My name is Alex Haney and I am a new volunteer with the Boston Faith and Justice Network (BFJN) through a program called The Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) Program. Similar to the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, City Year, and the like, YAV is a faith-based volunteer program with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. that places young adults from ages 19 to 30 in one of various Christian communities engaging in God’s mission across the world. To give you an idea of the scope, this year some YAV’s are in the Philippines working with women formerly involved in human trafficking, teaching English in South Korea, working with children and water systems in Peru, working with youth and peacekeeping in Ireland, and YAV’s are doing various urban ministries in cities all across the US such as Hollywood, Denver, New Orleans, and here in Boston, just to name a few. Visit this page to see blog posts and stories of the over 70 other 2013-14 YAV’s.
There are four of us placed in Boston for the year, and all of our mission work is centered on food justice. We are working on all levels of the food supply chain connecting with local farmers and CSAs, starting community gardens on church properties, incorporating healthier food and local food into food pantries, drop in centers, and soup kitchens, educating consumers about food, and advocating fighting hunger all the way from local government to national and international organizations. Specifically I will be working with the BFJN and the Presbyterian Church in Burlington. My time with BFJN will help me to understand the meaning of “simple living” through helping with the workshops and understanding the Lazarus at the Gate Curriculum, a bible study program to understand simple living for generous giving.
During this year I am living with the other Boston YAVs in an intentional Christian community. This is a fancy way to say we will try and think about God a lot, and more specifically explore vocational discernment, spiritual formation, God’s mission, and simple living.
We’ve just begun our year together, so we are still trying to figure out what it means to live simply. I came into this thinking simple living is minimizing and managing our schedules, relationships, and our use of technology and electronics to enjoy life, God’s creation, and nature without the hindrance of these worldly distractions. For my fellow YAV’s and I, it also means surviving in Boston on a monthly stipend of $400 per person. We’ve also been given the challenge to eat only local food for the first 5 months with an extra monthly $75 in the stipend to help with the cost, and live off of S.N.A.P. Benefits (food stamps) for the following 6 months. (Living simply just got hard.)
Lucky for me I get to work with BFJN who teaches economic discipleship which involves simple living for generous giving. Sharing space, resources, supplies, and even a food budget is forcing my fellow YAV’s and I to have open conversations about our spending habits, eating habits, and goals for the year, things one may talk about as part of the Lazarus curriculum. Discussing these very personal things is new to us but it is necessary when we are sharing our money and space. As with any community living situation there will always be some conflict. We’ve been challenged to eat meals together around our different schedules, allergies and dietary preferences. This is even harder when cooking the unfamiliar local foods that come in our local CSA share. Despite these struggles I believe the strength in community lies in each of us bringing different ideas and skills to the table. Cooking a raw chicken, or raw vegetables, starting a compost pile, assembling a food processor, and eating kale were skills that not all of us had when we started, but things we have since learned together to help us live more simply in this situation. I have learned much more about living simply since we all put our heads together.
I believe that my time with the YAV community will strengthen and help me live out the values of the Boston Faith and Justice Network in helping me live out God’s mission, and I look forward to sharing the insights of simple living as we discover them in our YAV community.