Serve Well Blog

4.26.17

Holding Life and Death Together

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Urban America, Healthcare, Post-Service Term Reflections, Sustaining Service

 


 

Facing death everyday while working in hospice for a year took Bridget Hinton ‘14 "to a deep place of mystery," she says. "Living day in and day out with sadness was a challenge but I also saw a lot of hope and love."

For the spiritual care office of Providence Memorial Hospital in Hood River, Oregon, the Jesuit volunteer would visit people receiving palliative care, drive them to appointments, run errands, do a little housekeeping, and often just sit and listen.

In the deepest, darkest moments, when she wasn't at all sure what to say, "I tried to put myself out of own comfort zone and just hold space, be comfortable with slowness and silence, even when I didn't know exactly how to relate to someone three generations beyond me."

Ongoing cross-cultural training with the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship that includes recognizing the significance of generational, socio-economic, geographic and cultural nuances helped Bridget in these moments. Recognizing how her urban, diverse upbringing had shaped her lens helped her have empathy for the circumstances of her patients and listen without making assumptions, even when some of what she heard offended her.

She came to see that phrases like "they are here to take our jobs" reflected the frustrations of the rural and economically challenged Columbia Gorge community. "I would never use the words ‘I disagree' but sometimes I would push back slightly," she says. "I had to engage in conversation, but I tried not to prove anything. That was the art of the work, to not prove anything."

Now an Education Program assistant for Oregon State University extension, she teaches cooking classes and gives presentations on nutrition to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients. She also is volunteer facilitator for a grief group of teens who have lost loved ones.

"The winter Debriefing Weekend affirmed my choice to take a break and take care of myself, but I still feel a calling to hospice social work," she says.

"I wanted a full-force hospice experience and that's what I got. Through the debriefing weekend, I could deeply pay attention to my service and admit that they were really hard years," she says. "I was yearning to reflect, and now I am yearning for service. That's when I lean into the Krista community, which says yes to applying service to life in every possible way."

4.26.17

The Wisdom Gift of Holding Mixed Emotions

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Developing Nations, Transitions Home & Beyond

 


 

After a year in the Lutheran Volunteer Corps serving as Community Health Advocate for the Hepatitis Education Project in Seattle, Linda Chastine '16 embraced an international service year through Young Adults in Global Mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Eager to expand her public health experience, she was looking forward to serving in a community health clinic in Rwanda. When she found herself teaching English to children living on the street at Centre Marembo instead, her confidence was shattered. "I was feeling wholly unprepared to be a leader in that way, and there were so many expectations that as an American I would know how to teach English," she remembers. "A lot of that pressure made me feel very insecure about my position."

Insecurity was only one of a dizzying array of emotions she described in her newsletter:

"In the time that I have volunteered at Centre Marembo I have cried, I have laughed, I have yuidanced, I have sang, I have been confused, I have felt isolated, I have realized that I am completely and wholly welcomed and loved in a much different way than before. The people at Marembo have opened their gates, their arms, their hearts, and their life to me. They have taught me so much more about self-acceptance, patience, and faith. As hard as it may seem, we must be open and patient with the changes that God brings in our life. From them, can spring wondrous, unexpected, and much needed gifts."

It wasn't easy to recognize and hold all these emotions at the same time. "As a black woman, I don't think that I've gotten permission to hold different emotions, especially not at the same time," she says. "If I'm enraged or sad or angry, I'm not supposed to also be joyful or hopeful or optimistic. I have to be one or the other."

"Just be free," her Rwandan colleagues would urge. "Just be free." While everyone around her was giving her permission to embrace her mixed emotions, "I was restricting myself to have to be or act in a certain way." Finally, their message got through.

"Being in Rwanda taught me that I'm able to experience a plethora of emotions and experiences all at one time, and that I don't need to separate those things," she says. Now living in Washington DC and searching for opportunities in community health, Linda is incorporating what she learned.

"Suppressing emotions doesn't produce self-reflection, self-awareness, or any clarity in the end. Recognizing and appreciating all the emotions I was experiencing helped me."

4.26.17

Where I'm From

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press

To discern where you're goingeven, sometimes, where you areyou need to know where you're from. At the Winter Debriefing and Discernment event, colleagues compose "Where I'm From" poems that unpack the places, people and experiences that form their service journey. Here's a taste of the paths of three colleagues who debriefed this year.

