Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Gospel of Manny

My work here in Hong Kong with the Mission to Seafarers can be lonely. Unlike my brothers and sisters in YASC who work and worship with the same community day after day, my community is one that changes regularly. My "congregation" is composed of whatever the tide happens to bring in on any given day as seen from the Hong Kong Marine Department website that allows us to monitor the traffic coming in and out of the port. Some of the ships that come into Hong Kong might be coming for the first and only time in the crew's memory. Other ships, however, may be coming to Hong Kong every week, or every month. Regardless of their schedule, it is difficult to get to know a seafarer like you would a member of your community or parish. Their lives are so transient, so unstable, that they often don't open up to people from the "outside" world.

And I can't blame them.

These seafarers are gone from their homes 9-12 months out of the year, passing like driftwood between ports all over the world. Life for them is just one big commute. Why get attached to anything in such a lifestyle? Nothing is stable.

The sea is a lonely place
Our Mission in Hong Kong however seeks to shatter the monotony that these seafarers face, and we do so with a variety of tools. Every ship visit I come aboard with a warm welcome, newspapers from their homelands, and perhaps most importantly, recordings of their favorite sporting events.

Now it just may be a "guy" thing, but few things make you feel more at home than watching your favorite sports team from continents away. I, myself, have experienced this by finding live streams of UNC basketball games and Carolina Panther football games during my time in Hong Kong. It brings a mysterious sense of comfort knowing that the world you left behind is still running smoothly without you. It's nice to know that the despite the tumultuous and unstable activity going on in your own life, your favorite traditions are still alive and well. That's what these sports recordings do for seafarers out on the sea. In an ocean of instability, sports give them peace.

On Nov. 24, 2013, a sporting event took place that, despite its violent nature, is still spreading peace and comfort to seafarers today. On that day, Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines brought down the hammer on Brandon Rios in an epic boxing match that revived a legend's career, restored hope to a broken nation, and granted the seafaring industry's most important demographic a little peace of mind.

Watch below as the lighter and older Pacman puts a hurtin' on Rios.

Filipino seafarers are the backbone of the shipping industry. They make up the majority of the seafaring workforce and have the least glamorous jobs. They have also had a terrible year in terms of the well-being of their country. Earthquakes and typhoons have left thousands dead, many of which are related to Filipinos seafarers. In fact, an estimated 160,000 Filipino seafarers are directly affected by Typhoon Haiyan. So, in many ways, the 34-year-old Pacquiao's victory was much bigger than a boxing match. His win showed millions of Filipinos that even though we may get knocked out from time to time, we can and must pick ourselves up.

Like I mentioned earlier, ship visiting can be hard. However, armed with the latest victory of Manny, I have found that talking about the boxer and his accomplishments is a great icebreaker. Even more so when you can actually give a Filipino seafarer a recording of the fight to watch.

If I have time, I love to watch the fight with them.

During those times on the ship, in front of a small TV in the vessel's mess room, we could be anywhere. His comfortable home in Manila, his wife and kids only in the next room over. The fight makes him forget about the troubles of the sea, the demanding and isolating life of the seafarer.

With the fight on, it's only him and his hero. A lucid demonstration that life outside the ship is moving forward in the way that it always has (and should), and clear evidence that there is finally good news coming out of a place that has seen way too much bad news in the past year.

I titled this post the "Gospel of Manny" because in many ways Pacman's victory has lifted a broken group of people up much in the way that faith and religion are capable of picking people up. Time and time again in the bible, we see God's people revitalizing/reinventing themselves to be better and stronger after invasions and disasters. Is Manny Pacquiao a saint? Absolutely not. However, if you could see the look of happiness and surprise that darts on the face of seafarers after they have received a copy of his most recent match, you would have sworn you'd seen the face of God. Home, healing, and hope - all in the same expression.

