elisabethdanielsons

Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.

Super-indelible, never come off till your dead or maybe even later markers!

So I love children’s books. There are always great illustrations and stories. The characters are meaningful and there are often times themes that relate to your life. I got to read an awesome book this week that reminded me about my US-2 experience thus far. It’s called Purple, Green and Yellow. This Robert Munsch book is about a little girl who loves to color so she begs her mom for different kinds of markers. Well she gets bored with the last set which just so happen to be super-indelible, never come off till your dead or maybe even later markers. When she gets bored she decides to color on herself and of course this can not be undone. And I’ve found that my experience has been this way thus far. I thought I’d share with you one of the events from this past weekend that is a super-indelible, never come off till your dead or maybe even later marker on my life.

This past week was Read Across America week, aka the week before Dr. Seuss’ birthday. In my previous life as a kindergarten teacher, this was a really big week. We had volunteers come and read each day and dress up days, and a DEAR time(drop everything and read!). I didn’t think that I would be celebrating this event with my current placement site but little did I know…. It all started with the conversation about needing to replace old, outdated books from our libraries with new, pretty books that kids will love to grab off of the shelves. In our staff meeting in the question was asked is there a good time to push for book donations? I said well Dr. Seuss’ birthday is a big day in schools, a great event that already existed. This began what became, like Gru from Despicable Me would say, “kinda a big deal!” We ended up having guest readers come to a few of our sites to read Dr. Seuss books… myself included… and ended on Saturday at Barnes and Noble in Dallas and West Plano with a book drive. Oh, yeah and I got to dress up as the Cat in the Hat, complete with face paint and 3 fingered gloves, and read to the kids for story time!DSC00188

I love  being able to share my love for reading with lots of people! I got to hang out and color with some really cool little kids, read one of my favorite books, and share what Project Transformation does in the Dallas community. I got to talk about the program with several people and they were excited about what we do and were interested in helping out. It was great to see people get as excited as I am about what we are doing.  It’s funny how you can’t help but fall in love with the program and when you fall in love with something you want to share it with everyone!

I’m not sure how much money we made overall but I think it was a very successful day. Reading to kids this week reminded me how much I love acting silly and reading aloud. I know I’ve said this before, but this opportunity to work with Project Transformation has opened my eyes to so many things. Before coming here, I didn’t know really where I was headed and was really nervous about the future. There were some super-indelible, never come off till your dead or maybe even later marks that had left me wondering where I was headed. Now, don’t ask me where I’m going after this because I sure as heck don’t know. But for the first time in a long time, I see possibilities, lots of possibilities, and that feels really good. This is definitely leaving some super-indelible, never come off until your dead or maybe even later marks on me.

Til next time,

Elisabeth

photo 2

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Fasting for Change

So here I sit again. These past few weeks have flown by. A week ago the staff and full-time interns participated in a one week challenge called “Fast for Change.” Each day we had a different focus and challenge to help change the way we think about our impact on the world. My intent was to blog every day about how the fast was going and what we were doing and be really profound about the whole thing… well, as you can see that didn’t happen. I internalized all of those thoughts and never really posted anything about the fast. My profound thoughts were kept in my head, and I never really vocalized that I was even participating at all.

That said I have a few thoughts that I would like to share about our fast.

Day one: All our eggs in one basket????-This day we talked about  how 90% of what is in the grocery store contain one of two crops: corn or soybeans. What if these crops were hit by a devistating disease??? Anyway we planted seeds this day to remind ourselves of the beauty of God’s Creation. Nothing too challenging here…

Day two: Is the Earth hungry too??? This day we talked about how nutrients that we use should return to the soil and feed the new things that grow. The day’s challenge was to practice collecting compost at your house and discuss ways to do community composting. AHHHH this day we started collecting compost at the office and that weekend created a community compost bin outside of the apartments where I live! So now I am collecting compostable items from the office and adding them to the compost bin daily. There are also some staff members who are collecting at home and will be bringing me compost weekly. Little changes to reduce our waste as an organization.

