29 November, 2010

This was officially the longest weekend ever – five days! We celebrated Thanksgiving with our neighbor, Gloria. She had my roommates and me over for dinner. Instead of watching the game, we listened to Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin and danced the electric slide. It was unlike any Thanksgiving I’ve ever had, but was a lot of fun!

A couple of other things we have done lately: went ice skating in Centennial Park, sang in the church choir at a funeral, went to several Thanksgiving potlucks, went to Atlantic Station to see the lighting of a giant Christmas tree, decorated the neighborhood coffee shop and thrift store for Christmas, went to a Thrasher’s hockey game (they won!)

We woke up Sunday morning to a freezing house; our heat had gone off in the middle of the night and it was only 45°. We’re not quite sure what’s wrong with it and are hoping to get it fixed sometime today. In the meantime, we’ve borrowed some space heaters from our neighbors and have been bundling up! In light of the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve been thinking a lot of what I am thankful for. Of course there’s the usual answers (family, friends, health, etc.), but since I’ve been in Mission Year, I’ve realized there are a lot of things I had at home that I took for granted. I’ve realized these things either because they are something I’ve had to do without, or something one of my neighbors does not have. So here are ten things Mission Year has made me extremely thankful for:

  1. heat
  2. air conditioning
  3. electricity
  4. running water
  5. a washer and dryer in my house
  6. a car, gas, and the ability to go wherever I want, whenever I want
  7. enough money to buy organic and high quality food
  8. a dishwasher
  9. the resources and ability to visit family for the holidays
  10. constant access to technology (TV, movies, computers, internet, phones)

I urge you to think on these things, to realize that people in our own country (in my own neighborhood) live without these things, and to be appreciative of all the blessings God has given you!

With Love, from Atlanta

Dancing to Aretha Franklin on Thanksgiving

The Christmas tree and "snow" at Atlantic Station

My roommates, Shanika I in a cheesy
Christmas photo from Atlantic Station

The Atlanta Thrashers v. the Boston Bruins

My roommates at the hockey game

26 November, 2010

A part of Mission Year is neighborhood outreach, so I’ve felt a lot of pressure to have already built some deep relationships around my neighborhood. The truth is, I’ve met a lot of people in the neighborhood, but none that I’ve really felt a deep connection with. I’ve been really discouraged about this lately because I’ve felt like I’m missing out on an important part of Mission Year. This week, one of my roommates asked me what my favorite part of Mission Year has been so far. I thought about it for a while and I really think the best part is my housemates! I started thinking and remembered the part of Mission Year that I was originally most excited for: living in intentional community. This facet of Mission Year is just as important as neighborhood outreach. When I first heard I was going to be on an all-female “Amazon Women” team, I started to prepare myself for lots of drama; girls are notoriously dramatic! But we haven’t had any drama so far, and I’m not too sure we will have much at all. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a couple conflicts, and will definitely have more, but we have all been eager and willing to approach conflict maturely and discuss our problems, rather than argue. I feel so comfortable with and accepted by these girls that I know they will be respectful of any issues I might have. We’ve only been here for three months but I already feel as if they’re my family. They’ve been here to learn with me, cry with me, pray with me, and laugh with me.

My original plan for this blog was to be able to tell you the stories of my neighbors. But today I want to share with you about some of the most important people in my life this year: my roommates. We have so much fun together and I am so, so thankful for them!

Maureen (Mo-mo)

Kaitlin (KK)

Jysicca (Jys)

Emily (Em)

23 November, 2010

Oh come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of the hills is His also. The sea is His, and He made it; His hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker.
Psalm 95:1-6

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Deuteronomy 31:8

What a wonderful reason to be thankful -- the Lord will always be with you! Praise Him this week! I hope you have fun and enter this day with a thankful heart! Happy Thanksgiving!

With Love, from Atlanta

19 November, 2010

Monday nights are our team’s “family night.” This week, we went to the Atlanta Underground for a scavenger hunt! Maureen and I were partners and went around the mall, searching for silly things like crazy sunglasses, giant baseballs, things you would wear to prom, or something to take on a safari. It was so much fun!

This week at work, we’ve been preparing for Thanksgiving. UPS is donating a bunch of food for us to give to our clients and their families, so they can have a full Thanksgiving meal. We will be separating the food into different boxes and delivering them to clients. My job has been to decorate the boxes. So, along with a little help from my roommates, I made 36 holiday wreaths that say, “Enter With a Thankful Heart.” Colyn and I then wrapped the boxes in brown paper and attached the wreaths, so they are all ready when UPS delivers the food. It was a nice change to be able to do crafts instead of paperwork!

Now I am enjoying my Sabbath at SIP, an adorable little coffee shop near Lindbergh Center with good music, free Internet and delicious coffee. I hope you are enjoying your Friday as much as I am!

