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Ending a year, starting a journey,-starting-a-journey-Ending a year, starting a journeyBy Michelle Moyer-Litwiller <p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">As we have gone through these last 10 months, we have all had highs and lows. This year has been life-giving, but also challenging. We have learned about ourselves and each other. We have become rooted in both our Service Adventure community and the larger community in which we live.  </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">This year has allowed us to learn more about what Service Adventure is, create deep, meaningful relationships, and experience our individual and group transitions together.</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">  </span><br></p><p>When Rudy and I began as unit leaders here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last fall, we really had no idea what to expect for what our year would look like. What we have come to realize throughout this year is that, as in life, you cannot have expectations. Each day, week and month is going to be different from the last, and flexibility is the key to getting through. </p><p>The basic structure of our weeks is the same: The participants go to their work placements, Rudy and I work one or two days at the hospital, Monday we have learning components, Wednesday is worship night, and Thursday is Taco Thursday at church. However, the end results are always different. We go on trips, people get sick, difficult things happen at work, and when the dust settles, the only constant has been this group of participants and leaders, moving through it all together. Being a Service Adventure leader requires you to take many different roles and complete many different tasks. Just like in life, you cannot forecast what exactly you will be doing on a day-to-day basis. </p><p>Rudy and I have greatly enjoyed spending our year with these four wonderful individuals. This year has flown by, but at the same time, I look back to August and Florian's hair was only as long as mine when the unit began! </p><p>We have appreciated the time to create relationships with the participants both individually and as a group.  Once a month, one or both of us meet with each participant individually. We go on a walk, a bike ride, get coffee, or just chat in the casita. These one-to-one sessions have been some of the most sacred times for us this year. The intentional, dedicated time spent to learn more about each other is a gift in our busy world. It gives us a moment to decompress and connect on more than a superficial level. Coming into this program, this was probably one of the most intimidating parts for me specifically. </p><p>However, for the most part, we leave each one-to-one feeling more connected and aware of what is happening in each other's lives. We will be the first to say we don't always know what we are doing or how best to handle situations. Yet, we are learning how to be better at this from each person in the unit. Sometimes it may take patience and forgiveness from each other, but that is all part of life and living in community with five other people. One-to-ones have been very valuable in learning how we can help our community thrive. It has been a time to listen and reflect with one another. </p><p>We have had the opportunity to travel a lot this year, which has been some of the best time for us to cultivate relationships as a whole group. Though there is a lot of time spent in the car individually watching movies and sleeping, by the end of the trip, we often move to a time of being together and just enjoying each other's company as we suffer through the last few miles of what seem like never-ending car trips. </p><p>Also, the intentional group time each week at meals, learning components, and worship nights allow us to slow down and be together. At the beginning of the year, our group collectively decided to have house meals every night of the week. This was not a requirement, but a request to have a time of connection every night to debrief our wonderful, terrible and average days. These intentional experiences allow the group to dig deeper into what it means to live in community.</p><p>This year has been a transition for all of us. We have all come to a foreign place separately to live together. Each of us have moved away from our families and are experiencing this new place with one another. Transition brings exciting change and new experiences, but it also brings difficulties and stress. This year, our first year of Service Adventure leadership, brings a uniqueness we will not have with future units. Everything we do is a first for the whole group. This complete newness has brought its own challenges, but it has also brought us closer to one another. As a group we have transitioned from strangers, to a unit, and finally to a supportive community for each other. As this year comes to a close, we have each begun preparing for our own separate journeys. For Rudy and me, we are preparing for our second year as leaders. We have been interviewing participants for next year and exploring possible placements. For the participants, they are beginning to take the next steps in their own paths. Even though we will be parting ways, we will always be a part of each other's lives; we have created connections and relationships that we hope will be lifelong.  </p><p>We have learned that having expectations for Service Adventure is inadequate, and that our role, more than anything, is to be flexible and supportive through all the transitions that we face. This year and this group have been a blessing for us, and we look forward to seeing how different it will be to experience another year of Service Adventure with a new group of people. We are sad to see the end of this year, but excited to see everyone take the next step in their own journeys.<br></p>
