Monday, July 23, 2012

10 Suggestions for Helping your YAGM Return Home

I found myself laughing a lot when I was reading this, because actually a lot of it seems like it will be very true! We will find out soon enough. I am so excited to get home to see family and friends! I have missed you all very much this year! See you in a week! :)

1. Don’t ask the question, “So how was it?” Your YAGM cannot function in one-word answers right now, especially ones intended to sum up their entire year’s experience, and being asked to do so may cause them to start laughing or crying uncontrollably. Ask more specific questions, like “Who was your closest friend?” or “What did you do in your free time?” or “What was the food like?” or “Tell me about your typical day.”

2. If you wish to spend time with your YAGM, let them take the lead on where to go and what to do. Recognize that seemingly mundane rituals, like grocery shopping or going to the movies, may be extremely difficult for someone who has just spent a year living without a wide array of material goods. One former YAGM, for example, faced with the daunting task of choosing a tube of toothpaste from the 70-odd kinds available, simply threw up in the middle of the drugstore.

3. Expect some feelings of jealousy and resentment, especially if your YAGM lived with a host family. Relationships that form during periods of uncertainty and vulnerability (the first few months in a foreign country, for example) form quickly and deeply. The fact that your YAGM talks non-stop about their friends and family from their country of service doesn’t mean that they don’t love you, too. It simply means that they’re mourning the loss (at least in part) of the deep, meaningful, important relationships that helped them to survive and to thrive during this last year. In this regard, treat them as you would anyone else mourning a loss.

4. You may be horrified by the way your YAGM dresses; both because their clothes are old and raggedy and because they insist on wearing the same outfit three days in a row. Upon encountering their closet at home, returning YAGMs tend to experience two different emotions: (1) jubilation at the fact that they can stop rotating the same 2 pairs of jeans and 4 shirts, and (2) dismay at the amount of clothing they own, and yet clearly lived without for an entire year. Some YAGMs may deal with this by giving away entire car loads of clothing and other items to people in need. Do not “save them from themselves” by offering to drive the items to the donation center, only to hide them away in your garage. Let your YAGM do what they need to do. Once they realize, after the fact, that you do indeed need more than 2 pairs of jeans and 4 shirts to function in professional American society, offer to take them shopping. Start with the Goodwill and the Salvation Army; your YAGM may never be able to handle Macys again.

5. Asking to see photos of your YAGM’s year in service is highly recommended, providing you have an entire day off from work. Multiply the number of photos you take during a week’s vacation, multiply that by 52, and you understand the predicament. If you have an entire day, fine. If not, take a cue from number 1 above, and ask to see specific things, like photos of your YAGM’s host family, or photos from holiday celebrations. Better yet, set up a number of “photo dates,” and delve into a different section each time. Given the high percentage of people whose eyes glaze over after the first page of someone else’s photos, and the frustration that can cause for someone bursting with stories to tell, this would be an incredible gift.

6. At least half the things that come out of your YAGM’s mouth for the first few months will begin with, “In Mexico/Slovakia/South Africa/etc…” This will undoubtedly begin to annoy the crap out of you after the first few weeks. Actually saying so, however, will prove far less effective than listening and asking interested questions. Besides, you can bet that someone else will let slip exactly what you’re thinking, letting you off the hook.

7. That said, speak up when you need to! Returning YAGMs commonly assume that almost nothing has changed in your lives since they left. (This happens, in part, because you let them, figuring that their experiences are so much more exciting than yours, and therefore not sharing your own.) Be assertive enough to create the space to share what has happened in your life during the last year.

8. Recognize that living in a very simple environment with very few material belongings changes people. Don’t take it personally if your YAGM seems horrified by certain aspects of the way you live – that you shower every day, for example, or that you buy a new radio instead of duct-taping the broken one back together. Recognize that there probably are certain things you could or should change (you don’t really need to leave the water running while you brush your teeth, do you?), but also that adjusting to what may now feel incredibly extravagant will simply take awhile. Most YAGMs make permanent changes toward a simpler lifestyle. Recognize this as a good thing.

9. Perhaps you had hopes, dreams, and aspirations for your YAGM that were interrupted by their year of service. If so, you may as well throw them out the window. A large percentage of returning YAGMs make significant changes to their long-term goals and plans. Some of them have spent a year doing something they never thought they’d enjoy, only to find themselves drawn to it as a career. Others have spent a year doing exactly what they envisioned doing for the rest of their lives, only to find that they hate it. Regardless of the direction your YAGM takes when they return…rejoice! This year hasn’t changed who they are; it has simply made them better at discerning God’s call on their lives. (Note: Some YAGMs spend their year of service teaching English, some are involved in human rights advocacy, others work with the elderly or disabled, and at least one spent his year teaching British youth to shoot with bows and arrows. The results of this phenomenon, therefore, can vary widely.)

