2016

2016 has been a year of trials, not only for singular members of our society, but for everyone. My second year at Aquinas began with my parents moving across the country, me moving in with my grandparents, and having to figure out a bill of over $1000 monthly to pay tuition as I lived on campus during the school season.

This year we lost many prominent celebrities that hold places in many hearts: 

 

David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Doris Roberts, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Christina Grimmie, Anton Yelchin, Gene Wilder, Sharon Jones, Ron Glass, E.R Braithwaite, Zsa Zsa Gabor,  George Michael, and Prince are among those we lost this year.

 

Then, just when we thought we could make it through the last of 2016 without losing anyone else that was part of the glue of our favorite fandom Carrie Fisher, our favorite Empire fighting, fun loving, bi-polar, all around wonderful princess passed away on the 27th. Not 24 hours later, her mother the amazingly talented Debbie Reynolds who co-starred alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in “Singin’ in the Rain,” passed away as well.

We will never forget these talented individuals.

The nation has also seen troubles of its own: 

*Flint Michigan has been without clean water for too long, people are still suffering effects of the contamination: Please donate or find information on how you can volunteer here: http://www.helpforflint.com/action

Those on the liberal side coped with the loss of their presidential candidate, and those on the conservative celebrated their victory. Along with this election cycle came riots, peaceful protests, and vandalism. It also brought about ruptures in homes, and the workplace. Even our normally tolerant campus lacked peace following the election as many “coped” with the country’s choice.

The election cycle, no matter who took the presidency, opened the eyes of many to the violence and prejudice inherent in our country. There was a resurgence of those groups that are racially and socially prejudiced, as well as a spike in their actions against the LGBTQ community, African-American Individuals, Muslim and Arabic families, immigrants (be they legal or otherwise), and refugees.

This saddens me. That our country could have regressed so far that we are prejudiced, and able to act with such violence of word and deed against our neighbors; that my Facebook feed is constantly full of news of another shooting, or a violent attack on the street; that muslim women should be asked by their families to remove their hijabs in fear of their being attacked on the street, when it is their right, living in the country they do, to freely express their religion in this way. It saddens me, because if someone tried to take the freedoms of the white, Christian communities away in this way, then, and only then, would many people consider it “religious persecution.” Just because we do not believe what they do, or the same way that they chose to worship, does not mean that we have the right to violently attack them, verbally, physically, mentally, on social media or off. Just because we are the majority, does not mean that we have any more rights than those in the minority, or any less for that matter.

The United States was built to be a country of equal opportunity, but we have become so ingrown to our own ideas and ways of life that we cannot possibly accept others. I might remind you that places like New York were built on the backs of immigrants. Not on the rich, white, Christian upper class. To top it all off, the colonies started as an escape from religious persecution in Europe, what we are doing to many minorities today seems to me an echo of what we came to this place to escape.

It has not only been the nation that suffered blows in 2016: 

Europe is making peace with the Brexit, England’s choice to leave the European Union, which, much like our election, left the country torn on many accounts.

Greater than Brexit, is the crisis in Aleppo. This civil war has been going on since 2012, but, as it came to its head these last few months, it began to get more and more media coverage. Aleppo, which as of 2011 was the largest city in Syria, and mainly full of civilians, has been bombed without qualms. Hospitals, schools, and other civilian buildings have been targeted, leaving thousands dead, and thousands injured. Since 2011 there are over 450,000 people dead, at least 50,000 of which are children. This crisis began as a small protest, and has expanded into the war that we are watching today.

During French class last semester when watching the international news, we were hearing more and more reports of Syrian refugees being turned away; The fear, of course, being that, “they might be terrorists.”

Matthew 25:35-40 says For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.” 

There are many nations, that although they state they have a separation of church and state, can claim themselves to be a Christian nation. Out of fear, we do not live this…out of fear, we treat customers differently, or go so far as to refuse refugees entry into our country. By rejecting those in need, we also reject Him. He who never rejects us, not even at our lowliest, and who asks us to act as He would…

“Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.” 