Day 3: Is there a sugar substitute?  This day we talked about the over use of sugar and processed foods. This day was HARD! We did research on what the suggested amount of sugar intake should be and discovered that many items have over the daily suggested amount! I worked really hard that day to not eat processed foods and sugars, and that was super tough. It made me more aware of the things that are in the foods that I eat daily without even thinking about what is in them.

Day 4:What’s your beef??? This day talked about the sustainability of meat and how raising animals for food costs more than eating the things that those animals would have eaten. One of the statistics this shared was “Nearly 40% of our global grain supply feeds animals, the amount of grain equivalent to the annual calorie needs of more than 3.5 billion people. This day I ate no meat and we went to a Vegan restaurant for lunch as an organization. I’m not saying that I’m never going to eat meat because I’m not ready to make that commitment, but I am more conscious of how much meat I eat and where it is coming from.

Day 5: A little knowledge? This probably is my favorite day! We talked about how technology has advanced us as a human race, but at what cost? People do little now to produce their own food. We don’t work for what we eat, and most people have little knowledge of what it takes to grow food. Farmers hold the key to producing food for the population. SOOOOOOO the challenge this day was to find a local farmer or gardener who knows about growing food and spend time working in a garden. Well, those seeds we planted on Monday needed a home, so we decided as a group to create a garden in one of the beds around the apartment for all of those wonderful foods. We worked for several hours on Saturday cleaning out the bed, preparing the soil, and making the compost bin. The seeds are growing and soon we will be able to plant the veggies. I have been designated care-taker of the garden since all of the interns will be moving out at the beginning of the summer.

Day 6: Rest for the weary? This day we talked about rest and Sabbath. We were invited to fast or fast from certain foods. I took this challenge all week and fasted from “Fast Food.” There are many times while I’m here that I get off work at 6 and just don’t feel like cooking. There are many options that I drive past on my way home, and I’ve often been tempted to pick something up. So this week I challenged myself to cook at home and not eat out by myself.

Day 7: Down the drain? This day focused on our water usage. We were supposed to calculate our weekly consumption of water and find ways to reduce it by 10%. This fast is Canadian so the statistics are based on Canada but are still relevant to me. The one from this day was probably the most startling: “Households in developing countries use an average of 119 liters of water per day while Canadian households flush more than that amount down the toilet daily.” WOW

So I thought a lot about the things I was doing that week, and I’ve tried to make small changes in the things that I eat and do to reduce my impact. Sometimes I have a hard time thinking about how big the problems are and how I’m just one person… will my changing me do anything??? If we all changed a few minor things in our lives, then we WILL make a BIG impact on other people’s lives. If you would like to do the fast go to http://www.fastforchange.ca for more information.

Til Next Time!

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Why can’t we be friends

So okay I know it’s been a really long time. I’ve been meaning to sit down and write out some thoughts but it just seems that blogging gets pushed into the background with so many other things going on. I have a spare moment to catch my breath right now… between meeting about the future of Project Transformation, working on coding books in libraries, making sure volunteer projects go smoothly, and visiting my wonderful family… I haven’t had a lot of down time. There is something about getting off of work at 6pm that makes you not want to do much when you get home if you know what I mean.

I’ve been thinking a lot about different things to write about and one of my personal goals this year is to take the time to sit down and share some of my thoughts on here…so here it goes!

I’m not the kind of person who typically gets into political arguments or posts on Facebook. I have some friends, who I value immensely but when they post things that are hateful or disrespectful to people who have different opinions I have a really hard time with that. I was talking to one of our lovely interns, Whitney at our retreat the other weekend about faith/politics and how they meet (sometimes not in the nicest ways). I have friends who post for the “liberal” side and friends who are extremely “conservative. I put those words in quotes because to me they are relative. I don’t particularly care for either of those words… Anyway I don’t particularly care for those posts, but then I was thinking about standing up for justice. There have been posts that I have seen that I take issue on because they lump all “liberals” in a pile that all want to take away guns, kill babies, and spend YOUR hard earned dollar. But then there are also posts from “liberals” that make “conservatives” look like Bible-toting, knuckle-dragging yokels. I guess these have always made me feel uncomfortable because they are one-sided and I feel like I can see the perspective from both sides.

