My Calling, right now

By: Justin Chambers

All my life it seems I have been searching for the proverbial “call” or purpose for what I am supposed to do with my life.  I wanted God to come down and say, “This is Justin, my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased, this is what I have called him to do.”  ch43

I recently went to a retreat where an awesome, awesome man-of-God shared some wise words that have changed my outlook (I really enjoy his speaking as you may be able to tell).  David LaMotte spoke, and sang, some great messages, but what really stood out to me was his belief we do not have a purpose; as in a singular call in life.  We do, however, have many callings.  This idea was profound for me because I have spent much time—perhaps even wasting time—searching for my one singular call.  This idea, this sense of call has been both what I have been passionate and excited to find, and horrified and stressed to discover.  What could this calling be?

If we have many callings, then we are called to live in the moment and to be faithful to the calling of that moment. My call today may be to share my sandwich with the person sitting on the curb next to me. Or, my calling tonight may be to listen to how my roommate’s day went, without interrupting or trying to put in my opinion; just listening.

I decided to do a second YAV year after meeting with the director of an organization that engages the prison system.  I hope to become a lawyer and thought the opportunity would be advantageous to my career.  When funding fell through, it felt like my calling was also blocked.  Through some conversations, and knowing that Mercy has wanted to be more intentional about supporting our members while they are locked-up, we decided to formally expand Mercy’s ministry to include a jail and prison ministry.  I am interning with them to help in this expansion.  Things finally seem to be falling in place, though not in ways that I expected.

One Friday, during a Bible study with a passage rooted in community and solidarity, Pastor Maggie illustrated the theme by using an example from the civil rights movement.  When one activist was attacked by a mob, the others dived into the skirmish so that the blows would be divided between many—I remember her acting it out at Mercy.  What an awesome example of solidarity.  I do not know what situations I will have to dive into this year while walking in solidarity with people in the correctional system and I do not know what bruises will come along with it, but I do know is that God is in this call.  God is present behind the walls, the fences, the barbed wire and the chains.

One of my friends, a frail, fifty year-old sister who is a part of our Mercy community, was lost behind those walls.  Gunnar, our sister, who is homeless, was arrested in the early part of February for trespassing when she took refuge in a parking garage—the safest spot she could find to lay her head.  Spring and summer went by, we were confused by why she did not have a release date; we prayed for her, along with other folks in jail.

At the beginning of my new internship, I was tasked with not just praying for Gunnar but finding out why she had been in jail for so long and what was needed for her release. By our estimation, she should have been released long ago.  I called the local jails and got bounced back and forth between offices, leaving many voicemails saying, “Hi, my name is Justin. How are you today? I was wandering if you could help me find a friend of mine; she seems to be lost in the system.” Nobody had an answer.

One Monday, I was overcome with joy to arrive at Mercy and see our sister.  When I interviewed her about her experience in jail, it became apparent that the stories of what she was being told on the inside and what I was being told on the outside did not match up.

Gunnar was sentenced to seven days, but instead sat for seven months in a single cell by herself for twenty-three hours a day.  I do not know if it was our calls or if someone finally realized on their own that a mistake had been made, but whatever it was I give thanks for the captive being set free.

I think I have found that passion about which David talked. I have found that thing that I have been trying to describe to people for years, yet words seem not to come. I can see how broken our criminal justice system is and, for now, I am not called to change it but to be present, if only by phone, with people who are navigating it from the inside.  Solidarity can be hard and messy at times, but it is the calling; my calling.

The 35-Year Layover

By: Vickie Headrick

My name is Vickie Headrick.  I came to Atlanta 35 years ago by way of a Greyhound bus in 1978.  I was coming from Montgomery, headed towards Knoxville—I had a two and a half hour layover here in Atlanta and have been here ever since.Vicki's Hands

Mercy was, and is, a safe haven for me.  It has been a good place for me to visit, especially when there is bad weather (our worst nightmare on the streets).  Before I started attending Mercy I had been homeless for about 15 years off and on.  I am glad to have a place where I am welcome during the day.  I spend a lot of time walking—sometimes all day and half the night— looking for a place where I am welcome to rest or lay my head.  Sometimes I can manage to find a friend to put me up for a few days, it’s nice to get a shower, a fresh change of clothes, and be able to rest peacefully.  Sometimes one of God’s angels comes along and puts me up in a hotel for a couple days.  Much of my day is spent trying to find refuge from the weather or find a spot where I would go unnoticed.