Power of my power of my powerby Joe Sawatzky<p>Mennonite Mission Network held its fourth annual Sent gathering April 26-28 in Denver, Colorado. After two days of fellowship, testimony and teaching, the conference closed with worship at Beloved Community Mennonite Church, our host congregation. Located in Englewood, our service marked the 20th anniversary of the mass shootings at Columbine High School, in the adjacent community of Littleton. Two church members—parents of a child who lost a friend in the tragedy—recounted, through tears, the terror of that day. They testified to the presence of evil in our world.   <br></p><p>The father’s account went something like this: <br></p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:medium none;padding:0px;"><p>Since the Enlightenment, we have been taught to discount the reality of spiritual phenomena. After Columbine, and every mass shooting, we seek to isolate factors that might explain such random killing—but to no satisfactory conclusion. In the end, we are left to acknowledge the presence of evil in our world. </p></blockquote><p>Then came the kicker: <br></p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:medium none;padding:0px;"><p>If we say that God is beyond ourselves to do through us the good, then evil is a power beyond ourselves to do through us the bad. </p></blockquote><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"><div><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"><br></span></div>The father’s words rang true to me. Having lived in South Africa, among people who acknowledged the influence of personal spirits on human behavior, references to invisible forces readily catch my attention. I understand why we might hesitate to ascribe human actions to evil. I understand that some persons speak of evil to evade responsibility for what they did or left undone. In terms of God, I understand the danger of attributing to the Holy Spirit that which others may experience as our own misuse of power. Yet none of these reflect the father’s meaning.   </span><br><p>In this case, the acknowledgment of evil was the humanization of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris —flesh-and-blood children belonging to flesh-and-blood parents—who were overcome by evil. In this case, the recognition of evil serves the cause of love. Through it, the parents of victims extend grace to parents as victims. Indeed, in her testimony, the mother expressed sympathy for Susan Klebold, who has spoken publicly of the torment both of losing her own son and facing the fact of his participation in such monstrous violence.   <br></p><p>Finally, as implied in the father’s testimony, the presence of evil points to the reality of God. This presence causes us to ask a disturbing question: Do we truly believe that God is Power beyond our power? Paul told the Romans, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). If we’re to do that, we’ll need to ask and make room for the Spirit of God in our lives, the life of Christ who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20). <br></p>
Glimpsing God through everyday life God through everyday lifeBy Kaytlen Keough  <p><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">When I came into Service </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">A</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">dventure, I had a very open mind to what I would learn. </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">I was not expecting to love more deeply or appreciate the little things in life more.</span><span data-ccp-props="{"201341983":0,"335559740":276}"> </span></p><div><p><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">At my work placement,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> I work with adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. The day program I am with teaches them independent living skills, interpersonal skills</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> and </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">work-related</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> skills. The adults I </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">spend time</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> with on a day</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">-</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">to</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">-</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">day basis are learning interpersonal skills. I may have a bias</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">ed</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> opinion</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> but I absolutely adore them. I hang</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">out with some amazing adults, </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">and </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">they all have taught me different things. </span><span data-ccp-props="{"201341983":0,"335559740":276}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">The first one, he’s been a tough cookie. When I first started my work placement</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> I was told that nobody want</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">ed</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> to </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">work with him. I have been pushed by him, he’s stepped on me</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> and</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> even </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">worse, he’s taken my food</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">—right </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">in front of my eyes</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">!