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A letter from YAV Tad Hopp in Chicago

May 2011

Dear Friends:

The month of May has come and gone and that means I am one month closer to being done with my year here in the Windy City. I gotta say, the time has really flown by. It seems like just yesterday I was getting all settled in to my new life here and now it is almost over and I am about to start a new life somewhere else. The month of May has been a rather unique one for me as it has involved me spending lots of time in airports and on airplanes. Yep, it has been a month of traveling for me  which has also meant that I have not been spending a lot of time at work this month either. It’s been really crazy how short my work weeks have been this month. Almost feels like I haven’t been working at all although I can assure you I have!! 

The month started with me traveling to San Francisco, California to visit the seminary that was brave enough to accept me. I knew that I didn’t feel comfortable committing to spend the next three years of my life there until I had set foot on the campus and gotten a feel for it. So, I bought a plane ticket and flew out there for a couple days to see the school in person. Literally, within five minutes of setting foot on campus, I knew that it was where God was calling me to be. I haven’t been able to say that about any other schools I visited which just proves that God really did know what He was doing all along!! The campus is absolutely gorgeous and the staff and students made me feel welcome and a part of their community from the minute I set foot on the campus. It’s in a beautiful part of the country and it’s relatively close to family and several friends which I’ve realized is really important to me. Everything I personally need to access can be found within walking distance and there is public transit into the city plus students are usually pretty generous with their cars so I can always borrow one if needed. It really does feel like the right place for me and so I am happy to officially say that I will be starting there this fall pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church. God really did put me where he wanted me and I am glad I can see that now. Did I mention the weather is great all year-round??!! I love Chicago but nine months of winter is a bit extreme if you ask me!! Not that Texas having seven months of summer is any better. Nope, it looks like I might actually get to experience all four seasons finally!! That alone is reason to celebrate. 

I want to take a little more time here to discuss the point I made earlier about being closer to family. Oddly, one of the hardest things about Chicago for me at least has been the fact that I didn’t know a single person here when I came. I thought that would be a boon for me and was one of the reasons that I was most looking forward to moving here. I wanted to be somewhere where I could get a fresh start and get away from my past and all the inherent stress and worry that came with it. However, it has actually been really difficult to be away from all those people. I am the only one of the six of us who didn’t already know somebody living here. Granted, I have made friends since I’ve been here but it took a while. In fact, it took a long while and so sometimes I just craved being able to go grab coffee with a friend or go out for drinks with somebody. It would have been nice to have somebody up here that I had already formed a relationship with. Would have made some of the struggles a lot easier if I had had somebody from my old life up here to talk to about it. There’s a different kind of relationship and intimacy with friends you have known for a long time than there is with friends you have known only a short while. I hope you all can understand what I’m talking about. It’s very hard to verbalize what I am thinking. Anyway, I have family and friends out in California that I cannot wait to see once I move there. I’ve learned that you can’t run from your past. Instead, you have to learn from it and use those lessons to better your present. While I now have formed friendships up here, it would be nice to be able to call up a friend from back home and go grab some coffee and reminisce about life back in Texas. Instead, I have to constantly talk about how Chicago is different than Texas and what the weather in Texas is like and such. I guess I just crave that kind of intimacy that only family and close friends can truly provide. Yes, I will miss all the friends I have made here and will treasure them but at the end of the day, I just really miss having somebody up here who has known me longer than a few months. 

Anyway, after I got back from California, I had a few days to recover before it was once again time for me to hop on a plane again. Where, you might be asking yourself? Well, this time I was headed for the Lone Star State. Yes, I was about to set foot on Texas soil for the first time since I left. I’ll be honest, it felt really good to be back in the land of my birth even if I was only there for 24 hours. You see, I was there for work purposes. I got permission to travel to Mo-Ranch Conference Center (a camp that I have a long and loving history with) to promote the Young Adult Volunteer Program to their college conference participants that week. It was a really great but all-too-brief experience. I had a few friends that were attending the conference so I got to see them again which was awesome. I also had some time to dip my feet in the river and participate in the volleyball tournament! It was really cool that I got to do it all under the guise of work. I also, of course, talked up the program to people there and got some interest stirred up in people. Don’t know yet if my efforts will bear any fruit but I sure had fun trying!! I also realized that I didn’t miss Texas nearly as much as I thought I would. I mean, it felt good to be there but at the end of the day, I was ready to head back to the city and get back to my life here. It was good to get away for that brief period of time, especially to hit up my beloved Mo-Ranch, but I think my heart doesn’t belong to Texas anymore. That’s really all I have to say on that topic as I am still sorting out my feelings on it.

Now, after all my travels, life goes on and I am back to work. Now that summer is practically here (although the weather sure doesn’t give that indication), things at work have really slowed down. I’m not complaining at all as the past nine months have been very high-energy so I am looking forward to a bit of a slow-down now. My last two months will hopefully go smoothly and I can leave knowing I have been an important asset to my site. 

My main focus now besides finishing up the year is figuring out how I am going to pay for seminary. I got a fairly generous financial aid package but there is still a significant amount that I have to come up with on my own. I am currently in the process of applying for grants and scholarships so am hopeful that it will work out to my advantage. I could really use prayers that the money will work itself out and I won’t have to give up on going there because I can’t afford it. I’m trying to avoid loans if I can since I have far too many still from undergrad and want to avoid piling on more to that already massive amount. Therefore, I am really hoping that scholarships and such will come my way. Otherwise, I am not sure what I will do. Again, prayers would be much appreciated during this time as I try to figure out all the schematics of attending. I don’t want to disappoint myself and others by not attending so am remaining hopeful that God will provide, like he already has. 

Well, I think that wraps it up for this month. Thanks for sticking with me during these months. Thanks also for all the kind words and congratulations I received last month about my acceptance. It really does mean a lot to know that so many people are happy for me. I only hope I can continue to receive that kind of love and support throughout the rest of my journey. It’s the little things like that that make life here a little easier, even when things get really rough. I hope everyone is enjoying their Memorial Day Weekend and that the weather is nice wherever you are so you can get out and spend some time in the sunshine with your loved ones. That’s what the holidays are for after all. I will be spending my Memorial Day on the beach having a picnic. For me, it’s enough that I actually have the day off for the first time in two years!! That alone is enough for me but getting to spend some time in the sun will just be icing on the cake. It’s supposed to finally start warming up this week meaning summer has finally come to Chicago. I, for one, could not be more ready!! I don’t mind the cold but when it is fifty degrees in mid-May, I start to lose it!! Sending everyone my best wishes for a Happy and safe Memorial Day!! God bless you, every one!!

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