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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
I wish you all the best in your new found adventure. I know you will do well. I liked your blog post very much and I can’t wait to here of your future journey.