feel respected because of my sense of vulnerability as a woman and my expectations that I would be belittled because of my gender. Perhaps I need to reconcile that not every man who wants to talk to me intends to harm with his words, but I have a long way to go to change my attitude and calm my anxieties.

I think we could agree that we would both fight for the same shared respect, and I do believe this can happen, but it will take time, patience, and courage to stand up for justice. I do believe that despite this election’s turn of events, we can fight even harder and be united in our efforts to stand up for love and trump any and all hate. I see hope in Mercy, in my roommates, and in my sisters. I see hope in the refugee children that delight in God, play tag, and continue living life despite their fears. I see hope in this seemingly dark nation. God is sovereign, y’all.

Psalm 146.

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,

in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the Lord their God,

who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.

The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The Lord will reign forever,

your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!

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First Week of Work

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One week has seriously felt like a month, but I’ve had such a fantastic time! I love my placement, the community, and ATL in general.

Here is what a typical day is like for me working at Mercy Church:

I go to bed really early now! It is terrifying. I have gone to bed the earliest in years, not including being sick- 9:15pm. I wake up most days at 5:50-6AM to catch the 6:40 bus, hitch a ride on the train at 6:50ish and then hop on another bus at 7. I get to work at 7:20ish and wait for Pastor Chad to open up the church. In total, it can take me about an hour to commute to work.

We fix coffee, serve breakfast, and get ready for the day. Chad throws various ingredients into a pot for soup. Then we have worship, prayer/meditation, and varied activities depending on the week. Introverted Sarah really enjoys washing the dishes! At exactly 12:30, we use rolling carts to take water, soup, sandwiches and snacks out to the streets. We stop at two places along Ponce. The walk back (uphill!) is a workout. Then we clean up and prep for the next time we are open.

So far, I love it. The people I have met are fantastic. Pastors Maggie and Chad are incredible individuals and work well together. They do so much for the church and it is amazing to see so much love and care in the community. I am excited to get to know them more and learn from them.

Things aren’t perfect. There have been arguments, uncomfortable moments, and lots of conflict. The 9/Peacemaker in me feels out of place at times, but it is OK. It is good to be uncomfortable and to learn how to deal with conflict. I experienced my first moment yesterday and had to check in with both parties. It was heartbreaking, but it was also a reminder of how difficult it is to have an open community with many different personalities, personal struggles, and various physical, mental, and emotional states. At times I feel ignorant, but it will be a great learning experience. Ultimately, I know God wants me to learn more about how to work with different people, and I definitely will learn a lot this year.

Despite the difficult times, the community at Mercy is beautiful and wonderful, so I am happy this week has felt like a month. God has done and will do great things!

General thoughts about this week:

Transportation

It takes an hour to get to work. Yes, it does suck! It also takes me a long time to get home, at most 2 hours. It would probably take me 15-20 minutes if I drove to work and back.

But when I look at it, the people at Mercy may not even have a bus pass. Many of us walk where we need to go, and fortunately I am good health and can get around easily. I hit more than 10,000 steps every day. I feel like a freshman in college. I had no other option but to walk around UT campus, sweating up that hill.

Most of all, I meet and talk to people. Cars are so individualized, which can be nice and convenient, but there is something about using public transportation that grounds you to the city’s community. I feel a lot of freedom to explore, meet, and see more of Atlanta because of public transportation. Even if it takes me 5ever, I can do it!

Free Time

No more school, homework, 10 page papers! I have time to do the things I want, like learn guitar (new hobby!), read books, and explore. I can navigate my way to Target and purchase a book in my favorite series and read all I want! Reading for fun is so delightful after years of required reading. I also want to take advantage of all the free things/events in Atlanta. Becca, Hannah, and I ventured to the Lantern Festival last weekend. It was super Austin-y but very cool! Since I don’t see myself settling down in Atlanta, my perspective is to do all the things I can this year.

Time Difference

Since my family, boyfriend, and friends are all in Texas, talking to them is harder than I expected! When I’m ready to go to bed around 9:30-10ish, boyfriend is still at work (restaurant life!) and sometimes doesn’t get off until 11-midnight, even 12:30 AM. I can’t possibly stay up super late to talk to him, but it means we have to be intentional and plan when we can talk to each other.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Such a hipster/snooty place. It is very jarring how this is right across the street from where Mercy serves a free meal.

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After a long trek to the Target, I was delighted to see this wonderful piece of art!

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Hiking at Sweetwater Creek State Park. Nature is so cool!

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Where’s My Stuff?