10. Go easy on yourself, and go easy on your YAGM. Understand that reverse culture shock is not an exact science, and manifests itself differently in each person. Expect good days and bad days. Don’t be afraid to ask for help (including of the pharmaceutical variety) if necessary. Pray. Laugh. Cry. This too shall pass, and in the end, you’ll both be the richer for it.
This was written by Andrea Roske-Metcalfe, a Country Coordinator for the Young Adults in Global Mission program in Mexico.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Breaking Down The Language Barrier

I was able to spend three weeks with 10 amazing people from the YWAM Recife organization.  In case you don't know, YWAM stands for Youth With A Mission, and Recife is in Brazil. There were 7 students, 2 leaders, and one of the leader's little girl. Their focus while they were here was to engage with various age groups in our church along evangelizing around the local area.

Before the YWAM team arrived, we were informed that many of them did not speak English very well. Hearing this, I did panic a little bit, because I didn't know any Portuguese. I was unsure how I was supposed to lead a group well when there was going to be a big language barrier. When the YWAM team arrived, I was relieved to find out that there was one fluent English speaker in the group. She was very helpful, but I soon realized that I couldn't always rely on her to translate for me if I wanted to get to know the other members of the group. Even though there is a language barrier, we found ways to still communicate with each other. I worked on learning simple, but very useful Portuguese phrases, and the YWAM team learned some simple English phrases. However, when these simple phrases were not enough, google translator was a brilliant tool.

There were some times when the language barrier made things more challenging, but eventually we would manage to understand each other, even if it did take us twice as long as it would without the language barrier. Then there were times when the language barrier was broken down and didn't matter. This was when we were worshiping and praising God. The power of God is so amazing that He is able to break down the language barrier and to help us realize that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. There are differences between us, but those will not stand in the way of all of us coming together  to praise and worship God, because these differences don't matter during that time. It is amazing to see how when God is involved, challenges become less difficult and more manageable.

The three weeks that the YWAM team was in Bookham was amazing! I enjoyed getting to know each and everyone of them, and have made some friends that I will never forget!

Saturday, March 31, 2012


During the month of March I have been participating in an Alpha course at my church. Before coming to England I had heard of churches running Alpha courses, but I didn't actually know what an Alpha course was all about until recently. Alpha courses are designed for people who are non Christians, but want to learn more about the basics of Christianity and what being a Christian means. However, there are people who are Christians, that are a part of the course to help facilitate groups in discussions and also be there as a mentor for people as they begin their faith journey.

Each Wednesday night, about 30 of us meet in the church hall to have a meal together, listen to a speaker, and have small group discussions over the talk. We gather around the table for a meal and then engage in teachings and discussions about Christianity, just like Jesus did with his disciples. I think that it is a great idea that each week we all have a meal together, because it helps build community amongst the group. Also, the discussions provide an opportunity to explore a little bit deeper on the topic discussed. The discussions have personally really helped me to confirm what I believe in and why I have chosen to be a Christian.

Having the opportunity to participate in this course has been really cool for me. Since August, I have come a long way with my relationship with God. I am a lot more confident about my Christian faith and sharing it with others. Many of the things that are taught in the Alpha sessions are reinforcing what I have already learned in Sunday school and Confirmation classes that I attended at my home church when I was younger. However, without having this foundational teaching I would not feel confident to be challenged about my faith, and I believe this helps to strengthen my relationship with God.

I have enjoyed taking the Alpha course and helping guide others along on their faith journey. There have been a few people who have been a part of the Alpha course who have now decided that they want to become Christians. It is amazing to see the change that has been made in these people since they have decided this. They are now regularly attending church, making better lifestyle choices, looking into being Baptized in the near future, and just seem filled with new life. Seeing the impact that God can have on people's lives is incredible. It has really showed me how powerful the love of God is.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Naturally Supernatural

Recently I attended a conference called Naturally Supernatural with a few other youth workers. The main focus of this conference was to learn more about the Holy Spirit and the importance of allowing ourselves to be open to Him on a daily basis. I was a little nervous to attend this conference because I knew that I was going to be taken out of my comfort zone for the four days of the conference.

