After countless inquiries as to why I haven’t written since early November, I’ve finally found a few minutes to pause and reflect. It seems hard to believe, that in an entire two months, I haven’t found both the time and energy to process my thoughts into words. Welcome to the holidays in ministry. What a whirlwind the past few months have been. Below is a summary of what’s absolutely consumed every minute of every single day, which has been both wonderful and rewarding yet also trying and exhausting.
Early November – DOOR Dwell Program Silent Retreat – The group of 15 volunteers serving in Miami snuck “away” to Hialeah to spend an entire 24 hours completely in silence, amidst the traffic, highways and general noise of the city. While being silent isn’t something I generally find challenging, I found it frustrating to spend time with all these people that I love and am excited to spend quality time with, yet not be able to effectively communicate and completely enjoy their presence. It was confusing trying to ask friends if they wanted to go to the pool, or nap, or eat with simple hand gestures. On the other hand, the silence was also surprisingly pleasant, to reflect on the simple importance of just being present and how irrelevant words can become in good company. I highly recommend a retreat like this for any of you working in ministry.
Late November – Thanksgiving – Prior to returning home for the holiday, Sembrando Flores, the agency I’m interning with, managed to somehow distribute hundreds of frozen turkeys to needy families in our community. Who knew that 90 turkeys would fit in my Honda Civic. Tryna’ catch me ridin’ dirtyyyy.
Going home for Thanksgiving was an emotional rollercoaster to say the least. Within being home for two days, thoughts of quitting the program and moving home were accompanied by thoughts of how to make South Florida a more long-term home. I was completely overwhelmed by the wealth and motives that drive both conversation and behavior in Northern Virginia. I didn’t realize how detached I had become from so many of the luxuries of home, and quickly found myself remembering just how wonderfully comfortable they can feel. At the same time, I was flooded with conviction as to why I’m called to live amongst the “least of these” and try to accept a less cushiony lifestyle from what I’ve been accustomed to my entire life. I was humbled in my internal battle with myself, and with the external affirmation I received from friends, family and my church community that reminded me that my experiences here will undoubtedly shape the rest of my life.
December – Even as I sit to write this now, I’m not entirely sure what happened in December.. or if it even happened at all. Is it physically possible to black out without the influence of alcohol? If so, I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to my December. I semi-accidentally became the point of contact for a Christmas party for the children that live in the migrant farm worker camp where our agency is located. Needless to say, after 400-500 children, 700 toys, dozens of volunteers, 1,200 hot dogs, 4 bounce houses, and a fire truck transporting Santa.. I. Was. Exhausted. Click the link to see the Sembrando Christmas Party video.
While running all over town playing Santa and spreading Christmas cheer, there was one moment I remember clear as day, that absolutely stopped me in my tracks. As we all know, the holidays aren’t happy times for all, and especially working with HIV, this reality is hard to ignore. December was the month I received “my” first HIV positive client’s results. The man was brought to one of our health fairs by a friend who was just dropping by to check it out. He’s not what most people would consider “sexually active”, in fact, he likely got HIV from the only sexual encounter he had in years. When thinking of the “coincidental” circumstances that lead to him both acquiring the virus as well as learning of his status, I’m both saddened and confused. Coupling life-altering news with the approaching holiday was somewhat devastating to me, so I can’t begin to fathom what it felt like for him. Everyone working in HIV has always told me that your first positive will stick with you forever, and now I completely understand what they mean. In one of those, world-stands-still, car crash type moments, my boss and I explained to a man that his life would literally never be the same. Merry Christmas?
On a lighter note, the New Year has come in full swing. I’m relieved to have the holidays behind us, and to just be able to focus on what lies ahead for the ministry. I can’t begin to thank you all enough for the outpouring of love and support I’ve received since arriving in Miami, and especially over the past two months. Without even knowing it, you all have gotten me through nights when I wanted to do nothing but cry, and instead filled me with joy and love, sometimes from thousands of miles away. Thank you for your cards, your emails, your care packages, your phone calls and most of all, your love, in whatever form it has arrived here in Miami. I’m humbled and amazed by the incredibly generous and kind people I have in my life. I couldn’t do this without you.