From Atlanta, with Love

Family Night! Maureen wearing crazy glasses

Giant Baseballs

GJP's Thanksgiving Boxes

Colyn and I with our pyramid of Thanksgiving boxes

SIP, where I'm spending my afternoon

16 November, 2010

Hey friends! So, as most of you know, I need to raise $12,000 in order to spend this year in Atlanta. I currently have raised a little over $5,000, which is about 43% of my total goal. However, my personal goal is to raise 50% by Christmas. If you're interested in supporting me, you can do so here. I really hate to sound like an infomercial... but I can't help it because this is so awesome!! Mission Year is giving a Christmas Gift Pack to anybody who donates $100 or more before December 15th! The gift pack comes with a Mission Year mug, fair trade coffee beans from the coffee shop in my neighborhood (where my roommate Emily works), a Mission Year water bottle, a magnet, a Christmas ornament, and a copy of the book New Neighbor written by Leroy Barber (the president of Mission Year and one of my neighbors)! If you're interested, You can check it out here! Thanks friends :)

From Atlanta, with Love

10 November, 2010

I was home last week for three full days and returned to Atlanta on Saturday. My time at home was bittersweet, as I was able to spend time with my family, but under unfortunate circumstances. Since I’ve been back, my time has been packed with work at GJP, visiting neighbors, hanging out with my roommates, and reading. So I thought I’d give you a little glimpse of what’s in my book bag at the moment...

I've been reading Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed for a graduate course I'm taking at Eastern University called Theology of Poverty. It's a bit of a tough read, but completely worth it! Although I'm only on the first chapter, I've already learned so much about the dialectical struggle of the oppressed and the oppressor, and the quest for liberation. Freire articulates these issues extremely well and has stirred my heart to fight harder against oppression. Freire writes...
The oppressor is solidary with the oppressed only when he stops regarding the oppressed as an abstract category and sees them as persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labor -- when he stops making pious, sentimental, and individualistic gestures and risks and act of love. True solidarity is found only in the plenitude of this act of love, in its existentiality, in its praxis. To affirm that men and women are persons and as persons should be free, and yet to do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality, is a farce.
- Paolo Freire

I’ve also been reading Beverly Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? It’s part of our Mission Year curriculum that we read and discuss as a house. I was supposed to read this book for a class in college but only got half way through it (Melanie, if you’re reading this… sorry!) But I’m giving it another chance! I’ve only just begun, but so far it’s about understanding racism and how we shape our identities. It’s been really interesting to read about these things from a different perspective.

I just started reading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith and already really enjoy it. He starts off with a story…

I’ve often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas… There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. I am not here concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was the sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale. His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again?

What a charming story! And what a perfect analogy for my time in Mission Year thus far! I feel as if I am rediscovering all of my passions, but from a different perspective and with a deeper understanding. I’ve always known that God has a love for all people, but I am rediscovering this truth as I see Him in the people I meet, whether poor, homeless, wealthy, convicted of crimes, young or old. This realization has given me a much deeper understanding of the character of God. I’ve been passionate about social justice for quite awhile but am rediscovering that passion from a new point of view, and gaining a much deeper understanding of what it means to actively pursue social justice.

Amidst the theology, philosophy, and psychology books, I just needed some good ol' classic fiction. And what could be better than J.D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenter? I've read this before and find it simply charming and delightful. If only I could settle down and read one book at a time, I might actually be able to finish one!

From Atlanta, with Love

02 November, 2010

I have a thing for trees. I mean, I really, really like them. A lot. So spending an entire day amidst the maples and the oaks was remarkably relaxing. My first hour alone in the woods was spent sitting next to a delicate sapling that was about two feet tall. I felt particularly drawn to this infant tree because it provided a small glimpse of bright green among all the brown and golden leaves that covered the forest floor. I usually think of Spring as the season of new growth, yet here was this young tree, beginning its life in the middle of Fall. I started to think about the big, strong trees that towered around it. These grandparent trees protected the baby tree, sheltering it from the harsh wind, the glaring sun, and the pounding rain. But these trees do so much more for my little baby tree. Their leaves, which have fallen to the ground, return to the dirt and are able to provide nutrients for the small tree. They let go of their leaves, and through their sacrifice, allow this little tree to grow, so that one day, it too will be able to provide shelter to new infant trees. To me, this small tree was telling the story of something much bigger than itself; it was the epitome of the circle of life. Though I had to listen carefully to hear the gentle whisper of this tree’s leaves, it hollered loudly of our Creator, proclaiming life, nourishment, and sustenance to all things. God knows exactly what is needed for my little tree to survive and He has provided for it. He has given it all it needs and more – enough for it to grow into an endless, beautiful forest. And what an overwhelming peace – if He has provided for this small tree, how much more will He provide for His children?

The majority of our time was spent in solitude, but every few hours, we came together as a group to discuss what we had been learning through our moments in the woods. One of the other team members shared his revelation about the falling leaves. The trees don’t try to gather their fallen leaves and put them back on their branches, for that would be foolish. Instead, they accept the changes that must come, even though that requires giving up parts of themselves in order to provide room for new things to grow. These words of wisdom stuck with me, as well as my roommate Maureen, and prompted her to write the following words:

Look at the trees, my child.

They do not mourn for the things they have lost,

Or cling to the dying,

For they know that to do so would be foolish,

For it would only weaken them

As they tried feeding into that which has already served its purpose.

They do not tremble at the thought of the bitter winter to come,

For they know that only through death comes new life.

– Maureen O’Malley

The same day that I spent out in the woods, my grandmother passed away. All death is untimely, but perhaps Friday was the least of bad times for my grandmother to leave this earth, for my heart was at peace. Like the leaves in the woods, the time has come for her to fall from our family tree. But the end of this life was not in vain, for it has provided new life, time and time again. In turn, those lives have provided new lives, and my brother, cousins, and I shall continue that legacy, until the life of my grandmother has created an entire forest.

I will be returning home for a couple days to spend time with my family and attend my grandmother’s funeral. Please keep my family in your prayers.

In loving memory of Grammie

Berniece “Toots” Catherine Haider

1917 – 2010