By Lizzie Davis
The sunlight comes through the shades as I sit sipping my coffee and reflecting on the morning beauty that can only be a gift from God. It is no secret that I can easily be found in a variety of coffee shops. There is something about this environment that is welcoming to my introverted, extrovert soul. Something about hearing and seeing people go about their days and do their work, whatever it may be, that excites me. People other than myself who also live busy lives, stopping to drink their coffee.
I’ve heard before that Starbucks uses little circle tables to allow people to sit and not feel so alone. What a beautiful concept—one that stresses and stretches our sense of belonging; a concept that shoves our loneliness away.
I wonder if this has a wider meaning though. During an urban missions class, we learned that to be in a place is to be a part of it. To be in Starbucks is to be a part of the shop. The circle table just helps people to feel less isolated. But this isn’t just about coffee shops and small tables. Being a part of where you are includes being a part of the town, the city and the state in which you live. And being a part of something means more than just “being”, but giving to, indulging in and knowing.
I have the blessing of working on both my Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work degrees at the same time through the same larger university. This year, I am serving as a social work intern at a church in Waco, Texas. As a part of this internship, I meet with people from the church and from the community who need assistance. We try to help meet the needs of our congregation, help the community where other services have gaps and refer people to other services in the area that they may not know of. For me, being a minister and a social worker means being able to help the people in my community at times when they are most needing someone to stand beside them and give them some assistance. This stage in my life is a time when I’m able to learn how to do this effectively.
Indulging in where we live is also a Biblical idea. “…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
We often look at our missional calling from Jesus as a call to go elsewhere. In Acts 1, Jesus is appearing to many people in Jerusalem after his death. He speaks to them about the Kingdom of God. In verse 8, he tells his audience what they will be called to do. Jesus, in this passage, is telling his followers to be witnesses for him where they are, “in Jerusalem”, on the way, “in all Judea and Samaria” and “to the ends of the earth”.
We are called to go out, but we are also called to serve and be where we are.
Perhaps, and likely, being a part of the place where you are doesn’t look like social work. It may look like buying and shopping locally so that funds go into the local economy, getting to know people around town and not isolating ourselves, being a part of your child’s PTA, being a part of town events, going to city council or local coalition meetings, voting for local government, being a part of our church’s community missions, volunteering locally or just getting to know our neighbors and neighborhood associations.
Lizzie Davis is a student at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary and the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, working on her Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work. She is currently in her third year, and first year of the social work program. She is serving in a local church for her social work internship.