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Saturday, July 26, 2014


Written 7/26 en route to FSM!

Orientation is officially over and team FSM is en route! The six of us have been on quite the journey the past two days traveling from Newark to San Fran to Hawaii, sleeping overnight in the airport (this group of people + sleep deprivation + concrete floors + stolen airplane blankets = a good time, guaranteed) and finally taking a 10-hour island hopper which will take us to our respective islands after stopping in Majuro and Kwajalein (both in The Marshall Islands), and Kosrea (one of the four states of FSM).

The past two weeks at University of Scranton felt like our own mini theology-international-education-and-mission-work grad school. Our 12 hour days were packed with sessions on topics ranging from mental/emotional health, empathetic listening, and teaching in an international context, to power and privilege and spirituality in a changing epoch. We broke off into our respective country groups (Equator, FSM, Chile, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Peru, and Belize) and had the chance to talk to FJVs (former Jesuit Volunteers) who came to impart their wisdom on us newbies. We talked a lot about self-care. What are those practices that you need to do to keep yourself healthy? Running, reading, being alone? We brainstormed and shared and helped each other because when we’re in the field for two years, we have to take care of ourselves.At night we crowded into the community room for snacks and evening entertainment ranging from cards and bananagrams to a talent show and orientation prom.

After about a week of long, intense days we were met with a wonderful treat: the Silent Retreat. All 40-something volunteers piled onto a bus and drove into the Poconos to stay at a retreat center on Chapman Lake for 38 hours of silence. The directions were simple: you can do anything you want to for 38 hours…except talk or acknowledge one another. Sleeping, reading, running, journaling, napping, slack lining, writing letters…anything was fair game as long as it involved zero talking. The idea behind not smiling/acknowledging one other during silent retreat was simply because you don’t know what another person is thinking or wrestling with at any given moment. You don’t know what train of thought you could be disrupting by giving them a pat on the back or a smile. We were all a bit skeptical of the whole thing at first, but the experience was one of my favorite parts of orientation. I finally had the chance to process every handout I’d read and conversation I’d had. I ran and wrote and talked to God. I sat on the back porch, rocking in an oversized white wooden rocking chair, and watched squirrels climb skillfully up the trees and boaters enjoy lake recreation. What stuck with me most from silent retreat was the power of experiencing silence in a communal environment. Even though we didn’t exchange glances or words for two days, I felt a deep sense of community – we were experiencing this silence together. When we finally broke the silence, the group felt closer, in a deeper way than we had been before.

Sometimes, I liken silence to a really good stretch after a hard run. You know it’s gonna hurt if you lean into the stretch…but you also know that it’ll feel really good a few seconds later. It’s the same thing with silence – you know that it will hurt a bit in the beginning, but if you lean into it past the pain, it’ll be exactly what your soul needs, and you’ll be better and stronger because of it.

With this renewed spirit, we jumped into the second week of orientation with enthusiasm and brains ready to soak up knowledge. I had the chance to write a mini theology of mission, basically why I’m doing what I’m doing. I wrote something along the lines of: I come to FSM with the posture of Jesus – to sit, listen, and learn. I want to engage with the culture via my host family and my students. I come to offer my skills as an educator (and become a better teacher in the process) and do what the Jesuits and Pohnpei Catholic School ask of me rather than implement new American programs or what I think the school might need. I seek to serve out of my abundance and give in a sustainable way, finding joy in the challenges and teaching my students to do the same. More than I want to give my students the education they deserve, I want to show them that they are loved, capable, and cared for. 

I am now officially on island in Pohnpei! It is beautiful and lush beyond my wildest dreams. I have so much to learn and see and take in. I'm so thankful for my second years Brittany, Kristen, and Meredith who are taking me under their wings and teaching me the ropes. I have a week of in-country orientation (including a visit to my host family next weekend!) before 2 weeks of prep at school before starting with students. It is so, so wild to actually be here. I think being brave in this way (committing to 2-years of volunteering in a foreign country) came easy to me because I’ve got my priorities and heart straight. I know why I’m doing it. Because it’s God’s calling for my life – where my deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger collide. Teaching at PCS and being here with JVC feels like the best way for me to step out of my comfort zone to love & serve the world right now. And that doesn’t mean that it’ll be easy, but it does mean it’s worth it. Here's to experiencing a million new things with an open mind and allowing myself to fall in love with life here in Pohnpei.

"Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." Fr. Pedro Arrupe

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Adventure Begins

Kaselehlie! [Ka-sa-leh-lia, meaning hello]

My JVC journey has finally begun! I am currently sitting in the airport waiting a few extra hours for my delayed flight to take me to Scranton, Pennsylvania. What might I be doing in Scranton? JVC International Orientation, of course! Two weeks of time (mostly) cut off from the rest of the world for all of the new JVC international volunteers to meet each other, learn about international service, and prepare our hearts to make the most of this incredible opportunity. JVC sends volunteers to 6 international locations and I can't wait to meet everyone. There are actually 3 different JV communities in FSM (one on Pohnpei and two on Chuk), so all 6 of us new volunteers will hang out a bunch at orientation and fly together to FSM on July 24th.

This is happening, and I couldn't be more excited. Woo.

As of now, I also don't have a cell phone! So, if you text me I sadly will not get it. But fear not, there are many ways to reach me!

Email: or

Facebook/Instagram (emilyhagen)

Here, on this blog!

Or (and this is my favorite)...good old fashioned snail mail! Want to send me a letter? Really love me and want to send me and my community mates a flat rate box full of love? You totally can! I still don't really know why, but praise God that the Federated States of Micronesia is on the US Postal System. Slap a normal American stamp on a letter or pay normal American price for a flat rate box (must be a flat rate box or I'll never see it...), put my address on that baby, and it'll get to me in 2-3 weeks!

You can find me at:

Emily Hagen
Jesuit Volunteers
PO Box 160
Pohnpei, FM 96941

And if you write to me I promise to write you back!

Thank you so much for the support and love. I feel so, so, so supported as I embark on this adventure and so, so, so loved. I do not go to FSM alone, you're all goin' with me, and I couldn't be happier.

Here's to adventure and growth, to being totally out of my comfort zone but perfectly safe in the palm of God's hand, exactly where I am supposed to be.