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Final YMCA blog update

Has it really already been a month? Seriously? Wow, that went by really fast. I guess it’s true that time flies when you’re having fun. It has been an awesome four weeks. I want to thank Blue Ridge Assembly for sending me to England and giving me this incredible opportunity. A just as big thank you goes out to the Romford YMCA also. Thanks so much for allowing me to come and work alongside you all. It’s been amazing to see how your YMCA is run inside and out. Every single one of you is over the top and are prime examples of why YMCA’s are successful. If they didn’t have people who believed in the mission of the Y then none of it would be possible.

This trip has taught me a lot. As someone who has a goal to be a C.E.O. of a YMCA one day, this experience has proved invaluable for the wisdom and knowledge gained.  It has given me insight about myself as well; about my future and my ideals.  Thank you everyone who was involved in the success of my journey.

Even though my trip has been hugely impactful and I am sad to leave, I’m ready to come home at the same time. I’m excited about the summer and working for BRA again. I’m pumped about another epic several weeks. Yes, it’s true that an awesome experience is behind me, but another one is just around the corner.

Goodbye England, it’s been real.

Clark Devore

YMCA blog update – week 3

So in this past week all of the schools were out for what they call “half term.” They have a week break in the middle of their semester.  This to me is astonishing because college courses ended over a month ago and most high schools where I’m from ended last week. But because of this, the YMCA hosted a weeklong camp for children to come so their parents could go to work. My schedule was put on hold from rotating through each of the departments to being solely committed to what they call “multi-activity week.”

It was a lot of fun really. It reminded me of working summer camps at the Y in Lakeland during high school. It’s funny because all camps work the same. On day one, in the first hour, all of the kids are by themselves, not really knowing what to or who to make friends with. Of course, there are the few that know each other from school and are immediately drawn to one another. These are the groups that usually start everything. For the boys, they start a game of football (soccer) and all of the other boys join in. For the girls, it’s usually something like tag or simply just socializing. But by the second hour everyone is best friends and having a blast.

For a volunteer, it’s usually the same. You try and force yourselves into the groups, but since you are so much older, they don’t really know what to do with you. That is, until you show them your superior (only because of age and physical difference) soccer skills. Then all the boys want you to be on their team, and the girls always run after you so that you can be “it.” They seriously have an endless amount of energy.

But the best part of the day was the trip. Everyday something was planned for them to go do outside the YMCA. The best day was definitely Friday. A few of them were allowed to go to Southend-on-sea, which is exactly what it sounds like- a “beach.” Now I use the term beach lightly. Before I go on, I must remind you that I am from Florida. Therefore I am probably… no, definitely spoiled when it comes to beaches. Having some of the world’s best beaches within an hour’s drive is just as incredible as you think it is. But in order to understand what England’s beaches are like, I want you to do something for me. Pour yourself a glass of ice water and then go find the nearest gravel parking lot. When you get there, lay down and pour the glass over yourself. The following sensation is exactly what their beach is like. Okay, in all seriousness it wasn’t that bad. But their beach really was made of small rocks, and the water was extremely cold. But again, they are equal to the US-Canada border in terms of global position, so I guess it doesn’t really get that warm here.

They craziest day was easily Monday. If you’ve ever been on the New York subway system, then you’ll understand what I’m talking about. We took 21 children between the ages of 6-11 from Romford YMCA to a park in London. In order to do that we had to first get them on one of the famous double-decker busses in order to get them to the underground station. Then, shuffle them onto the subway in the time-span of 15 seconds before the doors automatically close. At first it wasn’t that hard because we were still in the outer London area and so the trains were relatively empty, but as we got closer to London more people piled on. But that wasn’t the most chaotic part, oh no, we had to switch lines in order to get where we were going… three times. As we were now in central London we had to push the children onto the train in order to get them on before the doors shut. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the already crowded train car when they realized that 21 more people are about to get on. It was humorously fantastic.

