“Before God, We Are All Poor”

Run with the Nations - sorting homelands

The homelands of some of Nashville’s refugee populations are cued up for the Run with the Nations 5K.

It has already been a week of being home from the project and I am not totally sure I have realized that it is over. Seeing everyone at home has been an enormous blessing and it has done more than enough to quell the homesickness I felt the last few days before leaving. I am very glad to be able to once again spend time with my family and to share all of my experiences but something about being here just doesn’t seem right.

There is something in the way that I don’t have to budget, pay for, and prepare my meals; something about the television being on (having lacked one for six weeks); something about the safety from mice and cockroaches; something about not having a daily opportunity to see the smiling faces of people from all around the world; and something about having more than $10 in my wallet that seems too…normal.

My entire summer so far has been spent “reframing” my point of view and looking at things from a different perspective by experiencing it myself. We learned how to survive and how to live without a life of plenty and now that I have left that experience and the intentionality of the program I am fully starting to grasp how much I have changed throughout those six weeks.

Burmese friends enjoy a meal with CHI students - 2013

CHI students, Madison, Jane, and Elias enjoy the presence of friends within the local Burmese community.

The simplicity of living and the absence from distractions gave me a better focus and was actually quite enjoyable! Because I had never willingly chosen to sacrifice or reduce my standard of living, it was a freeing experience. Any constraint placed on the experience due to monetary limitations was quickly forgotten as a result of the joy I found in the relationships that I was building in the group, in the congregation, and in the clinic.

Since being back, many people have asked me what it was like living with little to nothing. Honestly, it was not bad at all. I forgot about what I did not have and instead focused on the blessings that I did have. Fulfillment was not coming from material possessions but in satisfaction with where I was and who I was with: those we were serving and learning from. After this experience I have experienced that while it is possible to be physically “poor” and in need, it may be easily overcome and defeated with love and through hope.

The Community Health Immersion instilled in me a fresher and greater passion for service and a clearer direction for my aspirations as a Physician Assistant as well as a follower of Christ. By removing myself from worldly distractions and abundance, I now see distinctly where I would like to end up – whether that is what God has in mind is another story!

Nonetheless, I am very thankful for Siloam and the adventures they took me on this summer. It was a wonderful blessing to learn from and watch them work in the clinic as well as the opportunities they gave me outside of their walls in the community and in the congregation. As I continue to evaluate what I have seen and begin to apply it to my life I am thankful for the experience and for relationships that I have made.

Manzella, Elias - nearing the finish line at Run with the Nations - 2013

Elias Manzella, a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion, makes a strong finish as he completes the Run with the Nations 5-K supporting work with refugees being resettled in Nashville, Tennessee.

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