Monday, December 12, 2011

Shameless Plug for Mail

Yes- this is a shameless plug for mail. My roommates always get letters in the mail and I don't. :( Soooooooooo here is my address! If you would like to mail me something I would love you forever and more than likely will respond. 

Sarah Bennett
425 S Central Park Blvd
Chicago, IL 60624

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Guest Bloggers!

So I had a really crazy idea the other day (ok, not so crazy) and I decided that you guys might want to get to know my roommates better. Because they are awesome and unique people who's thoughts should be permanently on the internet. So be on the lookout for some guest bloggers! I haven't actually asked them if they want to participate, but why wouldn't they...right?

If you have any burning desire to ask my roommates a question, let me know in the comments below. :) I will do my best to ask them. But I figured I would ask a mixture of generic and absolutely random questions so it is both informative and interesting. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Back From My Hiatus!!

I haven't posted on this blog in over a month! I can't really believe it...I had even sat down a couple of months ago and brainstormed a bunch of blog-post ideas so that I could write interesting and thought provoking content for all of you lovely readers. However, life happened and I haven't really had the chance/felt like writing a blog post. November was definitely a hard month for me. But I am in the process of getting back in a better mood! It sometimes feels like an uphill battle, but I'm getting there. :) This is just one of the phases you go through when you move to a new place.

Both of my site placements have been great! I am going to try and post more about how my job at PAWS is changing. Maybe I'll get to that tomorrow? I actually have to go into PAWS tomorrow for some training. I haven't actually ever been to PAWS on a weekend day before. It should be an interesting experience! I also have been thinking a lot about my plans for the fall, i.e. Graduate School (dun, dun, dunnnnnnn). Hopefully I will get something up about that as well in case you are anxiously waiting for that. Haha.

I hope that you all are having a wonderful December so far. I do have some exciting news! My presbytery (Grace Presbytery) is the best! I just got an email from them today and they have donated $1300 towards the $6500 total that I need to raise for the year. I feel so blessed to be a part of such an amazing organization. :)

Today was a good day. I worked at PAWS and then my house went over to the Mennonite Volunteer Service house for dinner. It was a lot of fun to meet some more year-long volunteers! But I am tired, so off to bed I go! Goodnight all and sweet dreams. :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

December Devotion

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus comes, the shadows depart. –Author unknown, inscription on a Scottish castle
Before when I read this passage I focused on the wilderness imagery, but this morning as I was on my way to work I was thinking how this verse is really celebrating Jesus. This passage is a reminder that the world needed to be prepared for the coming of Jesus. The peace for which Jesus fought and the world that was changed after his death is the “good news” mentioned by Mark. But someone still needed to ready the world and that person was John the Baptist.
John the Baptist was considered a great teacher, but his message was always about the one coming—Jesus. Rabbis taught that students should do anything their teacher asked of them except untie his shoes. Is it just ironic then that John says he isn’t even worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals? Nope! This was most likely intentionally said to help the audience understand Jesus’ great power.
John kept watch and prepared the way of Jesus. In this Advent season, keep watch with me. It is the life of Jesus that helps to bind our hearts to God and it also provides a common connection for humanity. During this busy season, do not let your mind wander and get wrapped up in the pageantry of Christmas. It is just the beginning. Let’s watch together for Christ to be present in the world.
Every character has an inward spring; let Christ be that spring. Every action has a keynote; let Christ be that note, to which your whole life is attuned. -Henry Drummond
The world's dark night is hastening on;
Speed, speed thy work, cast sloth away;
It is not thus that souls are won.
Toil on, faint not, keep watch and pray.

(From a hymn by Horatius Bonar: Go, Labor On: Spend, and Be Spent)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Worst Week Ever?

This week has been pretty terrible. This might be a depressing I apologize in advance.

