Hey guys! I hope you have all been enjoying the “Reader of the Month” series thus far. Including Jess, there will be one final reader of the month presenting their article, and that seventh person will end September’s series of incredibly inspiring people. To stay updated on past readers of the month, check them all out here!
Our next reader of the month is a very inspiring young woman, who found out how rewarding it is to volunteer after helping her grandfather volunteer in Haiti. She makes some really good points about leaving one’s comfort zone, so check out her article below:
Reader of the Month #6: Jess Stoltz
My name is Jess Stoltz and I’m 23 living in Salisbury, MD. I’m a big believer in our STORY: we’ve all got one and we’re all in the midst of writing it. I hope my story shapes out to be one worth reading:
I was raised a Midwestern athlete with a big heart and a small perspective before I left for college. There, I was a part of the softball program, felt what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus, and learned quickly to meet as many people as possible. I run a blog, Daily Illuminations, and this month we are challenging readers to a September Slow-Down Challenge to make room for the important aspects of life!
My grandfather had been going to Haiti for eight-ish years. He is the closest individual I have as an example of Jesus on Earth; he is 70+ years old and still traveling to spread love! In 2011, I asked if I could go with him. I really didn’t anticipate actually being able to go. He said I could, and every January since, I’ve been going to Haiti to spread love to people who, before I went, I thought were less fortunate than I am. How wrong I was.
My grandfather and his church sponsor the small village of Balan where they (we) are in the midst of building a medium-sized medical clinic and implementing a farmer’s education through some students at a Haitian University. He and his crew have also installed a swing set and basketball hoop on the school’s playground, installed a well for clean water, and have gotten to team up with Tufts University students to set up solar panels for a nearby school- all things I’ve been so blessed to be involved with.
I can’t tell you how much it changes my attitude and outlook being in Haiti each year. I truly believed we were better off than them until I spent time understanding their lives. It turns out that they live a beautifully simple life of reliance on God and a love of Jesus at their very core- not clothes, not entertainment, just simple, wonderful love. I say this all while they are fighting for food and shelter daily, have a few articles of clothing, and by no means are protected from diseases, let alone, they cannot afford to see a doctor. But they LOVE. The men hold other men’s hands. The people don’t have “comfort zones” where someone is in their space. They just love.
It’s something we can’t get a grasp of until we go. It might be scary, and new, and out of the “comfort zone,” But what better way to learn about loving people. Go if you ever have the chance.
I had to get over the obstacle of being scared, not knowing what to do or how to act, how I’d eat and sleep and react. I tell you, it doesn’t matter once you’re there with them. Because I’ve overcome that fear, I can say I’ve been to Haiti with my best friend and my grandfather!
Currently, I am an assistant softball coach as Salisbury University earning my Masters degree. I moved out here the summer after I graduated college. It was a move that I knew I had to do but, again, that fear was present! I learned by moving that taking the jump brings you more confidence the next time you have to. I am blessed to be 25 minutes from the shore and I’ve found a fabulous spot where I love to do my reading on the bay; I call it my “God on the Dock.” I love my little local coffee shop, Viva Espresso. If I could do all of my work from there, I’d be set for life!
I encourage everyone to share their story- whatever way suits you. For me, it’s writing, encouraging people through my blog and on the field, passing love on and getting to know people who are different than I am. The last of which may be the hardest and is a constant jump. But jumping for others is the best jump of all. 🙂