HYC Vancouver: What I Learned

Hey y’all! I’m back! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, but I’ve (for the most part) recovered. For those who don’t know, I was in Vancouver, BC, Canada from August 1-11 serving the homeless through a program called “HOPE Youth Corps” (HYC). Our particular track partnered with an organization called “The Lookout Society,” which provides services for the homeless such as shelter/housing, food, and harm reduction. I’ve learned so much about myself and God through this experience, so I thought I’d share it with y’all!

1. Homelessness is not that far out of reach

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One of the first things we did was organize a gazillion clothes and fitted sheets and put them into boxes. BTW the girl in the picture is my lovely friend, Jade.

On our first day of service, we had an orientation about who we were serving, what to expect, and safety precautions. It was here when I learned about just how close I could have been to homelessness. The typical demographic of people who are homeless struggle with at least one of the following: mental health disorders, medical problems, traumatic experiences (ex: war veterans, domestic violence), lack of familial support, and/or addiction. The fact that I could “check off” at least one of these boxes was extremely humbling, let alone multiple. If my dad lost his job, I was born into a not as supportive family, my family didn’t have a good insurance plan, or I had attempted to self-medicate, I could have very easily ended up on the streets. I already knew that those who experience homelessness aren’t all that different from those who don’t, but this realization took it to a whole new level. I was so humbled by how much I could relate to these people, and my empathy for them grew so much. I am still in awe that I was the one serving and not being served, and I am so grateful that God has blessed me so much.

2. I seriously need to check my pride, shut up, and just listen

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This cool cat, Marin, taught me a lot about humility and being a good listener.

Pride is one of those sins that pretty much everyone and their mom struggles with. I think because it’s so widespread, it can be hard for me to take this sin seriously and have Godly sorrow towards it (2 Corinthians 7:10). During HYC, we talked about pride/humility a lot, and what I’ve been realizing more and more is that it’s still a huge problem in my life.

Confession time: I am a terrible listener. When hearing a friend talk about their life, I tend to start to think about what I would say after they finish, or what wisdom I may impart on them to make their life exponentially better. In reality, I have no idea what I’m talking about, and even if I do, it doesn’t mean I’m going to help them in any way. How does this relate to pride? By doing this, I put my thoughts at a higher importance than my peers’: I know best and therefore my thoughts matter more. Looking back, I think I just need to shut up and listen completely to what my friends have to say.

I think mostly everyone who has any sort of friendship with me knows that my memory is worse than that of a fish, and I have valid reasons as to why it’s like that, but not listening definitely does not help with not being able to remember what my friend said an hour ago. During this HYC, I had the opportunity to have many many many deep conversations with those that I lived with, and to be honest, it was really challenging at times to just listen, and I failed A LOT. However, I was able to learn so much by just listening, and I plan to continually work on it now that I’m back in the states. As Proverbs 3:34 and James 4:6 say, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

3. God can actually work through me, not just around me

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SO MANY AWESOME PEOPLE IN ONE PICTURE!!! GAH!!!

Throughout the past six months, I have seen God work in amazing ways in my life. For starters, it’s miraculous that the bulk of my recovery was done in about three months. It’s important to recognize that recovery is ongoing, and I will forever have stuff to work through, but what some people never recover from, I was able to do in three months. Now, let me make this clear: It was all God. I honestly don’t even know how my recovery was this quick. Yes, I put in the work, but God and His Word allowed me to gain so much peace that otherwise, I would not have had.

Even though I have seen God work in my life and through other people, I forget that He can also work through me. After all, I do have the Holy Spirit, so I have that power in me already (Romans 8:11). During this HYC, I was really able to see how much I can do with God working in me. Since before we even got to Vancouver, all of us were praying that we could make an impact, and although we weren’t able to see if/how our work affected the homeless population in Vancouver, we were able to see how it affected the staff at The Lookout Society. We were quite a loud group of teenagers and young adults, so when we’d come in each morning to a different location, the staff were rightfully skeptical; however, by lunch time they were beaming with joy at the work we’d do. Even when we felt like we weren’t doing much, like scrubbing the same patch of graffiti in a bathroom for an hour, they’d be so happy. Quite a few staff member were even interested in visiting the Vancouver church and finding out who God is. It really shows how much God can work through us when we let Him.

Another time I was really able to see God work through me was when our group would interact with the Vancouver church. Seeing how encouraged the campus and teen ministries were by us just being in Vancouver, before they even met us, was really awesome. There was one day where I was especially tired and sick, and there were blisters on the bottom of my feet. It was our “break day” after a week of serving, so we went to the Olympic stadium and played volleyball, but because of all my ailment, on top of potential trauma responses, I decided it wasn’t a good idea for me to play. Another girl in the Vancouver teen ministry sat with me, and I was able to tell her about my struggles with mental health and how God helped me through them. Turns out, she struggled with similar stuff. It seemed like sharing my story with her helped her a lot and gave her hope that God could carry her through anything that Satan threw her way, and it was really cool for me to see that some good could come out of my hardships. God really showed me that He can do so much through me, and that I can make a difference.

It’s crazy to think that all this learning happened in just 11 days. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible and supporting all my crazy endeavors.

With love,
Emma

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