As many of you know, my house has been fostering kittens from PAWS. Last week my roommate, Kiva, and I noticed that one of the kittens had an open wound on his head. Long story short, when I took the kitty in (on Monday) to see the vet, she accused me of burning him with a cigarette butt. Nevertheless, I did not do such a horrible thing and I did not enjoy being accused/yelled at in the PAWS office. It was really embarrassing to just sit there crying, and I don't think that I will be participating in the foster program anytime soon. SO TERRIBLE!

Then, later on Monday we were doing laundry and our stupid van's stupid tire decided to lose all of its air. Lame sauce. So yeah...the cherry on top to the worst-day-sundae. (Slight upside, we ended up getting the van towed and the tire fixed for less than $75) Also a good thing on Monday, we went to Feed, which is an awesome, totally amazing restaurant that has awesome food. I definitely want to go back there someday.

Ok, so the other terrible thing that happened this week was one of my housemates was mugged. Yeah. It sucks. I feel really horrible for him. And I am also now completely terrified of walking anywhere by myself. He was held up at gun point by 6 guys. So...the mood in our house last night was not a positive one.

Fortunately, while writing this blog post I remembered some good things about my week, which I will share here. I don't want to end things on a negative note!

I love working at Fourth Church. Seriously, it might be my favorite job ever. The kids are a little difficult to deal with sometimes, but I love going to work everyday. I've never met an employee at Fourth who didn't greet me with a smile and ask me how my day has been going. That definitely outweighs my terrible experience at PAWS.

I discovered an amazing (and cheap!) Mexican bakery right next to the 26th street PAWS location. And this morning I went there and my donut was delicious!

So, not a completely terrible week? I'm trying to be positive, but I definitely could use/appreciate your prayers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Litter and Love!

KITTENS!!!!!!! Anyone who knows me pretty well knows that I love animals! That is one of the reasons that I requested to work with animals this year. PAWS is an amazing organization to work for and I am so happy that it worked out! One of the many programs at PAWS is the Foster Volunteer program. As of this afternoon, I am a foster mom to 3 beautiful kittens!! I am so happy that it worked out!! I will have these 3 little babies for 2 weeks before I have to give them back so they can be adopted out. All I have to provide is the litter and the love. :)

Floy is the grey kitty. He is awesome. He was really shy when he first got out of the crate, but now he is fearless! Brock is the black one. He is probably the one out of the 3 that is the most scared of people. But I'll work on that! And Lorin is the black and orange one. She is beautiful and is a purr machine! She has already taken about 3 naps on my lap. She might be my favorite...even though I'm trying really hard to not have favorites.

Ok, now for some pictures!

Brock is a little camera shy...I'll have to get a good picture of just him! Ok, one more picture, then its bedtime. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Denmark Withdrawal

I am going though some major Denmark withdrawal!! Ever since I noticed that Chicago is similar to Denmark, I can't stop thinking about my time abroad! Tonight I was the person who made dinner and I cooked Danish food. :) It was super delicious! And I talked some of my roommates into trying pickled beets. Needless to say, I don't think they enjoyed them. Which is fine by me because now I have the whole jar to myself!

I found a blog online today that has only made my symptoms worse. My Danish Kitchen is written by a woman who is Danish but living in the US with her husband. She has so many delicious recipes that I cannot wait to try out!! And she posted links to companies online that will ship Danish products to the States. I am so tempted to buy some kammerjunkere!!!!!!!! There were a lot of delicious things in Denmark that I ate and loved, but had completely forgotten about until today.

Oh Denmark, one day I will have money and will be able to afford visiting! Until then, I will just have to make due. Good night everyone! It is way past my bedtime and I need to get off the computer before I spend my entire monthly stipend on groceries from Denmark. :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What I Did Today + Room Pictures!