 

Bridget Hinton ‘16

I am from benvenutos, bienvenidos and welcomes,
from hot bike rides through sunflower fields,
from swimsuits and splashes
from morning sips of coffee, fried eggplant, rosemary bushes, mozzarella balls and too many ciao bellas that broke my heart.
I'm from unspoken family trauma,
From deep wonder, church pews, stained glass windows, lit candles and family prayer time.

I'm from evergreens planted to the soft cold sand on the gray harbor.
From rain pants, canned beef stew, pea salad, long lines waiting for lunch and beautiful faces.

I'm from rivers and mountains, from long stories of the past, from soft and wrinkly skin full of wisdom on its way to the stars, leaving the rest of the world in mystery and love.

Spencer Uemura ‘16

I'm from a distant place, but my heart has found a home
in rock-studded shores, tree-lined streets
in breakneck, widemouthed, downhill bike rides, and scraped palms.
I am from a good, and quiet, and hardworking people.

I'm from a distant place, but my heart has found a home
in the biggest skies and the widest plains
in unexpected, bountiful, and plentiful friendships.

I'm from a distant place, but my heart has found a home
in jagged peaks indomitable, snowy valleys impenetrable, a culture invaluable
in tears and blood, but mostly sweat,
poured into the Mother's womb, to be rebirthed anew
in lessons learned from secret sages
to whom the world would do well to listen.

Lauren Amundson ‘14

I'm from Vikings and lefsa,
from pea salad and lakeside
from chocolate roll and mosquitoes

I'm from sunshine and ocean
from oak trees and waterfalls
from orchids and cactus to things that can't grow

I'm from yard sales and Jesus
from thrift stores and gold
From privilege and power to places unknown

To familia y tequila
with a new home that loves
filled with people that aren't connected by blood

I'm from failing and learning
from growth and from hope
to a world of connection that includes one and all.

 

2.28.17

Bridging divides, responding to fear

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Advocacy, Law

 


 

The impact of skills gained through service and honed in the Krista Foundation's service leadership program extends far beyond the service year.

Watching co-workers and citizens place their lives at risk to help advance the reform of Honduras's police force, often closely connected to gangs and drug trafficking organizations, helped Aaron Korthuis '13 understand why someone would flee a country and seek residency elsewhere. What he witnessed through his work with the Association for a More Just Society stoked his commitment to seeking justice for the oppressed-and sensitive to the demeaning ways in which refugees and asylum seekers can be treated when they try to enter the U.S.

So it's not surprising that in the hours following President Trump's January Executive Order to ban refugees from entering the country, Aaron, now attending Yale Law School, played a key role in the federal lawsuit challenging the order. To help file the motion on behalf of two Iraqi men with valid visas who were detained after arriving at JFK Airport shortly after the EO was signed, Aaron and half a dozen fellow students sat in a New Haven basement drafting court filings requesting a federal court to stop the removal of those affected by the order in anticipation of an emergency hearing.

"When we heard that the stay was granted and that it was nationwide, there was euphoria in the room," Aaron said. "No other way to put it."

Aaron knows that not everyone agrees with his action. Tools from the Krista Foundation, including the January 2015 Krista Foundation debriefing and transition retreat, have helped equip him to engage people who feel differently.

"In 2015, I really needed time to reflect on what I had learned from serving in Honduras," he says. "I had just gotten married and started law school, and I wanted to think about how I was going to continue incorporating the lessons of my time abroad as I moved forward. One of the most meaningful things about the debriefing that I have tried to make part of my life is listening to the stories of others, especially those who are different from me, and letting that inform my work."

Faith is where Aaron starts when he reaches across the political divide. "I always try to make clear that my faith is the reason why I spend my time working on behalf of immigrants and refugees," he says. "Especially with other people of faith, there is a common ground, a common language I can use to explain why I disagree with them and why I think our faith compels a different understanding of many issues dividing our country."

Faith is also the reason he continues on his path. "The center of the career part of my life is seeking to work on behalf of people who are victims of violence or who are subject to oppression and trying to flee their homeland or make it better, by assisting them or ensuring that they can seek safety."