At the conference, we spent a lot of time waiting on the Holy Spirit to do what He wanted to do. We would wait in silence until the Holy Spirit started to move and rest upon people. I didn't know what to expect, this is the first time that I had ever waited on the Holy Spirit. At first, I felt very uncomfortable, especially because I was nervous that the Holy Spirit was going to rest on me and make me do things like shake or fall to the ground crying, which I didn't want happening to me. I believe that the Holy Spirit is present in my everyday life, but I am not sitting around waiting for Him to rest upon me. Some of the people that I was with could tell that I was nervous and anxious about the Holy Spirit resting on me. They told me to just relax and that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman and won't force anything upon me that I didn't want to happen. After hearing this, I allowed myself to relax and to take in more of what was happening around me.

Each time after worship was the time when the Holy Spirit would be invited to come and rest upon people. At first, the church was silent and after about 2-3 minutes, people would start showing signs of the Holy Spirit resting upon them. Some of these  signs include: rocking back and forth, shaking, singing, and speaking in tongues. Once the Holy Spirit started resting upon people they would be invited to the front for prayer. People of the congregation would be invited to the front to pray for these people, especially if they felt that God wanted to share a word or picture with one of them. I was surprised to see how many people would go to the front and pray for a complete stranger. Then I realized that even though we view ourselves as strangers, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. God loves each and everyone of us the same and through his love we are able to love and pray for one another.

Each church community that I have been blessed to be a part of has been a very strong support system for me. There have been times that I have forgotten this, but the church community has always been there to remind me that I am not alone and that I am loved. We are all different and unique in our own ways. There are people who will never be able to understand one another, but when we all come together to worship and praise God that doesn't matter, we are able to put our differences aside for this time. The love of God is lived out in the church community and this really stood out to me at this conference.

Even though I was out of my comfort zone throughout the conference, I was comfortable with it. I was never pushed into doing anything that I didn't want to do, but I was still able to spend time with God. Also, this conference helped me to grow in my relationship with God and gave me a better understanding about the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


This past weekend I went to a youth workers retreat in Nottingham called Soulnet. It was a lot of fun to be able to have a weekend where I could relax and hang out with the other youth workers that are based in my area. We stayed at a resort called Center Parcs, which was located in the middle of Sherwood Forest (aka where Robin Hood lived), the scenery was beautiful! We had a lot of free time during the weekend, but we also had the opportunity to attend worship services and inspirational but informative sessions on youth work.

One of my favorite parts of the weekend was attending the worship services. I really enjoy how openly and freely people worship here in the United Kingdom. People allow themselves to be drawn into worship with God and forget about the distractions surrounding them. This is something I struggled with before I came here, but now I feel more able to focus on spending time with God during worship. Since this change, the lyrics of the songs that we sing have taken on more of a deeper meaning to me. I know that this is because my relationship with God is becoming stronger and I actually believe in the words that I am singing.

Many of the churches that I have attended back in the States have more traditional services rather than contemporary services. The church that I am a member of back home does have one contemporary service, but this contemporary service is very similar to many of the traditional services that I have attended here in the United Kingdom. The church where I am placed has three services on a Sunday; starting with a mix between a traditional and contemporary service, followed by a family contemporary service, and ending the night with a very contemporary service aimed at people in their 20s and 30s. When I first came to Bookham Baptist Church, I felt the most comfortable with attending the mix of traditional and contemporary service, but even at that service I was still out of my comfort zone. The first thing that I found very surprising was the songs that were being sung during worship. There were not hymns being sung, but more current and upbeat songs by singers such as Tim Hughes and Matt Redman.  Song time worship happens at the beginning of the service, not throughout the whole of the service, which allows more time for the Holy Spirit to work within the church. The structure of the service is more dependent on waiting for the Holy Spirit rather than strictly following what is laid out in the program. I am becoming more comfortable with the idea of waiting on the Holy Spirit, but I still struggle to be completely comfortable with it. At Soulnet, each time during singing worship, the leader of the retreat (Mike Pilavachi) would invite the Holy Spirit in. Seeing the Holy Spirit move within people causing them to cry, scream, or shake, did freak me out a little bit. However, I am becoming more open to the idea of the Holy Spirit moving within people. I enjoy attending events like Soulnet, because they challenge me and take me out of my comfort zone, but by the end of the event I feel like I have strengthened my relationship with God. Through my strengthened relationship with God, I now find myself being the most comfortable attending the more contemporary services.

I had an amazing time this weekend at Soulnet and it was great to be able to deepen my relationship with God and spend time with the other youth workers. I feel refreshed and inspired to make the most out of my last six months as a youth worker for Bookham Baptist Church.

Fun Fact: It finally properly snowed here in the UK and I am very excited about it!

A few of us hanging out
                                                                                            at Center Parcs!

