In Which I Say Goodbye
Written by Plant With Purpose on June 28, 2012 in General
by Aly Lewis
I don’t know how to write this. As I sit in my Plant With Purpose al-cove, I find myself finger tied.
I guess I’ll just come out and say it then: I’m leaving. Leaving Plant With Purpose and the country. (Sorry, I have a flair for the dramatic.)
The incredible opportunity to live in Guatemala, improve my Spanish, and engage in the work of God is calling me. Unfortunately, that also means leaving my post as Plant With Purpose’s Staff Writer and Grants Specialist, Co-Chair of the Office Merriment Committee, and self-appointed “Master of Elaboration.”
This week will be my last at Plant With Purpose.
Before I go, I wanted to share a few thoughts on my time here over the last 4½ years (has it really been that long?!). I will try not to get too sentimental on you, but I can’t make any promises.
As I reflect on my time at Plant With Purpose, three themes come to mind: growth, friendship, and transformation.
First, growth. I have learned so much in the past in 4.5 years—about international development, civil war in Burundi, development history in Haiti, non-profit business practices, agricultural terms like agroecology, permaculture, and desertification, and how to complete a government grant application with over 150 pages of instructions, for heaven’s sake. I have come a long way from the starry-eyed Creative Writing major who didn’t exactly know much about microcredit or sustainability.
The most meaningful part of this learning experience has been that I haven’t gone through it alone. Plant With Purpose is a learning organization. Sometimes we don’t meet all of our objectives in the field because of drought or economic downturn or political unrest. Sometimes we miscommunicate here in the U.S. office. Sometimes we still end up with typos on our gigantic inspirational posters even after a handful of us have signed off on the final proof. Sometimes we make mistakes, but we learn valuable lessons from our mistakes as well.
Second, friendship. So many of my coworkers and other Plant With Purpose supporters have become trusted friends, roommates, and fellow travelers in my personal journey to live more sustainably, compassionately, simply, and free. It has been an honor to work alongside people who are committed to following Christ’s call on their life, who hear bleak news reports and read staggering statistics about world poverty and refuse to believe the status quo is acceptable, and those who devote their time and efforts and energy to empowering those around them as well as those they may never have the chance to meet. I am grateful for this community of like-minded folks who challenge me daily to give and serve and live life to the fullest. I am especially grateful for the invention of Skype and email and Twitter and Facebook and even LinkedIn, so that I can stay in touch with all of you wonderful people.
Thirdly, (and aptly) transformation. At Plant With Purpose, I learned about a community development approach called “transformational development,” a term coined by Bryant Meyers in his incredible book, Walking With The Poor.
If the term transformational development doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t worry. I’d never heard the term until coming to work at Plant With Purpose and even then the exact definition was still a bit hazy.
Most of us know or have a general idea of what development means. As Meyers says, “When most people think of development, they think of material change or social change in the material world.” We think healthcare, access to water, education, and economic opportunity—all good things. But at Plant With Purpose our goal, our purpose, goes beyond helping people in rural countries to “get more things.” That’s where the transformation part comes in.
I learned that transformational development is a journey to “recover our true identity as human beings created in the image of God and to discover our true vocation as productive stewards, faithfully caring for the world and all the people in it.”
Although I didn’t know it at the time, something deep and transformative began happening inside of me when I started giving of my time, resources, and money to this organization. When I allowed the words I was writing about transformation and empowerment to sink into my heart and brain, something shifted within me.
I began to believe that all of us—not just poor people or rich people or people who speak different languages or live in different countries—are on this journey of transformation, including me. I started to see that I was on a journey of learning—and choosing—to live and enjoy life as it was intended to be.
I began to grow in my faith in God and my relationships with others. I began to see myself as someone with gifts and talents that I can use to help others. Ultimately, I began to “recover [my] true identity as [a] human being created in the image of God and to discover [my] true vocation as [a] productive steward, faithfully caring for the world and all the people in it.”
In my time at Plant With Purpose, I have been transformed. I have become more fully who I am meant to be.
So before I get too teary eyed, I want to say that it has been an honor to be a part of this community. It has been a privilege, a pure gift, to share the stories of hope and transformation and restoration that are occurring in rural areas around the world as a result of Plant With Purpose’s work. It has been life changing to learn and grow with you.
Thank you. I am excited to see what the next chapter holds for us all.
Don’t think you’ll get rid of me that easily—you can count on guest posts from me with a new Guatemalan flair and you can follow my personal blog to keep up with my writing life. I would appreciate your prayers as I begin my adventure in Guatemala.