I like how Mercy built itself as community and how we help and nurture our friends, homeless or not.  Mercy has helped me to utilize my spare time.  Like the phrase goes, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”  I know that I will always have a place to come, not only to utilize the facilities, but to have a chance to mingle with my friends, and participate in Bible studies and recovery meetings.  I have learned a lot.

Recently, we at Mercy joined up with the good people of St. John’s Lutheran Church.  They put aside a part of their church property to have a garden with us.  I had a good time gathering with them at the church one Saturday to start the project.  We nailed boards together to create raised beds, which we then painted and filled with dirt.  There is one bed of tomatoes, another of squash, a third with melons, and the last is filled with strawberries!  It was well worth getting dirty for the project; we will be eating well this summer!

Scales Falling off

By: Justin Chambers

I have been here in Georgia and at Mercy for roughly eight months now.  That’s been more than enough time to have more than a few life-changing experiences. Each experience has invited and forced me to grow my proverbial edges, sometimes to the point of discomfort.  Yet each produced amazing growth. I came to this year of service expecting to help others and be the face of God for someone else.  More often, however, I have seen God’s face in those I came to served. Justin Eating

I followed God’s call to Atlanta, but was skeptical about what I would find.  I wondered if I was going through some kind of a quarter-life crisis, spending a year volunteering instead of getting a “real job.”  I came seeking to change the world, instead I have had a journey-to-Damascus-scales-falling-off-the-eyes-life-changing kind of experience.

I first started to notice that my world view was changing when I visited the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia—it is the largest immigrant detention facility in the country and is privately owned.  The detention center looked a lot like a prison to me.  Security was tight: the gates were 10 feet high with barbed wire at the top, families were sent away unable to visit their loved ones, and for those of us who did make it in, we had to talk to the detainees on a telephone because the plastic window was too thick for sound to pass through.

I assumed once again that I would have the opportunity to be a super-volunteer and minister to an “evil-doer” who had reason to be locked away. Once again, I was wrong. The detainee ministered to me more than he may ever know.  He asked me about my life  goals—he was genuinely interested, and it showed. We even talked about my relationship with my estranged eldest brother who is in prison. My life connected with that of this stranger—noticing injustices in the world and expressing our hopes for the years to come. In the midst of all the uncertainty—deportation—we connected and the figurative barriers fell, though the thick plastic remained. At the end of our conversation, we fist-bumped through the glass and parted ways.

I had no idea that many people like my new friend had no choice in  coming to the States. Frequently, people are brought to the States by their parents when they are just two or three because their parents hope to be able to better provide for their family here.  And honestly, I had never cared about what I did not know—I was comfortable with the “us/them” rhetoric and scapegoating debates of politics.  They were not like me and it did not concern me.

Soon after, I found myself standing at Catch-Out Corner sharing food with Mercy.  As I looked at my sisters and brothers who had gathered around our coolers, grateful for lunch with few prospects of catching-out a day labor job, I realized that many of my friends could easily end up in the detention center.  I saw how vulnerable my Latino sisters and brothers were, standing out on this corner, ready to work, and frequently watched by the police. I knew I saw them differently.

But they were not the only people I saw differently.  I knew other scales had fallen to the ground, in fact, the ground around me was littered with scales.  I hadn’t realized it, but I spent my first month at Mercy in a state of blindness.   I realized that day by day folks in our community were helping to free me of those scales that blinded my eyes.   Now I am aware that some days my sisters and brothers merely had to wipe the scales off, my view of the world changed, became clearer.  Other days they were surely using pliers to yank off the scales as I resisted change.

I am grateful to know that I don’t go about experiencing change alone.  I am supported.  I am in community.  Just as Paul had Ananias, I have my sisters and brothers at Mercy walking with me.  We help each other.  Saul would never have regained his sight if it were not for his obedience and the obedience of Ananias. Talk about walking by faith and not by sight! Ananias chose a hard, uncomfortable journey—that is living in community. We all have shameful moments in our past, but in this same community we come together and find, or regain, our sight and perspective. It is in this community where folks come and touch my eyes with their stories.  Day by day, I learn to see this world a little differently.

This community has changed my life; I can never look at church the same. Truth be told, sometimes I find myself living with my new sight and other times I find myself on my knees trying to piece my old life back together.

