By John Owens
In the Hebrew Bible, several books recount the Hebrews being conquered and made laborers and slaves to the Babylonians. Their story is a compelling one of faith, tribulation, and zeal. And after exile, the Hebrews returned to the land of their forefathers in song and praise to the God who kept his covenant. These books, such as 2 Chronicles and Ezra, account of not only a culture and its people, but of us—specifically, individuals unknowingly displaced and forced to search for purpose and (or) opportunity while in despair.
On a cloudy Sunday in May, I graduated from La Salle University, and five hours later I was on the road back home to Memphis, Tennessee. I left behind my friends, a blossoming relationship, my various networks, and all without giving Philadelphia a proper good-bye. I had become a victim of reality...I wanted to cry out to heavens yelling, “Don’t make me do this”. I was being forced into a “captivity” called post-grad life at home. Though similar to my peers, my “captivity” was returning home; looking for a job or an apartment; or maybe not doing anything. Thus I embarked on a new mundane existence longing to return to Philadelphia.
During my two months at home, I did your usual summer adventure, but I needed something more. At camp one day, reality hit me that in August I would be living at home with my parents instead of returning to school for the next semester. In the midst of “tweens” and other camp counselors, I franticly began sobbing. This reality shock was my first awakening in “captivity,” I couldn’t continue to work in that environment or live with my parents. I had gained a perspective while living in Philadelphia—a reason to serve and work around the poor, abandoned, etc. So I did what comes naturally in these situations—prayer. And I prayed that God would release me from my lackluster condition.
So that weekend, I began looking for an out in my “captivity” via the Internet. After applying to about twenty or twenty-five organizations, I found Servant Year. Servant Year seemed to be that last minute throw by Tom Brady during Superbowl that wins the game. Honestly, I had a phone interview and what seemed to be a thousand emails back and forth and finally a contract within four weeks.
Unlike the Hebrews during the Babylonian exile, I didn’t have prophets foretelling my deliverance. I had only a desire and prayer. And though I’m no wise elder, I am someone who felt lost while with God and, like with the Hebrews, God didn’t disappoint in keeping his covenant with his chosen people.
John serves with the Diocese of Pennsylvania as the Youth Ministry Assistant for Diocesan Programming