Black Lives Matter

Good Afternoon,  I have been meaning to post this for awhile and never really found the perfect time to do so.  The way I look at it, there is no better time to post this than now. We are living in a time where whole people groups are afraid of what is to come.  With all of the political activism going on about water protectors and DAPL, I feel that we must not put our brothers and sisters in the POC community to the side.  This is what we have done for centuries.  Black Lives Matter is not just something that happens when tragedy strikes, it is a systemic issue that happens every happens everyday even if its not on the front page of the news.  So here are my feelings on Black Lives Matter.

To all who have seen me tagged in pictures of a Black Lives Matter protest, I am sorry if you do not agree with this movement- I do. The systemic racism present in our country has persisted for entirely too long. I grew up as a privileged, cisgender, white male in a town where there was little racial and religious diversity. I had the unparalleled privilege to be able to look at history books in school and feel relieved that racism was no longer prevalent in today’s society. I couldn’t wrap my head around segregation, how can a person be denied rights because of how they looked? How could people have so much hatred for another people group? As I grew up, technology advanced rapidly. With the advent of phones and the technology to document and access anything and everything right at our fingertips, I, previously blinded by privilege, was now made aware of the atrocities plaguing this nation and our world at large. As I lay in bed last night thinking about going to STAND with my black brothers and sisters as they expressed anger and confusion in a PEACEFUL manor, the statistics of the book “The New Jim Crow” ran through my head. Ladies and gentleman, I urge you to take time and research the facts about systemic racism in our country. Look to your communities. Look at historically black neighborhoods being destroyed by gentrification. Consider new construction projects where the government offers families meager compensation to leave their homes under the guise of building up run down neighborhoods. These government buy-outs do NOT sustain families. They do not allow the financial stability for them to afford a new home. Consider those experiencing homelessness who may have served time for a petty crime- one that you or I have most likely committed and merely didn’t get caught or got off with a warning. Due to their record and the current system of oppression, they struggle to find a job and often have poor means of support otherwise. Look at the moms trying to raise a family with out a father because he is locked away on petty charges like marijuana possession that for a white man would more than likely get a slap on the wrist a fine and probation. I AM NOT saying that all people are innocent and there are people who have committed great crimes that should be punished. To everyone who has a problem with #blacklivesmatter because I am “stating” that they are the only ones that matter. But, the truth is All Lives Do Matter, people of color, people of different religions, different professions (Including Police), whether they are man, women, or child. Whether they Identify with a certain sexual orientation or not Life is precious and needs to be protected! Here is the Thing! All lives matter yes, but some lives are at more of a disadvantage than others. One thing that has come to my point of view is the way that we look at equality. We like to think the world is rainbows and butterflies because we are all “equals” well if you look around no one in life is equal to another person! Some people are short, some tall. Some people have a higher intellect, some grow up in a more affluent neighborhood than others. The fact that their are still impoverished parts in this country who do not have power to their house proves that we are not all equal! What we as a nation need to look at is equity, because with equity we can all be unified in an “equal” society. But, the problem is trying to find out how to institute equity in a world where capitalistic social constructs do not allow there to be equity. To those asking about what equity is, a widely known depiction is of three people stand behind a fence to watch a game, they are all different heights. If we gave them “equal opportunity” to see the game by giving them all the same boxes the tall one doesn’t need one while the short one still might be to short to see the game. If we use equity, all the boxes will be of varying heights to allow everyone to have an “equal” view of the game. Equity before Equality leads to Unity. Black Lives Matter is a movement that helps us to recognize a community who needs more support. You can akin it to a neighborhood with a row of houses. One house on that row is on fire and the fire department comes to put it out. Yes all houses matter, but your not going to put equal amounts of water on all the houses to put out the one fire, you will put the water on the house that is on fire and maybe the houses on both sides to keep the other houses safe as well. So yes, All houses matter, but One house needs more help than the other than you are going to fix that one. Whoops I meant all lives matter, but black lives are in danger, so we as brothers and sisters must hold each other up for equality to happen. I support my black brothers and sisters with #Blacklivesmatter. If you would like to join me, please do. The more support we get the closer we get to a solution!

