We visited a friend over the weekend from Minnesota who’s now working with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC) in Oakland.  LVC is a one-year domestic volunteer service program for people who want to explore their spirituality while working for social justice, living in intentional community, and simplifying their lifestyles.

LVC:  The Ella Baker House

Each Lutheran Volunteer works full-time for organizations helping communities become more just and sustainable.  Our friend is working with the Day Labor Program of La Raza Centro Legal.  Along with her work, she’s living in community with six other young people in Oakland.

Our visit was inspiring and reminded me of so much.

I began a year of service with LVC ten years ago in Minneapolis.  The year was transformative.  On my very first day of work in Refugee Resettlement, I went to the airport with a colleague to welcome a Somali family of sixteen to the United States.  The family had fled civil war in Somalia and lived in UN refugee camps in Kenya for almost a decade.  Only the three oldest boys had gone to school in Somalia.  Most of the children were born in refugee camps.  After they arrived in Minneapolis, we drove from the airport to a two-bedroom apartment in Hopkins.

My work as a Case Manager in Refugee Resettlement was rewarding and overwhelming.  I spent hour upon hour taking families to medical appointments, enrolling children in school, registering adults for English language classes.  Helping one family to navigate the bureaucracies could have been a full-time job, but the case load required the management of ten to twenty families at a time.

I’ll never forget standing with Halima and Abdi as their children climbed onto the school bus for the first time in their lives.  My days were filled with tears; tears of hope for new beginnings and tears of despair for the brokenness in our world.

My year with LVC was truly formative.  I’m thankful for the young people who are just beginning their LVC journeys.  I’m hopeful for the lives they will touch and for the ways they will be shaped by living in intentional community.  I trust this will be a year of growing and learning for all of them.

While it’s been ten years, the values of LVC continue to shape my life.  I’m still exploring spirituality, trying to work for social justice, learning to live in intentional community, and hoping to simplify my lifestyle.  These prophetic values resonate with my understanding of early Christian communities.

Some of the ways I live out these values today would undoubtedly seem domesticated to the  person I was ten years ago.  I spend far less time at rallies and much more time in the kitchen.  I think less about third party alternatives and radical political reform.  I think more about gardens and our baby growing within Sarah.  While many of the changes in my life may be rooted in comfort and conformity, I’m hopeful that the seeds sown through my experience in LVC ten years ago are providing strong roots for continued growth in response to God’s grace in this time and in this place.