Christ offers new sight every day! The choice is ours. We can either stand up and live or try to take steps back into blindness.

I know I have so much more to see and learn (and it’s probably going to take a jackhammer to get the rest of the scales off), but I choose to see. I choose to see the church being called outside the four walls of a building. I choose to go out to the hedges and highways, remembering to look in the hedge and under the highway because that may be where one of our brothers or sisters is looking for community. Seeing as Christ sees is a process, one that can be painful and joyous; yet a process never the less. I look forward to what is to come; there is no point in turning back now!

Finding Grace in the Mess

By: Maggie Leonard

Fear and determination filled her eyes, I could see it as she looked from me, to her paper, to the crowd.  I grasped one shaky hand in mine and steadied the paper she held with my other hand.  Her voice quivered but she spoke with determination as the crowd silently coaxed and encouraged her from their seats.

“Maggie, you will need water in ministry—to drink when it’s hot outside, to make soup and coffee, and in cleaning up our space.  You have shown me that therembap10 is life inside of me, life that is like the water that Jesus promised to the woman at the well.  You have helped me to know how to drink water when I am thirsty—that is, how to ask God to help me.  Use this water both as you teach others and as you are taught by others.”

With that, she handed me a simple glass bowl filled with water.  A gift of ministry for me to cherish and utilize wherever God called me.

How frequently we try to limit where God’s grace works—declaring some water holier than other water. How wise Cheree was to offer me the simple gift of water at my ordination, so versatile and yet often overlooked in its importance in doing God’s work of mercy.

I did not think about it much at the time, but how precious it was for this symbol to make an appearance on my ordination day, just as it did when the church first proclaimed God’s claim upon my life and their promise to help nurture me that I might know God’s call.  In both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, water regularly marks both the beginning of a new journey at the bequest of God and salvation in general.

I love the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts, a castrated slave. Though he traveled a great distance to worship, there was, and always would be, rejected from the temple for his impurity—made “unclean” by his mutilation and therefore outside the “righteous” people of God. It was this man who asked, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?”  For him, the good news was not just of Jesus, but the promise of inclusion in God’s people. We read in Acts that they came up out of the water.  Following God’s call is not a journey we are expected to endeavor alone.

Every Sunday as we gather at Mercy, we ground ourselves by remembering the call God paces upon us in community. The reality is that baptismal water and the promises we make to those who are baptized is not limited just to cute babies.  We never age out of being those who the church promises to nurture and for whom we care.  We are each called into that beautifully broken people of God!  In our baptism we are not only claimed by God, but we are called to care for others and to share our own vulnerability.  Being baptized into a community is no joke.  We are a diverse people with many strong personalities and ways of living; our life together is frequently complicated and messy.

It is no mistake when the water poured into our baptismal font gathers energy and sloshes over the sides onto the floor.  God is there, right in the middle of the mess of our relationships.

Our church members, like many in other churches, fear the spray—I suppose some could say that I am to blame for our empty chairs on the first and second row—but I look forward to the day when the splashing water will be accepted as a delicious drop of grace on our skin.  How often we encounter the Holy Spirit in our midst and do not realize it!  If only we could see the possibilities the water holds—a puddle-time-warp in which to stomp and play and transport us to spryer days, a start in our mopping, a foot-washing, an illustration of the rippling effect of our actions, an escape from the summer heat…

It could be nothing less than God’s grace that brought Philip and the eunuch by a pool in the middle of the desert.  If only we found the same relief and joy in the water!  God’s grace spills out indiscriminately on the rocky ground, thorny patches, and church floors.  But it doesn’t stop there!  Each sip of coffee, rain storm, bowl of soup, newly cleaned floor, shower, or swimming pool can be a reminder of our baptism.  Like the Eunuch, our eyes become attuned to the water God places before us in dry places and help us to see how it might faithfully be used!

Banned

By: Dwayne Brooks

About a year ago, I was banned from Mercy because I acted aggressively toward someone who was upset with me.  We started to argue and things escalated—neither of us could control our temper so our time away from the community escalated too.  One week became one month, became six months, as we couldn’t quiet down.  “Make it a year, three years, forever!” I baited the pastors.  Six months is the one that stuck.Dwayne Brooks BW Photo-Martin

At first getting banned did not matter—I was mad and didn’t want to be at Mercy anyway.  It took me a while for the consequences of my actions to sink in.  I’ve had arguments with other people before, but this was the first time that I was banned for a substantial amount of time.  After a week or so I felt that I had let myself down both by my reaction and how I carried myself.

