This is the first of two planned posts (there might be a follow up third post). These two tie in with my last post, but these two are unique. Why? It is a brief history of what I call my vagabond years; years spent in a handful of countries and two states. They were years of wondering “What’s next?”. Years of pursuing God’s will; years of learning more about myself and how my gifts and passions can benefit the Kingdom of Heaven. Who knows, maybe these posts encourage you to look at your own past story and see how God has directed your own story. Enjoy.
The anticipation of legally becoming an adult! There is a great thrill about this. After all, now I can do what I want, right? In the home I grew up in, we children received our age at 21. This meant we were expected to stay at home until that time. If we wanted to do any time of voluntary service, we did this after we turned 21. There would have been a few exceptions. For example, with my birthday being in January, I could have begun teaching the school in the fall of 2009. My brother worked for his company in eastern Europe when he was 20. So there were a few exceptions but we were expected to hold to this rule. In fact, to this day, there is a saying in our house, “He/she is 21” and that is short hand for “He/she is an adult; they can choose to do what they want.” While it worked so well for my two older brothers, Neil, my younger brother, and I find it doesn’t work so well as a way of getting out of work and responsibility. 🙂 But in January of 2010 is really where my vagabond years begin. I call them vagabond years because I have lived in five different locations since 2010. The end is in sight, but I am still in those vagabond years. In 2010 I left for a two year term in the small South American country of Paraguay. It ended up being closer to 27 months than two years. Understandably, it was a very formative 27 months. I learned a new culture and a new language. I met many wonderful people from different nationalities. I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. And, most of all, I learned about myself. That was probably the hardest part of those months away from home. Seeing my own selfishness and pride and learning to submit that part of me in deference to the community of people I worked with. In many aspects I wish I could go back and re-live those days with the knowledge I have today about myself. Yet those days and those experiences have shaped the person I am today so I don’t know how much of that would be beneficial. Those days in Paraguay came to an end May 7 of 2012 when I came home.
Even before I had left for Paraguay, I had a strong desire to study and earn a college degree. At the time it was a mere wish. I didn’t know what field of study I would enter. While I was in Paraguay, Gordon Goertzen and his wife, Emily, visited their daughter who also served at the same mission where I was. He and I did some work together and in the course of conversation, we discussed college. He mentioned the General Studies course at Faith Builders. Fast forward to that day in Paraguay to May of 2012 and two weeks after I came home, the FB Chorale gave a program at my home church. I knew some of the guys and hosted them at my place. In the course of the evening, they found out about my wanting to go to school and of course, began encouraging me to consider FB. To make the story short, I “asked for information” which the registrar kindly provided. August found me heading to northwestern Pennsylvania for a two year study program which finished May of 2014. Even at graduation from FB, I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study at college. At the least, I would have studied Accounting or Business. I applied to three different schools and was accepted into all three. My personal criteria for school was quite strict. First and foremost, the school had to accept my FB studies. That was a must! I wasn’t going to spend another 3 – 4 years studying if I could help it. Secondly, they needed to have the major that I wanted to study. Next, I wanted to stay in the state of Ohio. This third item I added to the list as a way of narrowing the pool of colleges and universities to choose from. Fourth, I wanted to find a college near a conservative Mennonite community OR being close enough to home that I could be home on weekends or even stay at home while attending college. Lastly, a Christian school was a plus, though not a requirement. This list seems constraining but I figured if all of these came together, that would be one sign that my path to college was open. Yet, even though I was accepted to three Ohio colleges which fit the bill, I still didn’t know what I wanted to study. So I took a year off from my own studies and instead taught school in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. Yet before teaching, I travelled for three weeks with the Hope Singers choir, touring Poland. One word of practicality: do not combine jet lag with the first week of teaching school. I had less then 48 hours from when my plane landed in Cleveland to the start of school. Understandably those first two weeks of school are a blur in my memory.
part 2 coming tomorrow.