After all, it’s all about perspective. Some people may say that allowing people to come into our country and not be here legally is an injustice and unfair, while others would say that the first people who immigrated here came illegally so if you trace back roots of several citizens now their ancestors were “illegal” as well. Or the people who are calling for tighter gun control in the name of the recent tragic shootings. On the other side there are people up in arms…. about that because of  the second amendment allowing the right to bear arms. These are just two of the many examples of issues that I see posts on a regular basis. I wish that people that would not believe that these key issues were not clear cut. There are always two or more ways to look at an issue and when we put the issues in a box, then we are acting as if they are black and white issues.

I guess I always go back to the Bible… which seems like a good foundation for these key issues. I always ask myself the question… Who did Jesus love? Who did Jesus work with? Who did Jesus associate with? The answer, if people are willing to see it, will help with most of these key issues. People looove to quote specific scriptures to prove their arguments about different topics. I guess I’m more of a big picture person….I love to see the overall themes and ideas that are being portrayed in a story. I enjoy looking at the historical and cultural context of the stories because I believe that they give us ideas behind the meaning for any given story. I don’t believe that the Bible is a clear-cut book that if you memorize the whole thing then you will have an answer to every question in the universe. I believe the opposite! The Bible is a confusing, complex book that was written in a different time period and that many times verses are taken out of context because of that.

Anyway the answer to my original question… Who did Jesus love??? Jesus loved everyone. This is the answer to me… even if I don’t agree with you on key issues, I can appreciate you as a human being. I can respect you as a person. I can try to see your perspective even if I don’t agree with it 100%. What I don’t appreciate is when people I love and respect post hateful, disrespectful posts.

Think about it…are you really bringing people closer to God if you are posting things that would turn them away? IF someone is confused about what the church stands for and you post things that are disrespectful, will that person be attracted to the church? I’m not so sure.

In my quest for standing up for injustices, I find myself tackling really big questions. I find things that I wrestle with whether they are right or wrong. I don’t see many things as one way or another… I guess that’s just how I am… Sometimes I just want to sing the song… Why can’t we be friends… why can’t we be friends… (sing along, you know the song)

Anyway enough of my rambling! A quick update on the things I’m actually doing… I went back to Hannibal for 2 weeks over Christmas to spend time with my family and talk to a couple of churches. I was blessed with several really large donations to my mission! One from my loving sister, Emily, another from the Mark Twain District United Methodist Women’s group, and another from several friends who bought ornaments from me. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of my mom and dad as well who have helped me with a lot of different struggles. I don’t know that I could be where I am today without them so I figured I’d give a shout out!

In other news… we have been recoding all 10 of our libraries (think 50,000 books) into Guided Reading Leveling from Fountas and Pinnell, and this project has pretty much consumed all of my working hours for the past 2 months. We have also been having lots of visioning meeting for Project Transformation because we are starting a new logic model/5 year plan! This is slightly over-whelming but exciting at the same time. A small part of me is sad that I likely won’t be here for 5 years to see all of these things come into fruition (I wish I could reapply for another US-2 term). Ohhh and we are gearing up for the SUMMER… which is a huge monster that is very abstract still to me and slightly… no really terrifying….

OH well, I’ll get used to the idea eventually. Better go work on books! I’m impressed if you’ve read this far BTW!

