A Year of YAV in the Mile High City by Melissa Rift


September 2015

Mission: Urban Peak

I have officially been living in Denver for a little less than a month! Needless to say, its been an adventure every step of the way from beginning our work site placements, to learning how to commute on bike to work, to settling in to the new house (aka the wolffden), and last but not least hiking our first 14er Mt. Evans! One thing to know about me on a personal level – I LOVE infographics. So I have spent a small portion of my free time and a large portion of my procrastination time creating an infographic about my new place of employment- Urban Peak Drop-In Center and Outreach for youth experiencing homelessness.

Urban Peak

For more information, I invite you to to visit their website

Other than learning the ropes at Urban Peak, I’d say the most exciting thing we’ve done is the hike. I came out exhausted and sunburnt but I will say it was an experience unlike any other.

I hope to post more about work soon, but until then happy autumn and YAV a nice day!!



Mission: Mountain Wo(man) 

 This week we had our local orientation in Denver and finally got to settle in to this place we will be calling home! This weeks post will be a story told in pictures and captions because -cliche moment- a picture says a thousand words am I right? And let’s face it, everyone likes a good picture book now and then. For your enjoyment: 

 “I didn’t know DenMex was a thing” we are welcomed the first night in our new house by a giant family dinner with DOOR staff and friends.  

“I’m going to call it ColoRADbro” we had too take our first Wolfpack selfie and start a DOOR Denver Instagram page (follow door303). Quote credit to Michael 

“Nobody smiles when you run by them” – Helen and I took a morning run to Sloans Lake where you get a city view going one way and mountains going back. We were also taught that where we come from people must be friendlier runners  

 “It feels like I smoked a pack of cigarettes yesterday” – the other side of the lake and our rude awakening to running in higher altitude 

“Maybe we’ll walk that last hill” – breaking up the inclines during our bike ride for views like this   
“Mountain lions are usually only a concern for dogs or children….so Helen watch out” – our breathtaking campsite at Cottonwood Lake for our orientation retreat 

 “It’s an adventure!” – the view from our spontaneous trek up a steep hill/mini mountain by the campsite  

  “Mountain maaaaan” – Antonio took us to chop firewood and JongHan graced us with the best quote of the week 

“In the valley of the Green Glass Doors” – Antonio puzzled us with some riddles while we took all of this in    

“Hahhhh I am Korean, you are Americannn” – More riddles around the campfire and JongHan bested two group members who wish to remain anonymous   

“I think this is the best breakfast we’ve ever had on this trip” – the picture speaks for itself; we ate like kings and queens  
So so much more happened in this week that was not documented in pictures. But the intangible happening was that 5 strangers became a community. “Here’s to red ships and blue ships but the best ships are friendships” 
YAV a nice day! 

Mission: Disorientation 

People had been checking in with me all week asking excitedly “how is Denver?!” And my answer has repeatedly been “I’m sure it’s great, but I’m in New York!”

[the Hudson River at sunrise where a group of us got up to run each morning]  
This week all of the new national and international YAVs spent the week in Stony Point, NY for our orientation. Upon hearing the title “orientation” I figured we would be getting the A, B, Cs of everything a YAV year entails. I asked myself “what the heck is going to take a whole week to talk about?!” But what I found was that this week was very little about orientation and much much more than I ever expected it to be, and it definitely took an entire week. 

Workshops led by some of the brightest and most charismatic minds in the Presbyterian church covered topics about cultural competence and privilege, what it means to live in community, what it means to serve, what it means to be uncomfortable and how to channel discomfort in to something beautiful, and how to share our stories with others in a meaningful way. The YAV alumni shared stories from their experience, some bringing us to tears, some from laughter and some from heartbreak. We split in to groups and scattered the New York and New Jersey area visiting different places of cultural worship. I attended a Sikh Gudwara and our group learned of the misconceptions of this beautiful religion and engaged in the spiritually grounding practices of their faith. 

[the outside of the Gudwara where we would be welcomed in, educated, and share a meal with the community]  
I learned a lot of information this week. Much of it tangible, much of it in conversation that both challenged and nourished my mind and my spirit. I can confidently say I am leaving with so much more knowledge than I came with. But these things are not the reasons I feel my souls has overflowed with richness after leaving this place. There was a night I wrote in my journal “today was one of the most enriching days of my life” and this has very little to do with what I was taught and everything to do with the community with which I was immersed at Stony Point. 

[more pictures of scenery because I was in love with the Hudson River]  
I named this post “disorientation” because every part of this week worked to challenge what we know and ask hard questions to prepare us for the hard questions we would be faced with in the next year. My favorite quote came from our director Richard on our last night of worship. It was shared with him in his YAV year and it stuck with me as well “this year your heart will be broken wide open, and God will fill it” 

 More to come soon on settling in to Denver – YAV a nice day!  

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