Thursday, May 20, 2010

Off Topic: 10 years later

From August 1999 to May 2000 I volunteered with NET Ministries. Alumni of the program are affectionately referred to as "Netters" and the year they volunteered is referred to as the year they were "on the road". Why? Because after training you grab your one suitcase, your sleeping bag & your pillow, get into a 15 passenger van with 9-11 people you just met and head out all over the country. Why? Because 20 years ago Pope John Paul II was all about a "new evangelization"- basically saying people already part of the Church needed to be evangelized. So every year NET gets a bunch of young adults together, trains them, prays with them and then divides them up into teams that run around giving retreats to young people & their families.

The "Dream Team" (Team 6 99'-2000)

I've been thinking about my year on the road a lot lately. I haven't seen most of my teammates in years, but I still feel like I can tell them anything and when something hard comes up they are some of the first people I ask for prayer. Several times a year the girls have a "virtual women's session". On the road, we had scheduled time to meet "as women". Sometimes several hours of our packed schedule would be set aside to pray, talk & play with just the girls. At one point, the ladies of our team made a point to have at least a few moments of "women's session" every single day. It's hard to express how crazy that was if you've never been on NET. Every minute was scheduled for us. We had retreats 6 days a week at least. The 7th day was packed with driving or practice or meeting with bishops. My team ended the year with a 16 day sprint... not a single day without a retreat. But for a while, even if it meant a two minute huddle outside the van where we each said 2 words to describe how we were feeling- the women of Team 6 had women's session every single day.

Looking badass after paintball

NET taught me a lot about healthy relationships. Unless I was in the bathroom, I was with at least one teammate almost every moment of every day. We worked, ate, prayed, played, traveled & slept together every single day for a school year. Is it any wonder there were strict rules for how to resolve conflict? NET taught me to be honest about how I feel, to address things as they come up, to see the other person's point of view, to ask for and accept forgiveness. We were big on actually "saying the words". Say "I'm sorry and I need your forgiveness". Say "You're forgiven. I accept your apology." Say "I appreciate these things about you." Say "This fight hasn't changed the fact that I love you."

Those skills have come in really handy. It helped me repair my relationship with my mom so that when she passed away we were closer than I ever remember us being. It helped me get through a really rough patch with the soldier last year and get our friendship back on track. It helped me move from a child-parent relationship to an adult friendship with my father.

Chicago, Illinois (This photo took FOREVER while we froze by the lake. Totally worth it.)

For all the lack of sleep, annoyances, colds that lasted months because we couldn't slow down to heal, nights spent on a gym floor, weeks of eating pizza every day, small groups that refused to cooperate and missing my friends at home-- NET was an incredible experience that helped me grow as a person & grow closer to Christ in more ways than a other single year before or since. I thank God every single day for that experience & for the people He put on my team.

"All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved." -Acts 2:44-47

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