Micah Mandate

The Magazine of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice at Trevecca Nazarene University.

Social Justice Graduate is Using Her Degree

Posted by admin October - 21 - 2012 - Sunday

By Brennen Finchum

There’s a young lady that lives in an orphanage in the village of Vidrare, Bulgaria.

 

She looks like she’s about 7 or 8 years old, but appearances aren’t always as they seem. She’s actually 23.

 

She has to have to wheelchair to get around and she cannot speak.

 

The life this young lady has lived is beyond anything someone can completely understand, even if Myers-Briggs said you were an ENFP.

 

Maybe it’s the fear of past experiences. Maybe she just wants to be independent. Or maybe she’s tired of being pitied. For whatever reason, she doesn’t like to be touched. In fact, she’ll often wince as if she’s in pain when someone touches her.

 

As soon as Vera Pendergraft, a recent Trevecca graduate, met this young woman, her heart cried out.

 

In an attempt to love her, Vera tried touching her shoulder and rubbing her arm.

 

Just like everyone else, Vera experienced the woman’s disgust for being touched.

 

Yet she continued to love. Vera took her on walks where she pushed her wheelchair.

 

An outsiders’ perspective may clearly see that Vera simply loved her, but she still didn’t like being touched.

 

Again and again and again, Vera would just touch her shoulder or rub her arm. After a while, the young lady got a little used to it.

 

One day, Vera went upstairs where the young woman lives with the other bed-ridden children. She was exhausted and had her head leaning against a bar. Vera came up to her and rubbed her arm until she got used to it.

 

Her head began to flop over like a sleep-deprived college student in the middle of class.

 

Over the course of an hour or two, Vera moved her a little so that her head was resting on Vera’s arm. This sweet woman who hated the feeling of another person’s touch was conked out in Vera’s arms.

 

At the end of the day, Vera went to her roommate, ecstatic at her success.

 

“Alex, did you see that?!”

 

It was a big switch since just 6 weeks earlier, Vera was headed to Bulgaria, asking herself, “How the heck am I gonna make a difference here?”

 

Moving from Nashville was nothing too crazy for Vera, who’d grown up moving all the time in a military family.

 

Not only that, but this was a place already dear to Vera. She had gone to Bulgaria the year before with the Immerse program at Trevecca. From the time she got back until she left this September on Trevecca’s Submerge trip, her desire to be in Bulgaria continuously built up.

 

This dream was something that began long before Trevecca though.

 

In the 3rd grade, Vera wanted to start an orphanage. 

 

“Who does that?” she said.

 

As she was finishing her senior year of high school, Vera was super passionate about Uganda. She’d seen the work invisible children had done and was inspired to major in film in hopes that she could do something similar.

 

“The Uganda thing was just a bandwagon,” she said.

 

The film classes weren’t all that she expected them to be. So her mind went to the next best thing and the one major she declared she’d never choose – Religion.

 

After talking with Tim Green about all of her passions and desires, he told her about the social justice program that Trevecca was getting ready to launch. She loved the ideals behind the program and after a talk with Jamie Casler, director of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice, she signed up.

 

While studying social justice and helping at local ministries, her passions intensified, but she also discovered new passions.

Before Trevecca, she didn’t know what human trafficking was. Now, her heart yearns for women and children who are caught in the human trafficking industry.

 

Right now, she’s working on a project to get food boxes for several of the families in the 3 villages she’s working with.

 

“I’m just thinking back on classes like social entrepreneurship where we’re having to fundraise.”

 

As she talked about the different things Trevecca taught her, a more solemn tone came over her voice. She began to talk about the issue of poverty.

 

She described that learning about the poverty mindset while she was at Trevecca has shaped her paradigm toward people.

 

“Like kids who smoke. Someone said that they wish they wouldn’t smoke but then it probably takes their mind off the fact that they’re hungry.”

 

The culture of poverty is completely different from the culture of a middle-class white American.

 

Even though Bulgarians are a different ethnic group, poverty is almost a universal language.

“It’s still the same poverty mindset. Which is cool. People are people.”

 

Vera said that the social justice program has helped her fit her passions into what the world needs.

 

“It sounds cheesy, but it helped find in myself what I was made to do and what God made me to do and figure out where in the world that fits.”

 

Even though her experience has been incredible in Bulgaria, this isn’t the last step in her life. In other words: To be continued.

 

Vera is sharing daily thoughts and experiences on her blog at seekingtobebold.blogspot.com.

All pictures were taken in Bulgaria and supplied by Vera Pendergraft.

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