I think we all need to remember this going into 2017…

“Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.” 

Food for thought,

Love to all, As Always,

Mae ❤

 

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20 Years of Jonathan Larson

20 years ago today, a masterpiece premiered on Broadway.

Jonathan Larson’s musical RENT was a revelation, it shook up the world in the same ways that Hamilton is taking the world by storm now. It spoke to the trials of the age in a way that the generation of the 90s’ could relate to. Set in the end of the AIDS epidemic of the 80s’ as the decade concludes, RENT follows a group of starving artists and performers as they attempt to make their way, love each other, and somehow, find a way to love themselves.  Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 2.53.57 PM

The main characters are hugely important, as are all main characters, but they are offset by a huge ensemble of talented individuals as well.

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The story of RENT is just as much about the ensemble, who play a variety of roles including the homeless, and the parents of various main characters, as it is about the city itself.  The set is sparse, depicting anything from Mark and Roger’s apartment, to the streets of NYC, to the performance space where Maureen hosts her protest. Any set changes are made by the cast carrying something onstage, and the band is onstage as well, hidden in the corner, rocking out through most of the show.

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RENT focuses mostly on these guys:

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Mark and Roger. Roger is a former band frontman and Guitarist. He’s been in withdrawal for a year preceding the events of the musical, “His girlfriend April left a note, saying ‘We’ve got AIDS’ before slitting her wrists in the bathroom..” He’s a recovered drug addict, and afraid of finding love again, in his mind, he’s just going to die anyway, so why connect?  Mark is a filmmaker, having decided to just film his friends and see what comes of it, most of the story is narrated by him, an outsider, who is inside the group.  The first lines of the musical are spoken by Mark (The quirky redhead on the left 🙂 )

“We begin on Christmas Eve with me, Mark, and my roommate, Roger. We
live in an industrial loft on the corner of 11th street and Avenue B, the top
floor of what was once a music publishing factory. Old rock ‘n’ roll posters
hang on the walls. They have Roger’s picture advertising gigs at CBGB’s and
the Pyramid Club. We have an illegal wood burning stove; its exhaust pipe
crawls up to a skylight. All of our electrical appliances are plugged into one
thick extension cord which snakes its way out a window. Outside, a small tent
city has sprung up in the lot next to our building. Inside, we are freezing
because we have no heat.”

This exposition is probably the largest block of spoken word in the musical. The rest of the story is told through song and a few scattered pieces of dialect. RENT is what is called a Rock Opera, and is a modern (in 1996) take on the classical opera “La Boheme”, which is a depiction of the bohemians living in Paris.

Mark and Roger are fighting with this guy:

Benny

Benny, (played in the original cast by the devilishly handsome and charming Taye Diggs) who used to be their roommate. However, he abandoned the Bohemian life to, as Maureen so eloquently puts it during her protest later in the musical, “Live as a lapdog to a wealthy daughter of the revolution.” In reality, he married Allison Grey of the “Westport Greys,” but the picture of him as a lapdog is much funnier, and certainly accurate, as he ends up agreeing to his father-in-law’s every whim. He’s trying to realize the dream of a film/music production company in the lot next door to Mark and Roger’s building, but he has to suck up to Mr. Grey to make it happen. He threatens to evict the entire building if they don’t pay their rent, after promising Mark and Roger they could stay free of charge.

Also in the building is Mimi:

Mimi

Attractive, charismatic, sexy, a dancer at the Cat Scratch Club, and an addict. She lives just below Mark and Roger, she dated Benny for a while there after he and Allison got married…her moral compass isn’t always pointing in the right direction, but part of that is due to her constant searching for belonging, she’s a roamer, she longs for love, but has AIDS and is afraid like Roger to get too close to someone, at the same time, she gets far too close too quickly, resulting in disastrous remission when he has to break away. She’s a classic dual character, afraid and confidant all at the same time. She falls for Roger and spends most the musical trying hard to make him open up to her, when he finally does, she blows it, and everything spirals downhill.

