Late last spring the decision was made. Our daughter, Autumn, would be moving out to be part of the very first Act Five cohort! Over the summer a lot of preparations for moving out took place. Dreams were shared. Nerves were quieted. Boxes were filled.
Moving is rarely simple.
Aside from wrapping knick-knacks in bubble wrap, boxing up books, removing pictures from walls, there also were the good-bye parties, late-night conversations with dear ones, cherishing all the “lasts” while anticipating all the things to come. A significant time to be sure.
As I reminisce today about all the preparations made, I can’t help but consider this theme of packing up and moving as a metaphor for life within the Act Five family.
Bear with me as I unpack this a bit.
Packing up required Autumn to sort through things that belonged to her – many things she had kept for years. It was tedious work. A lot of decisions had to be made. She had to be thorough because, well, she’d just have to unpack it on the other side!
Similarly throughout the school year, Act Five students had opportunities to sort through things that “belonged” to them – kindness, self-control, discernment, mercy, justice, impatience, fear, selfishness. As they sorted, they pondered:
Do I value this enough to take it with me?
What do I want to give away or throw out?
Is this taking up too much space?
As a follower of Jesus, does this really matter?
What do I want to have more space for?
Reflecting is tedious work – after all, some things had been kept for many years. Thoroughness mattered, because, not only were they eager to get rid of the extra weight, they also wanted to create space for things that mattered to them. Things like:
the habit of paying attention, the experience of solitude, the discipline of gratitude, the intentionality of loving “place”, the gift of hospitality, the desire to listen to others, and more.
Time was carved out regularly for students to pause, journal, and sort out their “belongings”, encouraging them to ask hard questions of what they wanted to hold on to as one who claims to love the Light.
Packing up last August was a messy job. Disassembled furniture, labeled boxes, endless tasks and to-do lists. What overshadowed it all was the second-guessing of how it will all turn out. Messy on many levels.
What does “messy” look like in a home filled with 12 young adults? Dishes piled high and floors covered in clothes for sure! But how about hurt feelings or relational conflict? Things done with selfish motives or crises of faith? Words spoken too quickly, or words not spoken at all? How about the weight of listening to the stories from the Six Nations People, or the jet lag after the month in Zambia? And, in the end, the stay-at-home order that took these friends out of the comforts of Blake Haven a month earlier than planned.
As the students experienced the brokenness in themselves and the world, they were encouraged to bring their beliefs to bear on these situations. A quote in one of Autumn’s Act Five notebooks reads:
Head knowledge ends when you are faced with poverty and suffering.
And later she scribbled:
Theology is meant to be in service to our love – it’s more than just ideas. We can’t always explain, we have to experience.
Explanations on their own rarely suffice. As parents, we are grateful for the intentional experiences that were designed into the Act Five Gap Year Program. Through the varied experiences (marvelous as well as messy!), Godly mentors came alongside the students to help make sense of the brokenness they felt and saw. They were encouraged to wrestle with the uncomfortable things happening in and around them. They were provided with a safe place to talk through the messy experiences. Many questions were answered and conflicts resolved. Some were not, and students had the opportunity to sit in the tension. With loving guides, head knowledge began connecting with their hearts, helping them to change, and transforming them more into the image of Christ. Hope replaced despair as they were called to look up to the Father who is constant and steadfast.
Back to the moving metaphor. Have you ever tried packing up or moving alone? Although Autumn hadn’t accumulated many earthly possessions, I sense she was thankful to have her family by her side on moving day. On her final weekend at home, we had a good-bye celebration to give loved ones an opportunity to send her off. God places us in families and communities because He knows we need each other.
Community is an integral part of the design of the Act Five Program. Students live, work, serve, pray, eat, learn, and study together, and there is a clear understanding that the most crucial venue for discipleship is community. Jesus modeled this as He brought His disciples together in close contact – spiritually, socially & emotionally. It’s no wonder that the first Act Five cohort endearingly called themselves, “the disciples”. They flourished as they were mentored and cared for by Jon & Aimee, Dave & Nina, Alyssa, Elise, and others who spoke into their lives, prayed with and for them, taught, and encouraged them, laughed and cried with them.
The students also were given opportunities to learn from and be part of the diverse community around them. They participated in co-ops including the Barton Street BIA (Business Improvement Area), Indwell and the 541 Eatery & Exchange. They made connections with several authors, poets, artists, and more. Travelling further afield, students enjoyed learning about other communities during their trips to Temagami, Six Nations Reserve, Zambia and Pittsburgh. All reinforcing the understanding that we were designed to do life in community.
All three parts of the packing up process were necessary for Autumn to launch into her post-secondary adventure. She needed to sort through her belongings, live through the mess, and do it together with others. All of these same pieces helped prepare her for the next step in her journey: moving into Blake Haven and thriving, growing and changing as a Beloved Child of the King.
May God continue to receive the glory for all that is happening within the Act Five community.