I Am Not Alone
The following is a reflection on the Agape House trip to New York and the United Nations by student, Alyson Kung. She is a senior at UIC and studies Industrial Design.
Where do I even begin with this trip?
Pastor Kurt (a.k.a. the Dread Pastor Roberts) invited me to go on a trip to the UN with the Agape House. The trip was to be centered on refugees and immigrants. A $75 trip to New York for 5 days! Not to mention that the Agape House is *the* most open church group I have ever encountered. Now, how could I pass that up?
I’ll save you from my usual chronological recollection of everything that happened on the trip and go to the highlights and what they meant to me.
The United Nations was fantastic. Truthfully I didn’t know much about the UN, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find how Peace centered the UN is. Now that I know a little more, I couldn’t imagine it being anything but.
I saw this as a post card and a poster at the UN gift shop. Really a lovely image. The United Nations have 8 goals that they are striving for, which from my perspective was also really great because I am looking for a thesis project for my senior year. These are the UN’s Millenium Developmental Goals. I feel they identified the most important issues that are plaguing the world at the moment.
#1: ERADICATE EXTREME POVERTY AND HUNGER. Food is always important…
#2: ACHIEVE UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION. Grade school education is what I researched for my Research Methods class this past semester.
#3: PROMOTE GENDER EQUALITY AND EMPOWER WOMEN. This topic is near and dear to my heart, especially as a woman. And especially because the disparity touches almost every single one of the other topics.
#4: REDUCE CHILD MORTALITY. This one is just sad.
#5: IMPROVE MATERNAL HEALTH.
#6: COMBAT HIV/AIDS, MALARIA, AND OTHER DISEASES. This topic in particular was one that I was considering for my thesis project. Though I may not be able to help world-wide, some help is better than none.
#7: ENSURE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY. My research on Sustainability in terms of food waste was totally down this lane.
#8: A GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT. Being in a place that literally was international ground was really awesome. The secretary general is a man from South Korea, though he is now a citizen of the world rather than someone who represents South Korea.
After our tour we had a discussion panel of three different people.
The first was a woman named Elizabeth who was from Ireland. She had a passion for justice for children and women, and she worked for the UN. I can’t remember what her job was though.
The second person was a name named Howe who worked for the US State Department, though worked a lot with the UN. Also, I probably should have taken notes because I can’t remember where anyone but the last person works for. Howie is a lawyer.
Last, but definitely not least, was a man named Stephen who worked for UNICEF. He just left UNICEF so he could travel with his wife to Uruguay, where he is from. He spend his life doing work around the world for NGOs before working for UNICEF.
It seemed that for each of them their advice for us was to follow our passions, and eventually we would end up in a place like they are in. Be passionate about your work! Life is full of anxiety about knowing what we’re doing, or knowing what’s coming next. We don’t need to know what’s coming next, but be ready to jump at the opportunities that arise.
The person whose story spoke most to me was Stephen. As I listened to him talk, I realized that really was the kind of life I wanted to live. I want to travel and see the world. I want to learn and help where I can. Here was finally a group of people who felt like I did. I realize, once I have a point of reference, how very set apart from other people I feel when I’m at school. Most people don’t understand this kind of life or drive that seems to have snagged me. I think I’ve found more direction.
The most profound part of the trip for me though was just the kinship between the people I met from the Agape House. For the very first time in my life I felt like I found people like me. They were open to new ideas, but still strong in their faith. More importantly they could talk about ideas and how they connected to things beyond the limited world of religion. I could ask questions and get real answers. I wasn’t dismissed by “just pray about it,” or told to beware because I was treading a thin line. There was no fear or rejection of other cultures. For example, I could bring up the fact that evangelism makes me extremely uncomfortable.
I’ve spent much of my life feeling like I was the odd one out when it came to my faith and my ideas on it. That somehow I was radical for asking too many questions, or not Christian enough for being open to other ideas. In my experience I have found people of other faiths who are open, and I do feel a certain kinship with them, but it will never be the same as holding the same faith as me. I am not alone, and that is precious.
On top of all of this, we did get to help with a soup kitchen, and help clear out a church from Hurricane Sandy. Every night we went to bed exhausted, having spent every moment of the day. Thoughts from this trip have been bouncing around my head ever since I came back. I would say it was a trip well spent, and thoroughly enjoyed. There is much more for me to think about and make sense of still, but I feel that they are all good things.