I’ve been “settled” in my new room in Atlanta for a few days and I’ve been questioning why I feel uncomfortable being in my room for long periods of time. There are things I do like about my room. The green walls remind my of a similar shade of my room back in Houston, just less intense. There are two big carpet pieces and one of them has flowers and is super soft. A previous YAV/Dweller also put up a beautiful flower sticker above the bed.

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Other than the bed, a large side table/storage box, a wooden dresser, and a lonely chair, I don’t have much. I also don’t need much. The only thing I really would consider a need is a side table lamp because it is inconvenient to walk to my door to turn off the light. In no way is it necessary, but it would make reading more enjoyable since I prefer light from a closer lamp rather than my ceiling fan lamp.

Nevertheless, I have this uncomfortable feeling that my room feels empty. There is a huge space with only this beautiful flower rug. Every time I look at that side of the room, something inside me goes *what can I move to fill the space*? It reminds me of years of playing The Sims and how my Sims would wish for more furniture in their rooms. Their “environment” meter would be low with lack of decoration, furniture, ambiance. Lately, I’ve felt like one of those Sims, frustrated by the emptiness, the lack of *stuff*, but do I need more stuff?

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My sad space.

 

I think I have been influenced by this “Culture of Having Lots of Stuff” in ways that make me feel uncomfortable to acknowledge.

First, because I grew up privileged in a White middle class household, I had (and still have) access to a lot of stuff. I’ve had many birthday parties, Christmas presents, hand-me-downs (The best part of being the youngest! But is it a good thing?), etc. to have access to more stuff. For my last two years of college, I accumulated so much stuff my parents and I had to rent a U-Haul to move everything out. To justify myself, I said, “Well, I did basically supply most kitchen items and living room furniture.” But man, did I have a lot of stuff, and it certainly all wasn’t necessary.

Here is my second thought. In The Sims, I could easily fix my Sims’ complaints that their environment was uncomfortable. I could spend the money they had from working hard at their job to buy furniture. In the game, if you buy expensive items with a high environment level, such as a very nice couch or a fancy paining, it will increase the state of the environment. If your Sim didn’t have enough money, you could always “cheat” the game by entering cheat codes and accumulate wealth without having to work hard. The money could simply be handed to you, and you could buy anything and everything and live in luxury.

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In my life, my “cheat” code has always been using my parents’ money. I am not financially independent of them, but this year is a step away from my dependency. Yes, I am on their health insurance and they are paying my phone bill, but I will be living off a very low monthly stipend. I certainly could ask them for money and receive it, but they know they shouldn’t. The main thing I recognize is no matter what, my parents could step in if I was without food or a place to live. I am very grateful for their support and love they share, especially financially, but I recognize that I am so privileged to have access to my very own money cheats.

So, let’s go back to the thought of having stuff. I have more stuff than other people do, and some people have more stuff than me. So what do I miss more, the clutter of my room back in Houston or really just the sentimental items, like my books, pictures, and nick nacks? I rarely used my desk during college, but why do I want one to fill the empty space? Why was packing my suitcase one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do in my life?

I suppose this is just one of the challenges I will have this year. The culture I’ve grown up in tells me I should have stuff, that I deserve to have it. I can get more stuff so easily, y’all! I can buy all the things (but I won’t because I should be a responsible adult and I don’t have much money)! But in reality, I don’t deserve anything. I am so blessed by God to have what I have, especially a bed and a roof over my head. Not to mention things like air conditioning, running water, and my own room. It may not be the ideal I’ve grown up with, a room that feels empty, but it is someone else’s ideal. Someone would rejoice over the thought of a room with so much to offer, a room that actually has a lot of stuff!

I hope to think more on what I find to be most valuable.

As a way to feel more comfortable in my room and celebrate what I do have, I hope to decorate the walls with art. I’ll keep you posted on the progress and how it changes my comfort level, or in Sims lingo, my “environment meter.”

Colossians 3:2 is a reminder of how I want to set my mind on things above, not on earthly things. I hope you consider your stuff like me, and I wonder how you feel about your *stuff,* or even lack of stuff.

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Getting Settled

It has been more than a week since I left my home in Houston, said goodbye to my cat and family, and left the state I’ve lived in my whole life. I ventured to many new places! I visited two new states (NY and NJ) and went to NYC for the first time. I now have a room in Atlanta and four new housemates for the year. Life has changed so much in a week, and it is both scary and exciting!

So first, I left on a plane from Houston and flew into Newark. With a few buddies, I took a few trains to Stony Point, NY where we would have our orientation. (Dis)orientation at Stony Point Center will be a memorable experience of (re)discovery and of things I knew but was too ashamed or scared to voice out loud. I met so many wonderful people with different backgrounds, beliefs, and practices. This community of YAVs/YAVAs and staff will do (and already have done) so many great things in God’s name and in service. Also, can we talk about how NY is a beautiful state? The weather was so wonderful compared to the Texas heat. Shout out to Stony Point for giving us amazing home-grown food. The vegetables were seriously the best. Especially the sweet potatoes.