Till next time,

Elisabeth

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Making a Difference

Well here in Texas, everything is bigger… or so it seems because for this Make a Difference Day we (by we, I mean the interns and staff at Project Transformation) took it up a notch and went to a local park and served warm food, handed out some groceries, and offered clothes to people in the area. I took an observer’s role in this project because I’m hesitant. I was the designated photographer for the event. However, as I began to take pictures of our interns serving, I began to realize that I was also getting those who we were serving in the shots. And I remembered a part of our training in NYC where we talked about not getting the picture for the sake of a good picture, but rather actually learning the stories of the people who you were photographing. I didn’t talk to everyone in the pictures, but I talked to a good number of the people we were serving. Some were living in apartments in the neighborhood, working but not making enough to pay all the bills. Others were living in a forest near by and were using the coats we were handing out as bedding. There was one lady who was asking if I knew anyone who could help her find a bed. This made me excited because one of our interns James has connections with a bed donation program that takes people’s beds that they don’t need or what and takes them to a family who may not have any beds in their house. Wow! I felt like I might be doing something good with this. We were serving in conjunction with the Homeless Coalition of Dallas, a great faith-based organization here in the Dallas area.

I thought this post I would share with you some pictures from our day of service…

Casey telling a story…

Whitney and LaShanta taking time out to pose. Check out that Vanna White!

Interns and staff pre-service!

Bags of onions to be handed out

Andrea and some other volunteers handing out bread.

James bombing a photo…

Virginia, one of the awesome women we served.

Showing off the sweet potatoes to be handed out.

Carolina setting up sweatshirts and coats to be handed out.

Blake sharing a story with Eric, our director.

Some of the volunteers from the Homeless Coalition

Hope you enjoyed the photos! We had a great day making a difference, and I hope you can find ways to make a difference in your communities.

Til next time,

Elisabeth

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Community Mapping

So the time has come again for me to write about my experiences here in Dallas. I know I shouldn’t, but I have been reading my cohorts’ blogs and they seem rather profound. I suppose I haven’t taken the time really to think about our training and the things that I wrestled with while I was there. I have found my experience here more like a “real” job rather than being a missionary… I have taken time to intentionally learn about some systemic injustices here in Dallas, but I haven’t written about them because I’ve been wrestling with the ideas and how to best write them down. I suppose I wasn’t sure exactly what my intent for this blog should be so I haven’t tackled any big topics just yet. I hope to write about a social justice issue at least once a month. My intent is to continue to learn and grow in this area. I haven’t learned anything drastic but I was able to help lead a training last week for our interns that touched on an important one in the communities we are currently serving, so I figured I would share what we did with you today.

So this term–community mapping–is a new one to me, or at least it was 6 months ago. In March for the interview and discernment days for the US-2 program, we were split into groups and had to map 2 distinctly different communities in NYC and present our finding. One was on the upper-east side of Manhattan and was a very wealthy appearing community. The streets were clean, the schools were nice looking, and the parks had nannies/stay-at-home parents with young children playing. The area seemed relatively safe and calm. Then as a group we took a bus(VERY crowded) ride over to the Bronx and observed this community. I have to say as a foreigner, this community looked drastically different. I felt out of place in this neighborhood. The shops there were different, the parks there were different, and the community seemed, well, tired. My group also noticed a police officer on every corner, where we hadn’t seen any in the neighborhood on Manhattan Island. This was an interesting experience and made me aware of the stereotypes that I push onto certain neighborhoods that I have seen.

So once again during our Young Adult Missionary (YAMS) training, we were asked to map a community. This time, however we were asked to map our home community. We were asked to identify a list of things in our communities. These questions were posed to us:

  1. 1. What is the dominant narrative?
  2. 2. Who has the power?
  3. 3. Who is in the margins?
  4. 4. What are the systems of injustice?
  5. 5. Where is the church (specifically UMC) located?
  6. 6. Where is God working?

Having lived in the same town my whole life (except for college and a few years afterwards), this was an interesting activity to do. At first, I found this activity easy to do. But then, I began thinking about if the things that I believed about my community were actually true. If I asked people in the community these questions, would they say the same thing? My opinions of these things may vary from other people’s perspectives. Then all of a sudden this activity became more difficult. Were my prejudices and experiences in the community influencing my community map? And then I began to realize that this was the point of the activity, not to put my bias on the community but to truly think about the things that happen in the community.

