5 Years, Wow! 5 years is the longest I have been in one state since graduating high school. If you would have asked me then I would have never have settled down in the south. And Cajun Country was exactly that, another country. If you asked me then I would be living in the same city I grew up in, shopping at the same stores, playing the same golf courses, and having my kids go to the same schools as I did. My world was small, But, it got bigger quick. I did attend college not far from my hometown of Sioux City, IA but after that I made the giant leap to Pennsylvania, 1000 miles from anything I knew. I finished my graduate degree after 2 years at Geneva College, and began searching for a job in Student Development. Still pointing my needle back to the Midwest. Long story short, I ended up in Tennessee; yes the south, where my only references came from the movies, the textbooks, and that one time I went to TX for a church camp. This was uncharted territory. I thought I would make my mark as a Resident Director at Bryan College for a few years and get right back to my home in the Midwest, where I belonged. If you haven’t noticed a trend yet, God continues to bring me to places that I would NEVER consider! Insert Opelousas Here :) Opelousas was a city I had never heard of in a state that got lost on the map. But that is where I was heading on a mission trip with some Bryan Students. By this point in my life I had been on a mission trip to New Orleans after Katrina and had put Louisiana in the “been there, done that” category of places to go.
But here I am in Opelousas surrounded by different. Different accent, different culture, different socio-economic makeup than anywhere I’d ever been. But I was also surrounded by kids with amazing smiles and hearts of gold, as well as people who care deeply for their city and are passionate about the restoration of the place they call home. After that week I had caught the vision that these people had and knew I wanted to continue a relationship with this place. After plans quickly shifted around I found myself back in Opelousas all summer. I built some amazing relationships in two months. Ones that would tie me to Opelousas for the rest of my life and ones that would eventually change the trajectory for what I wanted to do with my life. I moved Opelousas full time in May 2010 and have been on a wild ride since then.
My first week here I attended a 6th graduation at the elementary school in our neighborhood. Several HFO students were graduating at that time. One of which was Ariel Charles. Ariel is now a Senior in high school. We have been on many adventures together, and it’s hard to think about memorable moments at HFO without Ariel. Adventure Crew, bible studies, field trips, and more have forged a meaningful relationship with this beautiful young girl. This year I get to watch her go from an HFO student to an Agent of Hope where she gets to pour back into the younger students at HFO. It’s a proud moment when you get to experience that relationship come full circle. This is the year that some of our “babies” begin to graduate and go off to college or work. 5 years, I can’t believe its been 5 years!
I have found my home, the place I want to invest my life, and the people I want to do it with. I can not begin to explain how much I’ve grown in the last five years at Hope for Opelousas and I’m excited about what the next 5 years might bring.