Today I reorganized my room. And I think I like it now...before I was sharing it with another person. But now I moved some stuff around, and it feels more comfortable to me! I will put up some pictures. My room is a little messy though, so no judging! Haha :)

Today we didn't really have a lesson during Elevation. I had planned to talk to the kids about Cain & Abel, but there were only 6 kids. We normally have 30- 35 kids, so I decided that it would be best to wait until the majority of the class was there. Instead we played Never-Have-I-Ever. It was a lot of fun to get to know the 6 kids that were there better. After Elevation, I stayed for the Young Adult gathering, which was a really interesting discussion. We talked about Jesus' crucifixion. Realistically, that isn't a topic that I have spent much time thinking about. I feel like most of the things that we talk about during the Young Adult gatherings are topics that I have never really put a lot of thought into. I definitely think that between the gatherings and the discussions that my house gets into, my beliefs and views are going to be challenged a lot in the coming months.

After the gathering, I wandered around the city. I didn't really go anywhere specific, I just walked around the Loop. The Loop is the area of downtown that is contained within the loop of train tracks that the El makes. There are so many beautiful buildings in Chicago! It was a perfect day outside today, and so I took advantage of the warm weather to just wander and explore.

The Chicago Marathon was today. When I was walking around the city I saw a bunch of people with their medals on. It was really funny because most of them wanted to take off the medal because they felt weird wearing it, but their friends and family members that were with them wanted them to leave the medal on. I could definitely picture me and Rebecca in that situation--me forcing Rebecca to leave the medal on. I congratulated a lot of them, which I like to think made them happy. Running 26.2 miles is no small feat. I don't know that I would go so far as to say that I want to run a marathon one day, but I definitely think I want to run a half-marathon! My only problem is finding the motivation to get to the gym. It is especially hard right now because I keep putting off finding a gym! I know that once winter hits I won't be able to run outside, so I had better get a move on!

Ok, here are some pictures of my room! I will try and upload some more tomorrow morning because I am sure they will turn out better in the natural light.

Week's Goal: Find a gym!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

One Month In...

A month in. I can't believe it! It feels like I've been here both longer and shorter...if that is at all possible. Chicago is amazing! Sometimes I forget that I live here...I get caught up in the mundane, daily task of commuting to work on the El. But then I see something that reminds me, like the family I saw on the train yesterday after church. It was obviously a mother and father visiting their semi-grown up daughter. She seemed to be around my age, probably 25 or so. But the parents were so happy to be on the El! It just reminded me that I am living in a city that people come to for vacation. I don't want to forget that...I also don't want to put off experiencing all that Chicago has to offer until its too late. I mean, my office at Fourth overlooks Michigan Avenue! The view is something that people would probably pay to see. There are so many different neighborhoods, museums, stores, restaurants, parks, etc that I want to see and experience before my year is done.

It's funny. I've been realizing lately that one of the reasons I really like Chicago so far is that it reminds me of Copenhagen. The architecture and city layout are completely different--there were buildings I walked past everyday in Copenhagen that were from the 1300s. And the city was not designed to be on a grid like Chicago. But the people somewhat remind me of Danes. Maybe it is because their winter climate is similar, but I just get the feeling that Chicagoans really appreciate the summer and take full advantage of all the many parks. There was one day that I was in Lincoln Park walking between bus stops on my way from Fourth to PAWS and I just stopped and sat down on a park bench. I was surrounded by beautiful flowers and green grass. All around me were people running, walking their dogs, playing with their kids, and just enjoying the beautiful warm weather. It made me feel like I was back in the Tivoli Gardens! Granted, I don't think that it was ever 80 degrees outside when I was over there, but that's not the point. Now that the weather is getting colder people aren't outside as often. It will be interesting to see if the winter months remind me of Denmark as well. Probably because it was really the only time I've experienced living in a climate where it snows!