#Neverforgetthoseonthemargins

Erik

The Zen of Maintenance

In life there are things that bring you peace, joy, and happiness.  To me that comes from working with my hands and heavy machinery.  To wake up and smell the crisp air, to feel the cool breeze of a hot day, to that sweet nectar that is a refreshing ice cold sweet tea at the end of the day, ah there is nothing like it in the world.  Working in the field of manual labor is often a hard and unappreciated career, but knowing that what you do directly effects the people around you is what makes the hard work worth everything.  Waking up at night to go fix something that is broken on camp whether it is a demonic toilet that is running non stop, to electrical issues, at the end of the day you know everything you do is worth it!  Now, mowing grass is another story.  My sanctuary is behind the wheel of a tractor or mower with headphones in listening to music as I make beautiful art in yards.  Looking back at the end of the day you can see the results of hard work, sweat, and smelling that heavenly sent of fresh cut grass.  There is nothing in the world that compares.

 

In the past month, my role in operations has dramatically changed with the beginning of camp.  At first thinking about nasty kids running around, being obnoxious had me shuddering.  Oh those kids, how was I going to find my serenity in the midst of such chaos.  Well before I knew it camp had begun and just as I had imagined there were kids EVERYWHERE! They loved running around screaming, and getting in the way of the work I needed to do.  The calls of maintenance issues rose and rose with no end in sight, the time of working five days a week has now turned into at least six if not seven days a week.  Well my only sanctuary from the craziness was knowing that the tractor was sitting there just waiting for me to sit down and turn it on. Hearing the roar of the diesel engine starting up and feeling the whole tractor shake with happiness as I drove us to the canvas of grass we were about to paint a beautiful master piece with the lines of the blades and deck.

 

Well at the beginning of camp something happened to me that i didn’t expect; I felt a sense of joy and happiness come over my being as I saw the kids running around and playing.  It brought me back to when I was their age, going to camp, not knowing what we had in store for that day but loving the mystery.  Watching the councilors and leadership staff light up as they got their kids ready for the week ahead was so life giving.  It gave me a sense that maybe this camp thing wasn’t as bad as I had imagined in my hellish nightmares about kids running around in uncontrolled chaos.  As much as I enjoy worshiping, eating, and doing energizers with these great kids, I still need my time alone on a tractor to recoup after a long week.  No matter how much fun I am having during the week I will still need my zen time behind a wheel.

The “V” word!

Good evening y’all!

Wow, what a ride this year has been, and theres still two months to GO! As I sit back and reflect on the year it amazes me to think of all the changes that have happened in my life so far thanks to this program!

When I first started this journey the phrase I kept hearing was “A year of service for a lifetime of change.”  That had me hooked, I was ready to see the change that would come from serving people for a year.  Well let me tell you this, the change I see is much deeper than words can ever speak.  For instance, I now walk down the streets of Little Rock and can see my friends who live on the street.  I can go up to them and be vulnerable with them and they with me.  At the beginning of this year I had interacted with people who had experienced homelessness in the past, but never people experiencing it in the present.  As I would walk or drive by them, I would judge as to why they were on the streets and believed them to be terrible people who made bad mistakes and were now suffering the consequences of their actions. I did not view them as people.  Thanks to the works of Mercy Community Church Little Rock, and Canvas Community Church, who cater towards those experiencing homelessness and poverty I am able to look into them as people.  I am able to commune with them, I am able to hold vulnerable conversations that are deep and not surface level conversations.  They are now my friends who I care for deeply.

I also have changed the way that I view myself.  In the beginning of the year I thought that I knew who I was and where I belonged in this world.  Through the various experiences I have been involved in, not just positive and light hearted experiences, but the real dark and scary experiences as well. I have been able to see myself in a new light.  I am able to love myself in ways I never thought were possible.  I have made so many positive changes that I can not begin to explain. I have peered into a life that excites me and gives me hope for the future.  As much as I would smile and say life is great, I was hiding my true feelings of shame, guilt, and self-consciousness.  Through my community, and outside couseling I am now able to say that I have a more positive view of myself.

This is just a spec into the change that has happened in me this year!  There are so many wonderful things that have happened that I would enjoy discussing with y’all. As I look back on the “change” that has happened so far in my journey as a YAV I must say it was not the change I was expecting, but it was the change that I needed so badly.  If you are looking for a life altering experience, I strongly urge you to pursue A year of service, and I guarantee you will see life through a new lens.  Until next time friends, constantly push your boundaries and except what you find!

