All week I have been trying to write a thoughtful blog about my move with lots of sentiment and emphasis on how great it has been to have a period of rest with my family before I began this journey, and how much has already happened since I have arrived in Arkansas. All of that is still true, but the words full of grace and poise just aren’t coming this week, so I decided to go for a more direct approach…warning, this one is a little long and packed with detail so proceed with caution.
First, a recap of my summer. All around it has been amazing. It kicked off with my graduation in May which Mom and I promptly celebrated with a wonderful trip to the Dominican Republic. We also spent a week with Mop(my maternal grandmother) full of our favorite activities…thrift store shopping and trips to the local movie theater. I planned 7 days on the AT with my father and executed 3(keep scrolling for more details on that). Mom and I took the RV to our favorite campground in Surf City, NC where we caught up with our beach buds and soaked up some more sun. We traveled to Davidson, NC to celebrate Bomma’s (my paternal grandmother) “21st” birthday. In that trip I also got to see my aunt, uncle, and cousin. I spent a week camping in Cherokee, NC with my college best friend and her family. I also got to spend some time with Lee! She has started her Residency in Williamsport, PA and bought a house there. We even got to see our all time favorite musicians perform all together at a special concert in Binghamton,NY. And somehow in between all of that I went back to Knoxville to close out the lease on my apartment, enjoyed catching up with some high school and lifelong friends in Raleigh, and spent a number of days on the couch at home drinking soda and watching Bones.
So in my mind summer = smashing success.
Now onto YAV…let’s start with a more detailed explanation of the program and how I fit into it.
The Young Adult Volunteers(YAV) Program is a ministry of the Presbyterian Denomination and has sites all over the U.S. and even internationally. Each site has a specific focus to their work and the organizations they partner with. There are many core tenants of the program but the ones that usually stand out are living in intentional christian community and simple living. The specifics of what that means varies at each site but generally housing is provided along with a small stipend for food. If you are interested in more about the program as a whole check out this and this.
I have been placed as a YAV at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center in Little Rock, AR. the focus at the Little Rock site is on sustainability and disaster relief. There are three YAVs at Ferncliff this year: Megan, Sharon, and myself. Megan is from Ohio and will be working with Little Rock Interfaith Power and Light and as the Ecology YAV on camp. Sharon is from Iowa and will be working in the Disaster Assistance Center(DAC) which operates under the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance agency. I will be working in the garden/farm that is used primarily as an educational tool for the children of the Nature Preschool at Ferncliff and for summer campers.
Unlike most YAV sites, Ferncliff likes for us to have our own transportation throughout the year, so we each drove out to Little Rock before orientation. We will fly to and from Stony Point, NY where YAVs from every site come together for a week of orientation before we begin our year of service. I was lucky to have Mom as my co-pilot on my 15 hour trip out here, and we decided to break it into three days. We stopped in Knoxville the first night, visited and said my final goodbyes to some dear friends. The second night we spent in Memphis, taking advantage of the opportunity to explore Beale St on the 40th anniversary of Elvis’s death. Day 3 got us to Little Rock where I dropped Mom off at the airport to fly back to Asheville for the Eclipse, and then headed to Ferncliff!
I arrived Thursday evening, and was soon joined by Megan, and we quickly began moving into our adorable new home on camp! We live in what used to be the maintenance shed, but has now been converted into a spacious 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. We still have plenty of settling in to do but we are well on our way to making this our new home!
Friday we spent the morning working in the garden which consists of around 20 raised beds and a section of row veggies as well. We also got to play with the preschoolers on their first visit to the farm this school year. On the farm there are two goats, George and Ninja, two sheep, BJ and Bart, two miniature pigs, Lucy and Ethel, a crew of hens, and two bunnies. Let me tell you, preschoolers and farm animals is a truly adorable combo. In the afternoon we worked in the DAC setting up for a group of volunteers and organizing the warehouse.
Saturday morning Megan and I visited the Clinton Library, signed up for library cards, and then had a delicious lunch at The Purple Cow, complete with signature purple ice cream. We met our site coordinator, Ann Owen, for a special screening of Al Gore’s new film, an Inconvenient Sequel, followed by a panel discussion with the Arkansas chapters of the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society. Sharon arrived that evening and met us for dinner with Ann, her husband Rick, and Megan’s site supervisor Scharmel. When we returned to camp to get Sharon all moved in, we were greeted with a power outage; luckily I brought a few candles from home and we sat around the kitchen table chatting and getting to know each other until the lights finally came back on a little after 9pm.
This morning the three of us went to our first service at Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, where most of the Ferncliff staff and YAV board attend. Second Pres is not required to be our church home but based on the number of times I got chills during worship, I have a feeling it will be mine. The warm and welcoming energy of Second Pres is palpable and I am thrilled to get involved and find new community there.
That is pretty much it for now. We are planning to spend the afternoon re-arranging furniture and exploring camp as we continue to make Ferncliff and Little Rock our new home. Tomorrow morning we fly to Stony Point, NY to begin Orientation with the entire YAV family (we are hoping to be on solid ground in time to see what we can of the eclipse from New York).
If you have made it all the way to the end of this very long and extensively detailed post I am genuinely surprised, so props to you! I also want to say a huge thank you to all of you who have been supporting me throughout this process. It has been a long journey to get here and so many of you are to thank for it actually happening. Your hugs, inquiries into what is happening, likes on my blogs, and especially financial contributions have not gone unnoticed. If you haven’t heard from me personally, I apologize, the system of accounting for donations runs through the denomination headquarters in Louisville and takes a few weeks to end up in my inbox, but I promise I haven’t forgotten you! It is hard for me to put into words the immense feelings of gratitude I have for each of you and the reassurance you have provided me in this sometimes anxious journey to begin. Thank You , Thank You, Thank You.
And so it begins….