September 8, 2020

Announcing...courage + co

As you may remember, I wrote a blog post back on October 1st about how I felt like I was in a season of transition. I wrote the post while I was sitting in the Bucharest airport, waiting for the bus to take me home to Sighisoara. Here's a tiny part of that post...

"I feel like change is coming. I don’t know what kind of change(s). I don’t know when things will change. I don’t know why things will change. I just feel like God is taking me into a new season."

Back then, I had no idea what that change was going to be. I was confused, scared, overwhelmed, anxious, etc., and I didn't even know how to take the next step. But now, various changes have been made and I'm excited to share them with you!

So...drumroll please...I will be starting a brand new teen program called "courage + co"! Yay! 

This program will aim to help young people feel seen, heard and loved through intentional relationships (with self, others, community) and courageous conversations. And the "co" represents "connect, cultivate and create", which are themes that the different groups will focus on as they move through the program. 

In order to get here, to a place where I felt like I could start a new program, I had to step away from some other roles and responsibilities. After months of praying, journaling, reflecting, listening, etc., I knew it was time to officially make some changes...

At the beginning of this year, I stepped away from the Romanian Studies Program (RSP), where I was serving as the On-site Coordinator for American university students who came to do their practicums with Veritas and/or the church programs. This is the program that brought me to Romania in 2015.

I thought that "the big change" was going to be just stepping away from RSP, but even after making that decision, I knew there was something else. That feeling led to more praying and reflecting in the spring, which eventually led me to another change...

In June, I met with the executive director and board president of Veritas, the nonprofit organization that I have been working with since I came to Romania, to talk about my departure from the organization. Veritas had been a huge part of my work in Romania since the very beginning. The It Takes Courage (ITC) programs that I co-led for five years fell under the umbrella of Veritas’ educational programs. I had also worked very closely with the Kids’ Club program when I first came, and supervised the RSP students in various Veritas programs. In addition to these two major roles, I also helped a lot with marketing and fundraising for Veritas. Basically, Veritas was a pretty major part of my work/life in Romania over the last five and a half years. 

I was pretty nervous about giving my notice at Veritas. It had been such a difficult decision to make, and I didn't want it to seem like it was a flippant decision, or that I was upset and leaving because of any major issue. A lot of things had happened over the last year...Adela (my ITC co-leader) went on maternity leave, our program was going to be moving buildings, various other unknowns were up ahead (and this was pre-COVID!), etc. These things, and an unsettled feeling in my heart, led me to this decision. Thankfully, the conversation where I gave my notice went very well, and at one point, someone said, ”I’m just glad there will still be an educational program like It Takes Courage in our community”. And that felt like further confirmation that this was the right decision.

"Further confirmation" has actually been a huge part of this journey. With almost every step that I took, I received confirmation in one form or another. In conversations with others, both with people who knew I was making changes and those who didn't, a comment, question or idea would be said that confirmed something I was thinking/feeling/doing. I had one incredibly vivid dream about a week after having two major conversations, related to all of the changes. Despite the fear and anxiety of the whole situation, I found myself feeling peace more often than not. I kept taking a step and then another step. I just kept doing the next right thing. (Side note: go listen to The Next Right Thing podcast and read the book too!)

And now, I'd like to officially invite you to join me on this exciting new adventure! There are lots of different ways for you to get involved...

- Listen to the new Chosen Voices podcast episode where I share more details about courage + co and the story behind it. 

- Purchase a cute t-shirt or sweatshirt from my Bonfire fundraiser. Proceeds will help me purchase items for the program space. 

- If you'd be interested in supporting courage + co's ongoing program budget and/or my work in Romania, you can give at my personal giving link (all donations are tax deductible). 

- Sign up for my email newsletter, Coffee & Courage, that I send out monthly with personal and ministry updates.

- And, last but not least, all prayers are appreciated. Prayers for guidance as I continue to make decisions and plan for the program...for physical health...for wisdom in leading a program during the time of COVID-19...and for the teenagers, that they will feel seen, heard and loved in this new program.

Art by Morgan Harper Nichols
Art by Morgan Harper Nichols

I cannot tell you how excited I am for courage + co to start! This year, I will meet with two separate groups (a connect group and a cultivate group) during the week, as well as planning some other events (create) like service opportunities, meals together, game/movie nights, etc. All of these activities will be held in the church building, and I'll be sure to share some photos when the space is finished and ready for the program! 

In addition to starting this program, I will continue to work out in the village at the child development center. I miss those kiddos SO much, and I cannot wait to see their sweet little faces! I will also be helping to lead the local youth group at the church in town (where courage + co will take place). This will be a new challenge, but I'm excited to meet some new teens! 

So there you go. An announcement, an invitation, a story, etc. Lots of new things happening over here. Thank you, as always, for your unwavering support! You, my people, are truly the best. I am grateful for each and every one of you.