Thursday, October 25, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Going into college, I decided to attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas.  Little did I know that when I picked the school, I was also picking the city in which it was located.

When I first got here it seemed like everyone was talking about missions.  A lot of people were talking about how it was something that they were thinking about pursuing after college, or how it was something that they really had a heart for.  Growing up, I knew that I should give to people and help them out, but I don't know if I really understood what that meant.  Freshman year I began praying for more of a mission focused heart.

If you read some of my previous blog entries, you will read my testimony about how I ended up back at Camp Cho-Yeh this summer... and the funny thing is, I am just now beginning to realize what the intent of God's plan for me was last summer was.  You see, for the first half of this summer I was a camp counselor for the third year, and loved it... but then the second half I was living in Waco by myself taking summer school classes at our local community college.  It's taken me until now to really realize why this was such a blessing to me.

Over the past couple of years God has been making my heart yearn for people.  I have always been a people person, an extrovert, but I have really begun to flourish at Baylor into the social butterfly that I am.  I am learning to ask questions and working on caring about people in a very genuine, Christian way.  I fall short by far... but God's grace catches my fall.

I guess this whole thing really started in March... I started jogging and trying to get in shape.  I know this doesn't seem super significant, but it got me out into the community more, and helped me to grasp more of a love for the outside.  Suddenly the focus shifted from those immediately around me at Baylor, to those jogging besides me in Cameron Park, and elsewhere in the city.

Then I went to camp.  My first week was one of the hardest weeks I ever experienced as a camp counselor.  There was a ton of drama, I got woken up to throwing up for the first time, and my heart was ripped out of my chest.  For some reason my 7th and 8th grade girls decided to tell life stories... and it was heart wrenching to say the least.  Here were these twelve and thirteen year old girls whose dad's had abandoned them or tried to hurt them physically, parents struggled with their marriages, mothers had died, CPS had been involved, and many other things.  I tried to go on a run one morning after hearing this, but ended up in our meeting hall on my hands and knees in prayer, crying for these girls.  These girls changed my life more than they will ever know.

The second half of my summer I spent in Waco living by myself.  I was REALLY nervous about this, and spent a lot of time in prayer about it.  I'm an extrovert and I knew that being by myself was going to be really hard for me... but it ended up being ok. God definitely worked through it.  I began going back to the church I had kind of left the semester before, began eating healthier, running more, and taking classes at MCC.  I would drive all over Waco getting to know the city better, and was learning a lot about it in my history class.  I absolutely loved my history class, so much to the extent where I would do extra research for fun outside of class. I grew this appreciation for Waco.  By the end of the summer I had a growing appreciation for the city of Waco that I hadn't had before.

I think my favorite thing about Waco is how it is so random, and how the major juxtaposition of the city is so evident.  Driving through Waco this summer I was surprised to realize that there are giant lake houses in the back of Waco, and really nice neighborhoods.  There are also some of the most beautiful sites you will see at Cameron Park, downtown, and along the lake... but drive a couple more blocks and you are in deep impoverished areas.  According to a study done this past June, approximately 28.7% of Waco is in poverty.

Now compare this to the $22,000 per semester that the Big Twelve university down the street costs for students... MAJOR juxtaposition.  And to make matters worse, most of these students (myself included) aren't even fully aware of what is really going on in Waco, and/or how to help.  We are so focused on school, and our own lives, that we generally don't pay notice to those in the city that need our love.  And even when we do want to give help, we generally just give something out of pocket without putting forth the effort in action (I put myself in these categories because this is something that I've really been convicted of recently).

I have always known a few things about my future.  I need to work with people, I have a passion for youth (particularly middle school girls), and I want to work in someway related to the church.  A couple of months ago this lady came to speak to our college group at church about how she needed volunteers to come and be support for kids who are in bad situations in Waco... many of these situations similar to those that my campers were in this summer.  My heart started aching again and I began thinking of Selah, Shawna, Angel, Julia.... these beautiful girls that had changed my views on life.

In this moment I realized that there are a ton of kids and youth within my own city who are hurting.  I began to realize that this city is hurting.  And I began to realize that I am a member of this community.  I have begun to love the randomness.  I love jogging through downtown.  I love randomly taking drives throughout Waco.  I love getting to know the city that God placed me in for college.

I need to work with people.  I need to work with youth.  I need to work somehow related to the church.

I have kind of felt a longing before, but at this moment at church, I felt a pull towards social work or counseling... or both.  I want to learn more about how to help, and love others, and what specifically that means.  I want to be fully engaged within the context of where I am.  For this reason I am going to try to do a dual masters degree in social work and divinity.  I don't know specifically what God is going to lead me to along the way, but I am listening and ready for the ride.

To me it doesn't matter that Waco doesn't have a good night life, like it does for many Baylor students.  Waco has a history.  Waco has a present.  and Waco has a future.

Freshman year some of my friends and I ran into a homeless women while we were tortilla tossing. She told us her story and really touched our lives.   
Fall 2009.  Gorilla next to David Crowder's house
Waco Wetlands 
Trails of Cameron Park
Cameron Park and snow
Beautiful stained glass from the church behind Columbus 
Waco suspension bridge... gateway to the heart of Texas!

1 comment:

  1. went through a lot of these same changes in feelings when I stayed in Waco a couple summers ago too :) You are such an incredible person with a beautiful heart and I'm so proud to call you my little and excited to see what great things God does through you! Love you!