Category Archives: Advent

Peace – By Colin Pettigrew

When I was tasked with speaking about Peace and my experience with it these last 4 months I had no idea what I was going to say. You see, AHOPE is not a peaceful place, at least not as I had come to understand it. AHOPE is a place where crisis is happening at all times and chaos seems to be seconds away. This is not what I would consider to be peaceful. I have grown up understanding Peace to be exclusively an external phenomenon wished for by kids and beauty pageant contestants (excuse me, “scholarship programs”). Peace was only something that could happen between two outside individuals or groups that were in conflict.

I had always heard talk about being “at peace” or having “inner peace”. I thought this sounded nice, but had no idea what it might look like in my own life. Because of this lack of experience with “inner peace” I had no idea that I may actually be experiencing it in one of the craziest places in my own life. At AHOPE crisis is around every corner and chaos is lurking, but it does not consume me. Instead I have been able to focus on the relationships that I am building with co-workers and clients alike, as well as the knowledge that I, and those at Homeward Bound are truly caring for the “least of these”. It is a place where the greatest commandment, to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself, is alive, and there is much beauty in that. The realization of this has caused me to also realize that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, at this time and in this place. The feeling of being where I am supposed to be stops me worrying about most decisions I have made or will make, and this has led me to discover that “inner peace” is a real thing. “Inner peace” is not just a thing for Buddhists, but something that can come from an acknowledgement that you may be in the exact time and place you are supposed to be to bring the Kingdom a little closer to Earth.


Love- by Emily Bentley

While thinking about where I have seen love throughout the past four months working with Hands and Feet, I thought about “the greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:36-40 reads “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul. Second, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

It sounds simple enough, but I don’t think that means that it is easy. If we truly loved our neighbors as ourselves, then there shouldn’t be people that are homeless, or hungry, or lonely. I wish that we would truly and fully live this way. I wish that I would truly and fully live this way. We are not called to just be kind to one another, but to live in a way where we see Jesus in each other.  Where loving our neighbors as ourselves isn’t just an idea but a reality.

I am thankful for the moments where I have seen this love, God’s love, during the past four months. I have especially experienced this in my placement at Haywood Street Congregation, a homeless ministry/church in downtown Asheville. This is a place that welcomes anyone and everyone, no questions asked. A place that shouts together at the end of every worship service that we are God’s children. A place where the highest members of society are not sitting near, but sitting with the lowest, realizing that we are all sinners and we are all equal. By sharing a meal together, holding hands with each other, and worshiping our awesome God, we hope to break down the largest barriers of inequality and oppression.

It is through these things that we see a glimpse of the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. A glimpse of the love that we are intended to share in community. And once you experience a love like that, you can’t go back. You want to share it everywhere, and with everyone.


Hope – By Corrine Roberts

When you dive into ministry or service as a wide-eyed, idealistic, fiery newcomer there are some things for which you can never be prepared. The depth of hurt and the level of injustice there is to overcome in our world is something you can know about in theory, however, until you find yourself stationed at the front lines battling against it day after day, it is not really real. Statistics remain flat on a page until they are fleshed out with faces and stories. And once you are struck with the enormity of it all, it can be overwhelming. Everyone will at some point reach a moment when it seems like too much. There are too many starving children, too many homeless on the streets, too many suffering from curable diseases, too many oppressed by government or media, too many lacking proper education…sometimes it seems as if there is simply too much darkness in the world to overcome. Nagging questions begin to creep into the back of your mind: Why bother? Am I really making a difference? What can one person do anyway?

I am not immune to these feelings of defeat. I have found myself at a loss meeting a man who grew up in an abusive home and has been on the street since he was a teenager. I have held back tears hearing about an addiction that warps a normally exuberant soul I admire into a dismal individual lacking his true spark. I have struggled to comprehend how a six year old can already be so full of anger because of his unfortunate situation at home that he lashes out, distancing himself from his small, confused classmates. It is simple to slip on cynicism like a coat of armor. It is a clever form of self-preservation. It takes little effort and personal investment to look out into the world and see all that is wrong. So, are we to simply give up because of the enormity of it all?

I don’t think so.

Budding beneath the blanket of darkness in our world there is hope.  It takes a bit more time and effort to locate, but believe me it is there and it shines brilliantly. It is present in the college groups sacrificing their winter break to build stairs and replace doors with Habitat for Humanity. It exists in the volunteers packaging food boxes and folding clothes at the Crisis Center on their day off. It pervades the hearts of those who have made serving the city of Asheville their career, regardless of the undocumented hours of overtime.

My mind wanders toward a favorite scene of mine from Lord of the Rings. It comes in a moment that is seemingly hopeless for two adventuring hobbits:

 

Sam: “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

Frodo: “What are we holding onto, Sam?”

Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.”

Sometimes, when things are at their worst, hope seems naïve. It seems small and inconsequential in the face of all that must be done. But I have learned that this could not be farther from the truth. Hope is huge. Small moments of victory, love, support, strength, and selflessness in the face of adversity keep hope alive and cast a light that can be seen for miles. I for one plan to keep fighting for the good that I know is still present in a broken world. And I hope that you will do the same.


Joy – by Sarah McCoy

Joy. In these past few months, the joy I have come to experience the most is the joy in recognition, the joy in being remembered. Not the type of recognition that calls you out of the crowd. Not the type of recognition that feeds your ego. I’m talking about the familiarity of a face, remembering someone’s story. Noticing the empty chair at the table and missing someone. Recognizing that someone’s hair is a little bit shorter than the last time you saw them. I’m talking about the joy in knowing someone, whether it be the 14 six year olds I see every afternoon, or the group of adults at Bible Study every Monday morning. In these past few months, I’ve realized the importance of calling someone by name, of asking about their day, of picking up right where we left off. When someone knows your name, when someone asks about your story, about your roommates, about your family, don’t you feel the circle widen a little bit? There’s a bigger family in the picture now. And we’re all a part of it.

 

There was a period a few weeks ago where I was at a different school everyday with the YMCA afterschool. My usual group of six year olds didn’t see me for a while. But the day I came back, the piercing voices of 1st graders screamed my name and ran to hug me. They didn’t remember the times I had disciplined them. They didn’t remember the times they had to spend snack by themselves because of their attitude. They didn’t remember the times I had to say ‘No’ when they asked to be the line leader. They were just glad to see me again. They wanted to welcome me back.

When “the poor” and “the least of these” and “those kids” change from “them” to “we,” we can know that we’re in this thing together, and that my goal is theirs.

In these past few months with Hands and Feet, and especially in this season of Advent, the waiting and the expectancy have become all the more active to me. Nouwen says that active waiting looks a lot like “recognizing something is happening where you are, in each moment, and you want to be present to it.” For me, there is great joy in that.