I don’t usually write end of the year letters but this year was different. I knew way back in March I was going to need to send this letter out at the end of the year. There were too many details falling into place that told me, just write an end of the year letter so you don’t have to recount every detail of the last 12 months to everyone who asks. So, here is our 2022 end of the year recap.
In January, Travis and I were confirmed as the new Co-Leaders of the Service Adventure Unit here in Colorado Springs. Our church, Beth-El Mennonite, helps to support and care for this ministry offered by Mennonite Mission Network (MMN), with several unit locations around the US. (Johnstown, PA, Jackson, MS, Albuquerque, NM, Anchorage, AK, and Colorado Springs, CO) Service Adventure is a 10-month service opportunity for 17-20-year-old young adults who want to take a gap year. They serve 35-40 hours a week as a volunteer at placements at a non-profits here in Colorado Springs, in addition to living with the other participants and leaders. Leaders agree to a 2 year term with the possibility of a 3rd year, living with the participants and participating in community life.
Our reasons for taking on this ministry vary but the primary reason was the moment and time aligned with changing attitudes toward what it means to live in a community and a need in our church.
Before we could begin as Service Adventure Leaders, we first had to move out of our apartment of nearly 4.5 years. To be honest, I was over living there. In the last year we lived there, new neighbors downstairs decided to make it their mission to make our lives a living hell, complaining about our dog every chance they could. Mind you, before they moved in, not one of our previous neighbors that had lived in that same unit ever complained about him.
At the beginning of April, we moved in with our friends, the Branhams. They have an old house and rent out their second floor. Asher loved living with their three little girls (11-7 years old) and often slept over downstairs in their room. The kitties on the other hand were curious but often regretted the choices that got them dressed up or being smothered.
Travis and I both enjoyed our time living with the family, we started cooking ‘feasts’ from the Forest Feast Gatherings Cookbook and would plan special feasts for birthdays and celebrations. We hung out with the family on weekends, going to the farmer’s market during the summer months, having coffee together, and moments of crocheting & knitting for Shelby and Sara.
In June, Travis & I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. How old are we? We celebrated by having dinner at a Tea House in Old Colorado City. It was super yummy and different. In July we began making very real plans to move out of our friends house and into the Service Adventure House. For my birthday, Travis took me to see the new Thor movie and got me a Fjallraven Kanken backpack in yellow, of course, with rainbow straps. We ended up moving into the Service Adventure Unit House the last week of July. Before going to the Mountain States Mennonite Conference Annual Assembly in Denver for a weekend, then we saw Father John Misty in concert at Red Rocks for Travis’ birthday, then we flew out of Denver to Pennsylvania for Service Adventure Leader training in Johnstown where we met with all the other Unit Leaders for a week preparing for our new service term!
After a week in Johnstown, Salem picked us up and we went to Norfolk, VA for a weekend vacation before we returned to Colorado Springs and our participants began to arrive. There we stayed with my friend Lindsay, who owns Maison Soleil, a fair trade fashion boutique. Plus it is always fun to meet internet friends in real life! Don’t worry I texted a few friends about where we were staying incase she or her husband turned out to be axe murderers. We visited museums, ate lots of yummy food, and hung out at the beach.
After returning home from our whirlwind trip to Denver, Johnstown, and Norfolk we finally began to unpack at our new home just in time for Travis’ parents to come to visit for a few days before our participants arrived!
Our participants arrived 6 days after we returned home, the first week we had 2, one from Virginia and the other from Kansas and our German participant arrived a week later. All 3 of our participants are 18-19 years old and are taking a gap year to do service before going on to college. Two of them grew up in historically Mennonite families and areas of the country while the other is German Christian and is new to understanding our unique Anabaptist faith.
This has been interesting for me and Travis. Balancing our jobs and lives, and inviting into all that 3 young adults who are learning how to exist outside their close-knit communities and discover new places, people, and perspectives.
In September, our participants saw the Labor Day Glow at Memorial Park in COS, where all the hot air balloons light up after dark. And we all went to the church retreat at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp, a new experience for all the participants. My parents came to visit in September and we mostly just ate and hung out. Asher loved seeing his favorite person!
In October, we traveled as a Unit to Albuquerque to meet up with the Unit there. We went to the Balloon Fiesta & visited ABQ Mennonite Church. We biked the 8.5 miles from the ABQ Unit House to the Fiesta at 5 am in the morning, what could go wrong? Well, about a mile in, the ABQ leaders had flats and had to turn around. Then about halfway there, I crashed my bike into the railing. (Fun Times) Besides that we did have a great time!
In November, our Unit decided to have Thanksgiving dinner at church where we host a Friendsgiving for folks who don’t have family in the area. We enjoyed a full meal only having made 2 dishes! We also began experiencing colder and snowier weather, and Asher has had fun playing in the snow as well as being COLD. He now lives in his little dog shirt & jacket!
Since originally writing this letter, my beloved pup Asher has been showing his age. Our vet in in agreement that we keep him comfortable. It is hard news to hear at any time but especially just before the holiday season. For now he is good, we have good days and bad days. But he is comfortable and is always happy to be snuggled or sleep in front of a space heater.