2.28.17

Tough times call for community support

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Children and Youth, Community, Sustaining Service

 

Wendy Martinez Hurtado

 

Helping support hundreds of young people across Washington state whose futures are suddenly uncertain can be draining, especially when your own family's prospects are unclear, too. Wendy Martinez Hurtado's days are intense; after her service year wrapped up in 2016 she became the Program manager at 21 Progress for the Washington State DACA Program-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program started by the Obama administration in June 2012 that allows eligible undocumented youth and young adults who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

As young people in her caseload renew their DACA status or apply for a loan to cover the $495 application and biometrics fee, Wendy's days are filled with one-on-one meetings, conferences, presentations, calls, newsletters, and advocacy. "I have to be fully engaged, accurate, support people in the process of renewing, and take care of myself as someone who is undocumented and lives in a mixed-status household," she says. "I am on the job 24/7 whether I like it or not."

Wendy started her job on the heels of a difficult service year. Nearing burnout, she found inspiration and energy from the colleagues and speakers gathered at the May 2015 Service Leadership Conference and was able to tap into the resilience she needed to finish her last few months. Nearly a year later, the February 2016 debriefing provided a space for her to share her service year journey and process the full truth of her experience.

"The Krista Foundation offered a space where I could be my full self, completely transparent about my experience without being judged," she says. "In conversation, people validated that what I experienced wasn't okay. I felt supported in ways that I hadn't been supported by my own service community."

Knowing that she isn't alone-that a supportive community has her back-matters right now. Recently Wendy has been focusing on helping undocumented K-12 students and students from mixed status households feel safe on campus. "I just met with four students at UW Bothell who are trying to create a sustainable way of training colleagues on campus to be allies to undocumented students," she says.

"I know I can't maintain myself without self-care very long," she says. "The job we are doing is tough and emotionally draining. I continue to be super passionate about doing the work I do, but it's really hard."

Besides support and solidarity, difficult work requires a community that is willing to put their bodies on the line for each other. That's why it was a joy for Wendy to encounter two other Colleagues at a recent rally at the Tacoma Detention Center. "The debriefing last year, the detention center this year-it's great to know that if I want to reach out, I can find support in the Krista community!"

1.25.17

Meet Mitchell Dorn- Krista Colleague

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Urban America, Women's Empowerment, Post-Service Term Reflections

 

 

What is a Krista Colleague? Meet one of our Krista Colleagues, Mitchell Dorn, who is exploring service-shaped implications in his life and vocation in Tacoma. Mitchell recognizes the necessity of being present within his community and emphasizes the Krista Foundation value of staying for tea (emphasizing relationship bulding).From Uber driver to events manager, into the non-profit world and out again-Mitchell Dorn's service journey has taken some interesting turns.

Participating in the life and ministry of Urban Grace Church through AmeriCorps, he plunged into the rich diversity of downtown Tacoma-and gradually realized that his strengths might lie in the for-profit world. Now he is growing a new business as Events Manager for the recently renovated Courthouse Square.

"I love my job and what I do, and I believe I am part of a bigger project that is making a difference downtown," he said. "Using my talents to their fullest capacity, having ideas, taking risks, watching them take off, and employing others is rewarding."

During the 2016 Krista Foundation Debriefing and Discernment Retreat, offered to Krista Colleagues after their service-year, Mitchell reflected with other Colleagues from different cultures and callings on how his new role impacts the community. One of the questions he explored concerned gentrification. What should he do as a white man living in a predominately African-American neighborhood where rents are rising and many people are displaced as downtown Tacoma revives? He is taking to heart their response: don't infiltrate the community. Be a part of it.

"Being part of a diverse group talking about serious issues, not afraid to step on each other's toes" is a gift of the gathered Krista Colleague community. "Understanding diversity and my world view are things I think about daily now, more than I ever did in AmeriCorps," he says. "I want to be a positive impact on my city."

Nominate a Krista Colleague today!

1.11.17

Meet Daniela Perez- Krista Colleague

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Environmental Projects

 

 

 What is a Krista Colleague?  Meet one of our Krista Colleagues, Daniela Perez, who is uniting her love for healthy food with empowerment that comes from making healthy decisions. Daniela embodies what it means to be a Krista Colleague, committing to a life of service leadership through environmental stewardship and impacting her local community.