I continued on with my work but knowing I could not go to Mercy left an empty space in me.  I kept popping up at Mercy, even though I was not supposed to, because I had nothing to lose—I was already banned.

Recently, I was banned again, this time for a month.  Instead of coming around during that month, I stayed away.  I knew that I would be able to come back more quickly if I showed that I could respect boundaries.  When I am away from Mercy I miss it.  I enjoy the singing which helps relax my mind.  And I find that the Bible studies build up my spirit.

Losing my temper has not been helping me to be who I want to be or to interact with others the way I think I should.  While I was away from Mercy I had the chance to take an inventory of myself and really think about how I react to things, especially where I am in denial about my actions.  I watch my surroundings and take it all in.  I see lots of things, lots of violence, lots of people treating each other poorly.  When I am mad, I frequently try to suppress it until one day, everything that I have been holding in comes out.   At that point it doesn’t matter who I hurt—the water must boil, the ball must unravel.  I need a release.

I am learning how to control my temper a little better, though I still have a long way to go.  I need Mercy in that way; it is difficult to try and change my attitude when I am alone.  I have started talking about some of the things that are on my mind—expressing myself rather than holding things back.  I have found that it really helps me to express what is on my mind either to one of my pastors, my mother, or my Higher Power.  I feel better and more relaxed when I express myself, as if a hard ball in my stomach deflates.

It is a process, as we say.  But it is good work, and I’m proud of the progress I have made.

From Home-less to Home-more

By: Kevin Bowden

Raised in a typical working-class Southern Baptist Church in North Carolina, I have faint memories as a child of helping set up folding metal chairs before and after the services.  My parents were the founding members of Freedom Baptist Church.  It was at Freedom that I learned of God’s word.  When the pastor changed, we looked for God’s word elsewhere, at tent revivals and big churches—eventually we became members of a new Baptist church.  God’s DSCF5321word seemed to change.  Every week there was a new hellfire and brimstone message from a different preacher.  Very rarely were words such as mercy or love used in services, or even in our conversations.  Even the tone of the ride home from church became different.

Now I find myself in Atlanta, attending a new church, though I hesitate to call it a church, because it doesn’t feel like church as I’ve known it.  It is more like a community.

Here we use words like mercy, grace, love, and faith.  I find my walk “home” to the Old Fourth Ward (MLK birth neighborhood) a lot more fulfilling and enjoyable than the car rides from church back in North Carolina.

During communion one Sunday, in describing Christ’s body, Chad said, “Like the bread which must be broken in order to be shared…”  I felt as if God were speaking to me, saying, “It’s okay that you’ve been broken—and you are not alone—go out and  share your testimony, music, and art with the world.”

I have found God, love, grace, and home here at Mercy Community Church.  Words can’t describe my gratitude to God and Mercy for providing me with these gifts.  I think a lot about a church that doesn’t pass collection plates but instead plates of food; where teachings focus on how to love others, God, and yourself; that reminds you not to fear.  I do not feel home-less but home-more.  When I set up chairs before our service, it reminds me of when I was young at Freedom Baptist, and I reflect on the good times at church and with my family—the things that can’t be bought anywhere.

Bible Study by Kevin grayscale

My Year of Transformation

By: Thomas Gutherie

A year and a half ago, as I packed all my belongings from my one bedroom apartment in Sarasota, FL, I realized life was about to look very different.  After college, I had accepted a job as an assistant front office manager at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota and stayed in that IMG_0131position for six months.  As my time at the Hyatt came to an end, I applied to be a volunteer with PC(USA)’s Young Adult Volunteer (YAV)program in Atlanta, GA.

I had no idea what would come from the experience:  I was going from a four-star hotel to an outreach center. From offering hospitality to millionaires to offering it to those who have nothing. From working in a business suit to working in ripped jeans and a t-shirt.  From worshiping in a church to worshiping in a night shelter.

I was a qualified business school graduate and was ready to solve problems and help people in need for a year.  I planned to be a committed volunteer, but I was sure that I would return to the corporate world after my year of service.

When I started the program, I was a lot like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14. At that time, my prayers sounded something like this: “Thank you, God. Thank you for not making me like other people: the homeless, drug addicts, mentally ill, prostitutes, criminals.  I mean, God, I gave up my salaried position and 401K to come help THESE people in need; I truly am a great person, aren’t I!”

