Although there’s still a part of me that’s not been able to fully grasp it yet, we have officially begun our third and final trimester within MissionYear’s programmatic structure – ready or not. There is an abundance of fruit to be gained from each trimester, ones unique to what they uniquely offer. First tri gives the gift of disorientation and newness. Team members are taken out of all familiar elements and invited to challenge old ways of thinking as they see different parts of the world with new eyes; it is exciting and shiny and a little overwhelming. Second tri offers up opportunities for deepening relationships towards authenticity, both among housemates and with neighbors, as the sheen wears off and the necessity for honesty and endurance settles in. Many teams also experience a fair amount of conflict and challenge during this season, both internal and external, and this often involves some relational wrestling matches with each other and with God. But, even in spite of the fact that my own greatest challenge occurred early in third tri last year, I can say with confidence that it’s definitely my favorite.
Although I associate this final trimester with the hot hot hot summer heat that it closes with (and that is already creeping closer), it is so fitting that it begins at the climax of springtime. In so many ways, third tri is often when the seeds sown throughout the past six months begin to flower and blossom and bloom. And I am so deeply hopeful and excited for the ways that that can unfold for my current housemates. Just a few nights ago, we sat together as a team and spent around 20 minutes in prayer naming people here we cared about, sending them up like fireworks. I think, for a few of them, it was surprising to see just how many folks we had connected with in less than a year, but I saw it as a testament to the ways we are living our lives in these sacred months.
It has been a gift to help guide and then to observe the ways that they have grown increasingly invested and intertwined with life here in Hunting Park, and in Philadelphia at large. April, who serves at KIPP with me in the role I had last year, has forged so many meaningful friendships with students who know her as an adult they can turn to whenever they need someone to talk to or make them smile. Connor has cultivated a friendship with Angel, a middle-schooler from a few blocks away who shares his love for Star Wars and has agreed to join his gardening endeavors this summer. Colin has established fruitful and fun relationships at his service site with fellow Christians who put his musical talents to use. And Erin, master of SEPTA connections, has befriended a co-commuter from our neighborhood whom she consistently rides the bus with and she’s finally coming to dinner this Saturday.
These are only some of the multitude of connections that have been created amongst the four of them throughout this year, and there are many, many more that I am eager to see come to fruition in this final trimester of the program. Of course, third tri is not solely about glorious endings, and there is still plenty of groundwork to lay and endurance needed to make it to the finish line. As I learned last year thanks to my housemate Andy’s gardening frenzy and my time spent aiding the many green-thumbed experts in a five-block radius of our house, even the season of reaping involves plenty of the tedious, monotonous upkeep and some serious labor in the hot summer sun. The work isn’t close to over yet, but if last year serves as a fair model for what’s to come, I am looking forward to the celebrations, conversations, fun, and beauty that awaits.
Luke Hillier currently serves on Mission Year Philadelphia’s Hunting Park team as Alum Leader. Originally from Pataskala, OH, he attended Denison University. Support him and learn more on his blog or donation page.