by Patricia Smith Adaranijo
The number of unemployed persons (14.1 million) and the unemployment rate (9.2 percent. Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (9.1 percent), adult women (8.0 percent), whites (8.1 percent), blacks (16.2 percent), and Hispanics (11.6 percent) showed little or no change in June. The jobless rate for Asians was 6.8 percent. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (July/2011)
Since my full-time special education teaching position ended in June 2010, due to Illinois state budget cuts, I’ve been looking for work: filed countless applications, provided college transcripts, resumes, and references, gone to interviews, and taken physical exams, photo IDs, background and fingerprints checks. I could not find a full-time teaching positions. So, I filed for unemployment compensation and worked as a substitute teacher when positions became available. Over the past year, I have taught students in ten different schools in four school districts, in both Will and Cook counties. I was grateful to get a six-week temporarily-assigned special education teaching position in a Chicago Public Schools in May 2011. June 21, 2011, the position ended. I felt stressed. But then I remembered: in three days, I would be spending a week in the Mountains, of Estes Park, Colorado. I was going to two events sponsored by the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) – the 2011 Feast event and the ECC Annual Meeting. I wondered, “Will this experience be the spiritual retreat that I so desperately need? Will it be worth the time and effort?” I certainly hoped so.
As a new member of the the Executive Board of the Central Conference, I felt extremely honored when Board selected me to be one of the delegates to attend these events. I had previously attended Annual Meetings and heard about the Feast being a family-oriented retreat, held every three years. I wondered how I would fit in as a single person. I also wondered how I would cope being more than 8000 feet above sea-level, as there had been repeated warnings about high-altitude sickness. Still, it felt so good to have something other than a job to think about.
I also looked forward to this week-long trip because my Spiritual Accountability partner, would be there as well. We had not been able to go on our usual 24-hour spiritual-retreat this year, and I hoped to spend time in prayer, worship and fellowship with her. Once there, we were able to connect on a number of occasions.
The speakers inspired us to apply Scripture to our own circumstances. The themes they presented included: receiving God’s blessings; rejoicing in youthful hope; recreating our minds to help us live in harmony with each other as Christ-followers; and being refreshed in a real love relationship with God.
Additionally, I ate lots of good food, listened to great music, sang worshipful songs, danced, and basked in solitude and the natural beauty of the wilderness. I enjoyed meeting and getting to know fellow-Covenanters from around the world, and joined friends in an oh-so-scary, car ride to the top of the Rockies Mountains! I also participated in water aerobics, photography, an animal detective class, sight-seeing, and window-shopping.
During this time of rest, I was better able to focus on the unfathomable love God has for God’s people. I was reminded that God cares for creation, and continually provides for me, especially during these times of high unemployment. During that time, I did not even think about my job situation. Instead, I lifted my eyes to the Rockies and was reminded from where my help, my hope, my strength comes. (Psalm 121:1-2)