Now, that's truly a victory.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Distinguished Guests and a General Secretary

It's hard to believe that it has been a month since my last post. October literally flew by! I'm going to be writing a much more in-depth post in the next week, but for now I would just like to give you a few updates about my life this past month:

  • We had a team of journalist from the South China Morning Post come do a story on my boss, Rev. Stephen Miller and the Mission to Seafarers in Hong Kong. You can find the story and video here
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spoke at St. John's Cathedral in Hong Kong.  The church was packed for the visit of the ABC. He gave a wonderful sermon which can be heard and seen here. I even got to shake his hand. Therefore - I'm officially one degree of separation from Queen Elizabeth and baby Prince George. Boom. 
  • I turned 25 years old on October 21! Fortunately for me, I was taken out to eat by friends and colleagues in order to console my grief about turning into a real adult. I even got a cake from Rev. Stephen Miller and our mom secretary, Rebecca. Here's a photo! 

Rebecca, myself and Father Valan before we devour the cake. 

What's a birthday without a selfie? 
  • I had a amazing individual and journalist by the name of Matthew Davies come do a story on YASC and Mission to Seafarers for the Episcopal News Service. The story, which should be coming out soon, is all about the work that I and the other missionaries are doing here in Hong Kong. I can't wait to see the finished product.
  • I finally got to see the Hong Kong Philharmonic perform. Last week I was privileged to see their performance of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem under the direction of Lorin Maazel. The performance was deeply moving. If you ever have a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.       If not, it's worth the time to read the history behind the Requiem and also to read the poetry of  Wilfred Owen
  • The Sailors Home and Mission to Seaman 150th Anniversary in Hong Kong Gala Dinner was a HUGE success. Photos of that will be coming along shortly. The General Secretary of Mission to Seafarers was in attendance, as were many of the leaders in the Hong Kong shipping industry. It was nice to see the community come together in such a big way for the organization.
    The event was packed! 320 people came out to the Gala.
The Rev. Stephen Miller, myself and the
Rev. Andrew Wright, General Secretary of Mission to Seafarers
My Mission to Seafarer Family

Sorry for the brief check in, however you can expect much more thorough posts in the coming weeks. 

Sham on.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

You Can Find Me in the Club...

The Mariners' Club that is!

In my past updates, I have shown you about my job over here in Hong Kong. However, I would like to dedicate this post to the place I call home, The Mariners' Club.

The Mariners' Club entrance. The building itself was constructed
in 1967, and it is the only building in Hong Kong that is Smurf blue. 

The Mariners' Club is a hotel built specifically for international and locally-based seafarers. Essentially, when a crew member is about to begin a long 8-month contract they are flown to Hong Kong and put up at the Mariners' Club the night before they head to sea. The rates are cheap for seafarers at just under $100 U.S. per night, and with that night stay they also gain access to our bar, dining room, swimming pool, bowling alley, and chaplain services. Pretty sweet deal!

St. Peter's Chapel in the Mariners' Club.
A very peaceful place for reflection. 

The Bridge Bar. Seafarers can stop by for some free internets, some
delicious food, or an ice cold beverage.

The bowling alley. I threw a perfect game here once,
 but no one was around to see it.
The swimming pool! 

I live in a room on the third floor of the club and from what I have been told, it is very big for Hong Kong standards. It's a small suite with two nice big windows, an air conditioner, a coffee table, a mini-fridge and an unplugged television that used to play terrible Cantonese television shows. I also have my own bathroom which is clutch. Given it's location and comfort, I don't think I could ask for much better than my room here in the Mariners' Club.

Mom, I made my bed! 
But wait, there's a history behind this place! Actually, a very long history. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Sailors' Home and Missions to Seaman here in Hong Kong. In a month, the Club is holding a gala in celebration of this anniversary, as well as to raise money for the mission's new launch.
One of my jobs since arriving here has been to help out in any way possible with this event. Last week I helped design the Gala brochure, the rough draft of which can be seen here:

Work in progress. 

The night is going to be a lot of fun. There will be a presentation by former director of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Dr. Stephen Davies, who has also been commissioned to write a history of the organization's storied past. There will also be an auction during the event, as well as a number of speeches by the event sponsors.

Caption reads, "Sailors' Home & Mission to Seamen, 40 Gloucester Road, Hong Kong,

The Dayspring II sometime after its commission in 1919. 
The Mariners' Club has played an important part in the lives of thousands of seafarers who have passed through Hong Kong over the past century and a half. It is a really neat to call such a place home, and to be a part of such a rich history. Digging up the past has lead me to reflect on my own legacy. Will a picture of me be buried one day in the Mission archives only to be found at the 300 year anniversary? Will someone dig up my blog on that old thing called the internet for some primary documents about life here? I sure hope so.

