Friday, April 11, 2014

When in Rome...

Last week I mentioned in my blog that I had some big news to share. Well, I can finally announce that I have decided to do another year of service with the Young Adult Service Corps!

In 2014-15, I will be serving political refugees at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center in Rome, Italy! The center, which helps those seeking asylum from countries in Africa and the Middle East, is located in the crypt of Saint Paul's Within the Walls - Rome's only American Episcopal Church.

My future home, St. Paul's within the Walls
Here is a short excerpt from the JNRC website about its history and outreach:

"During the 1970s, Rome experienced a substantial increase in the number or refugees, fleeing from disaster, persecution, and war in their home countries–mainly, but not exclusively from throughout the African continent.  During this time, Italy adopted a generous and sometimes unregulated “open door” policy towards forced migrants ... The Center remains a sanctuary for political refugees in heart of Rome–many in transit to other countries–where radical hospitality is expressed towards the strangers in our midst.  Refugees learn about the Center mostly by word of mouth.  Among refugees, it is offer referred to as the “underground church.”   According to one guest in the Center from Afghanistan, “I am Shia Muslim, and many of these men are Sunni.  Shia and Sunnis are at war around the world.  In my country, there has been constant war of one kind or another for 34 years, but those who gather here are tired of fighting and respect this Center as a place for peace.”

I'm beyond excited at the opportunity to work at St. Paul's. Not only is it a beautiful and historic church set in the middle of Rome, but it is also the home parish of Rev. Austin Rios, his wife Jill and daughter Asa. I've known Father Austin for many years as we are both alumni of Camp Henry, an Episcopal summer camp in Western North Carolina. Many who have gone to Camp Henry (including the current YASCer serving in Rome, Jared Grant) would say that the bond created at camp is much like the bond of family. So I'm not a bit nervous about moving to Rome, doing completely different work and fitting back into Western culture. I already have some Camp Henry fam waiting there for me.

Father Austin and family in Roma

So another year of YASC means another round of fundraising. This year I will need to raise $8,000 to make this mission to Rome a reality. Last year I was so blessed to receive donations from so many people. Those donations and support have sustained me physically and mentally through my time here in Hong Kong. If you would like to donate towards my fundraising efforts, please send me an email at and I will fill you in on how to help. All donations are tax deductible. I know it's never a good time to ask for money. Times are hard and money is tight, but if you are able to make a donation I would be incredibly grateful. Prayers and kind words are equally important during this time as well.

I will be coming back home to Asheville in the beginning of August and will leave for Rome in the middle of September. While I am excited to know what lies on the horizon, my focus will still be completely on my work here in Hong Kong. Serving seafarers has been an incredible experience that has made an indelible mark on my life, and I'm excited to be out on the water with them for the next three months.