"So what are you doing after graduation?" I swear I was asked this a thousand times throughout my senior year of college, and my answer was usually something along the lines of "I, errrr, uhhhhh..."
Whoever decided that we were only supposed to spend 4 years in undergrad obviously had no idea how stressful it is to figure out life after college. If he had, he definitely would have added another year or two. Initially, my plans were to go to law school right away, but over the course of the past year, I have felt God calling me in another direction: Palestine.
"Good heavens, out of all the places in the world, why Palestine?" Good question.
During January of my Junior year, I took a three-week cross-cultural trip to Israel and Palestine with 25 other students from school. In Israel, we visited a bunch of historical sights, went to the beach, did a lot of shopping, and roamed around the Old City. In Palestine, we visited a refugee camp, maneuvered through checkpoints, stayed with host families, and struck up conversations with strangers about every topic under the sun. My time in the Middle East truly changed my life, and made me appreciate the freedoms that I take for granted in the United States.
Coming home was difficult for me. I was brokenhearted by the injustices that I had seen; by the pain and hopelessness that so many experience every day; and by the sense of abandonment that the Palestinians, especially Christians, feel. So many of the people with whom I had the opportunity to speak felt abandoned by the world, and more upsettingly, abandoned by the Christian church. As a follower of Christ, I am called to care for the "least of these," those who feel forgotten by everyone else, and this is what I feel God telling me to do.
So... what am I doing after graduation? I'm moving to Palestine.
After praying that God would make my path so obvious that even I couldn't mess it up, I felt His call to serve with MCC's (Mennonite Central Committee) SALT (Serving and Learning Together) program. I have accepted a 1-year service position at The Shepherd Society, a humanitarian organization in Bethlehem. I will be doing mostly administrative work like grant writing, record keeping, and banking, and I am incredibly excited to be able to put my anal-retentive perfectionism to good use.
One of the important aspects of this journey is that I do not want to just be one more American that travels across the world, volunteers for a while, and then goes back home and carries on life as normal. I want to raise awareness of the issues that those in the Middle East are currently facing; I want to make a difference not only in people's lives in Palestine, but also in the lives of people back home in the States. While I am traveling alone, I do not want to be having this adventure alone, I want to include my friends and family in my experiences - hence the blog.
There are many ways you can get involved in this journey. First, you can pray. Pray for Palestine. The situation in the Middle East is currently quite volatile. Pray for peace, and pray for a peaceful way of achieving peace. The use of violence in Palestine only escalates the situation, so please pray for the leadership in both Palestine and Israel, that they can find a solution, nonviolently. Pray for me. I know that spending a year abroad in a country where I don't speak the language or know anyone will at times be stressful, frustrating, and emotionally draining. Pray for flexibility and patience with myself and others as I maneuver through completely new experiences.
Another way to get involved is to donate. While the vast majority of the cost of this year is subsidized by MCC, I do need to raise around $5,000 toward my travel and living expenses. I know that money is tight for everyone right now (especially this poor college grad), but if you feel led to give, you can do that through the paypal button on the right section of this blog.
Lastly, you can support me by staying in touch while I'm abroad, whether that means reading my blog, writing emails, or skyping! I value the friendship I have with each one of you, and maintaining that while I'm off in another world is incredibly important to me. So STAY IN TOUCH :)
I realize that this post is incredibly long, and I promise to try not to bore you in the future. I probably won't have too many updates until August 11th - the date that I leave for orientation, but stay tuned for adventure!