</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> Keep in mind that this is my first experience in this field, </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">and </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">I didn’t know what</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> to do about it. I didn’t take this experience completely personal</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">(I was more upset about my food being taken from me). Being around him has taught me to ALWAYS keep my food close to me, in terms of eating fast, or before he arrives to </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">the </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">day program. He did reject me when we did start hanging out</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">;</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> I was not his favorite provider. There was one </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">time</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> we both were having bad days</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> …</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> no reason really, just a normal off day. He kept getting upset and so did I. We were in the mall, and we sat down because I was physically and mentally tired and I just needed a minute to recuperate. My friend sat on me and put his head on my shoulder. He curled up into a ball and just closed his eyes. I was completely shocked, and in awe. He just needed a minute</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> too, and we sat there, in the mall, with the weird looks people gave. I was content, he was content</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> and it was a magical moment of bonding for us. I’ve kept this experience close to me because it reminded me that sometimes all we need is a comfort</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">ing</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> hug or just a minute. </span><span data-ccp-props="{"201341983":0,"335559740":276}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">The second one has also been a tough cookie. </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">I was </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">also </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">warned about him. </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">I was c</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">onfused as to why adults were telling me to be careful around him</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">.</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> It intrigued me more. I wanted to know why everyone was tense around him, why people didn’t want me hanging out with him. </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">I would learn that </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">m</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">y friend </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">could be violent at times. H</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">e is non-verbal, which makes communication hard</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">. He is violent toward</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> himself, and when he’s upset</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> he has no way to communicate why he’s upset. Since he’s only harming himself, we cannot do anything but let him hurt himself. It doesn’t sound so bad</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> right? I cannot tell you how hard it is to watch this happen</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">;</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> my heart churns down into liquid, I feel it in my stomach. My whole body starts to </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">ache</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> and my brain hurts. I can’t help but care for my friends, and when I cannot help them</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> it breaks me. Once, we were out in the community and he started hurting himself. Normally</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> I could talk him down, but this time I couldn’t. I became so angry</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">—</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">not with him</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> but everyone else because of how they looked at him. I couldn’t understand why people had to have such sour look</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">s on</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> their faces. I won’t lie</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">;</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> I was </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">definitely crying</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">. It made me feel a different way for my friend</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">.