by Nick Hartley
Kansas City Fellow 2016-17
In your life there are defining decisions you’ve made that have altered the trajectory of your life and even the lives of people around you. Deciding what to do after high school, who you will marry, where you will live, who will be your friends, what job do you want, what job you accept, or which opportunities you will pursue; these decisions shape you.
Reflecting on my own life, the decision to pursue the Kansas City Fellows Program was one of those trajectory altering decisions. Four months in I think about that intersection of faith, work, and community much differently. I looked around at a culture that kept faith, work, and community in separate compartments and did the same. Now I see that that intersection is what life in Christ calls us to and is an altogether better experience of life.
Faith and Work
After reading “Work Matters” and “Every Good Endeavor”, 10 weeks of the Razors Leadership courses, talking to a multitude of Lunch and Learn Speakers, and being mentored by a Christian in my field; I have been exposed to and learned more about integrating my faith with my work than I will be able to do justice.
I have a God who created the heavens and the earth, and then He made man in His own image. He designed me, in His likeness, to be a creator, purse excellence, and to be a good steward of the world. This has fundamentally changed how I view and pursue work. I now wait excitedly for an opportunity to worship in my vocation; instead of living for the weekend and surviving through the drudgery of the work week.
Quotes I have heard many times now but have been fixed my mind are those of Dorothy Sayers. Firstly,
“The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.”
“The only Christian work is good work well done.”
Instead of success being measure in the size of my paycheck I now measure it in how productively and happily I tackle work; to be salt and light with my attitude and work ethic.
Faith and Community
Even in a very short time span of four months my experience of community has been rich, trying, and heartbreaking.
Cultivating community is hard but we have learned that through right community with God right community with others is possible.
I live with eleven amazing men and women of God. Along with our directors we do life together every week, often sharing in each other’s hardships and joys. We joke that you couldn’t find a more diverse group of personalities to comprise the fellows. We have conflict and arguments on occasion but I have also seen growth and grace. I have seen my fellow fellows face adversity and the uncomfortable realities of the brokenness of the world gracefully and be refreshingly honest when they struggle.
I have experience rich community in our new extended church family. People we barely know have opened up their homes and their kitchens to us. They have sat and listened patiently as we try to explain what the fellows program is or just have been genuinely interested in who we are. I am repeatedly shocked by the amount of hospitality we are shown as fellows.
I have also experienced heartbreak of community as I look around a city, even across the literal street, and see brokenness in families, crime, poverty, and ever sort of situation that makes your heart ache. I have seen hope as we meet professing Christians who have devoted their time and resources, and in some cases, their lives to these communities.
Work and Community
As a fellow I have been exposed to many individuals and organizations who use their God given talents and passions to improve their communities whether that’s working with local high school kids or serving a community thrift shop.
Work can also be community ministry. I, like most people, spend most of my waking hours with my co-workers. Developing authentic relationships and fostering community in time is a way to serve my co-workers.
One of my favorite aspects of living in community with eleven other twenty somethings is being able to relate to the challenges of a first post-college job. The struggles we all face and how we deal with them brings us together in a way I have never previously experienced.
As a fellow, I came in with an expectation to be developed into a better employer and workplace leader; I have found that and more. I am constantly showered with advice from experienced professionals about real world skills that I may not have learned in school. Best practices like email etiquette, dinner etiquette, how to (or not to) talk politics in the workplace, minding company culture, and the importance of follow up. Additionally my Kansas City “network” is much richer than if I would not have participated in the program. I know people in my church and in my community with years of real world experience and people just past the stage of life I am currently navigating who are approachable and excited about helping me.
I would like to thank everyone who has touched this program that has changed my life. Thank you! I can’t wait to share how much we learn and how much we stretch and grow in the coming months.