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Center for Catholic Education at UD

Unexpected Grace: Finding Joy Amidst the Challenges of Covid-19

By Elena Niese

"The Lord watches over all who love Him…" Psalm 145:20

I was supposed to be in Guatemala this summer. At least, that’s what I had planned before March 2020. As an Adolescent to Young Adult English Education major with a minor in Spanish, it only seemed logical to spend a summer abroad, gaining invaluable experience with the Spanish language while also teaching English. I had never been out of the country before. In fact, I had never even ridden on an airplane. So, in that way, this trip was truly an invitation for discovery, something totally new, and I was so looking forward to the challenge.

But God had a different challenge in store for me.

I wasn’t supposed to be working for the Brunner Literacy Center (BLC) this summer. At least, that’s what I had planned before March 2020. After all study abroad trips were cancelled indefinitely, I searched for another opportunity to fill my summer. My heart still desired to teach, to gain experience with diverse populations, and so, by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I sent an email to the Semester of Service program at UD inquiring about opportunities for working with English Language Learners. To my luck, the program had one more spot available and put me in contact with the BLC, an adult literacy center in Dayton. I would live in community with other Semester of Service students on campus, while also spending my days tutoring students. I was so looking forward to the adventure.

But God had a different challenge in store for me.     

I wasn’t supposed to be working virtually from home this summer. At least, that’s what I had planned before March 2020. With the increasing uncertainty and in the interest of safety, the decision was made to move the Semester of Service program online. Instead of spending downtime on campus with my cohort or sharing in daily conversation with my co-workers, I spent my days at my computer screen, going in and out of Zoom meetings. Even tutoring, what I had most looked forward to this summer, was put on pause as the BLC worked to adjust to the world of distance learning. My summer was looking incredibly different from the one I had envisioned.

But, nevertheless, God taught me joy through this challenge.

I was able to witness to a team of justice-driven ambitious change makers, who, despite the challenges Covid-19 threw their way, persisted with confidence in their mission of ensuring every person has access to the basic human right of literacy. I was able to become a part of this team, gaining new skills in website building, social media, and empathy that I otherwise would not have gained. Because I was home, I was able to share beautiful moments with my family that I was so much needing. And, in relation to my vocation, I have become an advocate for education in a way I was not before, a way that not even going to Guatemala or being on campus could have given me.

God knows the reality of our challenges. And, He does not give us a challenge we are not capable of handling. Maybe I was “supposed” to be in Guatemala this summer. Maybe I wasn’t “supposed” to be working for the BLC or be at home working virtually. But sometimes grace looks like a cancelled trip or an invitation to a summer of service. And, often times it is better than anything we, ourselves, could have imagined.  


Edited By: Emma Grace Geckle

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