One of the other things that I realized recently is that although I tried really hard to not have any expectations, I had them. Everyone warned me that setting the bar too high would only make it harder to enjoy my time in Chicago, etc. But I think it is impossible to start a new chapter in your life without having a few expectations! I had expectations about my roommates, my job sites, the house we would be living in, the neighborhood, what church I would attend and Chicago as a city. For the most part, my expectations were completely off. It has taken me a little while to get used to, but I think I am glad that my expectations were not met. I am far from perfect, but I know that by August I will be a better person because I will have been put into situations that were unexpected. If you live in a world where everything is exactly what you want it to be, then where does personal growth come in? I believe that when we are put in new situations it is God challenging us to grow. When I agreed to accept the call to serve a year in Chicago, I definitely had the expectation that at the end of my time here I would have a clear picture in my minds as to how I am meant to live my life. Aka I thought that I would be able to discern graduate school plans. Based on how this past month has gone, I still have high hopes but I have accepted the fact that I probably will need more time. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Aunt Barbara's Famous Chicken Enchiladas

I have had writer's block for the past week or so... I never thought it would be so hard to write a blog about my life. When I was in Copenhagen I think it was easier...I'm not sure why. Maybe because I was also traveling and taking classes? Either way, I have been racking my brain trying to decide what to blog about! (And in my spare time watching copious amounts of Mad Men! A seriously amazing show...) I finally have a few blog posts in mind, so hopefully I will be writing more frequently.

I made my Aunt Barbara's Famous Chicken Enchiladas. I added the famous to the name. I've made them for a couple of different groups of people and everyone seems to love them! I know I certainty love to make them! I will include the recipe down below for anyone who wants to try them out!! I made them because we had a special dinner last tonight. One of my housemates is leaving us! :( Stephanie was here last year living in Chicago, and she was able to stay in the house until her new job started. Well, her new job starts in a few weeks and so she is going to go home for a little while before heading off to William & Mary (I believe) where she is going to be in charge of something...organizing college volunteers, I believe. Anyways, last night was her last night here. It was definitely a bittersweet moment saying goodbye to her! I am sad that she is not going to be a part of our community here in Chicago but I am also excited for her to start her new journey. 

After dinner we watched Saved. For anyone who hasn't seen the movie, I copied and pasted a summary from for you to read over. If you just click here, it will take you to the imdb (Internet Movie Database) site.

Mary is a good Christian girl who goes to a good Christian high school where she has good Christian friends, mainly Hilary Faye, and a perfect Christian boyfriend, Dean. Her life seems perfect, until the day that she finds out that Dean may be gay. After "seeing" a vision of Jesus in a pool, she does everything in her power to help him turn straight, including offering up her virginity. But none of it helps because Dean's caught and sent to a "degayification" center and Mary ends up pregnant. It's during her time of need that she becomes real friends with the school's set of "misfits," including Cassandra, the school's only Jewish girl; Roland, Hilary Faye's wheelchair-bound brother, and Patrick, the skateboarder son of the school's principal, Pastor Skip; whilst Hilary Faye turns her into a social outcast.

Anyways, the movie was a lot of fun and it was great to have one last community gathering before Stephanie left! I highly recommend renting and watching the film. Today was my first day at the 26th Street Location for PAWS. I will be splitting my time between the 2 different PAWS locations on Thursday and Friday. I had a really good day there and will try to blog about it tomorrow. I hope you all had a wonderful day!

Aunt Barbara's (Famous) Chicken Enchiladas
2 lbs. chicken
4 T. butter
1 large onion
1 lb. chopped spinach
3 c. sour cream
(2) 4 oz. cans chopped green chilies
1 t. ground cumin
¼ c. milk
salt to taste
10-12 flour tortillas
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Poach chicken, cool, then shred into small pieces
Melt butter and sauté onion for 5 minutes
Pre-heat oven to 350, butter large baking dish (13x9)
Steam spinach (I just microwave it), reserve ½ c. of liquid
Combine onion, spinach/liquid, sour cream, chiles, cumin and milk.
Add ½ of the spinach mixture to the chicken, mix well
Fill tortillas with spinach/chicken, place seam side down in baking dish
Cover tortillas with ½ of the grated cheese, then remaining spinach mixture, then top with remaining cheese
Bake until heated throughout and lightly brown (approx. 30 minutes)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

More Info about PAWS and the Zoo!!!