What else have I been up to?

  • I recently joined the YMCA here in Tsim Sha Tsui! Exercise has always played a huge role in keeping me focused, happy and healthy. I have becoming addicted to running and listening to podcasts, so if you know of any good ones - fire away. 
  • I sang with the choirs of St. Stephen's and St. John's Cathedral at the consecration anniversary concert for St. John's Cathedral. It felt so good to be a part of a choir again.
  • I got a Hong Kong driver's license which I have been using to drive to our Mariners' Club facility in Kwai Chung and local hospitals. Just like in England, people drive on the left side of the road here. This has been incredibly hard to get used to. Also, people drive like maniacs, which I am learning to do as well.
That's all for now. Hope you are all doing well. Thanks for checking in! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Cathedral Connection

This is an article I recently wrote for the newsletter of my church, The Cathedral of All Souls.  I will be writing a new blog post soon but I figured this might tide you over until then. I hope you are all enjoying a beautiful autumn in North America. Keep an eye out this upcoming week for an update and some photos. 


Hello from Hong Kong! Much to my disbelief I have already finished my first month as a missionary with the Young Adult Service Corps. Time is flying, however I am making a special effort to soak it all up.
My work here with the Mission to Seafarers is going quite well, and even in my first month of service I feel like I’ve already made an impact on the lives of many seafarers.
Most mornings, I find myself out in the anchorage of Hong Kong, climbing aboard massive ships which are waiting to unload cargo at the port. The men on board these ships are from all over the world but most of them hail from the Philippines, Russia, India, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Romania and mainland China. Despite their diverse backgrounds, they have one thing in common: they are all lonely.
Since starting my new position, I have often found myself at a loss for words. How can I connect with these seafarers? What wisdom can a 24-year-old bestow upon a 40-year-old seafarer who hasn’t seen his family in months? It has been challenging to minister to a demographic so different than I, however I have found that the most effective way of doing so is by merely being present.
What does it mean to be present? Sometimes it involves just listening to a seafarer talk about his children. Other times, it is sitting at the bedside of a hospitalized seafarer talking sports or politics.
It is easy to overlook the sacred of being present. It might be easy at times to think that such work is meaningless. However, it is important to realize that if I’m not present for these seafarers, then who will be present for them?
I think about Jesus when I am being present with these seafarers. What if Jesus had thought that just being present was beneath him? What if he had told those struggling with leprosy that he was too busy to cure them? Those dying of hunger and thirst that he just hadn't the time? These thoughts have carried me throughout some emotional days at sea.
I am incredibly proud to be serving in Hong Kong as your missionary for the year, and I cannot thank the All Souls community enough for supporting me. I look forward to sharing my spiritual growth with you in the coming months. Until next time, I leave you with this: Who are the “seafarers” in your own life? And how are you being present for them?

With every best wish,

Will Bryant

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Anchors Aweigh!


It's hard to believe that I have been in Hong Kong now for nearly a month. Time is slipping through my fingers already! However, I have been doing a lot of exciting things.

I am finally getting into a rhythm with work. My new job is completely different from anything I have ever done before. What am I doing? My work week is pretty much divided between two locations, the container terminals in Kwai Chung, and the anchorage of Hong Kong.

I usually spend three days a week working in the container terminals which is a very dirty, hectic and overwhelming place. I drive around with a priest and we go aboard eight to ten ships a day, ministering to seafarers and selling them phone cards. The terminal is the third largest container terminal in the world and the amount of cargo that passes through this terminal is staggering.

You ready for this? 243 million tons of cargo and 25 million people enter and depart the Hong Kong container port terminal every year. This place is a madhouse, buzzing with massive cranes moving freight to and fro, and 18-wheelers running cargo from ship to ship. My organization, Mission to Seafarers, has an outpost right on the outskirts of the terminal that serves as an oasis of calm for the seafarers to relax for an hour or two before their ship departs. (It costs $50,000 USD to dock your ship in this container port, so you best believe that ships never spend more than a few hours loading and unloading).