Maureen and Joanne are characters with big personalities:

Maureen and Joanne

Maureen is Mark’s Ex-girlfriend, who broke up with him to be with Joanne, who is a lawyer and polar opposite to Maureen’s flamboyant performer personality. The two are constantly fighting, mostly about Maureen’s crazy living style and outrageous behavior. Joanne begins feeling like an outsider in the group, but eventually comes into her own and joins in their wild activities and little family.

Then there’s Collins and Angel:

Collins and Angel

Collins is a former professor at NYU,  I think that Mark’s introduction does him justice better than I ever could: “Enter Tom Collins, computer genius, teacher, vagabond anarchist, who ran naked through the Parthenon…” He shows up towards the beginning of the musical, he gets mugged on his way to Mark and Roger’s flat, and is picked up by Angel.

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Angel gets two pictures because of how important she is. Angel is a drag queen, one of the many flamboyant and out of this world characters floating around Alphabet City. She’s more than that though; Angel is the glue that holds the RENT family together. She is kind, and witty, and protective; she does everything in her power to keep them going, even though she has AIDS and is slowly dying. Angel is this depiction of God’s goodness on earth. Sure, she’s living a life full of sin by Biblical standards and teachings, but Jesus didn’t hang out with the “Holier Than Thou” crowd, Jesus was out there hanging with the Tax Collectors, Fishermen, and the sinners of the world. Angel does the same, this good person, kind, loving, and very real doesn’t choose to shun this small family, instead she comes in with the motto “Today for you, tomorrow for me.” Angel spends the musical putting everyone before herself…so much so, that without her, the family falls apart completely…

So, I’ve told you about the characters, and explained at least a little bit of the plot (probably too much actually) but I haven’t told you about the genius behind it. This guy:

Jonathan and rent

This is Jonathan Larson, he doesn’t look like much, but the guy was a genius. He saw these people on the streets, and he looked at “La Boheme” and he saw love, and grace, and kindness, and anger, and pain, and he infused it into a story that people of all generations can relate to. I love the phrase on the poster in the picture “A  work-in-progress of a rock opera by Jonathan Larson.” Larson never got to see RENT become a hit. The night before the show’s Broadway premiere, Larson died of an Aortic Aneurysm, so if you think about it, RENT which was still in it’s previews, was never a fully completed process. What you see when you watch the taped performance of the show, or see a live production, or if you were very lucky and saw it while it was still on Broadway, you are seeing Larson’s original vision; the unfinished and raw material that took a generation by storm.

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On the outside RENT looks like a gritty, bitter, drug and sex filled Broadway musical about people whining about money and how they’re dying. On the inside though, it’s so much more. It’s a depiction of love, and honor, and care for each other. It shows us how to live with freedom, to “Forget Regret” and live every day as if it is the last day that we’ll ever live. There really is “no day but today” for many people out there, but as exhausting as living in this mentality is, it’s also freeing.

Forget Regret has special meaning to me.

I regret a lot, be it little things, or bigger things, I’m the kind of person who will say something and regret it late at night as it plays out in my head. I lived for a long time, in shame, anger, and guilt, whether I had reason to or not. RENT helped draw me out of that. It pulled me up by the bootstraps and immersed me in a world where I was watching people deal with the exact same problem, in different aspects of their life. Then, they were handed a Christ figure ( in the literary sense of the term, I’m in no means implying that Jesus was a cross-dresser) and through relationship with Angel (by the way, name is an obvious plot point, her name is Angel, she’s basically the groups guardian angel…but I digress) they learn to love themselves and each other.