I am so excited about this year at PAWS. I had my first 2 days of actual work there on Thursday and Friday. And now that I've had more time to get everything sorted out, I now have somewhat of an idea as to what my duties will be at PAWS.

First off, I am a Level 1 Volunteer in Dog Town and Kitty City. I really want to be at least a Level 2 by the time I am done...which I don't think will be very hard to accomplish. After serving 36 volunteer hours, you are able to take Level 2 training classes. I've already spent 16 hours in Kitty City just the past 2 days, so I think I will get to 36 hours in no time! They have different levels of volunteers because there are some cats and dogs that are more challenging than others. I don't think there can be a Level 3 Volunteer in Kitty City... Anyways! As a Level 1 volunteer, I have a variety of duties. Since I work 8 hours a day, my mornings are usually taken up by cleaning the different cat rooms. The rooms are ridiculously clean, but it is that atmosphere that helps get so many pets adopted! If it smelt terrible and there were stains everywhere, people wouldn't come into the center. I don't mind cleaning the rooms. It is almost like a race against the clock! We have to be ready to open the doors to the public at noon and often PAWS doesn't get weekday morning volunteers. That means it is up to me and the Vet Tech (the one I've been working with is Erin and she is amazingly nice!) to clean all 9 rooms. Some of them are really big! After we clean the rooms, we just have to socialize with the cats. Some of them are really scared because they are confused, so we just help make them feel more comfortable so people will want to adopt them. Finally, we help people who come into the center to adopt a pet! In order for people to go into the pet rooms, they have to take a survey and once they have that survey we (being the volunteers) take them into the specific cat/dog room and let them interact with the animals. On Friday I helped 4 cats get adopted and it was awesome! I haven't actually volunteered at all in Dog Town, mostly because Kitty City gets fewer volunteers and I want to make sure the help is evenly distributed. But mostly the responsibilities are the same, except you also have to walk the dogs.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Book Sales and First Day of Sunday School!

I went a little overboard this weekend at book sales. I got 21 books this weekend. Whoops! BUT I only spent $8!! I don't really know when I am going to have the time to read 21 books, but they were such good deals and I really want to read all of them!

On Friday afternoon 2 of my roommates (Erin and Stephanie) and I went to the Brown Elephant which is a thrift store. They have a huge book selection and each book is only $0.50! (I can't seem to find the cents symbol anywhere...) So I got 6 books there, for a grand total of $3! Which would normally be a mighty fine deal, but then we went to a "$5 Bag of Books" book sale on Saturday at After-words. I was talking to the owner of After-words (I love when I get to say that because I really enjoy small, privately owned bookstores!!) and she explained the logic of the $5 bag of books. When the store buys books  from customers, sometimes they end up with books they don't want/books that were donated. The owner decided a few years ago that they should hold a book sale to benefit charity. So they charge $5 and let you go downstairs into the basement and fill up a bag of books! I went on Saturday with a couple of my housemates and came back with 15 books! I got a bunch of fiction books, but I also picked up some random business books and sociology books. Random, I know!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Day (Sort of) at PAWS

Well I had my orientation today at PAWS! It only lasted for 2 hours, and didn't really give me any insight into what I will be doing this year. :/ I had a good time at the orientation, but it is a little upsetting that I still don't know anything. I am going to more training on Tuesday and Wednesday night so maybe then I will have more of an idea. The problem is that there are so many areas that I could volunteer in, but my supervisor has been on vacation (or at least the person I think is my supervisor) and so I have no idea what direction I am going to be going in... Frustrating to say the least!