But I do say that I rather enjoyed this past week. I learned that if I can move a group of children through the London public transit system safely, I can pretty much take care of children anywhere. As I move back into the normal rotation this week I look forward to working with each department one more time. I’ve got one more week left… leh’go.

-Clark Devore

Update from the YMCA blog

This past weekend officially marked the halfway point for my trip here in Romford. Needless to say, it’s been a blast. I’ve had a ball tackling London with everything it has to offer. I do believe that someone could spend a month here, just simply being a tourist and not having any work commitment, and still not see everything, this place is unbelievably massive. But if you stripped away all of the glamour of a bustling foreign city, I think I’ve gained a lot of insight to myself and my future.

Being a college student with two years behind him and only two or so more to go, the term “career” is constantly thrown at me.  Especially now where in some areas a higher percentage of college grads are going home to live with their parents again than are finding jobs, is concerning. I mean sure, the statistics are improving but it still isn’t promising.

My past two posts have been about how great the YMCA is… and well, in my mind, it is. I’ve been related to the YMCA for a long time and have built quite a lengthy resume of my involvements with it. Because of this, the YMCA has always been in the back of my mind as a possible career choice. However, I do believe that this trip has moved it further “up the ladder” so to speak.

I’ve always believed in the mission of the YMCA. Sometimes it can look just like any other gym or business, but when you examine it more closely you see a whole lot more. From my experience personally, this is what the YMCA is about:

  • It’s about the programs that give the youth the ability to find their voice.
  • It’s about the volunteers who lead those programs because they themselves were affected by it.
  • It’s about the hundreds upon hundreds of teens who take over a mountain each year only to leave radically and drastically changed for the better.
  • It’s about the elderly gentleman who takes classes to make friends because his wife of 50 years passed away due to illness.
  • It’s about the single mother of four who loves child care because it gives her an hour or two to take a break from chaos and give herself enough energy to get through tomorrow.
  • It’s about the kids who come to summer camp each year and build friendships that carry them through some of the most difficult times of their life.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t mean to sound over emotional, but that list could go on for a very long time. Yes, I do believe I could work for something like that. Rather than join the grind day in and day out just so that someone above me can make more money, I could work knowing that lives are being changed all around me; not just in America, but all over the world

I’ve got two weeks left… bring it on.

-Clark Devore

Mormons.

About 30 minutes ago, there was a knock at my door. Thinking it was one of the flatmate’s who had forgotten their key again I got up from the TV, where I was watching Top Gear (best show ever), and went to answer the door. But I must tell you what happened before I answered the door…

Something in my spirit literally said to me, “get ready.”  Somewhere between the couch and the door, I realized what was coming. I can’t tell you why or how, but I knew that I was about to have a conversation that was a lot deeper “how was your day?” It was the strangest thing, the Holy Spirit was preparing me for the Elders.

That was all in a matter of like 4 second, seriously.  You can probably imagine what the next 30 minutes was like… questions, answers, challenges. And that was from both ends. It’s always interesting when you have a conversation when both parties believe to eternity (literally) that they are right. Now, it didn’t get vicious, by any means. But it was really intriguing. They said many things that just didn’t make sense; things that go against the nature of the God of the Bible.

I have always wanted to have them come to my door, which is rather odd to mention. But I had always planned it out in my head that I would become super-Christian and that they would walk away having found a new type of relationship with Christ. Ha, that didn’t happen…

There are a plethora of more thoughts running through my head about this, but not enough gumption to write them all down, here anyway. But here’s one of them: When it comes to blatant evangelism, they’re doing a lot more than me…

Captivating

First off, yes, I am currently reading the book Captivating, so that is the first term that comes to mind – but it fits quite well.

Yesterday was my first day in London. I decided I was going  to take one day to see everything in central London that was worth seeing. The result: I’ve slept a lot today. It was a busy day, but I accomplished my goal. I became super-tourist and took in all the sights that London has to offer. Ok, well, not all of them, but all the major things that I wanted to see.