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I got this the day after I turned 18. The minute I could, I went to the tattoo parlor and got Jonathan Larson’s words permanently etched into my skin. This seems a bit drastic to some people, when I tell them it’s in reference to a musical I get some funny glances, but at the end of the day, it means something to me, and that’s all the matters. The numbers at the bottom spell “Angel” by the way, in case you were wondering. This for me is a constant reminder that your past, is your past, what you said or did yesterday, it doesn’t matter. It may effect, or shape who you are, but every encounter does. If you regret what you do, you’re regretting this wonderful, beautiful life that God gave you. So, when i look at my tattoo, on a daily basis, it reminds me, not only of a musical that I love, but of God’s unfailing forgiveness, his peace, and the joy that I have in knowing that he doesn’t regret me, so I shouldn’t regret myself.

So thank you Jonathan Larson, for 20 years of joy, tears, and music. Thank you for teaching me what it means to live fully. Thank you for writing something that inspires me to be better. Thank you, so much, you will not be forgotten, and your masterpiece will be a part of my heart forever.

Love to all, as always,

Mae

Really???

Ok. Here’s the thing. I see a HUGE amount of stupid stuff on the internet during the day, be it on Facebook, Instagram, News websites, or things that I click on accidentally. A lot of these things piss me off, or make me want to share an opinion, but I don’t. Who want’s to get involved in a political debate? Or get your ass kicked because you have an opinion thats slightly different from someone else’s? I don’t, but I’ve been getting sick of not standing up for some things. So today I am.

I opened Facebook an hour or so ago to check up on some friends feeds, you know, see what people are up to, the normal day to day. Instead I found a normal torrent of political crap, lots of controversial oppinions, and people arguing with each other about those two things. Hidden in this sea of stuff, was an article about November 24th’s Google Doodle, and the “uproar” it was causing in the Christian and Scientific Communities on that day. All I have to say is….REALLY???

First of all: Why is this still being shared around? It happened two months ago.

Second: Google is allowed to put whatever the Hell they want on their homepage. If it offends you, don’t look at it, or better yet, use a different search engine, you definitely won’t have to look at it then!!

So those of you who don’t know about this are probably wondering what I’m talking about right now, and for the sake of being able to rant about it in a minute, here’s some background…(even though part of my complaint is that it’s still being brought up…but this is a good example!!)

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This is the Google Doodle in question. It was posted on November 24th, 2015 to celebrate the discovery of the Ape-like hominid “Lucy” on that day in 1974. She is considered to be one of the biggest contributing discoveries to Evolution Theory so far. Of course one of the biggest controversy surrounding the doodle came from the Christian viewpoint of automatically objecting to something that in their (speaking objectively here, as I am a Christian) oppinion, blately celebrates the Evolution theories. The other, from scientists, who felt that this particular doodle left out important bits of their theory of evolution from ape to man (generalized, don’t get too excited), and therefore, was not scientifically acurate or complete.

Um…guys…it’s just a doodle, but seeing as you’re all going to find fault in Google’s attempt to celebrate a cool discovery…I’m going to join the debate for a minute here, even if it has for the most part fizzled out.

(Quick Note:

I’m not an expert  in any of these fields, in fact, I wouldn’t even call myself a “good Christian” most of the time. I swear (on a regular basis), I forget to forgive, I covet, I’m mean to my little sister. So, no, I’m not a “good Christian” but honestly, I don’t really believe there’s such a thing. We’re sinful, get over it, and stop being high and mighty, we all sin…yes, even you Mr/Mrs Soapbox Christian. We aren’t perfect. But I would say that I’ve had enough to youth group and bible class in my lifetime to know the basics…and to know Genesis REALLY well. All bible classes for kids go over the creation story at least once. As for the other theories that come into this discussion (And yes, I would actually like to hear what you guys have to say) PBS, National Geographic and other reputable sources are easy ways to grab some cold hard fact.)

(One more note:

Big Bang Vs Creationism will not be making an appearance here)

Let’s start with what I saw from Christians, or Creationists:

I saw a lot of comments that went along the lines of condemning Google for posting a picture that didn’t conform to our belief system. Not only that, but ignorance about the ideas of the Evolution theory. People, before you Tweet about how wrong something is, and how right you are. Look it up. That’s the real reason we have the internet, not so you can tell the world what you ate for lunch. What I always heard from Christians is that Evolution is the theory that Man evolved from bacteria, that eventually evolved to ape-like creatures, and finally evolved after some steps and time (never full explained by Creationists when asked) into Humans like us today. This in Christian’s minds is automatically incorrect, as the Bible clearly tells us that we were created in God’s image, on the 6th day of Creation.

