Our Intentional Community in the Heart of DC

Living Together in Faith…

Updating the Blog…it’s a work in progress!

In August, 12 new residents moved into Birch Hall for a grand total of 16 residents to join the MVS Intentional Community. We have decided to update and document more of our experiences of living together on this blog which was started by last year’s community. We’ve had a great semester and we hope to share stories and at least pieces of our life together. Hope you will enjoy reading!

Hello!

Hello my name is Stephanie and I just finished my second year of Seminary. I love to read, travel, explore, sing, listen to music and watch Gilmore Girls with some of my housemates! I love living in community. While it has its less than pleasant moments we all learn from them.  Overall I think we’ve had a great experience!

Students Try Street Vending: Learned More Than What They Bargained For!

The five of us had no idea what to expect when going to be a vendor for Street Sense Newspaper. As we walked up to the office Gregory Martin, the Vendor Manager, greeted us with a big smile while holding our neon Street Sense vendor vests. He told us his inspiring story of being homeless, making the decision to join Street Sense, and how he was (sing it now) “Movin’ on Up!” He introduced us to our lively host vendor L.Marrow. From the start we knew it would be an exciting day! Right away, he showed us how to get on buses for free and preach the gospel message of, ‘Love Thy Neighbor’, to anyone who would listen! L. Marrow was so energetic and, dressed like a businessman, was one of the best salesmen I’ve ever met. He would direct us where to go and what to say like a pro!

S0 what was it like being a street vendor? “I’m not used to being treated with contempt and fear, or looked at with scorn and pity, but I was the recipient of plenty on Friday morning. And while this made me angry and frustrated and hurt (for no one wishes to be treated thus), it also caused me to reflect within myself. How often had I hurried away from someone asking me for money or selling a Street Sense (by the homeless, for the homeless!) without offering a smile or a kind word, or even a recognition of that person’s existence? What would cause me, a person who claims to love Jesus, to treat others – who aren’t demanding but asking for assistance, as if they would assault me if I said no?” – Katy Wheat  “Being a vendor for Street Sense allowed me to experience the effort and energy needed to sell the papers for someone to be able to pay their rent or buy their next meal. “ –Emily Bagwell “It’s really tough work to put yourself out there and have most people not even acknowledge you.” –Elaina Ramsey.

Wearing a bright neon vest with Street Sense across the front, it was hard to miss us, yet many acted as if we were invisible. I was so surprised that so many just kept walking by. We were selling a product, just like many at their job, to earn some money for those who have none. Shouldn’t a person working on the street be given the same respect as a person working in a restaurant or the White House? Standing there for over an hour telling people, “Help the homeless! Get your Street Sense Newspaper! Made by the homeless for the homeless!” , I only sold 4 copies! Five of us working together made $46.11, but L. Marrow said that he took out a group of 14-16 year olds last week who raked in a whopping $180 in less than two hours! Guess we should stick to ministry…

When we got back to the Street Sense office, Greg asked us how it felt and why we thought people looked at us and then walked away, avoiding us like the plague. “People looked away, looked sideways, looked down, and many acted like I did not exist….those who made eye contact made me feel at least acknowledged as a person.” –Emily.  “I think they avoided us because many are not willing to risk the conviction of their own comfort by acknowledging another persons uncomfortableness. “ –Desiree’ “I have been reflecting on this the past few days, trying to determine what causes that repeated reaction within me. Am I ashamed that I have no money to give? Am I annoyed that they’re asking for help? Am I silently judging their need? Or am I, rather, afraid to be radically transformed by such an encounter, afraid of the connections we might establish in our brief interaction? Might I learn that we share a home state, a love of bluegrass, or a favorite book? Might I learn that we have similar thoughts on a particular political or religious issue? Might I begin to care? I think I’m afraid to care – because I might begin to care so much that my heart might burst. That kind of passion, that kind of radical regard for another human being, draws us to do crazy things. Like make that person part of our life’s story. Like fight to end homelessness, no matter how long it takes. Like give Jesus the whole of our lives, convention and society be darned. So instead we race by, afraid to make a connection.” –Katy Wheat

By the end of our time together, we had a new perspective for those who are homeless and trying to work. “I learned that it’s hard to be a vendor on the street but every bit helps, even if it’s only a smile of encouragement.” – Emily “I’m thankful to be in a city and at a school when I am constantly challenged to be radically different. So next time I see a Street Sense vendor, I’m buying a paper, shaking a hand, and starting a conversation. It might not make their day, but it sure will change mine.” –Katy Wheat  Want to give your friends/students a hands-on learning experience about homelessness? Participate in the Street Sense Vendor for a Day Program! Contact Greg Martin the website: http://www.StreetSense.org

Street Sense Mission: Street Sense is a Washington, D.C.-based 16-page biweekly street newspaper that was founded in 2003. Its mission is to raise public awareness on the issues of homelessness and poverty in the city and to create economic opportunities for people experiencing homelessness. The newspaper features news, features, editorials, poems and art about homelessness and poverty and other social issues. About 50% of the paper is written by homeless and formerly homeless individuals, and the other articles come from our staff and volunteers, who include journalists, students, advocates and a wide variety of other professionals. Street Sense vendors pay 35 cents for each paper to cover publishing costs and then sell each paper for $1.