I don't really have much else to blog about....I just felt compelled to blog about my first day at PAWS. Hopefully I will have more exciting stories in a few weeks! The area around PAWS is really nice! If I stay in Chicago after this year, I definitely wouldn't mind living there. It's in Lincoln Park and there are a ton of shops in the area that I would love to spend hours wandering around in! And there is a Crate & Barrel outlet store near by as well. I'll probably pop in there at least one or two times this year. Not that I'll be able to afford anything...or have a place to put anything...but I still like to wander around and look at all the deals! My house actually does need a crock pot. I think it is a little insane that we don't have one. They are the perfect tool for cold weather cooking! Not that Crate & Barrel sells crock pots, or that I would buy one there.....

Tonight we are going to dinner with some other people in Chicago who are also living in an intentional community. Matt Black was one of the YAV Alumni that was at orientation and the placement event. And (from what I've been told) he lives in a community of other Christian people and they want to live simply. Which sounds pretty cool to me! Kiva (one of the other girls in the house and my roommate) is working with 2 girls that are basically doing the Catholic version of the Young Adult Volunteer program and I think we are going to invite them over for dinner soon. It will be nice to expand our group and get to know more people. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Day at Fourth Presbyterian Church

I had my first day of work at Fourth Presbyterian Church yesterday! The church is huge and has so many people on staff! I didn’t know until today that Fourth Pres is the 2nd largest Presbyterian Church (USA) in the US. That’s pretty amazing! The church building is beautiful and covered in ivy right now. They just broke ground this summer on a new building for Sunday School classes and offices, among other things, so we are kind of scattered among a few different buildings. For instance, my office is in the mance, but on Sundays we will meet on the 19th floor of one of the office buildings nearby. 

I am working with the “Elevation” group (6th and 7th graders) on Sunday mornings and whenever they have retreats/lock-ins and fellowship. I am pretty much planning everything for the year, but I have some templates to start with. And I have Sunday School curriculum to use as well, which is nice. We are covering the Old Testament this year…they alternate Old and New Testament lessons each year so that by the time the kids get to the Confirmation Class in 8th grade they have a good understanding of the Bible. I am really excited to be working with everyone here—they are all really nice! My office is SUPER COLD but that’s ok…I was advised to bring in an extra blanket or old sweater for the office because it is usually pretty cold. My office is in the old mance and overlooks the courtyard area. It is really nice! I share the space with 3 other people, but I have my own desk and it isn’t crowded at all.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Vlogging in Chicago

I decided that I want to have a video blog (vlog) for this year in Chicago at some point this summer, but I hadn't actually done anything about it until today! One of my housemates doesn't have a computer and since I knew we had extras at home, I asked my parents if he could have one. Of course they said yes because they are awesome!! So Denis wanted to say thanks and we decided to do it through a video blog.

I made a special youtube channel for my house to use to upload video blogs. I am not sure who else is going to bother to upload vlogs as well, but I thought it would be nice to let you all know that it exists!! Once I find out the policy on pictures/videos at my different site placements then I will try and get those up here or on the youtube channel. And once I get the house cleaned up to more of my standards I will film the house as well. :)

The link for the video is

Today was a lot of fun--tomorrow I will try my hardest to post a blog about this past week in Chicago!

YAV Orientation, Part 2

Well orientation came and went and I never blogged about it! I really meant to, but other things got in the way. We spent the week in different seminars about various topics such as, Critical Cultural Competency, Sexual Misconduct, Safety/Gender Issues/Relationships, Living in God's mission & how to share your story, Self Care and what makes you tick. I think by far my favorite sessions were Self Care and what makes you tick.

The Self Care session really helped to reinforce that although we are taking a year to live simply and volunteer our time to help others, we still need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves. Working out, eating right, doing things that we enjoy, are all important to remember so that we don't get down and therefore not as useful to our placements.