What I saw from the Scientist or Evolutionist Community was also comdemning, but for a different reason:

What I saw, was mostly geared towards Google having missed a crutial relationship between ape-like hominid and man. I looked up the theory of evolution to refresh my memory on a subject I knew little about, and discovered first of all, that Hominid is part of the scientific family that contains humans, chimps, neanderthals, bonobos and so on. Lucy is one of the members of this family as well, being as she was an ape-like hominid.  Also, the theory isn’t that we evolved from Apes. It’s that we evolved from a common ancestor, eventually brancing off into two different families, one becoming todays apes, chimpanzees etc…and the others becoming us, the Homo-Sapiens. Also, Evolution by definition is just moving forward and as such has also spanned into social and technological evolution. It doesn’t just apply to Apes and Homo-sapiens anymore.

So, now that I’ve wowed you all with my limited knowledge of theory details, let’s talk about what annoyed me most:

This doodle, wasn’t there to shove Evolution down Christian’s throats, IN FACT the doodle was about the discovery of Lucy AND her conributions (post-mortem) to the theory of evolution, NOT about celebration evolution theory itself. To the best of my knowledge, Google doesn’t state to believe one belief system or another, it doesn’t cater to religous affiliation. This isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t leave people out. Since Google started doing their Doodles, I’ve seen Christmas doodles, but I’ve also seen doodles that celebrate other cultures and ideas. Christmas is celebrated all across the world. I am truly sorry if this offends you, I can’t do anything about it, but I don’t believe that shoving my beliefs down anyone’s throat is going to bring them to God. Loving each other is, and we’re not doing that by yelling at Google, or evolutionists, or anyone else who doesn’t conform to our way of thinking.  Along with this, the scientists complaining about the accuracy of the doodle? What they aren’t seeing, is again the simple fact that Google was celebrating Lucy, and the fact that she helped draw the connections between us and ape-like hominids. It wasn’t meant to be perfect, it was meant to be cool. Also, people have been drawing evolution close to the same way Google did for this doodle for years (google evolution and look at images if you don’t believe me) and you haven’t taken to Twitter to condemn them yet. It’s just that Google is so huge in the public eye, that’s why you noticed.

What realy gets to me though, is the ignorance. I learned more about Evolution Theory and about different ideas of Creationism in the past 2 hours of writing this blog post, than I did in 18 years. Also, I didn’t need to look for as long as I did, one search took me to National Geographic and PBS, two ridiculously useful and factual sources. I don’t need to know much to know that the arguments that went on, and seem to continue to go on about this topic and many topics like it are stupid and often futile. You’re not going to change someone’s mind or belief system by yelling at them on Facebook or Twitter. In fact, of all the places to have a conversation or arguement, these are probable two of the dumbest. Ignorance only breeds more ignorance. Personally, I think, whether I believe a theory or not, that learning about the different beliefs of the world is fascinating. We should all do a little research before condemning anyone or anything.

Ok?

Love to all, as always,

Mae

YaF

So, the title of this post is probably a word that you’ve never heard before. YaF stands for Youth at Fifth. This is my Youth Group.

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This picture is from a few years back, but it will give you an idea of how large our group is.

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This is our AMAZING youth leader Christian. (As the Doctor would say “Bow Ties are cool!”) He’s quirky, fun and hilarious, but most of all he cares about each and every one of us in the group. He is more than willing to listen to prayer requests, concerns or funny stories that we might have. He is an amazing person and the first leader of a youth group that I have truly trusted (even when I have NO IDEA what’s coming next or happening at any given time.)