</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> I knew why he was upset, </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">but </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">nobody else did. He has taught me a couple things</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">, o</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">ne being that you cannot fix people</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">;</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> you can only help them. The second </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">thing he taught me was that the world will never understand one person completely. God places people in our lives that will understand us the most </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">they can, and to help us the most they can. </span><span data-ccp-props="{"201341983":0,"335559740":276}"> </span></p></div><div><p><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">I would say that these two have had a huge impact on me, mentally, physically and spiritually. I thank God every</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">day </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">that </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">I am with my friends</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">;</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> they bring me so much joy. What surprises me the most is how much I love my job placement. How much I love all my friends who I work with and who I hang out with. I found something that keeps me going, something that keeps my mind engaged. I am constantly learning something new every</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">day, and when I’m learning new things from my work placement</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> I can apply it to my life, </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">and</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> </span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">I can also apply it to others. It’s helped me understand people better</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> why they are the way they are. My work placement has helped me see that it’s really the little things in life that give me joy. For example</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">,</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto"> when I find a snack in my purse that I never knew about, or when I share that food with a friend, how happy it makes them. The little things like remembering a friend</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">’</span><span lang="EN" data-contrast="auto">s big day, or them remembering your big day; seeing God in my everyday life.</span></p></div>
Open to life-changing nudges - Interview with MVS alum Dana Tolle to life-changing nudges - Interview with MVS alum Dana TolleInterview with Dana Tolle<p>​<strong style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Susan: This is Susan Nisly and I'm collecting another Mennonite Mission Network alumni story, so my guest today is going to introduce herself and tell us her name and where she served, and with what program.</strong></p><p>Dana: My name is Dana Tolle and I was in Boulder doing Mennonite Voluntary Service in 2006-2007.  And I served at Imagine. And I was working with kids and adults with developmental disabilities out in the community doing recreation therapy.</p><p><strong>Oh, cool, OK. How did your service experience impact your life journey?</strong></p><p>So, my VS year really did impact what I went on to do and as a career path. I graduated from college the year before, had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and had said, "Hey, I just want to work with kids, OK?" And they said, "How about kids with disabilities?" And I said, "Yes!" Because I didn't know anything about that. And so went on to, um, work in this recreation therapy program where we did bowling and swimming and we made arts and crafts and we did dances and Edward Scissorhands, the ballet, coolest thing I've ever seen.</p><p><strong>I didn't know that was the thing.</strong></p><p>Yeah, it sure is.</p><p><strong>OK—very nice, very good.</strong></p><p>So, we got to do that. But it really opened the door to, um, my future. And now I'm at currently an occupational therapist, and I work with kids with special needs every day. So, I had no idea before that.</p><p><strong>Wow!</strong></p><p>That I wanted to be in that field. And that's really where it's …</p><p><strong>So you were, you had graduated from college with a degree in?</strong></p><p>In chemistry.<br></p><p><strong>In chemistry, OK. And then after this, you realized?</strong></p><p>That I wanted to, um, work with kids with disabilities. And then through a few other things figured out that occupational therapy was for me, but definitely I give credit, all the credit, to VS for helping me figure it out.</p><p><strong>Wonderful! That's awesome. If you could give advice to someone who's going to do voluntary service, what would you tell them?</strong></p><p>I would just tell them to be open. Because it's never going to look quite how you think because nothing ever does, but to be willing to be open for those potential life-changing nudges, like one that I got.</p><p><strong>Yeah.</strong></p><p>Because if I wasn't open to that, I would be doing something totally different. But I am doing definitely what God has for me and, and I'm glad that I was willing to take the risks to do it, to do the volunteer experience, to be open and willing to experience everything when I was there, to take advantage of my opportunities. And so that's why I would, I would definitely recommend.</p><p><strong>OK, thank you very much!</strong></p><p>Yes, thank you.<br></p>
