“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
On February 19 I found myself in Arbroath, Scotland, sad to leave a place that quickly became special in a matter of minutes. I heard a sentence, and had a conversation, that was a reminder, and a call to action, about the definition of “service.”
Let me back-track. During my YAV (Young Adult Volunteer) year in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the volunteers go on three retreats. For our second this past week, we went to Glasgow, Scotland, where the newest YAV site has been planted. In addition to our group of Americans from the PCUSA church, the Church of Scotland has started a similar scheme called Volunteering Vocations, currently serving in both Arbroath and Glasgow. The trip allowed us to see what ministries the other volunteers are working with, and gave us time to unwind and refuel for the next 5 months ahead. (We also stayed in the Comrie Croft hostel for part of the trip).
Our last stop of the week left me wanting to stay in Arbroath just a bit longer, but excited to head back to Belfast with the same enthusiasm, and a fresh approach. Martin Fair, the site coordinator for the Arbroath volunteers told us a bit about the St. Andrew’s Havilah Project, which aims to provide a drop-in service for anyone seeking company, conversation and nonjudgmental listening over tea, soup and sandwiches. Many of those who come for lunch are either recovering from a drug addiction or are dealing with mental health issues. Martin re-iterated a very crucial mindset for those involved in mission work: a Christian’s goal first and foremost is about serving. You serve others with love, respect and acceptance, and then maybe somewhere along the line you get to have a conversation about faith. We must first put our faith into action.
After chatting with a few of the women about knitting for a majority of the afternoon at Havilah, in walks a man wearing workout gear and a friendly smile. While in line for pudding, Billy introduces himself and, immediately after noticing his Kukri running top, we get to chatting about his new hobby. He tells me on Sunday he will be running a half-marathon, and that he has signed up for his first full marathon this upcoming autumn. I was thrilled to hear about all of the races he’s already registered for, and has completed in the past: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Arbroath, Dundee. On this tiny similarity, our joy for running, we were able to connect.
In our fifteen minute conversation
I didn’t get to hear his life story, although I wish I could’ve had the opportunity. I don’t know if he was an addict, or is just a man who lives in Arbroath seeking a positive, loving and accepting community. I don’t know if he’s a Christian, or comes to Havilah because he’s questioning the existence of God. But I did get to spend time with him and find common ground for a friendship, no matter how short-lived the relationship. In the brief time we spent chatting, I found myself inspired by his passion and enthusiasm: “No matter the rain, you just gotta get out and run. You gotta train it if you wanna to be able to finish the race.”
When Doug started giving me the *we are five minutes behind our schedule and need to be on the road right now so please finish your conversation* look because I was one of the last YAVs in the room, I had to quickly say goodbye to Billy. “It was lovely to talk to you, good luck with the Belfast marathon,” he said. The perseverance and passion he displayed during our conversation is something I’ll carry with me during the rest of my time volunteering. Martin’s reminder of a Christian’s duty to serve first and foremost is crucial not only for the rest of my time in Belfast, but for a lifetime.
Thank you Billy, for being a face of faith.
(more details & pictures about our entire retreat next post!)
“The Simple Path
Silence is Prayer
Prayer is Faith
Faith is Love
Love is Service
The Fruit of Service is Peace”
― Mother Teresa