Maggie Rybak, a graduate of John Carroll University
The Mosaic of Richmond’s East End
The timing of our encounter with our neighbor could not have been more grace-filled as my fellow ministry volunteers and I parked our van in front of our new home in the East End of Richmond for the first time. We hopped out of the van at the same time as Miss Regina walked out of her house, directly next to ours. She welcomed us to the neighborhood and I could immediately feel her excitement. We soon learned that Miss Regina’s family lived in the house next to ours for her entire life. She grew up there and returned after her parents passed. She lives there now with her dogs, King and Queen, and receives visits from her family often. Before the addition of our house, her home was the only non-abandoned house on the block. Living alone left Miss Regina with anxiety about her safety, especially at night. She shared that finally having neighbors has given her a sense of peace. Miss Regina’s welcoming presence made us feel wanted as newcomers in the East End community from the start.
Earlier this year, we read Henri Nouwen’s writing, “A Mosaic That Makes God Visible.” In it, he writes of all of the individual stones that come together to tell a story. Individually, none of the stones come close to telling the full story. However, when examined closely, the beauty of each stone becomes distinct. We are placed in communities, which Nouwen relates to a mosaic. One community is different from the next, just as no two mosaics are exactly the same. The people that make up the community are what make it so uniquely beautiful. Nouwen explains that it is when we are in community that the face of God is revealed. When our individual differences come together, we make God visible to the world around us.
By embarking on my journey with BSVM, I have become a stone in two intertwined mosaics. One mosaic includes the community of volunteers with whom I share a home and the other is made up of the larger community in which we live, serve, and worship. Learning about and reflecting on what it means to be a part of a community has made me more aware of my impact on the “whole picture”. By giving my talents to the community, I allow my faults and my gifts to construct my piece of the mosaic. Within our intentional living community, we challenge each other to live out our gifts and provide each other with love and support when we work on our faults. Our small mosaic is constantly changing as we impact each other and grow individually.
Since this is the first year that BSVM is in Richmond, we are learning how our ministry volunteer community fits into the larger East End Community, as well. My placement site as the Community Outreach Volunteer at the Sarah Garland Jones Center has made forming relationships with East End residents my main work. The East End of Richmond is made up of many smaller neighborhoods, each with a different history. Being present to the entire East End community has meant volunteering at festivals, going to community action meetings, and attending weekly diabetes prevention programs, healthy cooking classes, and yoga. Starting with Miss Regina, we have grown to know some of the people that make up the diverse community we live in. This has allowed our BSVM community to feel more rooted in our neighborhood, and it has allowed me to see the face of God revealed through the East End mosaic.
Picture: Maggie with Richmond Community Hospital employees.