Growing up in Tijuana, Daniela could see many women who lacked opportunities. A class on the food system at the University of San Diego opened a way to unite her love for inventing dishes to feed others with her long-time commitment to empowering women. She served for a year as a Garden Educator for the Learning Gardens Laboratory in Portland, where she taught 6th graders science and sustainability in the garden-And she is now enrolled in Portland State's Leadership for Sustainability Education program and helping low-income Portland residents grow their own food.

Every Krista Colleague receives a $1000 Service Leadership Grant to be used toward furthering their leadership capacity and service training. Daniela used her Service Leadership Grant to attend Oregon State University's urban farming apprenticeship program is the next Yes she is working towards. "I want to help people grow food, get access to healthy food, and feel the empowerment that comes from making healthy decisions," she says. "My dream is to go back to Tijuana and start doing this work there."

Nominate a Krista Colleague today!

 

12.18.16

Advent: Week 4
Sharing Traditions in West Kalimantan by Calista Yates

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

Gatherings, feasting, merriment fill the weeks of Advent anticipation. Calista X shares the distinctive ways she has celebrated with friends in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Consider how you can extend the good will of this season into the new year, especially with people who share different traditions, values and beliefs.

"I live in the world's most populated Muslim country, I am in an area that is primarily animistic with large pockets of Protestant and Catholic Christians as well as Muslims and Buddhists. Christmas in America means gathering with your family. Christmas in our part of Indonesia means gathering with friends and neighbors. It is all about community. With many, many Christmas services starting in late November and running through early January there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate Christmas with your community.

Christmas EveOn Christmas Eve we gather for a long service at the church that starts with traditional music, lightening our candles, and hearing a sermon. About two hours into it, things switch to a more upbeat tempo with musical performances and dramas until late in the night. After that a large group of us heads to the hospital where we visit, sing and pray with each patient and their family who is still in the hospital over Christmas. We also give them a gift. Then we welcome Christmas with a meal at one of our senior doctor's houses.

 

On Christmas morning, after church ends around 11 am, we start visiting. Visiting our many friends and neighbors lasts for at least a week. We go to each of neighbor's or friend's house to share greetings. They serve cookies, snacks, and drinks and if you are a close friend or someone important you will get a rice meal with vegetables and meat, usually a pig that they have butchered the day before. For some the visit doesn't last long because we see each other regularly but for others this is the one time of the year we may see them, so it is always good to catch-up on their news and hear their stories from the past year like who got married or who had a baby etc.

One of the things that stands out to me about this time of community though, is that Muslim and Buddhist people come to visit their Christian friends during this time. They take the time to honor that friendship during their special days. There is a separate table for halal (prepared according to Muslim guidelines) food though so no worries about the Muslims eating pork :) This practice is then reversed during Idul Fitri when Christians visit their Muslim friends and neighbors and the same with Chinese New Year. During each of these holidays, there is a chance to ask for and receive forgiveness for any wrongs done. Then you eat together.

I wish I had a picture of this happening but I don't as we are all busy talking when we get together. I will attach a few pictures though of Christmas here. Small versions as otherwise our internet won't be up to being able to send it :)

Calista
West Kalimantan, Indonesia

Christmas eve at the Hospital


Calista Yates, '04 Colleague, served as a Medical Nurse and Trainer in West Kalimanthan, Indonesia. In 2013, she returned to West Kalimantan, serving as a nurse midwife and mentor with WorldVenture.   

 

12.10.16

Advent: Week 3
Seeking Beauty in a Challenging Environment by Peter Bittner

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

 

Peter Bittner Advent 2016

 

"Preparing for the Christmas season during my Fulbright year in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia meant seeking beauty in a challenging environment, with horrific air pollution worsening every day." Peter Bittner

The season of Advent invites us to ponder the meaning and practice of global citizenship. Advent calls us to more deeply live out the connections between our lives and the impact on our neighbors locally and around the world. The prayer flags pictured in the first Advent reflection manifested that connection, sending intentions of peace, justice, hope everywhere the winds blow.