Erik

April

Good evening Y’all!  April has been a crazy month with several adventures.  This one begins in a road trip to be remembered.  We were getting ready to embark on an amazing journey meeting wonderful people and learning incredible things that I will remember for years.

On our way to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team meeting.  One of my fellow PDA YAVS sadly was not feeling well and had a six hour drive ahead of her.  we started down the road and everything was going swimmingly until her stomach got a little to upset and we had to pull over to the side of the road.  After completing her business she returned to the van and we drove off, little to our knowledge at the time, we had gashed the sidewall of the tire as we drove away.  A minute down the road the tire pressure sensor went off, so we pulled over to the side of the road and sure enough we had a flat.  Now this was the beginning of an adventure.  It took us a solid twenty minutes to find the spare tire, after finding it we spent another 15-20 minutes trying to figure out how to get it out of its hiding space.  Once we had the tire changed it was time to find a tire store to fix the tire so we could be on our way.  We found a little hole in the wall tire repair shop who took a look at the tire and realized it was unrepairable, and they didn’t have any tires to fit our vehicle so they kindly directed us towards another shop about twenty minutes away.  So off we went, when we arrived they kindly told us that they too did not have a tire that would fit the van.  They said to go check out Walmart, so we did.  Finally someone had a tire for our van, and off we went, back on our way to St. Louis.  My poor cohort was still not feeling well and we had to stop a couple more times for her.  After what was supposed to be a six hour trip, turned into ten hours, we had finally arrived for an AMAZING meal.

At the conference we learned so many things about being a ministry of presence to those effected by disasters both man made and natural.  Being able to speak with the people who have responded to these disasters and getting to hear their stories, both happy and sad ones, I started to get a sense of the kind of person it takes to be a responder to these situations.  While there I participated in a seminar on human caused disasters (shootings, bombings and other man made disasters.)  This was an invaluable resource to me, this is the kind of disaster work that intrigues me the most.  In that seminar I was able to sit down and speak with the General Presbyter of Newtown Connecticut and hear his stories about the Sandy Hook incident that rocked our nation.  It was interesting hearing how sometimes giving to much can hurt a disaster response. Here is a great article by CBS News on the topic of helping to much.  After a wonderful week filled with incredible seminars and amazing people, it was time to leave.  This will be a trip that sticks with me for the rest of my life as I discern how my path interweaves with disaster response.

The trip home thankfully was not as eventful as our trip there but it was filled with wonderful conversation with three of my mentors.  To Liz, and Bill Branch, To Ray Stephens, and to Eden Roberts, I want to thank you for an incredible trip!

Beavers and Fires, A day in the life of Ferncliff.

It had been a particularly frustrating day, everything I had attempted to complete seemed take forever to complete. So in my frustration I stayed in my truck and listened to music, to calm me down. After a little while I decided it was time to head home, so off I went. As I was on my drive, I saw smoke in a place where there isn’t usually smoke. So I looked closer and found that Luke mountain had caught fire! So I called the fire department to alert them to the situation that was escalating quickly. When I pulled up the fire was spreading rapidly, and the fire department was nowhere to be seen. So I jumped in my truck and drove to the tool shed on the other side of camp, to pick up some rakes and shovels to fight the fire, or at least keep it from spreading further until the fire department showed up. When I got back to the fire, I pulled the tools out of my truck to go and work on the fire. As soon as I got to the fire you could hear the sirens of the fire trucks on their way. Soon after they pulled up, jumped out of the truck, and started to battle the flames as they swirled up the hillside. I was a little upset that I didn’t actually get a chance to fight the fire, but once I realized there was nothing left for me to do, and that the firefighters had everything handled I went back to my house to join my housemates for a well-disserved meal at an Italian restaurant, then went to a house of prayer for silent reflection. After a while at the prayer house, me and another one of my housemates left to go prepare a Maundy Thursday service. So what was once a frustrating day, had turned into an eventful but good evening.  It turns out that a beaver of all things had started the fire by knocking a tree into a power line. Silly beaver.

 

Once again I am still fundraising and can use as much support as possible! Hope all is well, ill be back soon!

February

Hey Y’all I’m back!

This has been a typical month with some twists, but what month doesn’t have its twists right?  While working in the Disaster Assistance Center we had to opportunity to test out a new camp idea, Birthday with a purpose!  Basically, its a birthday party for kids.  While there they make disaster kits for those in need, and go kayaking or fishing to finish the party.  It was a real cool idea that worked wonderfully, and the kids had a blast!

