Ten things I will never forget about my year on YMT Australia
My time on YMT was full of joy, satisfyingly hard work and discovery. It was also perhaps the most transformative year of my life to date. Seeing God work so obviously by tying moments and people together as only He could was such a privilege. The lifestyle that you are encouraged to live and the people that you come into contact with make for such an incredible year, and there are so many things that I will never forget.
1. THE ADVENTURE.
Working so closely with people you’re still getting to know. Moving new places. Relying on God for everything. Parties. Playing in the street. Running to the beach after Mass. Eating chocolate pudding waaaaaaaay too much. Seeking to outdo each other in selflessness. Learning from your managers. Learning from your team brothers and sisters.
A year on Youth Mission Team is full of routine and unpredictability, excitement and fatigue, teaching and learning, and prayer. If adventure entails filling your life with wonderful people, learning to love God more and more, perseverance, and setting a solid foundation for prayer and faithfulness for years to come, then my year on Team was certainly that.
2. THE FRIENDSHIP.
At the beginning of the year, you are thrust onto teams with other people you may or may not know that well. These teams and combinations are the result of prayer and careful discernment. Your team brothers and sisters may seem totally opposite to you. But that’s only because God often requires people with very unique skills and diverse personalities to help us see things differently and learn from each other. Living with people, praying with your sisters and brothers, working through conflict, and working together for a common goal for a whole year brings you friendships that last a long time.
3. THE VAN.
On YMT, in each location, there is a van. This van will transport your team to schools, youth groups, camps, airports, and homes. The Perth team van was full of rosary beads and empty water bottles. I spent many an hour in the van – praying, sleeping, laughing, singing, and reading. It’s where some of the best conversations happened. Debriefing a ministry day, heading to silent retreat and being as loud as possible before we got there, driving to the hospital after another injury sustained while getting too keen in games at a youth group. I spent hours in that van, and it will always signify a kind of bonding time – be it in discussion, napping, or comfortable silence.
Every single day. What an opportunity to witness the miracle of the Eucharist each morning. I’ll be honest and say that when Mass is at 6:45am, I would often find myself only starting to fully pay attention by the time Fr. Don finished his homily. Or we’d have been travelling and running retreats all week, and so at Mass I’d close my eyes to ‘really take in what was being said’ (or because I couldn’t hold them open any longer – don’t tell me you’ve never done this). But the fact of the matter is, God’s grace is still so abundant, and no matter how keen or exhausted I was, going to daily Mass for a year with an open heart to receive and praise God with others was always a privilege. United by what is most important, all other trials could fall by the wayside.
5. THE COMMUNITY.
In whichever location you are placed, you are immersed in the life of the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community. Sounds like a mouthful, but basically it means that you are surrounded by a community of faithful people from all walks of life with whom you will grow and share and receive from. It was incredible for me to learn from the seemingly endless selflessness of parents, how to be incredibly generous with your time as a young person, the steadfast faith of those who’ve been through a lot, the playfulness of little children and, above all, the way to live a radical life consistently, in the everyday things. Not a day goes past that I don’t miss the people and relationships that developed over that year, however it is a beautiful consolation to know that not only for everything is there a season, but that those people have left a mark on my heart and my life that won’t be erased any time soon.
6. THE YOUNG PEOPLE.
It might be a passing comment, or a hug goodbye, or someone you’ve worked really hard to develop a relationship with turning up at an event. There were so many moments of my year on YMT where I became so overwhelmed at how incredible these young people were. Sometimes I would just stop – at a party, at a youth group, at a camp, on a school ministry day, at the beach – and take in the gloriousness that is a bunch of people all on their own journeys, figuring out life and God and good things and difficult things. In such a tangible missionary lifestyle, God was so obvious in His ways sometimes. I used to say – and I probably always will – that the young people I encountered that year broke my heart. In a good way. It was broken open so I could love more fully. Watching them learn, teaching me, and being larrikins together was my absolute favourite thing.
7. THE IRONY.
This incredible dichotomy existed that no matter how much I - and the rest of the Team – thought we were on YMT to serve and give of our time, we received more than we could ever give. In friendship, in meals, in blessings. Sometimes, just as in every area of life, you absolutely have to choose to see the good things. But sometimes it would just smack me right in the face: that no matter how much I understood I was in Perth to serve and to share my story in front of students – the young people always taught me so much more than I could ever give to them. Through their questioning, their friendship and sincerity. It is an incredibly important and incredibly humbling lesson.
8. THE FATIGUE/HYSTERIA.
Sleep should always be held high in a group of top priorities. I fail at this daily. Particularly when serving on YMT, there is a recommended curfew that has been in place for decades – because its important and it WORKS. My Team sisters and I were not so good at sticking to this, but aside from that, the often jam-packed schedule was enough to make anyone a little bit tired. A big and unifying blessing of Team lifestyle is praying together, and I will never forget one night sitting down to pray with two of my team sisters before we went to sleep, and laughing hysterically for half an hour. We couldn’t look at each other without cracking a smile and falling on the floor laughing. OVER NOTHING. Tiredness makes you crazy. We finished our prayers each facing different walls in the room.
9. THE PASTA AND THE BREAD.
Living in household on small wages entails budgeting skills. And when we weren’t so generously invited over to other people’s houses for dinner, we ate a lot of pasta. It’s very cheap. And meat pies. I was fortunate enough to work at a Swedish Pastry shop two days a week to earn money for the household, and so we had a lot of complementary butter chicken pies and apricot danishes. The way God provides is amazing, and often unexpected.
10. THE GRACE.
Volunteering for Youth Mission Team Australia is an incredible year, filled with so many good things – new friends, discovery, travel, generosity, pranks – but in all honesty, sometimes you get tired, or you need a bit of space, or you’re called upon to do something, to serve, when you are at the end of your tether. But it was so incredibly obvious to me how God is so faithful to His children, and in the midst of chaos He pulls us through, and leaning on Him, we can give that bit extra, finish that talk, pack that trailer. He fills us up, always gives us what we need – whether we know it or not – and this fact has never been more obvious to me than my year on YMT.