A letter from YAV Tad Hopp in Chicago
Well, I have successfully made it to month 3 here in Chicago, which means it is once again time to send out another newsletter. I am so glad to be receiving such a positive response to my previous newsletters. It’s good to know that so many people are interested in my journey here. This month was marked by some extreme highs and some extreme lows. I’ve had a tumultuous month full of ups and downs and have learned some important things about myself and my life. I’ve had several mini revelations and this newsletter will give you the details on them.
The month began with me taking a weekend to fly to Decatur, Georgia, to attend a prospective student weekend at Columbia Theological Seminary. Seminary is something that has been in the back of my mind for a while now, but I knew that I needed to actually visit one and meet with current students before I could say for sure that it would be something I would want to pursue further. The weekend ended up being an incredibly positive experience as I had the opportunity to meet with current students and faculty, sit in on a class, and just generally get to tour the campus and the housing options. It proved to be an insightful weekend for me and over the course of the weekend and in the days following it, I had a long talk with God and realized that I was really feeling the pull of God to go to seminary. It just feels like the right choice and I know that it will prove to be a good career option for me. Whether or not I will end up being ordained is still being determined and whether or not I will end up going to Columbia is still being determined. Still, I really do feel like I am making the right choice and no longer feel like I am just drifting through life like I previously was.
So, in that sense, this month has been extremely positive as it finally gave me some direction in my life. I feel good about this new direction and will keep everyone posted on the further developments involved in it. I am currently researching and narrowing down schools and discerning where God is calling me to go and what he is calling me to do.
I want to spend some time now discussing the horrible thing that happened to me just last week. Most of you reading this will already have heard about it, but I want to provide a brief recap for the rest of you. Last week while coming home from the grocery store, I was mugged by three teenage boys. They took my wallet, my cell phone and my iPod and slapped me on the face a few times just for good measure. It was absolutely the scariest thing I have ever experienced in my entire life and I am still feeling the effects of it over a week later. Talking about it has proven to be very cathartic for me and I have gotten lots of well wishes and support from people here and back home and all over the world. I’m doing better but I am still not at 100 percent yet. It may take a while before I am fully normal again. I don’t want people to be worried about my safety or fear for my life. As I said in my previous newsletter, the neighborhood I live in is relatively safe and this kind of thing can and does happen anywhere. It’s not specific to Chicago and that is something that I want to emphasize here. I’m just glad I wasn’t seriously hurt or killed. I realize how lucky I am and I am so grateful for that. No place is safe and there’s nothing you can do sometimes to prevent these things from happening. I was walking down a busy street in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon with witnesses around and I still was a victim. My eyes have been opened now to the sad reality that anybody can suffer an act of violence and that there is no such thing as being safe. It’s been a harsh reality to come to terms with but one that I guess I was in need of. I’ve been trying my best not to be angry with God about the whole situation and just taking it in stride as part of my journey this year. One of the hardest parts about the whole situation is it has made me realize how alone I feel up here sometimes. I know that may be hard to believe since I live with five other people in the third largest city in the United States, but let me try to explain. I haven’t lived here long enough to build up a good kind of support network that I can turn to in times of crisis. That’s no fault of anybody here, just a simple fact of time. It’s hard to build up those kinds of relationships and support networks in just 90 days. I wish that if this had to happen that it could have happened a little later in the year when I would have had more time to develop those relationships. Unfortunately, we don’t always get to choose when these kinds of things happen to us. Just know that I am doing better and starting to recover from this horrific incident. I have already replaced the majority of my stuff that was stolen and have met with a pastor and a therapist to discuss the incident.
So, other than the mugging and a seminary visit, how has your time been is the question that I am sure you are asking. Well, things continue to be going well. Work at the church is going along just beautifully and I still can say that I look forward to going to work each and every day. Life with the housemates is going better. We are still working out our issues but I think we have finally developed a comfortable rhythm when it comes to living together. The other night we got the inspired idea to turn our downstairs living room into a giant blanket fort!! It’s great to live with people who understand my brand of crazy. It looks awesome, by the way!! I got invited to spend Thanksgiving at the house of the LakeView pastor and had a really great holiday spending the day with her and her family. There was food, fellowship, laughter, music and singing, which is what the holidays should have. It made me feel a little less homesick, which was really good considering I had been worried about how I would handle being away from my family for the holidays for the first time ever.
All in all, it has proven to be a great month in spite of the low points. I have now experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of Chicago and I can still say I love it, so that says something right there. As for the weather, it just started getting cold this week so I have had a nice reprieve in that respect. It hasn’t started snowing yet, which is good!! I am told that will start soon, though, but I have enough warm clothes that I feel pretty confident that I will be just fine. I hope that everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. I wish you all the best over the course of this holiday season and hope that those of you traveling for the holidays have safe trips and great visits. I will be here all through Christmas as well, so will hopefully have some time to start working on grad school applications. Hope you all will continue to pray for me as I enter my fourth month here in Chicago. Can’t believe it has already been that long as it feels like I just started this journey. So much has already changed in my world in that short amount of time and I am excited to see what else will happen to me over the next few months. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!!