This week, the image of sunrise over Ulaanbaatar shows the reality of one vital and often overlooked aspect of our connection with Mongolia. Whatever the distinctions of our daily patterns and situations, as living creatures we share the breath of life. In the frigid winter, lifegiving winds do not blow through the valleys of Ulaanbaatar. Smoky stench and poisonous pollution collect in the cold air. Human produced particulate air pollution chokes the life of residents, especially the most vulnerable, infants, children and elders. Particulate rates leap seven to 20 percent higher than World Health Organization guidelines. The rates of infant mortality and pregnancy loss skyrocket.

As we anticipate God coming into the world wrapped in vulnerable infant flesh, we acknowledge the mothers, infants, children and elders who are threatened by human-made environmental crises across our planet, from Mongolia to Michigan.

With every breath our prayers fly to surround them. Our concern, awareness, commitment and accompaniment breathe fresh energy into the communities where we live and distant communities as inexorably connected to us as the air that sustains us. Together with all of creation we groan with eager longing and endure the birth pangs of all that will come alive within and among us. We are enlarged in the faithful waiting, enduring the struggle in joyful expectation (Romans 8:19-23).

This writing was inspired by Peter's recent piece on the air quality public health crisis which made the cover of The Diplomat here.

 


 

Peter Bittner, '13 Colleague, is a current student at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, where he reports on global development, environment, and health. Peter is passionate to not only help share countries' unique developmental stories but to contribute to their success via collaborations with local leaders. Peter has traveled in Mongolia extensively and documented his experiences through a successful Kickstarter project exploring Mongolia's widening rural-urban divide via photography and narrative writing.

 

11.30.16

Advent: Week 2
The God Who Comes Over for Dinner. by Annie Mesaros

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press

 

Peter Bittner Advent 2016

 

As I read scripture, I'm struck by the persistent theme of God's people continually asking God to be near them and awed by the ways God chooses to respond. Finally, God-ever mysterious-shows up in a backwater town, occupied by a violent empire, as a baby.


For this, the third year of my seminary program, I'm interning at Thank God for Sex, an organization committed to a community approach to healing religious sexual shame. One of the nasty myths we're combating is the notion that flesh is evil and we need to practice hypervigilance in a never-ending battle against our bodies' natural impulses-our sexuality.


But Jesus didn't hate bodies. First of all, God makes humans embodied and called the entirety of the created order very good. Secondly, God generally operates in a kind of body-optional existence, and in Jesus, God opts in.


The last supper image pictured here is a mural behind the pulpit of the church I attended in Papua, Indonesia, during my service year with the Mennonite Central Committee. It's not a picture of Jerusalem-it's Jesus in Papuans own home, the lowland forest of Papua, nestled into the foot of the mountains. It includes all kinds of Papuan residents-different tribes from the island, but also colonists and occupiers. There are women, men, and gender-ambiguous folks. And you're there too, in the seat that's been left empty.


Immanuel is with us, eats with us, and even feeds us with his own body. This-in his culture that is almost as purity-obsessed as our modern Christianity can be. He heals with touch even though a distant thought or word would suffice-even though it will discredit him in the eyes of purists. He makes a point to feed people and wash their bodies. He invites touch from a woman who steps outside her social boundaries to bathe his body in oil and tears and dry him with her hair.


I suppose I could Google why our elections take place in November, but instead I prefer to imagine it's a divine intervention that serves to elevate our awareness of our need for God to BE HERE NOW PLEASE BECAUSE I CANNOT EVEN WITH THIS GARBAGE. It's a reminder for Advent that will last us all year long.


Bodies are collateral damage in the vitriol of U.S. politics. Not unlike Jesus' culture that was concerned with who's in and who's out, we are either actively in the process of legislating or threatening to legislate the dehumanization of our bodies and others. Rights to health care, marriage, citizenship and residency, faith, and reproductivity make effective weapons because they're so intimately critical to our personhoods and our humanity.


We believe in a God who made Godself vulnerable to hunger, exhaustion, and death just to be near us in a world rife with uncertainty and violence. A God who actively chose to get dressed in human flesh in order to walk up to us, treed in a crowd, to say, "Come down from that tree-I'm coming to your house for dinner."


Come, Immanuel, and show us your way. Maybe after we eat?

 

 


Annie Mesaros, '09 Colleague, is a theologian and writer in Seattle, working on her MDiv at The Seattle School. You can read more of her musings at anniemesaros.com or by following her dog on Instagram @twmesaros.

 

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