So this is all the precursor to my real story… or at least the current story for this post. Every Friday afternoon, the office at Project Transformation becomes a very exciting place because each week the interns (22 I think) come and we have a Leadership Training Course. Each week the topic is different, and some one different shares a topic important to the program. For example, we have had a course on classroom management, time management, our reading enrichment program, and a few more. So this week Casey and I lead a training on learning about your community! Guess what part I was asked to lead? Community Mapping!!!! Each site was asked to map their communities using the five questions I was asked to use. Afterwards, the sites presented their maps and we began looking for common threads that wove through each map, and of course there were common threads. One major one was immigration. The majority of the children who we serve in the after-school program are hispanic. The things noticed were a lack of access to resources, different stores, lots of housing (apartments), and  bad roads. After this activity, we continued talking about poverty  and the things that are associated with poverty. We learned the definitions of different kinds of poverty. And of course, the presentation ended with the all important this is what we know… NOW what can WE do about it. The interns seemed pretty excited about learning and thinking about their communities where they are serving. I really enjoyed leading the activity… and of course asked them for their copies (I will have an assignment from Global Ministries to do this activity soon for my community here).

So think about the perseption that you have  about your community where you live now… what is the dominant narrative? What are the systems of injustice that you see everyday? And the best question of all… what are you going to do to change the community for the better???

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Sharing stories

So one of my jobs with Project Transformation is to establish monthly dinners for the year-long interns. This is partly because I’m a US-2 and establishing a community is a big part of the US-2 program, but it fits in with PT because the interns don’t have anything during the after-school program. During the summer program, there are nightly dinners and lots of time for bonding. Of course, with 100 or so interns this might be easier to accomplish. Right now in the after-school program we have around 20 interns who for the most part are in school or have other jobs than just working with the asp. So nonetheless, I am determined to  have a dinner for them once a month(food is an incentive, right?). Along with this, the plan is to have a small devotional. So here I go with my plan in place!

So this past Saturday was the first dinner! We had a taco potluck, if you want to call it that. I cooked some meat (WAY too much) and the interns were asked to bring the rest of the supplies. I had about 8 interns RSVP yes so my mom suggested to get 5 lbs of meat since she thought they would eat a lot more than the people that she cooks for do(mostly church dinners). Well, at the last minute 3 contacted me that something came up, and they couldn’t make it. I was pretty bummed out! But we ended up having 5 interns, 1 boyfriend, and me. Not so shabby for the first one!

We ate tacos, and I have to say that they were pretty awesome. We talked, laughed, and had a pretty good time. I also asked what they wanted these to be cause they are not about me so much as they are about allowing the interns to build a sense of community. We decided that we should do carry-ins each month since that was cheaper than eating out.

And this is where I get really excited… instead of doing a Bible study-type devotional, we are going to….. drumroll please….. share stories! Each month one or two interns will volunteer to share their faith stories! How exciting is this?!? I have to say I’m really excited to get to know about the interns more and where they came from. During our US-2 training, everyone in the program (including the Global Ministries staff) shared their call to mission/ministry in the retreat center we were at. This was such a neat and sacred time for us to share together. Each of the Mission Interns and US-2’s came from unique places and had an exciting story to tell, and that was my favorite part of the day. So now I’m here, and I’m going to get to listen to more stories!

Anyway, I’m excited about the bonding, stories, laughter, and maybe some tears that might be shared in the months to come. I’m excited about building a community in this strange new world called PT.

That is all for today!

Elisabeth

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It’s been a while

So I have to apologize to my readers… It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I have lots of excuses but I have honestly just have been really busy and haven’t made my blog a priority. So I figure it’s about time to send an update.

