Decisions, Struggles, and a Life Lived to the Fullest

I was sitting in the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC 41 in Staten Island) today, working through the National Association for Search and Rescue’s (NASAR) Introduction to Search and Rescue (looking to get my SARTECH III cert) and couldn’t help but to begin thinking about what was coming next.  I am still several months away from completing my year of service with AmeriCorps*NCCC – FEMA Corps and it already feels like I am being pulled in what seems like a thousand different directions.

Over the past several weeks I have thought a lot about the path God has set before me, spent countless moments in prayer, and held conversations with fellow Team Leaders (TLs), FEMA and CNCS Employees, and friends back ‘home’ (actually, in various locations across the nation(s)).  While I feel that many of the details are still up in the air, I have come to the conclusion on what path God is leading my heart down.

The decision to join the inaugural class of AmeriCorps*NCCC – FEMA Corps was an opportunity that I jumped at.  I knew this is where God wanted to use me, to be here for this team, to struggle with them, for them, through this journey.

People continue to ask me why I left a well-paying position to earn next to nothing, leading a group of 18-24 year olds.  Yes, I am receiving a (much) lowered paycheck, but the experience of leading a team, of working in Emergency Management, of helping to create a brand new program for the future, there are some things that money alone cannot get you.  I did leave a huge paycheck to come here, but I feel that it was worth it in the long run.

I made a commitment to National Service when I entered this program.  I promised to serve 11 months and I plan to see this commitment through till the end.  No matter how hard the struggle gets at times, no matter how many survivors scream and shout, no matter how many times I have to comfort my team when they break down, no matter how much it pains me to get up each morning, I made a commitment.  I am here for my team, for the survivors.

If I were to walk out on them, I don’t know if I could ever forgive myself.

I don’t know what I’m doing immediately after finishing this program.  I still have several months to figure that out, but I have made some decisions in regards to my future.

While Emergency Management and Disaster Response will always be a part of who I am, I feel that it is time to return to what I have always loved and what I wish to pursue.  Since graduating from Anderson University almost three years ago, I have continued to dive into art and (re)discover new aspects of faith, mediums, and techniques.  My love for art has never burned as deeply as it does now, as hundreds, if not thousands of ideas race through my head on a daily basis.  Because of the nature of the work, I have been unable to fully invest time and effort into these ideas.

I have started to dive into researching Grad Schools and creating a portfolio that showcases my skills and perspective as an artist.  I am continuing to discover what it means to be a follower of Christ and have continued to develop the series Self Portraits of Faith that was showcased at my Senior Show.  While I have branched out to different media, I hope to return to painting as I begin to settle down and focus on my art.

I have begun looking at different programs throughout the nation (Univ. of Georgia, Univ. of Indiana at Bloomington, Rhode Island School of Design, Laguna College of Art and Design to name a few) with the hopes of starting in the Fall of 2014.  The end goal is to develop as an artist and eventually begin to teach at the collegiate level.

I feel that God has called me to be an artist.  He has given me the opportunities to experience wildland fire, disaster response and leading a team through emergency management to open my eyes to what truly matters.

It’s going to be a struggle.  Its going to be difficult.  But I know that I need to return to who I am, who I will always be.

Another project that I have been working on (and hope to complete) is one that I am calling Journeys: the adventures of a nomad, an autobiography of sorts that reveals my adventures in the missions fields of Honduras, Uganda, and Togo, my discovery of faith, and the stories that I carry with me through my time in AmeriCorps*NCCC, responding to the Good Friday Tornadoes in St. Louis and then the devastation of Joplin, my time as a Wildfire Suppression Technician at Ft. Campbell, and my trials as a Team Leader for AmeriCorps*NCCC – FEMA Corps in response to Hurricane Sandy.

I started writing just before I arrived in Vicksburg back in August and have written on and off for the past several months.  I hope to have the time to put all my focus into the stories that have changed my life, to share with the world that even the youth have the power to change the world.

It isn’t my wish to glorify my deeds, but to reveal the power of faith and challenge this generation to become something more.  My goal is to encourage the youth to live life to the fullest and give hope to those that have lost their faith in the human race.

While the big picture may be figured out, the details are filled with thousands of shattered pieces that lead in a multitude of directions.  While still months out, I’ve begun applying to positions all over the place.  It’s frustrating, job searching.  I don’t know how I will ever survive.

My journey might not be the most logical, but when has God ever led us on the easy path.

After wandering for so long, I have finally found the path that God has led me towards.  There is a comfort in knowing, but, at the same time, a hesitation because it has never been this clear before.

God Bless and PEACE


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