About a month ago, I was on my way to my own classes here in Seattle when I received news from Honduras that stopped me cold, and brought me instantly back to those starry nights. The boys I once tucked in each night are grown up now, and one of them passed on the news - Arnold had died the night before. He was only 21 years old.
My service assignment, meant to last only 13 months, is interwoven into the fabric of my life. And the Krista Foundation has helped me, over many years, make the transition from a year of service to a lifetime ethic of service leadership. That transition allowed me to step into the grief of losing Arnold, and into the rage at an unjust world in which children die much before their time. In moments like this, it is not just "nice" if we happen to have a strong community to turn to - we MUST have it. We must have it, not just to hang out with great people, though Krista Colleagues are certainly fun to hang out with. We must have this community because it builds our capacity to love and serve well. Here, within the Krista Foundation, I have found a community that knows both how to comfort and how to challenge.
We learn together how to hold the grief, joy, and complexity of this work.
After five years of working in Honduras and Bolivia, I returned to Seattle feeling uprooted and isolated and very unsure of myself. At my debriefing retreat with the Krista Foundation, a blob of scribbling on a paper marked what I was not yet ready to speak. As I attempted to share pieces of my time in Bolivia, it was like my voice was taken away.
It took me a long time to share those stories, and they needed to be told - and told honestly - for healing to begin. And as I have processed some of those stories, the KF has continued to help me build my own leadership capacity and resilience. The space to work through my service experiences within the Krista Foundation gave me the capacity to uncover the goodness that was, and is, there and finally, to step back into this work - BUT in a new and different way.
And so, over the past three years, I have had the amazing privilege to work with 15 young leaders from Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua in partnership with local families, leaders, and mentors. When I think about the future of NPH, I hope that many them will fill leadership positions. I hope they will become the mentors, the directors -- people of change and hope and redemption in their communities.
To have hope for our future, I need only picture emerging leaders like Julissa, who took what she learned in the training program and has adapted it to her community in Guatemala where she facilitates retreats on faith, spiritual formation, and leadership for our kids. The ripples of the Krista Foundation are indeed far and wide.
And as the foundation continues to reach beyond the Colleague program, to influence the larger service culture - it is so exciting to see how we are already impacting other organizations. Just this year for example, NPH made a commitment to provide debriefing retreats for our volunteers. After over 50 years of receiving volunteers, this is a major cultural shift and right now we are in conversation about how to partner with the Krista Foundation to help make our programs even more effective. Stacy and Val's guidance in understanding the behind the scenes work and strategic listening needed for these retreats was so helpful.
Sharing our service experiences with others and finding our way back into even the hard stories is part of what allows us to move through them, lay down what needs to be laid down - and to carry forward the pieces that will continue to inform our lives.
For me, I will carry forward Arnold. And the faces of so many others I have been blessed to love and to be loved by. My heart has been opened through this work and that is why i continue to engage with the Krista Foundation - a place where i find comfort and community - and a place where I am challenged to grow and to become more than I am capable of imagining for myself.
That is why you have been invited here tonight, so you too can do more in partnership with the Krista Foundation than you would have imagined.