Monday, August 30, 2010

"Many the miles."

Greetings loved ones!

I am writing from Grace Lutheran Church on S 26th Street. Today is technically my first full day of work here, but pastor aka my boss is not in today, so I thought I would take a little bit of time to blog. I think it helps me to reflect on what I'm doing and learning, and I also feel that it is important to share what I can with you all.

This morning, the secretary and I had coffee and talked for at least an hour and a half  - he is from Namibia, studied ethnomusicology there and in Cape Town during apartheid, and is generally awesome. We have plenty to talk about, especially as we are just getting to know each other. This is true at St. Luke's at well. I can't believe that part of my job as Community Outreach Advocate, or Associate, or Community Organizer, or whatever you want to call it, is to spend time getting to know people and that that counts as work time...but it is, and it does.

Then one of the lay leaders of the Sudanese congregation that meets at Grace at 12:30 pm on Sundays to get some help with job application. At noon I went to lunch at the Bohemian Cafe (advertising sign - "Czech Us Out") with one of three organizers employed by OTOC (Omaha Together One Community) who grew up on a farm in mid-Nebraska and got back from Peace Corps in Guatemala last fall. OTOC's member congregations are very active in social justice work. 

I guess I should back up a little bit, too...on my first day of work last Tuesday, I met with Grace's Pastor Laaker first, then went over to meet with him and Pastor Patti at St. Luke's, then we went out to Thai lunch in the heavily Latin@ area of South Omaha, then I came back and continued talking with Pastor Laaker until 5:00. Wednesday-Friday I worked at St. Luke's - went to a Mexican restaurant with Pastor Patti on Wednesday and met the Women of the ELCA ladies (WELCA) on Thursday. I introduced myself at worship at St. Luke's yesterday and one of the awesome Sunday School ladies had made me a beautiful "Welcome" sign which was on display at coffee hour/reception. The whole congregation was so welcoming.

It's crazy, cause I feel like I haven't really done anything yet, and my job right now is to brainstorm. I do fully intend on implementing programs and getting out in the community, but I just haven't done anything yet. My housemates and I are getting taken such good care of already - there's a welcome potluck for us tomorrow at our house, hosted by the board.  I kind of feel like I don't deserve it. But the wonderfully warm welcome is really inspiring me. I feel so lucky to have my job and to be in this beautiful, open city which has been pretty easy to navigate and has so much to offer. 

Here are some thoughts I have had so far in my brainstorming time, that I would like to keep in my mind:
-"The church is not a is a people." (Might help sing the song at a children's message at St. Luke's.)
-Church can be other times besides Sunday morning. 
-On Sunday morning Christians hear Bible to inspire us to go out and do good works. 

My dear friend Ben Perdue is hitting the air to Hawaii tomorrow to begin two years as a Peace Corps volunteer eventually in Micronesia, so I am thinking about him a lot today. I stole the title of his blog to use in my blog, so it's probably fair that I give him a shoutout:, 
especially since some of you might be interested in reading what he has to say. 

Oh yeah, and we had some fun this weekend - went out with the housemates
to a free outdoor concert held in the parking lot of a bar/music place
called Slowdown - gorgeous night, fun music, goofy times, again made me
happy to be where I am. Saturday morning we went to the Old Market
farmers market which provided us with much delicious samples, produce
and happy musical and people out enjoying the beautiful day atmosphere.
(I promise pictures next post!) Yesterday afternoon I went to a
community forum on immigration at the Jewish Community Center of Omaha
(a really big nice building) - it's an important issue here. Perhaps you
have heard about the Fremont ordinance: here is a recent
article I found about it.

So, there is just a lot! 

The title of this blog entry is the title of a song by Sara Bareilles that
came on Pandora when I started writing. The chorus goes "How far do I
have to go to get to you?/Many the miles," and for the purposes of this
blog post/generally, life, I think of "you" as wherever I'm going and
whatever I'm going to do. I went about 1600 miles away from the home
life in the DC area to get to Omaha, and I have a feeling that, this
year in particular, I got to and I'm going to go a few more. Physically
in the Matrix, hopefully some on the old bikes chilling in our garage
that I helped my housemate fix up this weekend and on my feet - but
those mental miles are gonna get some covering, too. 
Other songs that got me pumped up for Omaha: 
"Wide Open Spaces" by the Dixie Chicks
"Going On" by Gnarls Barkley.