Street Sense brings sense

What an interesting experience, serving as a vendor of Street Sense, a newspaper that I have come to admire deeply! From our warm welcome by the Vendor Coordinator, Gregory, to our lessons in customer satisfaction from our Vendor Trainer, L. Morrow, I could not have had a more enjoyable experience – although it was, at turns, painful. I’m not used to being treated with contempt and fear, or looked at with scorn and pity, but I was the recipient of plenty on Friday morning. And while this made me angry and frustrated and hurt (for no one wishes to be treated thus), it also caused me to reflect within myself. How often had I hurried away from someone asking me for money or selling a Street Sense (by the homeless, for the homeless!) without offering a smile or a kind word, or even a recognition of that person’s existence? What would cause me, a person who claims to love Jesus, to treat others – who aren’t demanding but asking for assistance, as if they would assault me if I said no?

I have been reflecting on this the past few days, trying to determine what causes that repeated reaction within me. Am I ashamed that I have no money to give? Am I annoyed that they’re asking for help? Am I silently judging their need? Or am I, rather, afraid to be radically transformed by such an encounter, afraid of the connections we might establish in our brief interaction? Might I learn that we share a home state, a love of bluegrass, or a favorite book? Might I learn that we have similar thoughts on a particular political or religious issue? Might I begin to care?

I think I’m afraid to care – because I might begin to care so much that my heart might burst. That kind of passion, that kind of radical regard for another human being, draws us to do crazy things. Like make that person part of our life’s story. Like fight to end homelessness, no matter how long it takes. Like give Jesus the whole of our lives, convention and society be darned. So instead we race by, afraid to make a connection.

I’m thankful to be in a city and at a school when I am constantly challenged to be radically different. So next time I see a Street Sense vendor, I’m buying a paper, shaking a hand, and starting a conversation. It might not make their day, but it sure will change mine.

Oh yeah, groceries…

   One of the coolest things (I think) that we have done in our community as a community is our committment to share common/staple food items.  It’s saved us money, time, and has allowed us to bond through thinking about food items we can share.   We each contribute $5 a week, which Emily collects and records, then someone goes to Costco or another bulk food place and purchases the items we have decided are community staples.

   We have had a few hiccups in this, like every family or group, but for the most part it’s been working pretty well.  However, this past week I think we were so excited to see each other after the Reading Week break that we forgot to talk about grocery shopping in our Monday meeting.  That lack of discussion became an obvious problem to me yesterday after I poured my cereal into a bowl and realized the only milk I could use was some rice milk that I last remember using ooooh about 4 weeks ago.  I was hungry, so I used it until I noticed my cereal raisins were turning red…

This morning I heard sighs as people opened the refrigerator and saw that cereal plans were thwarted.  

Amazingly though, this showed me how much we have grown together.  If everyone had been doing their own thing, there probably would have been five or six different gallons or types of milk in the refrigerator and this would not have been an issue.  We are getting to a place where we depend on each other and are realizing our actions affect each other. 

I am really excited about this Monday’s meeting as we are talking about accountability within our community.  What excites me the most about this conversation its potential for us to grow together in new ways.  In my opinion, accountability holds care and concern with it as one begins to think about how our living means something to someone else.   

But for now, its cereal bars for breakfast :)

Feast!

So today was the day that David cooked for our community, and it was off the hook! After going to Safeway with him, I became the designated Sous Chef and we got to work.

The Menu:

  • Steak stuffed with spinach, red peppers, feta cheese, and bread crumbs (quinoa for me)
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Caesar Salad
  • Bread
  • Penguin cake (dessert)

So, after working most of the day, many of us MVSers chowed down to this sumptuous feast, (Becky, Katy, Tomika, Desiree and Elaina we missed you!!!) I also put in a little extra splurge for the idea of having Sparkling Cider and Sparkling Apple Pomegranite juice. It was a very enjoyable evening and bonding experience for our community. Afterwards, a few of us went for a walk. In the words of Emily, we will be talking about this dinner for months! Peace y’all!

Serving Supper During the Storm

In the midst of “Snowmageddon,” Wesley students and friends still gathered to participate in community service this past Saturday.  Under the leadership of our housemate Becky Richards, 48 bags of food containing pasta, sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, and oranges were prepared.  Volunteers then braved the elements to distribute the food to our unhoused neighbors of downtown DC who were not sheltered during the blizzard. (Written by Elaina for he WTS newsletter)

Sometimes there is no need or time to make special arrangements with local nonprofits… The reality was that there were hungry people trying to weather the storm without a roof over their head, and we had the chance to at least bring them a warm meal and some conversation…

Where in your neighborhood are needs not being met? Is it in your capabilities to help? Why wait for someone else to do it… Be the hands and feet of God…

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