...and if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fail. -Isaiah 58:10-11
WE ARE CALLED TO parched places, called to serve as ever-flowing springs of water. Faith-based volunteer programs-Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, the Mercy Corps, multiple Mennonite volunteer programs, and a host of others-transform Isaiah's vision into practical application, serving as watered gardens for those following the call and those benefiting from it. In facilitating a volunteer movement to urban and rural America and to the two-thirds world, these programs embrace three tenets: to work on behalf of other people in need, to cultivate intentional Christian community, and to live a simple lifestyle.
In what are typically one- or two-year commitments (although some people are called to voluntary service as a way of life), these programs provide a place for daily challenges and blessings-to laugh and to cry with others on the journey, to give back a portion of what we have been graciously given, to mourn the suffering of a broken world, and to celebrate the promise of a liberating gospel. They place volunteers in uncomfortable spaces, from the uncomfortable inner cities across the nation to the uncomfortable situation of sharing a home and economic support with eight or 10 adults. At the same time, they are "light rising in the darkness," providing for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those who are called to parched places.
"We're trying to offer a year of spiritual formation in a Christian context," said Rose Berger, director of the Sojourners Internship Program. "Community is a central theme for us.