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Year and New Opportunities

At the beginning of the New Year there were some changes made in my position as a youth worker. Before the New Year I was leading a group of 11-14 year old girls called the Tribettes. Recently, I have handed my leadership over to one of the volunteer youth workers from the church and have begun to lead a group of 15 and 16 year old boys. I have been leading this group of boys for about a month now and I am really enjoy it! I meet with the boys each Friday night where we do a variety of activities such as playing football (soccer), watching a film, and even baking. The focus of Friday night is building community amongst the group of youth. I meet with this same group of boys on Sunday mornings along with a couple of girls in this age range where the focus is on learning about God. We have just finished learning about and discussing the 10 commandments. Each time that the youth met on Sunday mornings, we dedicated that session to one of the 10 commandments. The discussions that the youth engage in are incredible. For example, a few Sundays ago we were learning about the Second Commandment, you shall not have any idols, and the youth starting discussing what an idol was. We decided that an idol is anything that we put above spending time with God. From there the discussion led to whether and Ipad, a mobile phone, or Facebook was considered a idol, because those are all things that people spend a lot more time using than spending time with God. It was a great discussion and I was very impressed with the amount of depth the youth were able to look into this commandment with. So far, each of the sessions that I have done with the youth have involved discussions that go more in depth about the topic rather than just revolving around the surface questions and statements. This is helping both the youth and myself grow in our faith, but also challenge ourselves to think more critically about the bible and our relationship with God. I am looking forward to the future activities and discussions with this group of most boys and a few girls that I will be able to be a part of. Everything has been falling into place so far and I hope that this continues to keep happening!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Crackers, Christmas Pudding, A Wonderful UK Christmas

This year was the first Christmas that I would not be celebrating at home with my family. When I accepted to join the YAGM program, I knew this, but it wasn't until the holiday decorations started appearing and Christmas music was being played all around that it hit me that I really would not be spending Christmas with my family back in the United States. However, I knew that I would be spending Christmas with my family in the United Kingdom, the Clements and the Lu families, and I couldn't wait to see what was in store for me!

The Christmas celebrations started on Christmas Eve. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve I went to the Lu's house to do some baking. Since the pumpkin pie was such a big hit at Thanksgiving we decided to make it for Christmas to! This time around we were not able to find any pumpkin in the stores so we used butternut squash, which surprisingly turned out to taste very similar to pumpkin, and instead of making just one pie we made three and delivered the extras to other families in the village. It was a lot of fun! Then, I went to the Clements's house for dinner, followed by going to a few different Christmas Eve parties hosted by some friends of ours, then  heading to the midnight candlelight church service. After the service I went back home with the Lu family to spend the night with them. Before heading to bed we decided to try our pumpkin pie we made earlier in the day, and it was delicious! Just before going to bed I received a phone call from my family back in America to wish me a Merry Christmas, it was great to be able to talk to them for a few minutes before it was time for bed!

On Christmas morning I woke up to stockings from Santa by my bed. It was an amazing surprise that I didn't expect at all. I am so thankful that I have been blessed with amazing families who have welcomed me into their homes and lives. Once we opened our stockings and presents it was time to get to work preparing our Christmas meal. It was time to stuff the turkey, cut the veg, and make sure everything was prepared for the meal. Once the table was filled with food, it was time to eat, but first we did the Christmas crackers, of course. I had never heard of Christmas crackers before this year, so for those of you who are like me and don't know what they are let me try to explain. The best way I can think to describe them is that they look like a giant tootsie roll. You hold on to one end of the cracker and give the other end to the person sitting next to you. You each pull in the opposite direction and a popping sound is made and the cracker is opened. Inside there is a paper hat, a small present, and a joke or an interesting fact. The paper hats are worn throughout the meal and the jokes make for a great laugh at the table. Once we stuffed ourselves full with food, it was time to take a break and play some games before Christmas pudding. Before we ate the Christmas pudding, we lit it on fire to burn the Brandy into it. I thought that this was pretty neat! We spent the rest of the night playing more games, eating sweets, and watching movies. I had an amazing Christmas and I am very thankful that these two wonderful families let me be apart of their Christmas day!

Christmas celebrations were not over yet! The 26th of December is a bank holiday and is also known as Boxing Day. I would compare this day to Black Friday in the United States. There are amazing sales that happen this day, but it is also a day where many people continue to celebrate Christmas with their family. I spent Boxing Day with the Lu family and their extended family. Once again we ate lots of food, but this time we decided to take a walk afterwards to burn off some of the calories that we had taken in the past few days. I enjoyed being able to spend the day with the Lu's and their family!
This year my Christmas was different than what I am used to, but it was definitely a great time! There are some British traditions that I have been able to experience, which I would love to continue to be a part of my future Christmas celebrations.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

Happy New Year! :)