What was interesting tho, is that I found myself amid some of the world’s most recognized, inspiring, beautiful buildings and yet, I didn’t feel… captivated. Don’t get me wrong, standing face to face with Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, the houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey were incredible. If you want an over-sweeping generalization of what London looks like, here it is: old. Yes; old. Everything, and I do mean everything, is built with amazing architecture; designed sometime back when this guy named Moses still wandered the Earth. London is easily the prettiest major city that I’ve seen.

However, I noticed that as I stood face to face with these great works of art, it wasn’t long before I grew tired of them and was ready for the next thing. I began to wonder why I’ve finally reached one of the most popular cities in the world and yet I wasn’t fulfilled by it. I shortly came to this answer: everything here was designed and built by human hands.

It was a little over a week ago that I was in Black Mountain, NC. There is where I will return to work when I am back in the states at Blue Ridge Assembly. At this assembly is a trail. This trail leads to the top of a mountain called High Top. I’m not going to try to describe it to you because words and pictures honestly don’t do it justice. But this is absolutely one of my favorite places to be. I’ve been to the top several times and I sit in sheer awe every single time. I sit there and I know that I am surrounded by the Creator God, his work, his majesty. Again, I’ve been there several times and have sat there for long periods of time (much longer than standing in front of Buckingham Palace or the like) and not once have I ever been ready to leave. I’ve never completely taken it all in; I only leave because I have to. There I am truly captivated.

This is the thought that came to my mind yesterday. If I could honestly sit atop that mountain “forever,” and if this world is only a glimpse of what is to come, then I might actually need eternity to take in all that is prepared for us in Heaven.

Think about it.

So the world is supposed to end today. If you didn’t know that, then you aren’t on facebook. However, if it is true, then nobody in Britain knows about it. There is a lot of buzz going around in America, but here, in London… nothing.

Interesting to think that since this group believes the world is ending, they didn’t do a good job of letting everyone know.

But for those of us that believe the world is ending, just not today, are our actions really that different?

Think about it.

Romford YMCA – Week 1

I’m already a quarter of the way through my trip, that was one of the fastest weeks of my life. By now I’ve rotated through all of the departments. Some of them new to me, but others, I felt at home.  At the Southwood YMCA in Tallahassee I work as a front desk staff, so it didn’t take long for me to acclimate myself the front desk (they refer to it as “front of house”) here in Romford.  I also enjoyed the after school care department. I always enjoy working with kids especially here when they ask me what things are like in America. However, my favorite department is probably Housing.

On the day that I was assigned to work in there this week, there wasn’t a lot for me to do but sit around and watch. It was entirely okay because I got to survey the department workers do their job. If you didn’t know, the Romford YMCA has a housing complex where they can host 130+ people. They offer rooms to people aged 18-30.  The majority of residents are younger aged adults that have nowhere else to live. The YMCA here is a crucial part to fighting homelessness and street violence. They do this by providing rooms at minimum cost to their residents.

It’s such a neat thing to see happen. The Romford YMCA is still upholding the principles that George Williams set out to achieve in 1844. It’s a very different aspect of responsibility that the YMCA here has taken upon themselves compared to that of most the YMCA’s in America.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I think the YMCA’s in America still do a great job of meeting the needs of their community.  I’ve seen a lot of YMCA’s in America and most them don’t have residency halls. But that’s simply because where those YMCA’s are located, the needs of the community are elsewhere.

But as I watched the residents come into the office I noticed how the workers and them interacted. Their relationship had a friend/mentor attitude to it. The residents would come seeking help about job interviews or questions about how to do things that typically parents would take care of. The residents that came into the office during that short three hour window probably came from homes that were abusive or neglectful (I say that out of sheer assumption and mean no disrespect to situations that do not fall under that category). However, here, at the YMCA, they were someone special. They had recognition, they had a name, and they had people looking out for them. It was truly inspiring to see what George Williams set out to create so many years ago, lived out in a tremendous way right before my eyes. I left the office that day thinking that if I were to work at the Romford YMCA, I would know exactly which department to be a part of.