Christian also has a tendency to come up with games that enjoy immensely and are completely terrified of…like this one…

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This is me… I’m wrapped in saran wrap and covered in shaving cream…I’m a human snow person! This was a few years ago, my first year in YaF, somehow I managed not to get a bunch of shaving cream in my hair…still not sure how, but there you go… By the way, our team won!

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Then there’s moments like this…

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And this…

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And the there’s also the fact that Christian has mastered the art of taking embarrassing pictures of me…

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And by embarrassing, I mean things like this…

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I’m in the background…just, you know, dying…

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All the weird games and embarrassing pictures aside, we go on some amazing adventures. The first year I was in YaF we went to Kissimmee Florida. The week that we were there was spent volunteering at Give Kids The World. (Check out http://www.gktw.org/) GKTW is a non-profit organization that partners with Make a Wish Foundation. They give kids (with terminal or life threatening illnesses)and their families a week in the GKTW village. They get a villa all to themselves as well as access to the attractions at the village, such as…

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The hand carved Belgian Carousel,

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The Gingerbread House, which is the dining hall, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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The Castle of miracles, this is one of my favorite places in the village. Inside is the home of the Star Fairy. When kids come to GKTW one of the first things they do is come to the Castle. When they arrive they write their name on a small gold star, which is then put into a box and the kids watch as the star fairy carries the star up to her tower. The next day the kids are able to come back and find their star somewhere on the wall or ceiling. They recently built another room in the castle to accommodate all the stars, here’s a glimpse of what it looks like…

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Also inside the castle is the pillow tree,

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(Sorry for the bad pic…my camera hates me…) Here the kids can design a pillow! The tree shakes and makes noises, there are buttons and levers to push and pull, and the pillow is made in seconds! Did I mention that there’s also a wishing well that sounds like it’s eating the coins you throw in? No? Well there is! There’s also a slide that is small but tons of fun to ride down…

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Yeah…just like that…

There’s also a tree outside, that snores constantly, His name is Ol’ Elmer…

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It would be fun to sit next to him and read, if it weren’t for the fact that I am VERY easily distracted…

So, did I mention that the families that come to GKTW get all of this for free? And that every attraction/building is wheelchair accessible?! Not only that, but the families get tickets to the attractions in Orlando! Most of all, the volunteers at GKTW make it a priority to “Never say no” to the kids who visit the village. As long as what they want isn’t dangerous, the volunteers will do their absolute best to make sure the kids get what they’ve asked for.

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As Winston Churchill once said (this is on a mosaic in the village) “You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.” I think this applies to our youth group and to the rest of the world too. Whether we’re in Florida, Trinidad, Colorado, New Orleans or even home in Grand Rapids, we’re constantly volunteering and showing God’s love through our actions. I think that’s what I love best about this youth group. In the youth groups I’ve been a part of in the past, if we went on a trip, it was for our own enjoyment only. Maybe we’d learn some Bible verses or hear a Christian speaker give their testimony, but it was mostly about bettering our relationship with Christ. Don’t get me wrong that’s great! But, at YaF we’re bettering our relationship with Christ through showing His love to others, as well as building relationships with other Christians of our own age. We accept anyone, and make them feel at home. I’ve never felt like I belong the way I belong at YaF. We’re weird and quirky, but we’re also relatable and when we go into a place, you can bet we’re going to include everyone and have a great time! There’s nothing like a YaF trip or meeting. We learn things about each other that we never would have known otherwise.

I’ll be very sad when my time as a YaFer is finished, but once a YaFer always a YaFer and you can bet I’ll be back for a visit every once in a while! I plan to make the most of the year I have left before Graduation. We’re going back to Florida this year, and I can’t wait to be back in a position to minister to those kids just by smiling and helping them have a GREAT time! The best way to minister to someone is to be their friend. That is what I’ve learned from YaF, and the fact that I learn something new every week and that every trip is a new and exciting chance to minister makes me so proud to be a member of the YaFer family. So thank you to Christian and to all of the leaders, I’ve learned so much from you, and I can’t wait to learn more!

Love to all, as always,

Mae