God’s economy, not empire economics’s-economy,-not-empire-economicsGod’s economy, not empire economicsBy Joshua Garber<p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">I have met many Christians who say, "The story of a man building an enormous boat to save every type of animal that exists while the entire earth is covered in water is clearly literal and historical." In the next moment, they say, "Jesus' call to radically love our enemies is an ideal that's definitely not meant to be applied universally."</span></p><p>Let's call this "selective reading." Mennonites have a long, beautiful history of saying, "Jesus meant what he said." We try our best to conform our understanding of God and the Bible to Jesus' words. But even we can be guilty of selective reading. I'm referring to the parts of Jesus' ministry where we tend to say things like, "Well, Jesus didn't actually mean we should give our wealth to the poor – he was simply using that as an example."<br></p><p>The topics of money, wealth, and Christian economy are as vital to the rebirth of the Christian church as they are uncomfortable for Christians to talk about. Why? The economy of a faith community should be in stark contrast to empire economics.</p><p> </p><p><strong>Hebrew Scriptures</strong></p><p>The Hebrew Scriptures – the Old Testament – can help us understand how Jewish culture shaped Jesus' message. In the Old Testament, we find a narrative illustrating a massive contrast between the Israelites' economy and those of the surrounding empires.<br></p><p>In the Exodus story, the Israelites are living as slaves and making bricks that are stored in Pharaoh's warehouses [<a href="">Exodus 5:6-21</a> NRSV]. Much like today, we see an empire where the ruling class has an excess of resources and the suffering lower class can't access them. After being liberated from Egyptian society, God establishes new norms for how Israelite society should function. <br></p><p>Instead of hoarding resources like Pharaoh, God commands the Israelites to take only what they need for each day [<a href="">Exodus 16:4-5</a>, <a href="">17-18</a> NRSV]. Aside from demonstrating God's faithfulness, this prevented hoarding and ensured that everybody would always have enough food. <br></p><p>In Leviticus, God gives more detailed guidelines – instructions about gleaning, the Sabbath, and the year of Jubilee – to prevent the Israelites from becoming like the oppressive empire that once held them in slavery. </p><p> </p><p><strong>Jesus' ministry</strong></p><p>John the Baptist prepared for Jesus' message by teaching that repentance must be lived out in our economic choices and how we care for our neighbor [<a href="">Luke 3:8, 10-14</a>]. When Jesus begins his ministry, he makes it very clear where he stands in terms of participating in the economics of empire. <br></p><p>Jesus was a homeless person: "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" [<a href="">Matthew 8:20</a>]. And he gleaned for his food [<a href="">Luke 6</a>]. Being homeless and poor is a significant part of Jesus' message. When Jesus invites us to follow him, it inherently means living with the detachedness of someone who owns nothing. <br></p><p>Jesus also teaches that it's impossible to pursue both God and money. He says we should live with the same "recklessness" as he did. Our preoccupation with everyday needs, such as food and clothing, are a sign of weak faith. It's imperative that we live with the abandon of the birds and flowers, for which God cares faithfully. The things we need will be provided when we pursue God's justice and kingdom, which exists here and now [personal paraphrase of <a href="">Matthew 6:24-34</a>].<br></p><p>There's so much more Jesus has to say on the issue: </p><ul><li>He tells the religiously-obedient rich young man he must sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor before joining him [<a href="">Luke 18:18-23</a>].</li><li>He describes the rich entering God's kingdom as being more impossible than threading a needle with a camel [<a href="">Mark 10:23-28</a>].</li><li>He teaches that we should "give to Caesar what is Caesar's" because ultimately money is a valueless human construct that is, at best, <a href="">a tool</a> [<a href="">Mark 12:13-17</a>].</li><li>He tells the tax collector who gives half his possessions to the poor and repays those from whom he swindled, that his actions bring salvation to his house [<a href="">Luke 19:1-10</a>].</li><li>In a righteous rage, Jesus destroys the oppressive, capitalistic-driven system in the Temple that kept folks from encountering God [<a href="">Matthew 21:12-17</a>].<br></li></ul><p>Economic sharing is a reoccurring theme Jesus often spoke about and concretely demonstrated in the way he and his disciples lived.</p><p><strong><br></strong></p><p><strong>The early church</strong></p><p>One way to test an interpretation of Jesus' teachings is to look at the early churches, who were filled with disciples and folks who actually heard Jesus speak. Their understanding wasn't diluted by years of rationalization or distorted by the eventual Constantinian marriage of Christianity to empire.