The "what makes you tick" session was a lot of fun (for me) because we took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). For those of you who do not know what the MBTI is, it is a questionnaire designed to take Carl Jung's theories on differing psychological concepts and apply them in broad categories to the questionnaire's participants. I could go on and on about the test because I really enjoyed it, but I won't. :)

We had an earthquake in New York! My first earthquake experience and I didn't even know that it happened until Rebecca (my sister) texted me and asked if I survived the earthquake. It wasn't really that big of a deal up at Stony Point. Honestly I think only a couple of people noticed it. Most of our attention was focused on Hurricane Irene. About 20 of us volunteered to help prepare Stony Point for flooding on Saturday morning. We bagged so many bags of sand! At one point a couple of us had to go get more sand and I got to drive the golf cart! :) Haha I felt so official! Irene didn't hit us too badly. There was some flooding in the main building because the site isn't properly set up to handle that much water. The water basically drains down the hill into the side of the building, so of course it is going to flood. Luckily nothing was damaged (that I know of).

We were supposed to split up into different groups and attend local churches on Sunday morning to be commissioned, but all of the churches canceled their Sunday worship because of the hurricane. :( It was disappointing, but then we had a commissioning service at the ending worship service, which was really nice! I think my favorite thing for the entire week was getting to know the other YAVs that are going elsewhere in the country and the world. In a couple months I know it will be really nice to have that network of support! I got to know the people that are going to Kenya pretty well last week and I felt so bad because their flight was delayed until today because of Hurricane Irene! I know I was really lucky that my flight wasn't delayed or canceled!

I arrived in Chicago on Monday and we went to Lou Malnati's to get pizza. IT WAS SO GOOD! I love Chicago style pizza but this stuff was awesome!! :) According to my site director, Lou's also does a really good job of becoming part of the neighborhood and it is supposed to be a place where you can come and enjoy yourself--not get rushed out the door. A link to their website is here if you want to read more about their history.

I'll write another post about my week here in Chicago but I have to go get ready. Our site director (Krista) is blindfolding us and dropping us each off in a separate area of Chicago and we have to find our way back to the house. Luckily Chicago was designed on a grid pattern so it should be fairly easy....I am hoping! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

YAV Orientation!

Well I finally made it to the YAV Orientation in Stony Point, NY! I had a bit of an adventure getting here...which started with me leaving the house at 4:30 this morning. My wonderful mother sacrificed sleep to take me to the airport!! (Thanks Mom!) It was a bit of a hassle at the airport getting my suitcases and guitar checked but we finally got it. Then for some reason, when I was going through security I triggered some sort of alarm and they decided that they needed to check me for explosives! Of course I was fine, but my flight had already started boarding at this point so I was extremely worried that I was going to miss it! NOT a good way to start my YAV year. But I did make it on time, so at least I was guaranteed a flight to St. Louis.

Once I got to the airport in St. Louis, I had about an hour before my flight to Newark, which seemed like plenty of time. Except for the fact that I had to leave security and go back through it again to change terminals!! I guess the airport had been hit by a tornado a few months ago and they are still undergoing construction to fix the damage. But I managed to make it through with just enough time to get to my next plane before they closed the doors.

When I landed in Newark, I was a little concerned because I still hadn't heard anything about where I was supposed to meet up with the YAV group. And Newark is a fairly large airport so it wasn't like I was just going to run into people I knew...but I got a call from the program director, Shannon, and she reassured me that I wasn't going to be left at the airport. Which made me feel better, until my luggage came down the carousel. Somehow, one of the airlines I was traveling on managed to break my suitcase! I gave it to them with 4 wheels and got it back with only 3. :( It was really upsetting because not only was my luggage set a high school graduation present from my parents, but I had all of my other stuff that I had to lug around the airport. To make a long story somewhat shorter, eventually I did manage to move my stuff between terminals and find my group.

The bus ride to Stony Point from Newark was really pretty! It was really cool seeing the NYC skyline again and Stony Point is in a really beautiful park of New York near the Hudson River. The campus was donated by a group of sisters back in the day and historically has been used to help prepare missionaries before they go out into the field. A little bit of their history can be found by clicking here. It isn't the entire history of the site, but I couldn't find their history on their website anywhere.