A view of one section of the Hong Kong container terminal as seen
 from the deck of the Lantau Breeze.

When I'm not at the terminals, then I'm out in the anchorage visiting vessels via our ship, The Flying Angel. The anchorage is a very beautiful place. It offers a terrific view of the city skyline and it is packed with all different kinds of ships. I especially love going out in the anchorage because it is one of the few times in Hong Kong that I get to enjoy wide open space. In a city of 7.7 million people, a moment of solitude is hard to come by, so I really cherish my time spent on the commute out to the cargo ships.

Our ship, the Flying Angel, which we take out most mornings to visit
seafarers in the anchorage of Hong Kong. 

Once we reach the ships out in the anchorage, the fun really begins. Most of the time, seafarers will throw down what is called the Pilot's Ladder, AKA a janky rope ladder that looks as if it will unravel at any moment. The climb is usually around 25 to 30 feet high depending on the volume of cargo on board, and leaves you dangling over warm, tropical waters. It is a little dangerous, but I love it! Who else gets to play pirate priest for a living? (Just an FYI: I am not a priest, but I accompany priests aboard the ships each day.)

"Bro, you coming or what?"
The Pilot's Ladder
Once you reach the top, you are greeted with a warm welcome from the ship's watchmen and a beautiful view of the sea and surrounding islands. From there, we enter the ship's mess room (dining room) and speak to seafarers dealing with homesickness, unfair labor practices or whatever else they may be struggling with. We also sell the seafarers phone cards and sim cards, so that they may connect with their families back home.

All in all, I am loving my work so far. I love that I am able to go out into the ocean every day, and also that I get to meet so many people from around the world. On top of all that, my job is focused about making people's lives better, regardless of their religion, skin color, gender or job title. Who could ask for better? I look forward to sharing with you again soon. Until then, here are some more photos.

Cheesin' after a visit to the city dry docks.

View of Kowloon and Hong Kong from the anchorage. 

(Special shout out to Instagram for making it appear as if I am talented at taking photographs.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hong Kong is Home

Hello from the other side of the globe!

After nearly 30 hours of travel, fellow YASCer Sarah Lowery and I landed safely in Hong Kong where were met with open arms by former YASCer Grace Flint and my supervisor, the Rev. Stephen Miller. It was 11:30 pm when I arrived at my home, the Mariners' Club, and I quickly went to bed (or tried to) after Skyping with my parents. Physically, I was exhausted, however the jet lag simply refused to let my brain shut off. I finally passed out around 4 am only to wake up at 7 am without an alarm. As frustrating as it was, I took the opportunity to do some early morning exploring around my neighborhood. That's when I fell in love with the Hong Kong skyline.

The Hong Kong skyline as seen from the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui.
 I took this picture on my first morning in the city.

I live about five minutes from a place called the Avenue of Stars. It's a mix of the Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles and the battery in Charleston, South Carolina. Then add the Manhattan Skyline (on steroids). Simply put it is breathtaking, stunning, and completely unique.

My first few days here in the city have been amazing. Everything here is over the top. The skyline is massive, the streets are packed, the temperature is scorching, and the generosity and kindness is overwhelming. People are so nice here, especially the people at my work, The Mariners' Club.

A lot has happened over the last week so I will give you some highlights of my first five days:

1. I have started training for my job with the Rev. Stephen Miller and so far we have covered the basics of the seafaring industry. I have learned a lot about the demanding work of seafarers, and the loneliness and mistreatment that plagues the people in this industry. It is amazing that despite the fact that 95% of world trade takes place on the seas, I never gave one thought about the driving force behind all that trade. Every material good we have is brought to us by the shipping industry and seafarers. The laptop, tablet or phone that you are reading this blogpost on, the clothes you are currently wearing, the swanky glass of Italian red wine you are currently drinking are all courtesy of the shipping industry. All of these goods are brought to us from every corner of the earth, and done so by a few powerful shipping companies. These companies try to hire the cheapest possible crew with the intent of moving freight as fast as possible. The result? Ships of seafarers that spend 6-12 months at sea, spending only an afternoon or evening in the handful of ports that they dock into. Take into account that these seafarers often have wives and children, and very little time to communicate with them. It's a recipe for depression, but that's where my organization comes in. I am excited to start work tomorrow, and I think that over the course of the next year I will be able to make life a little easier for a lot of people.

