I forget constantly that I do not know what God has planned. I forget constantly that I do not know what the future holds. Time and time again, I listen to God’s whisper, and take off at full speed, forgetting to keep listening to that whisper, and instead I do what I think the whisper should be saying. Every time, I end up knocked off of my feet and find myself sitting on the ground, completely confused at how I got there. I was following God’s call. Right?
YAV uses a process of mutual discernment to determine where an individual will serve. Through interviews first with the YAV staff (they’re awesome and stationed in Louisville, KY) and then through interviews with site coordinators (stationed through out the world) the individual, site coordinators, and the YAV staff determine where the potential YAV is best fitted to. Discernment Event is part of that process for young adults considering international service. It’s a weekend of prayer, emotion, decision-making, encouragement, friend-making, and community-building. It’s a time when the site coordinators, the YAV staff, and a group of Young Adults listen to what God is whispering.
For me last year’s YAV process went like this: I interviewed with Lydia and Richard (YAV staff), and it was determined that I would spend a year as a national YAV and discern if a second year internationally was for me. With international being out of the question for this year, I did not need to go to Discernment. I began interviewing with national sites, and that’s how I ended up in New Orleans. (This makes it sound really really easy. It’s not.)
I tell you all of that to say that I chose to ignore what Lydia, Richard and I discerned to be God’s call. I came to New Orleans and quickly decided that while YAV is great, the next step for me would be seminary. I applied and was so certain that I would get accepted. And when I got a letter at the beginning of February that let me know that I was not accepted, I was devastated. I felt so certain and I was so confident that this was the next step in God’s plan that I found myself sitting on the ground, wondering how I got there. I was listening to that whisper wasn’t I?
The day after I found out, I met with Layne (site coordinator in New Orleans) and we discussed my options. It was in that conversation that I realized that it had been a long time since I last listened to the whisper. I was making the decisions. I also realized that I wasn’t so sure how to listen for that whisper. My mind and heart were filled with feelings and voices telling me that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t deserve it, I wasn’t smart enough, and that I was wrong. Layne and I also realized that I only had a week to fill out the YAV application for a second year if I wanted to be considered for international placement. I filled it out, sent it in, and thought very little of it.
And then Lydia got in contact with me to schedule an interview and I realized that I needed to be somewhat prepared for such a thing. So, I went to the YAV website and looked at the different sites. I knew that six new sites were opening and so I took a look at each of the new sites and a few of the established sites as well. I decided that Zambia and Thailand were the international sites that I was interested in. Both are new sites and I thought “why not.” I also decided that New Orleans and Miami would be the national sites that I looked at. It was in reading through the descriptions of Zambia’s potential placements that I realized that I was listening to the whisper again. I was stepping in the right direction.
I interviewed with Lydia and shortly after she emailed me to say that I would be getting asked to Discernment Event but asking if I was sure that I wanted to interview with two brand new sites. Wouldn’t it be better to interview with a new one but also an established site? She was right, of course, and so I discerned (that word is ever so annoying sometimes but it is something that we never stop doing!) that I would still interview with Zambia and would interview with South Korea instead of Thailand. Shortly after, I received an email officially inviting me to Discernment Event, I accepted, provided the information for the flight to be booked, and set to enjoying New Orleans in the season of Carnival (Mardi Gras).
This past weekend I traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas to Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center for Discernment Event. I was nervous, excited, fearful, determined… There were many, many emotions and feelings all at once and I could barely contain them all. It was lovely (for me anyway) to discover that I had two roommates, Margaret and Colleen, who seemed as eager to exchange fears and hopes as I was. Colleen came with a bonus gift: her sister Lanita. We spoke of our excitement, our lives we currently lived, our fears, our desires, and much more. I made some friends that I hope to have for life. Colleen and I talked that first night about where we were hoping to serve; for me, Zambia was at the top of the list and for Colleen, New Orleans. I laughed as I explained how incredibly convenient it was that we were roommates and proceeded to tell her about my current YAV year throughout the rest of the weekend. I didn’t need to sell Colleen on it as she was sure she was called to New Orleans, but I like to think I helped a little. hehe. (She’s coming to New Orleans next year and I couldn’t be more excited for Colleen and for New Orleans. Margaret will be serving in Colombia and Lanita will be serving in Hollywood!)
So. Zambia. I was sure that’s where I was heading. After all, Zambia’s page was the one that convinced me that I was listening to God’s call. So surely that’s where I was going to go. Funny thing, I wasn’t listening very well. It wasn’t until my interview with South Korea’s site coordinators that I realized once again that I was only taking part of that persistent whisper into account.
When I interviewed with Layne last year, there was an instant connection. I remember that distinctly. The other site coordinators were awesome people and they had awesome sites. But there was something about Layne and the way we connected that gave me this feeling that I was going to New Orleans. And look where I’m sitting.
It wasn’t any different this year. I just wasn’t listening to the whisper and I was choosing not to pay attention to those gut feelings.
On Friday, I interviewed with Zambia’s site coordinator, Kari. Kari is great and she’s doing amazing things in Zambia like working to develop a Sunday School curriculum specifically created for Zambia. We didn’t really connect and I guessed then that I wasn’t going to Zambia. But I still really really wanted to go to Zambia and I was determined to tell God that I was going to Zambia. It’s really hard to let go of something you’ve convinced yourself of, even if it means telling God he’s wrong. (Though God was not at all wrong.)
On Saturday, I interviewed with South Korea’s site coordinators. Kurt and Hyeyoung started the interview by saying that I was clearly qualified to be there and that I didn’t need to impress them, that I just needed to be me. It instantly relaxed me and I was able to talk to them openly and honestly about my thoughts and fears. There was a connection I didn’t anticipate. And when our official interview ended, we continued talking about Korea and while I had shared with them during the interview my hopes for Zambia, I knew that I wouldn’t be going to Zambia. My gut told me that. But it is really hard to let go of something you’ve set your sights on. It’s hard to let go of something you were once so certain of.
Layne was outside in the lobby when I finished my interview with Kurt and Hyeyoung. It was a relief to find her there-I am an external processor. She asked how it went and I told her that I wouldn’t be upset if I ended up in Korea. She didn’t look too surprised. And then we talked about New Orleans and what was going on in New Orleans and of things that didn’t involve the discussions and letters and feelings that would occur that evening.
Saturday afternoon was torture. We all knew that at about 4:30 all of the site coordinators would gather with the YAV staff and our “fates” would be decided. Also known as, discernment would happen and God’s calling would be listened to. That evening, after worship, we were all handed letters inviting us to serve at different sites. Colleen and I ran off to sit at the bottom of the really long chute/slide that we had ridden that morning; a secluded, quiet space (though most of Ferncliff proved to be just that) with a lot of room for tears and screams that would happen as we opened our letters by the light of my iPhone. We laughed, cried, and hugged, talking about what next year is going to hold for us. We are going where we are being called-right where that whisper has been inviting us to go.
Colleen is coming to New Orleans. I’m going to South Korea for a year. I’ve already started learning the Korean alphabet and once I’m in Korea, I get to take a class to learn to speak Korean. I get to spend my year in a beautiful country, serving with schools and churches in the Daejeon area. I am unbelievably excited. I’m nervous and I’m thrilled.
I’m going to Korea. I’m going to serve alongside brothers and sisters in South Korea. I think perhaps if I say it or type it enough it might seem real to me.
Just as I’ve been reminded so many times by so many other carefully placed people: I am blessed, highly favored and positioned to prosper. God has a plan, and I am carefully placed. I just have to keep listening to that whisper.