This blog post is written by Paige Wiley: KC Fellow 2018-19
What are most 20-somethings looking for right out of college? Good work. Inclusive community. Chances to grow, and opportunities to learn. All of the Fellows came to Kansas City this year for a variety of those reasons, among many more. Although I can’t speak for my peers, I would love to take time at this halfway point in the year to share what I’ve learned so far in the areas of living, learning. working, and serving.
LIVE: A piece of our program involves living in two beautifully renovated houses near Kansas City’s downtown. We kicked off the year by reading “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The essence of his book is that living in community together, such that the church was tasked to do, should look like a deeply committed and beautiful mess. As Rosaria Butterfield so thoughtfully puts it: “A church must be the place where everyone is struggling, and everyone is repenting.” If this statement is true, life together should not be easy. It cannot be easy. It should be a constant weaving together of shared challenges, celebrations, confessions, and comforts. If the world cries out for independence, we must strengthen each other with interdependence. If the word separates, we must trust Jesus to unite.
This presents a constant challenge to do life with people nearest to us. Living together does not mean passive cohabitation, but a willingness to dive deep and enjoy beautiful, messy life together. It means learning how to communicate with mercy, and learning how to take criticism with grace. It means willingness to be interrupted by the needs of others, more than once a day. It means doing the dishes for the third time that week, even though you really, really don’t want to. This is not my first time living in intentional community, but it has been the most challenging. Yet if I have been called to real, Christ-centered community, it shouldn’t look any other way.
LEARN: While most college graduates will tell you how happy they are to be done with homework, most of us will be quick to admit that we still yearn for learning. Through Fellows, our class is given ample opportunities to continue the process of lifelong learning. We take classes on Fridays. We read books together. We listen to lunch-and-learn speakers each week who share their testimonies about faith and work. We’ve supplemented all of this learning through our recently-completed 12-week class called “Razor’s Edge.” This gave us a deeper dive on how the gospel changes all aspects of life: work, family, money, sexuality, and more. We had the opportunity to enter confidently into our church, meet its members, and feel rooted in a place in which it might normally take months (or even years) to feel comfortable.
WORK: The most significant thing I’ve learned in Fellows thus far is about the joyous redemption of work. It has not only given me hope for the work I will do in the future, but it has also reshaped my understanding of why we work. Work is not a necessary evil. It’s not just something we do to provide for our financial needs. It’s not even meant to give us a sense of accomplishment, nursing a feel-good pat on the back courtesy of a “job well done.”
I’ve learned that the Bible’s four chapter story (creation, fall, redemption, restoration), puts us in the third chapter right now. This means that we catch glimpses of the kingdom of God coming (Luke 11:20, 17:20-21) although it is not fully here. Work is meant to guide us closer to God as we partner with him in cultivating the goodness of the world. Creation may have started out in the garden, but the new Jerusalem is represented as a city. Churches, businesses, schools, and non-profits all contribute to that cultivation, making us all missionaries in our workplaces.
This realization hands me so much freedom. I no longer need to worry about the “best” or the “only” way in which I can glorify God in my work. If he is in everything, all work has the opportunity to be glorifying. As I’ve reoriented myself to this mindset, I’ve learned to appreciate the opportunity to serve God through my nine to five, and not strictly through my Sunday mornings. What a gift it is to realize that work is worship.
SERVE: The service aspect of our program has not fully taken flight yet, but we have gotten small tastes of what it looks like to serve our community, as well as one another. We live just off of Troost, a well-known dividing line of Kansas City with racial and socioeconomic segregation. We’ve gotten chances to know and serve our neighbors on a few occasions. As autumn turned to winter, we spent an afternoon tending to yard work, raking 100 bags of leaves to send to a compost. And just a few weeks ago, we took a trip to Adelante Thrift, where we helped sort, bag, and prepare donations. After finishing up, we were told that we helped the staff complete weeks worth of work that we had done in just a few hours. Praise God!
One of my favorite examples of service to one another happens on Thursday nights. Each Fellow takes turns preparing a meal for the rest of the group. We sit down, break bread, and ask each other questions. Not just the “how was your day” generalities, but real, intentional questions. Some of those have been: “What was your favorite Christmas memory?” or “What was your first job?”
This may not look like hours you would see logged on a service project, but what’s happening is a development of hearts for each other. Hearts that sacrifice time to spend together, food to eat together, and knowledge to give to one another. It’s time to pause from all other competing responsibilities, and time to give serving one another. After realizing that we needed to become more intentional about building our Fellows family, this has become one of my favorite ways to see the church in action, and while sitting right at my own dining room table.
Praise God for his work thus far in KC Fellows. Please continue to pray with us as we anticipate even more of God’s work and grace to come.