2. Last night I rode the Star Ferry from Hong Kong to Tsim Sha Tsui instead of taking the subway under Victoria Harbour. It was definitely one of the highlights of my LIFE for a multitude of reasons. Not only was it a very powerful "God moment", but it was also a moment when I realized that I was right where I need to be - where God intended me to be so that I could both grow spiritually and give much-needed aid those working on the sea. The view of the city at night was unlike anything I had ever seen in my life, as my commute lined up perfectly with the Symphony of Lights - the nightly light show that takes place on the canvas of skyscrapers in Hong Kong and Kowloon. I took photos that don't do this event justice, however I did snap this shot from the back of the vessel that can give you a small sense of its beauty. Standing on the back of the ferry, I felt a wave of calm wash over me as I watched the lights bounce and burst across the city. I felt a part of something so much bigger than me. I felt like I was home.

The view of Hong Kong from the Star Ferry on Victoria Harbour.

3. Today, after eucharist at St. Paul's Chapel, I played basketball at a place called Southorn Playground in Wan Chai. The playground is a large set of courts tucked away in the city, surrounded by towering skyscrapers. Playing basketball has always been a release for me. I wouldn't say that I am very good at it, but it is a game that I love to play. It was really interesting to see how the game is played here in Hong Kong: a city 8,000 miles away from the place where I first picked it up. What are the differences? Not much really. The Chinese players I played against passed the ball around a lot more than most Americans. Oh, and it was 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity outside. Other than that, it was practically the same ball as back home.

Ballin' among the skyscrapers of Hong Kong.

Some things (like faith) are universal, and it turns out Basketball is one of those things. The hoop is always 10 feet high and 15 feet back from the baseline. Selfish play is always despised, while crisp passes and solid defense elicits applause. Ticky-tack foul calls are abhorred the world over.
It was comforting to find the game of my childhood alive and well in this big beautiful city. I will definitely be returning to Wan Chai soon.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I Am Not Alone

It's finally here. I leave for Hong Kong tomorrow morning at 10:30 am! 

The past few days have been bittersweet as I've gotten to see nearly all of my close friends and eat all of my favorite foods for the last time (at least for a while). It has been sad, but I am SO excited to start this new chapter. 

One question I have been asked frequently over the past few days has been, "What are you most excited about?" This has been a hard question to answer, and I think the answer has been different with every response. However, now that I have thought it over, I am most excited to grow. 

What do I mean by growing? Culturally, mentally, spiritually - this mission is going change me. I've never lived in such a massive city. I've never been so far from home. I've never been in a better position to wrestle with my faith. 

But I'm nervous. A little scared, but mostly excited. This emotional state is just too big for words. But that's when I find prayer most useful, and the following prayer by Thomas Merton has made the past few weeks a little easier.

"My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. 
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does 
not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. 

Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."

I remember I first read this prayer in high school, however it didn't really speak to me. I imagine my 17-year-old dumbass self must have thought I had it all figured out. Typical. But nearly a decade later, with the uncertainty of moving to China looming over my head, these words mean so much more to me. It's just not the power of the words of this prayer that moves me. It's also the idea that there others reading this prayer, or have read this prayer, to overcome doubt and uncertainty.

I know that this prayer sustained my friend and fellow YASCer Jared during his time in Lesotho, Africa. And that is also supported my priest and former YASCer Thomas Murphy during his mission in Honduras. It may sound silly and ridiculous, but I feel stronger and more confident after reciting the words above. The words make me realize that I am not alone. I feel this way because I know this prayer has a history. It has played a large part in the lives of the people who have come before me, and continues to play a part in the lives of people currently discerning their own callings. I'm sure it will also play a huge role in the lives of people who have not yet read it. Who knows? Perhaps someone reading this blog will find some solace in these words and become a part of the story. 

I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. 

