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!