Goodbye for now

There is a lot I could say about working with A2S and being able to regularly worship and par-tay with All Saints’ this summer. As I continue to reflect on these experiences, I am reminded of the importance of people. I am grateful to come back to the community that continues to love, support, and watch me grow. I got to come home with a different lens and experience such an important place from a new perspective as I prepare to hopefully take my first call by this time next year. 

I see so much of why All Saints’ is important to me in A2S. Andrew Lovedale, the founder and Executive Director, asked me to share my A2S story and I couldn’t tell my story without the way All Saints’ has shaped and formed me into the person I am today. I started my Story with the Graphic below, which mapped out how All Saints’ instilled in me Christian Mission. 

All Saints’ is a model for Andrew’s catchmark phrase, “love and consistency,” but when I look at these pictures I think about the people behind them. I think about how Ragan took a chance on a little high schooler to take photographs of our First Annual Tour de Saints, which at the time felt like a mix of fear and anxiety as we shifted completely how we did mission work. I think of Susan Furr in the kitchen, working up a whole new menu and style of meal for the first time. In just a few days, All Saints’ will continue the tradition that has now become a staple of what it means for us to do mission work. But for me, it is also about the people, how we happened to have a lot of bike-riding parishioners passionate about Cooperative Christian Ministries.

This kind of alignment of passion is what I see in A2s. There isn’t a program that doesn’t have a personal story behind it to understand why we do what we do. There isn’t a face, a struggle, or a person that gets lost in the methodology, programming, or day-to-day operations of A2S. This is the beauty of A2S and All Saints’: it is always about the people first. It is the people that drive, run, and inspire this mission. 

From the A2S perspective, I am sure a lot of people have been brought in because of Andrew’s undeniable ability to infect, inspire, and ignite the Holy Spirit within each one of us. But the real beauty is God gave us Andrew to remind us that the flame lives in each one of us; a reminder that our job is to tend the flame, allowing what needs to happen to actually happen. Some of us just get to be lucky with one of Andrew’s assigned ones for a while, and he gets to help us tend the flame. 

After three months with A2S, I do not think I could have had a better experience to help me understand that this is exactly where the Holy Spirit needed me to be. Working with the incredible team and being back home with All Saints’ has been one of the highlights after a very difficult couple of years. I got to connect and reconnect with people both in Benin City and the greater Charlotte area. I got to see the Holy Spirit light up: Mitchelle (Communications Coordinator in Nigeria) as she creates beautiful pictures and videos; Laura’s (US Development Manager) ability to trust that the pieces will eventually fall into place; Thecla’s (National Director in Nigeria) passion for children and how it radiates in every piece of her soul; All Saints’ own and one of the founders of A2S, Morgan Clark, who demonstrates devotion and dedication to A2S no matter the constraint; and Uche’s (US Missions and Outreach Director) drive to help her brother, Iffy, and others like them, because she knows what love and consistency looks like first hand. Each of the many people who work, volunteer, donate, and inspire A2S tend the flame for the kingdom of God on earth in a different way. They give me hope that a better future is possible. 

This past year the staff in Nigeria welcomed several babies. They decided the best way to support the staff was to have a nursery at the After School Academy. Below is a picture of three of the six of the youngest students at A2S. I am obsessed with the Creche. This has become the most prominent image of A2S for me. 

This adorable image perfectly captures the original vision of A2S. Andrew founded the organization to give back nothing less than the love and consistency that he was given. 

So as I start my final year of seminary and begin the transition into this next year and a half, I say goodbye for now. I am so grateful for the people of All Saints’, Concord. Y’all have helped shape me into the person I am today. For me, All Saints’, Concord gave me the “love and consistency,”  as Andrew likes to say, to become the priest I hope to be in the future. 

Like these creche babies, I know there are pictures of me sitting in the nursery on All Saints’ floor. (Unfortunately, I’m unable to surface any, but I did find one of my baptism at Kanuga at a Parish Retreat). 

Staring at these incredibly adorable faces reminds me of how much hope continues to exist in the eyes of the next generation. God is doing incredible things through A2S and All Saints’. I cannot wait for what is in store. But, I am hopeful that these little creche babies are going to move mountains, break the cycle of poverty, and continue to be God’s example of the Kingdom here on earth. 

I will conclude with the best way to summarize my summer experience being home again with A2s’s founding verse:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11