As I prepare alongside Christians across the world for the coming of the Christ Child, I am also entering the final stages of my preparation for my year abroad. The ticket is purchased, my visa will (hopefully) be in the mail in a few days, and I’ve decided which suitcases I’m going to fit my possessions into. Of course, many of the upcoming 30 days until January 8 will be spent with family, celebrating the holidays and seeing as much family as I can before I depart for the year. Realistically, my remaining 30 days to prepare are actually more like 16 days.
Preparing for this service has been a long process. I first applied last January, discerning over the following 4 months if YASC was a good choice, and if so which placement was right for me. I then attended a two week orientation in June. Then came official permission from the bishop of Johannesburg as well as confirming housing for the year. After that, the dreaded visa process: vaccines, doctors’ reports, notarized bank statements and a background check are just some of the things I had to acquire to apply for my visa. And finally, here I am in advent.
This stage of preparation involves organizing my possessions, beginning to pack and making trips to the store or last minute additions to my Christmas list, so that come January 8th I can walk confidently out the door, physically ready for my journey. However, as with Christmas’ Advent physically preparing is not the whole story. Advent isn’t over when there’s wreaths and extra candles in the Sanctuary. I am (and have been) in a stage of emotional preparation as well. The orientation in June, continuing research, and beginning to say farewells have all been part of my emotional preparation. However, telling my community about my upcoming service has been another responsibility and joy of my emotional preparation. This sometimes takes the form of casual conversations with friends, and is sometimes much more formal. Yesterday I spoke to the parish at Christ Episcopal Church in Xenia, and in the past I’ve spoken to Christ Episcopal Church in Springfield and St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in West Chester. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support and involvement of these churches in my ministry, and I hope that my ministry will help forge relationships and deeper understanding across the sea, not only for myself, but for parishes in both South Africa and the US. While presenting at St. Anne’s I was given the opportunity to deliver a sermon about my service and about building relationships to make our world a better place. It was given on September 29, and was based on the gospel reading of the day, Luke 16: 19-31. You can listen to it by following the link below.
I’m so grateful for all the love and support I’ve received in this process. Thank you to all who have walked and are walking the way with me along this extended advent. I look forward to sharing what lies ahead with you!