It is really beautiful up here and I am so glad to be here among all of the other YAVs. It's nice seeing all of my friends that I made at the placement event back in March and meeting the other people that are going to Chicago! I can't wait to get out there!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Update on making donations

Ok, I have an update on the donation process. There are 2 different ways that I can receive donations for my YAV year next year.

1. Through the DOOR Network (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection). In Chicago the program is run as a partnership between the DOOR Network and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Made payable to "DOOR" and in the memo line, "DOOR- Chicago, Sarah Bennett"
Send to:
DOOR- National Office
430 West 9th Avenue
Denver, CO 80204

Credit Card- There is a fee charged for each credit card donation (3-5%)
By telephone: Call the DOOR National Office at (303) 295-3667
By mail: email me and I will forward you the form
Online: Click here and in the description field, write "DOOR- Chicago, Sarah Bennett"

2. Through the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Made payable to "Presbyterian Church (USA)" and in the memo line, "Sarah Bennett ECO# 052053"
Send to:
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Individual Remittance Processing
PO Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264

Online- Credit Card fee charged (3-5%)
See instructions in the previous post.

You can also send me a check, but since I am not a non-profit organization, that means you can't deduct your donation on your taxes. But luckily the DOOR Network and the Presbyterian Church (USA) both are! At the end of the year, you will receive a detailed receipt if you make your donation through either of them.

The YAV Program estimates that it is going to cost approximately $14,000 for my living expenses. I am only asked to raise $6,500. Anything that I raise over $6,500 goes to help fund future YAVs and to reduce the expenses of my program. I can't wait to get started working in Chicago!! Thank you so much for your interest and support. :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hello everyone!

I just wanted to share with you all my reasoning for wanting to participate in the Young Adult Volunteer program through the Presbyterian Church (USA) in August. As some of you may know, I have been an active participant throughout my young adult life in various mission trips. I have really enjoyed being able to give back to various communities across the United States while getting to know other teenagers who share in my beliefs. The past 16 years of my life have really been about getting through school and the focus has been on myself. Now that I am done with my undergraduate degree, I really want to take a break from school and focus on serving others.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve alongside fellow Christians in Chicago, IL starting in the fall. Although I am still unaware of my exact site placement, I can explain a little of what I will be doing in Chicago. The Young Adult Volunteer program (YAV for short) focuses on bringing together open-minded individuals who want to intentionally live in a Christian community. The Presbyterian Church brings together 4 to 5 people to live in a house in Chicago and work in various churches and non-profit organizations in the Chicago area. I am hoping to be able to be placed with a youth group and possibly a women's shelter, but I am still working out the details with my site director. The YAV's (as the participants in this program are commonly referred to) usually have a weekly bible study and book club. We also meet with our site director, Krista, who helps us make the transition into our new lives. She also helps us get acquainted with the city of Chicago.

Once I have more information about what I am going to be doing, I will post it on here for everyone to follow along! My goal is also going to be to write a weekly post, but I know it will be difficult because I was bad about updating my blog when I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark last spring! If you are interested in finding out more information about the program, you can click here! You can help me next year by keeping me in your thoughts and prayers, and by educating yourself about my program. Word-of-mouth is one of the most effective forms of marketing/advertising (I should know! I have a marketing degree!) and the YAV program would really appreciate it! Additionally, as part of my placement, I have to raise $6500 to help fund my year of service. If you are able to help financially, just click here and then fill out the form. In the comments section just write down my name, Sarah Bennett- Chicago YAV. To stay updated on my progress before my program begins and to follow along with my adventures, either click on the "follow" icon on the top right-hand side of the page, or send me an email. My email address is and I intend on sending out a monthly email to anyone/everyone who asks to receive it!

Thank you so much, and God Bless.