So I think it’s interesting that several people have come up to me and asked me how my transition has been going. They seem surprised when I tell them it’s been really great. I guess I expected my transition to be rougher than it has been. I expected to miss home… I expected to be lonely… I guess I was also afraid of the unknown. There are several things, however, that have helped me in my transition.

1. I’ve been busy…. really busy….

2. I work with some really great people who are very supportive of me! The staff at PT have been very accepting and encouraging.

3. I have found some great churches and a small group. I have been attending Oak Cliff UMC on Sunday mornings where they have a contemporary bilingual service. I have also been attending First UMC Richardson  for their contemporary service and have been connected with a small group on Sunday evenings.

4. I have passion for the work that Project Transformation is doing. I feel my passions for children and education are being used to the fullest capacity with Project Transformation. I am really enjoying working with the interns to help the kiddos in the after-school program.

Oh, on a completely random note… I am learning how to drive in a big city. So our sites are spread out over the area and I’m learning which highways connect and where. The other day I took an exit and was really excited because it was on top of the exchanges of what I like to call “spaghetti.” I shared this in small group and one of the guys suggested making roller coaster noises during the trip. Not gonna lie… I tried it! It was awesome!

So I figured I’d include a random picture that I have taken since I’ve been here!

Whitney and Andrea (Site coordinators) “sleeping” in IKEA

Hope you enjoyed my post!

On the next edition (hopefully sooner rather than later): Things I’ve learned in Dallas!

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Training While Training

These past three weeks I have been settling in at work and at home. My apartment is part of a 4-plex that is shared with the AmeriCorp interns that serve with Project Transformation throughout the school year. We have a community room that is set up in the front room of my apartment and the interns are grouped in 2’s or 3’s in the other 3 apartments. I have my own small kitchen/dining room, bedroom, bathroom, and small living room (for my crafting). My first week of work, there was no one in the apartments, but they have all moved in now and we have had some fun bonding activities so I don’t feel alone anymore. I can be interverted in my own apartment if I choose to be, but I have had plenty of time to spend with other people.

As for church, I have been going to Oak Cliff UMC on Sunday mornings because this is where the Project Transformation offices are held. The service is bilingual and the sermon rotates English and Spanish from week to week. For the weeks that it is in Spanish, there is a translator and ear pieces for the English speakers and vice versa. I have also been connected into First UMC of Richardson thanks to Michelle Wood (a Mission Intern from Dallas area). I have been going to the Access Service in the evenings at FUMC. This service is a small (80ish people) contemporary service, and there is a young adult small group that meets afterward. I am excited about having a small group because I haven’t really been involved in a small church group before!

This week the offices at PT have changed. The interns have started training this week and the afterschool program will start officially next Wednesday. The energy in the office has changed, it is more vibrant and a little noisier, too. Today I will lead my first training for the Site Coordinators. I am excited about this but pretty nervous. I’m leading the curriculum training since that is one of the key components of my job. It’s a little difficult to wrap my mind about training people about things that I am knowlegable but in a different context. The rest of the staff here is super supportive though and has really taken the time to train me and answer my questions. I am truly excited about the things that PT is doing and am excited to help the after school program  grow and improve programming. I think it is truly a blessing to have been placed with such a great organization. They combine my passions in life together and I’m excited I’m here as a new resource.

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Project Transformation

Project Transformation

I figured I would post a link to the website of the organization that I am working with. They are doing some amazing work with kids, young adults, and local churches in the Dallas area. I have been busy moving in to my new apartment and settling in at work. I have met some really great people and am excited for the work that I will be doing for the next 2 years. I am sorry that I don’t have more time to go in depth of all of the things I have learned and done in the past two days but I hope that I will be able to put up a better update soon. I really recommend watching the video on the first page of the website because it is pretty powerful and really helps explain what Project Tranformation does in a short amount of time. I hope you enjoy it!

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Moving Forward

This is a song that was used at our commissioning ceremony that I really enjoyed. I am moving forward!

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