My YAV placement took me to work on the margins. You might ask what does that mean? The term “marginalized” refers to the process in which individuals and entire communities of people are systematically blocked from rights, opportunities and resources, like housing, employment, health care, civic engagement, democratic participation, and due process.  These resources are generally available to members of society and are key to social integration.

Mercy is not like most other agencies that deal with homelessness. All are welcome; as they say at Mercy, “We will meet you wherever you are.” Mercy is unique in that grace is offered to each and everyone. For example, many of the members at Mercy have been banned from other service providers around Atlanta.

I had a lot of frustrations and questions about what I was really doing in Atlanta when I first began. Things were not going the way that I thought they were going to go, the YAV house community was falling short of my expectations, work was good but repetitive, and I was not really seeing any changes in myself.

Eventually I made the decision to be intentional about all my interactions and decisions.  It was then that, my year truly started. During this time I sought out people and ideas that would force me to change.  It was in this time, there on the margins, that my working with the homeless became much more then a job.  Over the course of the year my work with the marginalized  became my passion and my calling.

It was in the beginning stages of striving to become more intentional that I truly immersed myself into the Mercy community. Every week I would look forward to the time I would get to spend with the caring, laughing, struggling, loving community of people at Mercy.  The stories they shared of struggles, brokenness, and pain were always honest and from the heart, not holding anything back.  It was the pure honesty of the community that allowed me to imagine another way of being.

Mercy is a place of transformation. Not only for those dealing with homelessness, but anyone who walks through the gates: volunteers, interns, youth groups, and mission groups.

One cold morning a young woman came in off the streets with a guitar strapped on her back and hot pink hair.  It was just like any other morning at Mercy, a mass of us sat on the patio and shared hot coffee, bagels, bread and homemade jelly.  Later, after prayer and

Bible study, we gathered in a circle for music time where we loudly sang and played our favorite songs using guitars, djembe, tambourines, shakers, and pots. It happened that this day our new friend decided to join us and eventually asked to share an original song with the group. I could tell she was nervous by the shakiness of her hands and voice. In the middle of her song she left abruptly and fled for the bathroom in tears.

When she returned, she started packing her guitar, looking to get out as quickly as she came in. “Don’t go! Stay here with us and play some more,” the group encouraged. Her demeanor instantly changed and she sat back down in the circle.  At one point, near the end of the day, she even told me that she had been looking for a church family for most of her life and today she had finally found one here at

Mercy. When she left that day she was filled with joy and full of the Holy Spirit.  I was completely blown away by the power of simple, genuine hospitality that Mercy offers each and every day.

Re-engaging this story months later, Chad helped me see that Mercy offered the same love, hospitality, grace to me as the girl.

I finally recognized my own brokenness, which allowed me to start the hard work of becoming whole. Just like the Pharisee in the gospel reading, it is very easy to identify the brokenness of others, especially those living on the margins.

I realized that we are all just as broken as those living on the margins, though I, and many of us, work hard to hide it.  It is in our brokenness that all of us can begin the journey of healing. My prayer sounds now more like that of the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, for I realize how broken and full of sin I truly am.”

Mercy And Morrie

By: Ivan Cooley

I found the book Tuesdays with Morrie to be a very poignant and touching book; its story was uplifting and encouraging.  I appreciated its message that our only hope in this world is based in love.  We live in a society that conditions us to acquire as much money, power, respect, status, and material goods8-15-26 as we can.  We substitute our love of one another with our love of things.  Often we think that only those that are favored or cherished deserve our love.

Tuesdays with Morrie is not the only place where I have heard and wrestled with such messages; I have witnessed and become acquainted with them at Mercy.  Reading this book, I’m almost surprised that Morrie learned these lessons of loving and giving somewhere other than my church.

Morrie advises his young student to “‘devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.  You’ll notice,’ he added grinning, ‘there’s nothing in there about a salary.’”

There are times when I have wondered whether this house of love in a cold, cruel world is all that it is cracked up to be, but then I think about Morrie’s words, “Of course we have pain and suffering.  But giving to other people is what makes me feel alive.  Not my car or my house.  Not what I look like in the mirror.  When I give my time, when I can make someone smile after they are feeling sad, it is as close to healthy as I ever feel,” and I know them to be true—I feel a sort of verification for my experience.  This is exactly what I struggle and strive to believe, live, and practice faithfully each day.  At Mercy we say life is God’s work in process.  We use the word process so much it has become our catch-phrase.

