Living Well

“Be uncomfortable. Grow a corn on the bottom of your foot.”

 

With these words, we Young Adult Volunteers began orientation for our service this coming year. Along with her colleague Laurie, Jessica, a trainer on crosscultural issues, urged us to expand our horizons as we serve in diverse communities around the world. During a week jam-packed with lectures, discussions, and debriefing sessions, we explored not only the cultural contexts in which we will serve others, but also the ways in which we can reach across socioeconomic barriers to empower and learn from those to whom we will minister. The material presented during the week was intellectually stimulating, and participants were challenged to approach others with love and humility.

 

While I may not have to develop a corn in order to climb out of my comfort zone, the analogy above still rings true. Here in San Antonio, at the beginning of my service year, I find myself living and working in a new city with a group of YAVs I met only eleven days ago. Though I’m thankful that some of my housemates are from San Antonio (and that they, along with the rest of our local community, can help us learn our way around), there still is much we YAVs need to do and learn not merely to live, but rather to live well.

 

Living well is not always a matter of having the most popular consumer goods or conforming to the latest trend. In this case, it is defined by one’s involvement in the life of his or her community. Whether sharing a house with other YAVs, becoming active in a church, interacting with the neighbors, or just keeping up with local news, in order to live well one must be involved in a community. A life like this often means stepping outside one’s comfort zone, a process that, while uncomfortable in the beginning, can be rewarding in the long-term.

 

You may not have to grow a corn in order to challenge yourself, but taking even a small risk can open new doors, the results of which can be beneficial. This process is gradual, so be prepared for a long, but educational, adventure. To close, consider this question: In what ways should you step outside your comfort zone?

 

 

 

Disclaimer:

 

The views expressed in this blog are my own. In no way whatsoever do they represent the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); the PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer program; Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection (DOOR Network); any partner organization of the aforementioned entities; or any employee, staff member, or volunteer (including YAVs and DOOR Dwellers) of any body listed above. Unless noted otherwise, any quotations or images I post either are mine or are copyright-free. Unless otherwise stated explicitly, I do not endorse, create, or maintain any website linked to this blog or the information those sites contain; nor do the sponsoring people or entities of those sites endorse, create, or maintain any of the information presented on this blog.

Casting Off

Hello, and welcome aboard my blog!  I’m glad you’ve joined me in my volunteer year in San Antonio.  I hope we all will learn more about God and this wonderful world He created so that each one of us may discover more about ourselves.  Although I will blaze a trail down which you may venture virtually, from the comfort of your armchair, I believe that the written word can be a powerful substitute for personal experience, so I pray that you’ll travel with me on this intellectual, multicultural, and spiritual voyage.

 

My name is Matt Cowell, and I’ll be your guide on this journey of faith, discovery, and insight.  I recently graduated from Troy University with a Master of Science in International Relations.  I spent the last few years working in retail, prior to which, in 2009, I graduated from McDaniel College with a bachelor’s in history and Spanish.  Although I reside in Columbus, Georgia, I’ve lived most of my life in Europe and Latin America.  This mobile life has meant that I have participated in congregations representing several Protestant Christian denominations.  My varied experiences have contributed in no small part to my desire to embark on another adventure.

 

This past April, I was selected by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to participate in its Young Adult Volunteers (YAV) program.  An initiative of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s World Mission branch, the YAV program allows adults aged 19 to 30 to work at faith-based or related employers for one academic year while living with other YAVs and engaging in Christian congregations.  YAVs serve worldwide: starting this month, YAVs will be sent to 15 U.S. cities and six foreign countries.  From Belfast to Boston, Daejeon to the District of Columbia, Lima to Lusaka, 87 YAVs will work to help their neighbors and others in their communities as commanded by Jesus (Matthew 22:36-40) while growing personally and spiritually.  Put another way, the YAV program is somewhat similar to the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps, but with a faith-based twist.

 

This coming year, I’ll live and work in San Antonio, Texas.  I likely will work at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), an immigration law office with branches in San Antonio, Austin, and Corpus Christi.  My fellow YAVs and I will live together as a family, sharing housekeeping duties while forging friendships.

 

While in San Antonio, we YAVs will be supported by two local sponsors.  We’ll serve under the auspices of Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection (DOOR), an urban missions organization with ties to the Mennonite Church (USA) and the PC(USA).  With branches in six U.S. cities, DOOR teaches short- and long-term missions groups how God is present in the city by inviting participants to break down cultural, faith, and socioeconomic barriers through community service and outreach.  Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church, a multicultural PC(USA) congregation, will be the hub of our faith lives.

 

Soon, I’ll travel to Stony Point, New York, to spend a week with my fellow YAVs in orientation and training.  From there, we will fly directly to our cities and countries of service.  Once in San Antonio, we’ll receive additional orientation and training before starting work at our various employers for the year.

 

While you, my friends, cannot travel with me to San Antonio, you can accompany me in other ways.  There are three ways you can support me:

 

  1. I ask for your prayers for me and the people with whom I will live and serve this year, as well as those to whom I will minister.
  2. Please continue on this journey yourselves by reading my blog.  I’ll be happy to speak to you and your church or organization when I return.  If you have a comment or question for me, please write a comment or send me an email and I will write back.
  3. Please give a tax-deductible contribution, either as a one-time gift or in installments over the course of my year of service.  As a condition of my service, I’m required by the PC(USA) to raise at least $3,000 by January 1, 2015.  (The actual cost of my year is $20,000; the PC(USA) finances most of it through its annual Pentecost Offering and other giving opportunities.)  I still need to raise $550, so a gift of any amount will be appreciated.  The funds I raise are pooled with those of the other YAVs at my site, so please give my name when contributing.  Please click here or on the “How to Support Me” link above for information on how you can give.

 

Finally, I’ll post on this blog at least monthly, although I will check it (and any comments or questions) more often than that.  With all that said, please sit back, relax, and join me on this journey of faith.  Happy reading!

 

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” (Exodus 13:21-22)