<br></p><p>In the early church, economic sharing was a defining trait. In Acts 2, it says that church community "met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity" [<a href="">Acts 2:42-47</a> NLT]. The result: God caused the community to grow and prosper, so that "all the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. [...] There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need" [<a href="">Acts 4:32-35</a> NLT].</p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>Practical, urban application</strong></p><p>So, here's the thing: I feel like I'm a good person. I love my family and spend time with them. I give loads of time to my faith community. I drink fair-trade coffee. I recycle. … I feel I've done more than the average person to show love to marginalized people. But when I am reminded how concerned the ancient Israelites, Jesus, and the early church were about making sure everyone had enough while rejecting the economic values of empire, I'm reminded of how oblivious I am to my own abundance. <br></p><p>I have more than enough. I have three or four pairs of shoes. I have more than a week's worth of clothing in my closet. I like video games, new music, and pants that fit well. None of those things are bad! These stories of communal fasting, returning land, and giving away everything aren't meant to focus on self-deprivation. They're all meant to help us understand what a faith community should look like and what it means to love. <br></p><p>You might ask, "There are people who have so much more than me and people who have so much less. How do I know if I'm doing it right?" Jesus isn't calling us into competition with one another. Jesus wants us to understand what it means to have "enough." </p><p> </p><p><strong>Wrestling with Jesus' call</strong></p><p>Gandhi said, "The world has enough for everyone's needs, but not everyone's greed." Aren't many of our "needs" actually "wants" we think we need? Developing our concept of enough is an important journey that exposes an uncomfortable reality: "The more I think I need, the less I'm able to love my neighbor with my wealth." <br></p><p>A clear tension emerges from this topic of Christian economy: a tension between how things are and how they should be. And, while it's imperative that faith communities dive into that tension and wrestle with it, we must first accept that the easiest solution – slight changes in spending habits – can't be the only response because capitalism cannot save us.<br></p><p>For this reason, the solution cannot simply be giving money or donations to charity, because: "Charity isn't justice. Charity accepts the status quo. When we do charity, we give out of our affluence to help the poor; we don't actually sacrifice our affluence to destroy the distinction between the rich and the poor. We mustn't settle for charity when justice is required," says Mark Van Steenwyk, Anabaptist author and activist.<br></p><p>To truly be able to reconcile this tension, we can't simply change systems. The Scripture says we can sell everything we have and give the money to the poor, but if we don't have love, our actions are hollow [<a href="">1 Corinthians 13:3</a>]. Instead, we must change how we understand love, and we can do this by placing ourselves in relationship with those who can teach us what enough really looks like. Such relationships can be like a mirror to help us know when we're consuming more than we need.</p><p> </p><p><strong>Blessed to be a blessing</strong></p><p>I feel very, very blessed, but I know the reason God blesses us is so that we can bless others. Therefore, I refuse to own something that I wouldn't be willing to share or give away. <br></p><p><em>Common Prayer: A Liturgy of Ordinary Radicals </em>summarizes it beautifully: "For Christians, redistribution comes out of a love of neighbor; to love our neighbor as ourselves means we hold our possessions loosely, for the suffering of another is our suffering, and another's burden is our burden." <a href="">Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals</a></p><p> </p><p><br></p><p>NOTE: This blog post touches on ideas that have been around for quite a while. See: <a href="">Relational Tithe, Inc.'</a>s <a href="">"Economy of Love"</a> and <a href="">"The unKingdom of God"</a> by Mark Van Steenwyk.<br></p><p><br></p>
When your nonprofit job fails to live up to your expectations your nonprofit job fails to live up to your expectationsBy Carmen Hoober<p>​People who are drawn to meaningful work are often drawn to the nonprofit sector. I am inspired daily by my coworkers and interviewees who have made (or are hoping to make) a career that serves the greater good. However, spend any amount of time in a nonprofit organization of ANY kind and you will find that burnout and turnover is high.</p><p>There are many things that can cause us to become jaded and cynical (and even quit) in this line of work, but most of them I think boil down to two things: 1) when you're not making the impact you hoped to make, and 2) organizational disillusionment. These can be experienced separately, but when you combine them?! That's when a lot of folks hit the door.