 

We also had some interesting maintenance issues where our water system went down, due to a tree root breaking a pipe underground.  While they were trying to locate the busted pipe we had to live on the other side of camp, in the retreat house.  One week later the pipe had not been found and we went on a wonderful retreat with college students on spiritual formation.  It was great to get with other students and discuss different spiritual practices.  When we got back to camp the water was still out, and a group moved into the retreat house.  So we moved into the ECO center, where we spent the next week until it was fixed.  Those two weeks were transformative in our intentional community.  It took us out of our normal routine and allowed us to look at our lives from a different perspective.

 

So like I said in the beginning its been a typical month with some twists.  Thanks for reading!  Just a heads up Im still a ways from reaching my fundraising goal and NEED your help!  So if you would be able to donate even just a little bit that would be AMAZING! God is doing incredible work in my life and I am thankful for your support!  Until next time, Peace and Love.

January

Hey y’all I’m back!  Its been a long month, but a good month.  Its hard to believe its been 5 months already! The year is almost half way over! WOW!  So, at the beginning of January we celebrated my 26th birthday.  I am so thankful to have spent it with the wonderful family I have formed here in Little Rock.  They truly are an amazing group of young adults.  For  this month we decided to do another food challenge but with a twist. Instead of food we decided to go coffee free for a whole month! What were we thinking!?!? Through this challenge, it really showed how much of a dependence we had formed for coffee and how that effected our lives.  I think it shocked some of us how intense we desired coffee.  In the end we made it through with out dying, haha.

At this five month mark I look back on the time that has passed and the growth that has happened.  Thanks to the spiritual direction of my spiritual director I have been able to look at my spirituality from other perspectives.  I have also grown in my world view with those in poverty, and those experiencing homelessness.  I have always been aware of the issue that is homelessness, but it has always been at a safe distance where I didn’t have to make myself vulnerable.  Through various ministries I have been able to get vulnerable, and interact on a personal level with those who are experiencing homelessness. Really getting to see the issues first hand, has been heart changing!  I have also experienced life at its end, I have been working with Arkansas Hospice as a volunteer each week.  There were some beautiful moments and some sad moments.  If you ever want a reality check on life, go visit someone on hospice.  It will certainly change your viewpoint on life in a good way.

 

Well that was a quick glimpse into my life in January, hopefully you enjoyed it.  Ill be back in February!  Until then, may peace be with you!

December

This was a busy month, we went to a production of the Little Mermaid at the local rep theater.  We also went on a retreat focusing on the practice of sabbath, and I went to Indiana to visit family for Christmas.  The Retreat we took was a good way to center myself and step away from the hectic schedule that had been going on.  We learned self care techniques.  The days we were there was beautiful and perfect weather for hiking.  As the month went on we were invited to multiple Christmas parties by members of the church, which made me feel welcome in the church and part of the church family.  As I went to Indiana for Christmas I had some time to reflect on my year so far, and came to the conclusion that it has been a good, stretching year so far.  It was good to see my family again and be able to relax for a couple days before the New Year started.

November

During this month we went on a trip to Moore, Oklahoma. While there we worked with a group from John Calvin Presbytery, and a YAV from New York called Christian. During this trip we did a variety of tasks ranging from roofing a shed to painting a house. It was great working with this group of people, we had devotionals every night bringing our group closer together in a christian community. During this month we also went vegetarian. This was an interesting challenge for me, I have never gone vegetarian for more than a day. It was empowering that I could complete this challenge with the help of my community rallying behind me and supporting me.

Life so far at Ferncliff

Good evening y’all,

Its been awhile since I have posted, so heres some stuff to catch you up. I now live on the beautiful campgrounds of Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center. The people I live with Kait, Dani, and Emily are great! I work in the D.A.C. (Disaster Assistance Center) with P.D.A. (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.) Part of our program here in Little Rock is to work on camp with either P.D.A or work in the Sustainability program which works with the garden here on camp and the Eco center. Another part of our program is finding a local opportunity. Some of which include prison ministries, local gardens, hospice, and the children’s hospital just to name a few. At the beginning of November we are being deployed with P.D.A. to Moore, Oklahoma for long term recovery support.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for more info on how the trip went and my life here with the YAV program.

Peace