Editor’s Note: DCSC volunteer Madeline McKissick brings the reader into an experience from the DCSC Mid-year retreat. In playing a get-to-know-you game there, she reflects on her identity both within Christ and this intentional community.

I anticipated the mid-year retreat for several reasons. First of all, we spent three days in a cute little Airbnb in West Virginia, and it had a hot tub! Second, as much as I love working in the office, I was ready for a break, knowing that I would return to my work more rejuvenated. Third and most important, I was excited for so much time with my community. My DC Service Corps pals have become like family to me. In only six months, we have become so close, so I anticipated a retreat filled with prayers, meals, games, and conversations with everyone.

Erin brought a game to the retreat that we were all excited to play together. “We’re Not Really Strangers” is a conversational game that helps its players really get to know each other. It’s filled with cards sharing both light-hearted and deep questions to ask each other. We played the game both nights we spent at the Air BnB. Gathered in a circle, we listened to stories, shared our thoughts, affirmed each other, and had a few laughs. We spent hours learning each other’s hearts, which is what I hoped would happen during the retreat.

While the questions and conversations were meaningful, an unexpected aspect of the game especially touched me and made me think. Before we dove into the questions, we had to write little notes that shared our first impression of each other. After a while, we each had a little pile of folded scraps of paper that we weren’t allowed to read until we finished playing the game the next night. Patience is a virtue, so I hid my notes in my Bible and waited to read them until the last morning of the retreat. 

Unfolding one note at a time, I read everyone’s first impression of me. Some made me giggle, and others surprised me. Some reflected who I am, but others didn’t. I happily read words like “strong faith,” “kind,” and “sweet,” but I was surprised to read “shallow,” “stereotypical,” and “basic white girl.” 

Reflecting on when I first moved into Casa San Salvador versus where we are now, I’m glad that my community took the time to get to know me. They didn’t see me as “basic” for long, and they understood me as a faithful and kind friend who loves to have fun and make people laugh. I was relieved and so grateful that they came to know who I truly am. I’m glad that the community who means so much to me knows and embraces my authentic self. 

In Matthew 16, Jesus asks His disciples who people think He is. They told Him that people say He’s John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, Jesus’s closest disciple and friend, confidently identified Him. He knew Jesus so well that he proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God. During His time on earth, not everyone truly knew Jesus. Only a handful of people became close enough to Him to know who He is. I love that I can always look to Jesus and that He always understands what I’m going through. He knew firsthand what it was like to be misunderstood, and He also knew what it was like to be known and loved for who He is. 

When I turn to my community, they know who I am. They understand me and love me unconditionally, which is the most precious gift I could ever ask for. I’m blessed that God has brought me to FMS and placed so many beautiful souls in my community. I’m thankful that we’ve gotten so close that we can know and share our authentic selves. When St. Francis would pray, he would ask God, “Who are You, and who am I?” Throughout my service year, I’m learning to place my identity and worth in God as I lean on Him and come to know Him more. Every day, I’m learning more about who God is and who I am in Him. 

 

Reflection: Think of how your friends, family, and the people closest to you would describe you now versus a year ago, or when you first met. Spend some time in prayer and ask God to tell you who you are.