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Yesterday, I finally arrived in Atlanta to our new home. We will be calling ourselves the Blurp House (or the Blurple house. The outside of our house is either a blue with too much purple tone or a purple with too much blue tone. I personally feel it is purple with too much blue tone). We went on our first shopping trip to Kroger with a budget of $70. We killed it with a total of $69.49. We are all settled in our own rooms and we shared our first meal, sandwiches, with our site coordinator Chad.

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Here we all are! From left to right: Elizabeth, Becca, Melacia, Hannah, and yours truly.

One big question mark has been answered. I learned that I will be working at Mercy Community Church! It is a small church that welcomes homeless people to engage in community through bible study, workshops, sharing meals and more. They even offer an art workshop which sounds similar to a small group I co-lead at the Wesley. I am very excited to serve here and absorb everything.

Tomorrow we are learning how to use MARTA (the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) which will be my main mode of transportation for the year. But thankfully, there is an app for that! I am so excited to explore, especially the neighborhood nearby, and learn more about the city.

If you would like to know my mailing address, please ask! Also if you have any questions and would like to know more about what I am doing, please ask about that too. Thanks for reading!

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Embracing the “Abyss”: From Austin to Atlanta

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I figured it was about time I posted something! Hello! If you’ve happened to stumble across this blog, then I hope you will stick around.

My name is Sarah Morrell and I just graduated from UT in Austin, Texas. For the next coming year, I will be participating in the Young Adult Volunteers/DOOR program. I will be moving to Atlanta and serving at an agency. I will be living in a Christian community with girls doing the same thing as me. I’ll get to share God and his love to people in Atlanta. I’ll be living simply with a small monthly stipend and learning how to live life with less. I have experienced a lot of transition this summer, and while there have been lots of tears, moments of anxiety, and question marks for the future, I know God has something amazing planned.

To accurately sum up my post grad/current feelings, here is an excerpt from an episode of Gilmore Girls:

RORY: Everything is just…ending. I just feel like everything is gonna be over. I’m done at the paper. Soon I’m gonna be done at Yale, and it’s just like I’m standing on this cliff, looking out into this huge, foggy…

LUCY: Abyss?

RORY: …Like, a huge, foggy abyss, and, in my whole life, there’s never been an abyss. It’s been abyssless. I’ve always known exactly what is in front of me, and I’ve always known exactly where I’m going, and now…I don’t know what’s out there.

OLIVIA: Besides fog.

RORY: A ton of fog, and I hate not knowing what is out there. I mean, what’s going to happen to my career and my relationship with Logan and the rest of my life?

 

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I feel exactly as Rory does at this point in her life… afraid of the “abyss,” the unknown.

My plan after college was always to find a job, make money, and survive paying rent with my low paying job. Instead, God has called me to the challenge of plunging into the abyss where I’ll be living far away from home, I don’t know where I am working, and I’ll make very little money… but thankfully I do not have to pay rent.

I’ve had various reactions to my choice to take what my mother calls a “vow of poverty.” Many are shocked I could leave Texas, my boyfriend, my family, and friends behind for a year away from home. Others are excited and intrigued to hear what I will learn. I think God has a lot for not only me to learn but my friends, family, and others.

So, this blog is an opportunity for me to share my thoughts, stress, experiences, stories and more. Join me in my adventure into the abyss! I can’t promise you perfect grammar or life changing stories. I can’t promise eloquent writing worthy of an award. I can promise truth of what God is doing in my life, through me, and through the people I meet on this journey. Please pray for me, and please let me know how I can be praying for you.

Feel free to contact me at sarahmorrell2001@yahoo.com. Ask me anything! Check in, let me know how you are doing. Also, please email me and ask for my mailing address if you’d like to be in correspondence. I would love to send you letters!

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A few shout outs:

  • My parents. Thank you Mom and Dad for supporting me in doing this crazy thing at such a crazy time in our lives. I cannot thank y’all enough for the opportunities I’ve had in Austin and the ones I will have in Atlanta. Thanks for dealing with my scattered nature and attempts to “adult.”
  • My 6th grade (now 7th grade!!) girls. Y’all are such a blessing to me and I know God has awesome things planned for all of you. I promise I will be back to see y’all at some point! Also, here is where I will be, since there was some confusion 😉

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  • All of my friends and leaders at the Wesley. You have all impacted me and helped me in my walk with God. Community is the best! Love you all.
  • Andrés. Thank you, best friend.

 

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