But I am not alone. 

See you on the other side!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Traveling, Training and Tying Up Loose Ends Pt. 2

Welp! It's here, ya'll! 10 days from today I leave for Hong Kong. Have I started to freak out a little? Yes. But in a good way. I am so excited to get going on this mission.

A lot has happened since I returned home from training and traveling. In the past few weeks I have been trying to say goodbye to all of my close friends and family here in Asheville. Last weekend, I said goodbye to one of my best friends, Helen Lindau, as she embarks on her journey to work with the Episcopal Service Corps in New Orleans. I also got to share a tasty Asheville brew with fellow YASCer Alan Yarborough before he departed for Cange, Haiti. I am so proud of my fellow Ashevillians Episcopalians for doing such meaningful work with their lives. Such inspiration.

I also knocked two items off of my America bucket list by attending an Asheville Tourist baseball game and going for a hike in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains. The pictures speaks for themselves: both activities were a blast.

Young Adult Episcopalians taking in some Asheville baseball. 

The view from atop one of Sam's Knob. One of my favorite hikes. 

This past week I was also quite productive! Since last Sunday I have received all my vaccinations for my upcoming trip, written all of my thank-you notes to my wonderful donors and received my visa for Hong Kong. On top of all of that good stuff, I also finished fundraising for my trip!

On Sunday, August 4, I spoke at St. Luke's Church in Asheville where I received just enough to finish fundraising. I was not aware of this going into it but St. Luke's is a historic chapel built in the late 1800s. It is a very small sanctuary but it is very beautiful and intimate. I was so nervous going into speak because I was not accustomed to speaking to so many in such a small space, however I was quickly comforted by kindness of the people inside. Never before I have received such a warm welcome from a congregation.  What St. Luke's lacks in size, they make up with generosity and love. It was a great way to wrap up a long five months of fundraising and preparation for this mission.

St. Luke's on Chunn's Cove Road in Asheville.
It has been a long and difficult journey raising the money needed for this trip, however it has been so rewarding to travel to churches in the diocese of Western North Carolina and talk about YASC and my mission. I want to send a HUGE "thank you" to everyone who has supported me through this process. I promise I will do my best to make you proud, and pay forward the kindness you have all shown to me. Y'all are the best.

10 days until I leave for Hong Kong! You will be hearing from me at least one more time before I leave. Until then, be good.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Traveling, Training and Tying Up Loose Ends Pt. 1

Before I begin this post, I just want to apologize for immense amount of time that has passed since my last post. True story, my computer died after five long years of writing, browsing and rocking out. RIP Macbook, I will never forget you.

On the bright side, my family has come together to repair a slightly used computer for me to take abroad. Talk about clutch! This will certainly make life easier when it comes to keeping you updated via my wonderful blog.

SO, what have I been up to? On June 15, all volunteers of the Young Adult Service Corps met up in New York for a two-week training session that covered everything from cross-cultural understanding to the power and necessity of prayer. There was even karaoke involved. The majority of the training took place at Stony Point Retreat Center, however we took frequent trips into the city.

Some highlights: During our first week in New York, we took a trip to the headquarters of the National Episcopal Church where we met with the leaders of our church. Here is a photo of me with the Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori. Incredibly humble, incredibly inspiring in words and demeanor.

Another day in training, we took a visit to the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York. The historic building and its grounds were stunning. The large brick structure sits on 26 acres and overlooks the Hudson River. In an Ashevillian sense of irony, it also lies just across the river from a Vanderbilt Mansion. The monks there were extremely welcoming and inspiring. It was refreshing to meet people who were living out their relationship with God to the fullest extent. These monks are allowed no possessions and they make no money. They live to serve God and their community. They live very modest lives that are very different from our own, and yet they are fulfilled. I hope I can achieve this type of fulfillment during my mission and beyond. Here is a picture of our group outside the monastery.

Team Asia looking mighty dapper.

