Over Memorial Day weekend, I was blessed by two days off and a visit from my boyfriend, Logan. We did many of the touristy Chicago activities and certainly enjoyed our time together.
View from the John Hancock Building
The "Bean" in Millenium Park
At the Field Museum
At Wrigley Field
We took public transit and walked a lot - much appreciated when work involves riding in a car for six or so hours a day! It was great to finally get to see the city from somewhere other than the freeway.
I have to keep counting my blessings and remembering the many benefits of this Americorps program, one of which is the opportunity to travel and visit so many places #perspective
On the 10th of May, the President signed a federal disaster declaration for several counties in the state of Illinois. Three days later, my team piled into our vans and headed north to Chicago eager to finally put all of our training to use.
During the month of April, many parts of Illinois were inundated with heavy rainfall and flooding. Our task is to canvass effected neighborhoods and help people get registered for federal assistance. The challenge is that this is a massive area with a massive number of workers employed by a massive entity. And we're implementing a new program. And Americorps hasn't worked out all the kinks yet. In a word, I've been frustrated, but I'm trying to stay positive.
Do I feel like I've helped some people? Yes. Do I feel like this is my calling? Not really.
I am confident that even challenging situations can teach a person and can be essential and beneficial. I am learning things about myself that will hopefully lead me to a calling and make me better prepared for that work once I find it.
This program is hard. It is harder than I expected in different ways than I expected. There are days when I question what good I am doing even being here, but...
There has to be a But. I would love prayers as I try to find the But during the next several weeks and months.
So I'm living in Texas now! It is hot here, but I am enjoying it. My team lives on a camp that overlooks the gorgeous (and huge) Lewisville Lake, so our evenings and weekends are thoroughly enjoyed. I'd choose sleeping in bunk beds, grilling all our meals, and running around in the outdoors over a hotel any day!
Training and work have been slow which is frustrating for me. I left Wisconsin in February hoping that I wouldn't be sitting around purposeless and bored anymore, but I don't think that I'm accomplishing much in this program either unfortunately.
During this rough patch, though, my team has been a huge encouragement as we try to keep each other sane.
Late-night, last minute photo op with the Joplin sign
If I had to compile some character traits that are needed for success in this program, flexibility would be very near the top of that list. Plans change frequently, and living arrangements often demand adaptation.
This all was reinforced again this week when my team found out that we will be leaving Joplin more than a month earlier than scheduled. Wednesday we received news that we would be transferred to Denton, Texas for a week of additional training. We drive out on Saturday morning.
After next week, my team will likely be sent to a yet unknown location. That's how late notices are; that's how quickly things change; that's how flexible we need to be. But, honestly, that's what is so incredible about my life right now.
During the last three months, I've lived in three different states. I've learned CPR, bought cowboy boots, worshipped God in three different churches, joined a gym, pierced my ears, and visited two National Parks!
Hiking in Boulder, CO
Shoal Creek in Southwestern Missouri
In Southern New Mexico with my teammate Angie
The thing is, all the adventures out there are worth giving up a little stability. Sometimes it is frustrating (like when i'm trying to plan a Memorial Day trip but can't buy a ticket until I know where I'll be). But ultimately, flexibility leaves me open to whatever God wants me experience, and why would I ever choose stability over a full and exciting life?
My team's first assignment is Joplin, Missouri. You may remember that Joplin was hit by a devestating EF5 tornado in May of 2011. Thousands of homes, the high school, businesses, and a hospital were destroyed and 161 people were killed in the storm.
The community of Joplin has rebuilt much, but there is still evidence of the storm throughout the city. My team is here to wrap up the temporary housing program that gave people a place to live while they rebuilt their homes and lives.
We are thrilled to be here and I am humbled by both the power of the storm that ripped through this place and by the human spirit so evident in this community and their efforts to rebuild.
Because four weeks of training in Denver wasn't enough, I headed down to the New Mexico desert for two more weeks. I have no pictures from those weeks because we were on a federal facility that did not permit any photos. They also enforced curfews and dress codes. It was certainly an interesting experience.
Training was pretty intensive, with eight hour days and only one day off. I am so thankful to finally be done with training and heading out to begin work!
It was a crazy process, but I am now a proud member of the team Tundra 4!
My position is Community Relations (CR) which is essentially a three-part job. When a natural or man-made disaster gets a Presidential declaration, CR teams deploy immediately to assess the situation in the community, interview community members, inform survivors how to register for assistance, and report on our findings so that resources can be allocated effectively.
The best part is my lovely teammates who crack me up and teach me things every day.