The dictionary defines process as “a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result.”  That is a good scientific sounding definition, but I like to think of process as more of a journey.  It is a journey where we meet and greet, love and laugh, share and smile, cry and grieve, and sing and praise.

We are a diverse community and do all of these things.  But community doesn’t quite describe who we are—family names it more closely.  We are all sons and daughters, sisters and brothers of and in Christ: from the pastors and teachers, to the employed or unemployed, to the homeless or housed, to the volunteers or sleepers.  We love God, we love each other, and we love ourselves.  Notice (now I’m grinning) there is nothing in there about a salary!

So bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.  You’ll be overwhelmed by what comes back!

Finding Community

By: Jimmy Bryan

When I came to Mercy, I came with an idea. I felt that I had been provided so much in life, that I had a call to give back. I wanted to serve. So it was, that through serving, I sought to become a part of a community.

But my framework of serving had a severe flaw, one that would prevent me from becoming part of the community had I not been entering a group in which grace and flexibility abound. It turns out that my good intentions to serve others were great, but to truly be a part of community, I would have to learn to receive, too.

It is often forgotten that serving others can also be an exercise of power: one person has something another one needs. True relationship can be lost in such raw power dynamics. It is a position of privilege for me to say, “I want to help you.” But it is a position of equality to say, “Let me be in relationship with you.” Mutual relationship is not born out of just serving others, but out of love, compassion, and humility.

One of my first experiences at Mercy was an uncomfortable interaction I had with someone in the community in which I was asked for money. I could have responded in lots of ways that were just transactional—one person having something the other needs. That would have been true, whether I had simply said yes or no. Instead, we had to talk about what was happening between us. I was finding that by entering into community, I was no longer able to ignore problems with others. I needed to address them head on.

Someone from home questioned me, “Couldn’t you just say no?” Previously, I would have thought “Sure, of course, I can just say no.”  But now I was in community, and there are no easy answers in community. I found that in order to promote relationship, I had to address people and issues differently because I would see that person again. My decisions had to be made on a long-term basis. Now, I had to mentally ask myself, “Am I working with love and compassion? Or am I just trying to avoid the real issues?” Being human, I know that I didn’t always get it right. But I did go forward with the best answer that presented itself to me at the time.

My time at Mercy has come to an end, however, and while I have learned a lot, I now am faced with new questions. What happens when I am not immersed in this community? It is in this place, with these people, that I find a structure and rhythm to my day. At Mercy, I not only find support, but it is with this community that I affirm my beliefs and through which I find it easier to live faithfully. As I leave Mercy to move back to North Carolina, I hope to look for other avenues through which I can continue to grow. I hope to find new ways to challenge myself and my faith.

I like to wrap ideas up in nice, neat, “take-home” packages.  Frequently, I find that I have fooled myself into thinking that I have things figured out. But in writing this and trying to reflect on my experience, I have come to the realization that if I think I have things completely figured out, I have missed the message and point of being at Mercy altogether. Over and over again, I have been reminded “we are all in process” as we grow together in faith, love, and compassion.

When all is said and done, Mercy is a church. What we do makes for good relationships everywhere—lending someone your ear, assessing questions with compassion and thought

instead of being bound by rules. In the very individualized world we live in, I feel that we are slipping away from these important foundations of community. The texts we study in the Bible are a way of navigating the world and understanding that people before us struggled, as well. They searched for the “take-home” message, too, and one man brought it to us. The love and joy that comes from identifying and integrating the practices of faith into one’s life are genuinely moving and yet incredibly hard.

While I find that I cannot express the palpable joy I get from walking into our little Mercy room, strewn with so many things, and so many people, I realize that there are very concrete things that I have to take with me. The past six months at Mercy I have learned about relationships—how to start, sustain, navigate, and grow relationships. And how to keep on in the process.

Henri Nouwen has become a very important theologian to me while at Mercy, and he captures something I’ve learned here. In his book, In the Name of Jesus, he wrote:

“The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”

Society tells us to live a certain way. The Bible challenges people to live a radically different life. Jesus laid out ways in which we can live lives that promote positive growth for oneself, and in turn, the community. We are to live with love for others. And those who live in love, truly glorify God. In our busy and competitive world, there is great hope in that.