Monday, May 25, 2015

and we're off...

I can now officially begin fundraising now that my account has been set up with the Diocese of Tennessee (big thank you to everyone in the Diocesan Office for your tremendous help so far)! For more information, go to my Support Me page. Donations can be made online here - just be sure to select the "YASC, Lacey Oliver fund" from the drop down menu.

Also shout out to/shameless plug for Gabby Valentine for taking some fantastic photos for me to use for publicity, like the one you'll see on my updated Meet Me page. I'm so lucky to have such talented, kind, and supportive ladies in my life.

lost in a fit of giggles mid-photoshoot
I'd also be remiss not to thank Belinda Morgan for connecting me with her friend Nickie, who just moved back to the states after 12 years in Cape Town. Through our email correspondence, she's already provided helpful information, advice, and recommendations, and I'm incredibly glad that the world can seem so small sometimes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

a letter of gratitude

I am filled to overflowing with gratitude for those who have helped me in this process thus far. While I couldn’t possibly do justice to everyone, here are a few thank you’s that couldn’t possibly wait:

To friend, sister, and former YASCer Sara Lowery for being there for me every step of the way, including when she proofread my essays an hour before the application was due and last week when she talked me through a classic "what have I gotten myself into?!" breakdown (the first of many, I'm sure). You have been such an incredible friend and mentor, and anyone who accuses me of following in your footsteps can just keep the praises coming.

To Tom Macfie for serving as my Catechist two years in a row, for his calm wisdom and understanding, for supporting me in my journey toward Confirmation, for recommending me for YASC, for being a friend and confidante, for connecting me with Bishop Bauerschmidt and introducing me to the Archbishop of South Africa, and for so much more.

To others who recommended me, three amazing women who have taught me so much: Tonya Garner, my supervisor and partner in crime, whose fearless example of throwing herself into life headfirst will no doubt continue to motivate me; Pamela Macfie, easily one of the most intelligent women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, a favorite Sewanee professor (evident in the record she holds for most classes I’ve taken with a single instructor), a trusted advisor, and the owner of a most impressive scarf collection; and Virginia Craighill, whose World Literature course introduced me to South African literature and challenged me to write one of the most provocative pieces I’ve ever written (which I was able to adapt for a YASC application essay).

To my parents, for not having completely lost it yet. I know this is not what you had in mind for your daughter, but you haven’t tried once to talk me out of it. I’ll miss you dearly, but we’ll skype often, and it’d be a great excuse for you to visit a beautiful country!

To my best friend Sara Smith. Thank you for your unfailing willingness to share your wardrobe, your bed, and your precious thoughts and feelings with me. Thank you for teaching me that our trauma doesn’t define us but it can make us stronger, and for learning alongside me that vulnerability is strength. We have separation anxiety after a few days, so a year is going to challenge us both, but I can’t wait to show you around Cape Town.

To Anna Wyse, one of the most amazing women I know. Thank you for filling me with laughter and light, for supporting and encouraging me, and for looking up plane tickets to South Africa within minutes of hearing my placement. Thank you for painting a picture of grace by giving me more than I deserve.

I’m beyond blessed to have these and countless other wonderful friends and mentors in my life. If you are reading this right now, know that I am grateful for you and hope you’ll continue to follow me in this journey.

xo, Lacey

Monday, May 18, 2015


As you may have heard by now, I'll be moving to Cape Town, South Africa this fall to serve with the Young Adult Service Corps of the Episcopal Church for a year! You can call it YASC (rhymes with "ask") for short, and it's basically the Peace Corps of the Episcopal Church. I'll share more information about the specific work I'll be doing and how you can be a part of it very soon, but for now I want to speak a bit about my journey toward this opportunity thus far.

It's been almost a year since I sat across from my dear, jetlagged friend Sara Lowery, eagerly listening to her tell me about her YASC experience over lunch. For the next few months, I waited patiently (mostly) for the application to be made available. In the meantime, I watched promotional videos, read blogs, and just generally learned everything I could about the program. In October, I sat with Rev. Tom Macfie in his office in All Saints Chapel to discuss my plans to apply for YASC. In the beginning of January, I submitted my application, a document which likely received more time and effort than any assignment I’ve ever completed. In February, YASC gathered 36 of its applicants at the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY for Discernment Weekend. Through a series of presentations, small groups, panels, and conversations, we were encouraged to decide whether YASC would be the right next step for us. Later that month, I received my tentative acceptance in the form of a background check (since I’m sure you’re holding your breath, you’ll be happy to know I passed). After waiting what felt like forever (and was in fact just two months), I received my placement in Cape Town, South Africa, working with a social development organization called Hope Africa!

There are 25 of us moving forward with YASC, but those who aren't are amazing servants of God and their neighbors, and I am excited to see where this year takes them as well. Together, we will serve in 15 countries and every continent (except Antarctica and Australia), doing everything from teaching children to working with refugees. I’ll post more about what others are doing with links to their blogs later!

My work is nowhere near done in preparing for this journey. It costs the church $25,000 to send one of us for a year. The National Church pays $15,000, but it is my responsibility to raise the remaining $10,000. I’ve received permission from the Bishop of Tennessee, the Rt Rev John Bauerschmidt, to fundraise in the diocese. I’ll post soon with details on giving, should you feel so inclined. While I have experience fundraising, I’ve never raised money for myself. It feels intimidating and humbling right now, but I’m excited for the opportunity to talk about what I’m doing and to invite others to participate. Not everyone can go to South Africa for a year, but anyone can be a part of the work I’m doing - whether by donating, sharing my story, praying for me, following this blog, or some combination of those.

God's Peace,

edit: an earlier version said that 30 of us were moving forward. It has been corrected to reflect that there will be 25 YASCers this year (not including those who are staying in their placements a second year) - still an impressive number!