Until next time!

PS. Sorry the formatting is messed up on some of this post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First post!

Hello everyone!

Before I start, I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to read, skim or glance at this blog in support of my year with Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC). I am highly indebted to and eternally grateful for everyone's support in getting me here.

So, where's here, exactly?

(from Wikimedia)
I am living on the north side of Omaha, NE, in an old convent with five other lovely LVC volunteers. Yes, this means our rooms are a little smaller than what we've probably been used to, but my bed is extremely comfortable, and we all have sinks in our rooms, not to mention three bathrooms and a ton of common space.

We met at orientation at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN last Sunday, with about 140 other volunteers who will be working in cities all over the country from DC to Atlanta to San Francisco and more. Most volunteers are just out of college, but some have been out for a few years or even more than a few. (You have to be at least 21 to apply to LVC, but beyond that there's not a ton of restrictions, though you do need willingness and willpower to fill out a substantially long application.)

I'll post links to the LVC website and Facebook page on the side of this blog, but since we all were asked to recite the LVC mission statement a few times together at orientation, I now know it by heart and will just go ahead and write it here:

"LVC is a community of faith united to work for peace with justice."

The three LVC core practices or tenets are intentional community, living simply and sustainably and social justice. LVC volunteers live together in houses or apartments for a year (August-August) and are all working at non-profit organizations whose mission statements are aligned with LVC's. We get a stipend which is enough to live on, but not too much more. See how those core practices work??

At orientation, we had lots of time to get to know our housemates, sometimes using some guided questions about, for example, our preferences with regards to spirituality or sustainable practices. We also had a day of self-defense or personal safety training; a day with sessions about raising money for LVC, ways to have community discussions, and city-specific information; and two days of anti-racism training which profoundly affected me and which I am so grateful to have had.

The most important realization that I had from anti-racism training, which I really wanted to share, is that in order to work towards anti-racism and the "journey to an inclusive community" (as LVC calls it), I have to acknowledge and confront the racism that has shaped me and is present in me. The training, which was led by two trainers from Crossroads, took our group through the history of racist actions in the United States, challenged our definitions and conceptions of race and institutions, and more, including watching this video.

I would strongly recommend anti-racism training to anyone, because it gives you a way to talk about something that is really hard to talk about. I am very glad to have had it before I go into my first day of work, which is tomorrow!

I will be working with the pastors and staff at Grace and St. Luke's Lutheran Church on community outreach and program development. Today we (myself, my housemates, and our awesome city coordinator Janelle) drove all over Omaha to see everyone's placement, so I met one of the pastors and tomorrow morning I will meet with both of them to figure out the details of what exactly I will be doing. My housemates are working at Trinity Lutheran Church, Together, INC. (a huge food and clothing distribution center), Hospice House, Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership (ENCAP), and Voices for Children. I feel like this sounds a little cliché, but I am really looking forward to our dinner conversations.

I'd say we're feeling pretty comfortable here. We have done some exploring of our neighborhood and the park right across the street from us, and we also enjoyed our first taste of beautiful and fun "downtown" Omaha on Saturday night. We still have a few chores to take care of this week, but I am really looking forward to more settling in and getting to know the city.

Also, I feel terrific. Many of you know that I was working very hard (rather ridiculously so, I guess) this past year, and it is very comforting to know that I cannot work more than 40 hours a week so that I have time for spirituality, community time, and personal growth. I'm going to read for pleasure, practice violin and piano more than I did last year, do some crafts, cook, write and explore the city!

That is plenty for now. Later I will post some pictures. I'm going to try to write fairly regularly (maybe twice a month, approximately?) specifically with updates on my work but maybe with some other stuff I find relevant. I'm maintaining another blog, but this one here is specifically for my LVC year.

Again, thank you all so much for your support!