Tomorrow a new group of Generation Transformation (Young Adult Missionaries) will be commissioned and sent forth by GBGM to go out and engage in God’s mission all over the world.
To our new YAMS,
Welcome to the brotherhood. Welcome to the best, hardest, most amazing, and transformative journey you could have chosen for yourselves. I’ve not met any of you, but I know that for you to be attending commissioning tomorrow means that you are made of the good stuff. I remember during training more than one of us considered quitting. At the beginning of training, we thought we couldn’t endure these endless lectures and meetings for the next three weeks, and then when we got to commissioning it felt like it had all gone by so quickly.
Tomorrow you will see videos from the current YAMS welcoming you to the fold. Inviting you to participate with us in God’s mission. Not that you need the invitation, but you’d never expect that you’d need the kind of support that this community offers till you’re there. What you’ve chosen to partake in, what we’ve all chosen, is going to seem super exciting tomorrow, as it has for the past two or three months. And it is exciting. Commissioning is such a wonderful service, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry through mine.
But after commissioning, when everyone goes home, that excitement might fade away a bit. Returning, however briefly or long, to your old life where people maybe don’t quite understand what you did or are going to do, might dampen your fire a bit. And the waiting is brutal. Waiting for visas, and telling people you’re going, but you haven’t left yet. Having a going away party only to stay for two more months. You might start to wonder what on earth you’re waiting for.
What you’re waiting for is the best experience you could ask for. My time in L’viv, has been amazing. I will be celebrating my 1 year anniversary in a week, and honestly, as we approach the final stretch of my time here, I’m starting to wonder how I’m going to leave. It’s going to be hard right after the very beginning. I know they told you that in training, but they can’t quite capture it. If you’re going somewhere where you can’t speak the language, well that’s something pretty hard. If they have an entirely different alphabet, so you can’t even sound it out, it’s pretty jarring. Sometimes work isn’t quite set up for you, or your housing situation is iffy. And once those things get settled you may still find yourself asking what in the world am I doing here. One of our YAMS said that she felt like she was, ‘wearing the culture like an itchy wool sweater’. The culture can be very difficult to navigate as well.
What you’ve signed up for is not a leisurely stroll in the park for two years, and you may read that above and be like, oh that girl’s just jaded, that won’t happen to me. Well if it doesn’t that’s great, but I am a better person for the struggle. And deep down, though, I hope it isn’t too painful, but I hope you struggle some too. Not because I want you to continue in some twisted cycle of hardness, but because the hard is what makes it good. The hard times are where you grow.
I want to tell you that this has been the best year of my life. That I truly and deeply love all of the people that I am so fortunate enough to work with. They have their own way of doing things, and think that I’m a very odd American, but I could not imagine myself anywhere else. It is my greatest and deepest desire that you too will love where you’re going. That you too will struggle with not only the placement, but with your faith and your person. That you may reach down into the depths of yourself and find the best version of yourself to become who you will be. If you’re open to it, God will transform you as you try to transform the world around you.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you, is to give yourself some grace. I know that lots of people in this program are incredibly intelligent, high achieving, and have probably never failed at anything in their lives. But I am telling you, sure as I am sitting in this kitchen, there are going to be days where you feel like a failure. There will be days, where you question your sanity. Days where you keep messing up. Days where you fall on the ice 3 or 4 times. Where you just can’t find the word you’re looking for, or you feel like there’s no way you can preach tomorrow cause you and God aren’t communicating so well right now. Know that as much as you offer grace to those around you, you must offer it to yourself too. Grace is available not only to those out there, but to you too. In that grace, be humble. Be able to laugh at yourself.
As you go, be gracious. Be hungry. Hungry for justice, learning, relationships, God, and for food because let me tell you, they will feed and feed and feed you. You are going to have a great experience if you will it, and I can’t wait to see the amazing things your class accomplishes.
Don’t forget when you pack: flashlight, duct tape, super glue, dayquill, thermometer, a pocket knife is not a bad idea, and perhaps a sleeping bag. I have never for one moment regretted having those things with me.
And finally during commissioning tomorrow, try to be present. Forget that they are streaming you live, forget that if you cry you’ll mess up your eyeliner, and just be present. Feel the grace and love of God, and of all the people all over the world supporting you, wash over you. Really listen to whomever is preaching. Really listen to what they tell you when they put that cross around your neck. You have made it. Take your moment. Soak it in. The work is about to start, but it will wait till the next day.
I pray that your journey over the next two years will be as full of love and wonder as mine has been. I pray that God will guide you, and that you will take good care of yourselves on your journey. Know, that if you need anything, those of us who are already out there, are ready to support you however you need. So to the class of 2013, congratulations, and keep those eyes, hearts, and brains open to all God will show you over the next two years.
Erica Oliveira, class of 2012