Looking for God in All the Wrong Places
Sermon at Assembly Mennonite Church, August 2006
By: Anna Yoder

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"I somehow got the idea that Study-Service Term (SST) is this turning point in one's life; there will be difficult times, but you will find God."
Anna Yoder '07
Interdisciplinary Major
This sermon and the prayer that concludes it was written about a month and a half ago for three reasons: firstly it fulfilled my SST project requirement; secondly, it was intended to be a pre-emptive strike against those of you who would ask the general, “how was SST” question. Not that any of you would … but anyway. And thirdly it serves as a way for me to sort through some my SST experiences in the context of how and where I was experiencing God or you could say, “how I was encountering God on the way.”

My original idea was to write a book of poems. My host family during my service portion was the same family that Kristen Walker had stayed with last year. The first three weeks I was there, it felt like they talked about nothing but Kristen. I pretty much hated it. Kristen had written a beautiful book of poems, while she was on SST. It’s titled “Of Dust and Of Sun.” It’s been published by Pinch penny Press and was just featured in the most recent issue of the Bulletin.

In my bitterness towards all things Kristen, I entertained the idea of writing my own book of poems in response, titled, “Dust and Sun in your face, Kristen Walker.” But for some reason that seemed an inadequate channel to express my bitterness. So, a sermon it is. Just kidding, this sermon really is more about God than Kristen.

I somehow got the idea that SST is this turning point in one’s life: there will be difficult times, but you will find God. That was the equation I was expecting: difficulty + SST= God experiences. I was a little anxious about how that would work for me, but after some helpful conversations with my spiritual director, I was able to get on the plane in Chicago and off the plane in Lima, reminding myself that the Holy Spirit is in all things filling all thing. In all things filling all things.

In Lima I began my search for God. I found a lot of Jesus and a lot of the Virgin Mary. The first thing I saw my first morning I woke up in Lima was Mary looking down on me from the cathedral across from our hostel. But it wasn’t just cathedrals, they were everywhere. In the titles of schools, statues around the city, icons in buses, and even in the casa de moneda. The coin factory. I didn’t experience much closeness with God in Lima, but I put that down to being too comfortable, all my basic needs and more had been met. On service I was sure I would find God.