</p><p> <br></p><h3><span style="font-size:16pt;">When you're not making the impact you hoped to make</span></h3><p>I'll admit that I have been disappointed and disgruntled at times in my years of working in the nonprofit world. I used to do mediation with victims and offenders in the court system and there was never any shortage of tragedy and brokenness on my caseload. I know I did my best work when I was able to connect and be present with my clients, but over time it was increasingly difficult to find empathy, sympathy, or compassion for the very people I was facilitating a process that should supposedly generate empathy, sympathy, and compassion. </p><p>Most of us understand that any time you're new to the work force or an organization, you're going to have to pay your dues, get the coffee, do the filing, or whatever. You might be stuck behind a desk answering phones when you want to be working directly with clients. Or you might be "in the trenches" of direct service when you really want to be in the closed-door meetings helping to plot strategy. </p><p>While frustrating, we tend to bear with these challenges better than the complexity of working with people who have endured trauma or addiction—the woman you've worked with who goes back to her abusive husband, or the recovering addict who dies after a relapse. When your job, day after day, is to pick up the human wreckage of failed systems, it can cause <a href="">vicarious or secondary trauma</a>. The psychic toll of some nonprofit work is something many of us are unprepared for (even when we expect it!).</p><p>Of course, not all nonprofit work involves working with trauma victims, but the fact that we are more likely to be emotionally tied to the mission comes with its own perils. When we closely align with the work, it's incredibly difficult to see our efforts fail to achieve the results we hoped for. We might intellectually know that we won't change the world overnight, but it can very nearly break our hearts when we run into (what might seem to be) relentless opposition on all fronts. It may feel impossible to retain our hope and idealism in the face of such challenges.</p><p>What can be done about this? Fortunately, there has been a lot of <a href="">research</a> into prevention of compassion fatigue/secondary trauma/vicarious trauma. These factors are aimed at people working with trauma victims, but I believe they can apply to anyone working in a mission-oriented field.</p><p><strong>Protective factors include:</strong></p><ul style="list-style-type:disc;"><li><p>Things your organization can do: Proper caseload distribution, supervisory support, providing safe working conditions, and training. Even pay raises have been shown to increase a sense of success and decrease burnout and vicarious trauma.</p></li><li><p>Education: Interestingly, the higher the education level, the lower the rates of vicarious or secondary trauma. Folks with master's degrees fared better than people with baccalaureate's degrees.</p></li><li><p>Personal coping factors: Participating in leisure activities, rest, socializing, physical activity, journaling. You know, basic self-care.</p></li><li><p>Spirituality: According to <a href="">this research</a>, "counselors with a strong sense of spirituality are more likely to accept existential realities and their inability to change the occurrence of these realities … counselors' acceptance of these existential realities allows them to be more present with their clients." </p></li></ul><p>If you find yourself feeling frustrated or experiencing burnout, it's important to be proactive. I personally find it helpful to talk to a seasoned coworker who is familiar with the work and has weathered some of the same storms. In my experience, the greatest benefit of nonprofit work isn't necessarily what you do, but who you're doing it with.</p><p><br></p><h3><span style="font-size:16pt;">Organizational disillusionment</span><br></h3><p>If psychic burnout is bad, organizational disillusionment has been the nail in the casket of many a nonprofit career. I think many people can weather the disappointment of not making the impact they had hoped for. However, when you follow what you think is a calling to enter into a field, a system, or an institution that you believe in and are willing to sacrifice for, you run the risk—nay, the certainty—that YOU WILL BE DISAPPOINTED. </p><p>I know! I've been there. So, believe me, I get it.<br></p><p>The disappointment we feel when we are let down by people or organizations we care for and respect can be confusing at best and infuriating at worst.<br></p><p>BUT … at the risk of being insensitive, I'm going to engage in some tough love here.<br></p><h3><span style="font-size:16pt;"><br></span></h3><h3><span style="font-size:16pt;">Business is business</span></h3><p>We can't talk about organizational disillusionment without talking about the financial realities of nonprofit work. The good news is that nonprofits actually can make a profit. The term "nonprofit" should describe your organization's tax status, not their business model. There are plenty of organizations that have secure funding and wise stewardship, even when the economy is going through its ups and downs. The bad news is when you work in a nonprofit, you will forever be at the whim of whatever funding your organization is able to secure. </p><p>Therefore, life in the nonprofit sector can be uncertain. Grants, donations, government funding … all of that stuff can go away after an election or a recession or whatever million and one factors cause people to stop their charitable giving. </p><p>If you or a family member has ever been through layoffs or had the funding for their job threatened or cut, it teaches you some things. No matter how warm and fuzzy and important your work is and how much you are valued, IT'S STILL A BUSINESS! Don't be lured into a false sense of job security or a certain kind of treatment because you're working with fellow Christians or with people who vote the same way you do.  </p><p>You can't control the future or the elections or recessions, but you can be ready. It's always a good idea to have your resume up-to-date no matter where you work, but I would suggest that it's extra important for someone who wants to work in the nonprofit world. I am NOT suggesting that you live in a perpetual job search, but giving your resume or Curriculum vitae a quick look every six months (especially early on in your career) is a good strategy as well. Furthermore, you should ALWAYS continue to develop your professional networks. </p><p>Simply put, you do NOT have to be at the mercy of the whims and vagaries of the economy. Even in the midst of uncertainty, you can choose to be the captain of your own ship.  </p><h3><span style="font-size:16pt;"><br></span></h3><h3><span style="font-size:16pt;">Managing your expectations</span></h3><p>As mission-driven individuals, we are willing to forgo a bigger paycheck to work for a cause larger than ourselves. We are likely surrounded by other people willing to do the same thing, and unfortunately, this can SOMETIMES lead us to create for ourselves a little bubble of idealism and naivete. </p><p>Nonprofit workers hold coworkers and employers to a higher standard. And maybe they should! I'm not here to argue that. What I am here to argue is that you are setting yourself up for disillusionment, burnout, and/or a crisis of faith if you expect any human or human institution to always live up to its stated ideals. </p><p>A wise coworker once told me she deals with this aspect of nonprofit work by shifting her mindset. No matter where she works, people would still occasionally disappoint her. Decisions would still be made that she disagrees with. The grass is always greener and all of that. Furthermore, holding on to the pieces of her work that she finds meaning in is how she has learned to manage her expectations.   </p><p>Despite the rather depressing stuff we've talked about here, the reasons you took that nonprofit job STILL EXIST. I'll leave you with these "paradoxical commandments." I love this so much I wish I would have written them myself. </p><p>Bottom line: When you get to the point where you can no longer contribute to the organization in a positive way, then it's time to leave. </p><p>Until then, Don't. Give. Up.<br></p><p><br></p><p><a href="">THE PARADOXICAL COMMANDMENTS FOR THE NONPROFIT PROFESSIONAL</a></p><ol style="list-style-type:decimal;"><li><p>The years and energy you spend working toward a vision may be forgotten and credit may go to those who come after you. Work toward your vision anyway.</p></li><li><p>The life-changing programs and organizations you build may be destroyed by the whims of those with resources and influence. Build life-changing programs and organizations anyway.</p></li><li><p>The community you love and work hard to strengthen may occasionally doubt your motives and attack you. Work hard to strengthen this community anyway.</p></li><li><p>The people you help may never understand or appreciate the hours you put in or other sacrifices you make. Help people anyway.</p></li><li><p>When you fully engage in conversations about race, gender, disability, and other identities, you may make mistakes, get misinterpreted, or get hurt. Fully engage in these conversations anyway.</p></li><li><p>If you work to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, you may get stonewalled or punished by those with power and privilege. Work to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion anyway.</p></li><li><p>If you take risks to hire or invest in the communities and individuals who have been most affected by injustice or those who may not conform to society's arbitrary standards, you may get burned in the short run. Take these risks anyway.</p></li><li><p>Openly share your failures and lessons learned, and people may look down on you and use your words against you. Openly share your failures and the lessons you gain anyway.</p></li><li><p>If you speak up against unjust philosophies and practices, you may lose donors, funders, colleagues, and other supporters. Speak up against injustice anyway.</p></li><li><p>Many volunteers, board members, donors, funders, community members, and colleagues are frustrating to work with. Appreciate their efforts and find the good in them anyway.</p></li><li><p>If you work hard and do things ethically, you may get surpassed by less competent people and organizations with privilege, connections, or flexible ethics. Work hard and do things ethically anyway.</p></li><li><p>If you take the high road, you may get attacked by those who take the low road, and you may not be able to defend yourself. Take the high road anyway.</p></li><li><p>Trusting and collaborating with other organizations may lead to your organization being used. Have faith in and find opportunities for effective partnerships anyway.</p></li><li><p>Our sector has many flaws. The systems we work within are imperfect, and the game favors some and leaves behind others. Work within this imperfect reality anyway, even as you work to change it.</p></li><li><p>For all your years of effort, and possibly a lifetime of dedication, you may only be able to lay one stepping stone on a path that requires a thousand. Lay down that one stepping stone anyway.</p></li><li><p>The world, including your friends, family, and community, may never say "Thank you!" for all the good you do for it. Do good for the world anyway.<br></p></li></ol><p><br></p>