Mercedes Tate is a Junior at UIC and majors in Nursing. The following is her reflection on our recent trip to New York and the United Nations.
Our purpose for traveling to New York was to learn about displaced peoples, to understand their circumstances, and how we can respond. We had met with several speakers from the United Nations, The United Nations Children's Fund, and The United Nations Relief and Works Agency. We met Pastor Colon from the First Spanish Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn. It was an incredible opportunity to learn from speakers about their work and for some, how they try to reach out to displaced peoples in their own community. Not only that, we were able to meet some really dedicated people on Coney Island and help them clean up their church from the remains of Hurricane Sandy. It was amazing thing to see the damage the hurricane had done, not just hear it from the news where we can put it in the back of our minds. We truly were able to see how the hurricane affected the community, but more importantly see how the community is so resilient in building itself back up.
Yet, the most meaningful part of my trip was interacting and learning from those in our group. You see, prior to our trip to New York, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was going on a 13-14 hour road trip with ten other people. The majority of those were people I had not met prior to this trip, not to mention this was my first trip with Agape House. Our group surprised me. All of us, in our own ways, were displaced peoples. We were going to New York as strangers to one another and, for the most part, strangers to the city. Our situation was definitely different, though. We were not forced to go to New York and I'm pretty sure most of us did not suffer oppression in order to go on this trip. Yet, I saw hope in our group.
We were a mixed group. We came from different backgrounds of ethnicity, beliefs, and upbringings. Despite this, we spoke openly and honestly with one another about so many different things - God, faith, the speakers and their thoughts, traveling, our lives, random stories. What we had learned about displaced peoples through the workshops and conversations we had - I saw it come alive in our group and for once, in a long time, I believe those words did not fall on deaf ears. Most times, I really wonder if us, as Christians, will ever truly start speaking of God's love and reaching out to others. I don’t know from our trip whom was of Christian faith, but it doesn’t really matter because I could see that there is still love being spread in this world and I am grateful for that.