In short, the training session was amazing. It was great to catch up with all the volunteers that I hadn't seen since February. One thing that stood out over the training was the amount of spiritual growth that each individual had sustained since our last meeting in Florida. Much like myself, everyone had grown up so much just from returning to their homes after discernment weekend and talking through their call to mission with family and loved ones. Discerning this call was no easy task. Think about the difficulty of actually living out this call! Looking around at training, I appreciated the transformation of each person in the group. Then I asked, "Who will we be a year from now?" The answer frightens me and exhilarates me at the same time. Who will I be a year from now? How will this program change me?

I can't wait to find out.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Rite 24?

Phew! Since my last post life has been hectic to say the least. Aside from working nonstop, launching my fundraiser raffle and beginning to pack for a life outside of the beautiful bubble of Chapel Hill, I have started to prepare for a life in Hong Kong. Can we just stop and reflect on the fact that I will be leaving for China in three months? Ummmmm, hold the phone.

So what have I have been doing? This past weekend, I traveled to my home church, the Cathedral of All Souls. Now, I must say that All Souls is just the best thing. I have practically grown up there, and it is so nice to travel back and see so many familiar, supportive faces. For those of you who have never been to All Souls, check it out:

Pretty, huh? 

This past Sunday, I spoke at the 9 am service that just so happened to be the same Sunday as the Rite 13 ceremony. For those of you that don't know Rite 13 is a coming of age ceremony within the church for those who have turned 13 years old. It's a celebration of teenagers heading into the unknown of middle school and high school, and it celebrates the awkwardness and uncomfortable-ness of growing up. Pimples, puberty and hormones! YAY! Perhaps more importantly, Rite 13 also serves as a reminder to those coming of age that no matter what happens, they will always be a part of the supportive and welcoming community that is All Souls and Episcopal Church.

Speaking at the services and watching the ceremony, I was really able to connect with what those 13-year-olds were going through. Obviously, I survived the horrors of middle school and high school but I can definitely foresee going through the same "Someone please tell me what is going on" feeling in about three months. I know I will feel out of place at times. I know that I will be pushed to my mental limits. But hey, it's a fantastic feeling to know that just like those nervous, up-and-coming young Episcopalians sitting in the congregation on Sunday, I, too will have the support and community of All Souls and the church. Let's just say it was my very own Rite 24 service; personally made for this nervous, awkward twenty-something about to dive headfirst into the unknown.

After the 9 am service, I gave a small presentation to the members of the church that braved monsoon-like rains to hear me speak. It was so rewarding to tell those in attendance at church and at the adult education hour about my upcoming mission. The presentation I gave was in our church's parish hall, which believe it or not, is where I attended vacation bible school as a young little hellraiser. Isn't it wonderfully weird how life can take you full circle? Anyways, it was great to talk to everyone about what I will be doing next year. It was even better fielding questions from the group of adults present. I was asked questions I hadn't even bothered to ask myself. Enlightening.

In other news, fundraising continues! I am around half-way to my goal of $10,000! Still, I have a long way to go. For those of you interested in donating, please check out my raffle! Not only can you support a good cause, but you can also win some pretty amazing prizes.

Stay tuned,


Friday, April 5, 2013

Hello, World!

Hello, World! My name is Will Bryant and I am member of 2013-14 class of the Young Adult Service Corps, or YASC. For those of you who don't know, YASC is a global outreach program of the Episcopal Church that allows young people aged 21-30 to go out and serve God, the church and foreign communities for one year. To give you perspective, it's the Episcopal Church's version of the Peace Corps. Only way cooler, obviously.

In early March, I was officially accepted to YASC and found out that I would be serving in Hong Kong with the Mission to Seafarers! In my placement, I will be working as the assistant to the chaplain, the Rev. Stephen Miller, going aboard massive cargo ships lying in Hong Kong's anchorage, and providing mental, physical and spiritual care to the workers on board. The funniest part of all of this is that I have no experience aboard ships or living in a maritime environment. I will be completely out of my element! But I kind of like that.

To give you an idea of what I will be doing and who I will be working with, please watch this video. Cool, huh?

In coming months, this blog will be a place for me to share photos, stories and more about my work with YASC and Mission to Seafarers. I am so excited to share my stories with all of you! But for now, this blog will serve as a platform for me to start my fundraising campaign. I'll need $10,000 for my mission this year. If you're interested in in donating (tax deductible!), please email me at