Sunday, December 15, 2013


Even though I have lived in the house since mid-August I unfortunately have not introduced myself yet. My name is Jenna Stacy and I am a member of Unit 303 in BVS. I grew up in Campobello, South Carolina and I am a member of Melvin Hill Church of the Brethren which is actually in Columbus, North Carolina. My house is only about five miles from the state line. So I split my time between North and South Carolina as I was growing up. You could simply say I am from the Carolinas.
To continue with my Brethren upbringing, after high school I chose to go to Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Virginia. Looking back on my time in college I know that attending Bridgewater was a part of God’s will. It was everything I expected college to be and more. I genuinely loved my time I spent there. I graduated from Bridgewater College this past May with a degree in Philosophy and Religion as well as a Peace Studies minor.

My parents and I at my graduation.

As much as I loved the education that I was receiving, my time in college was much more than just school. I was also a pole vaulter on the track team where my teammates became my family and also my best friends.
The seniors on the Bridgewater 2013 Track Team

I also attended Harrisonburg First Church of the Brethren where I was a junior high advisor for three years. I definitely gained a family through the church as well. My summers were also spent in Virginia. I did a summer of MSS with Noel Naff at Mt. Hermon Church of the Brethren in Bassett, Virginia. Then I spent the past three summers at Camp Bethel in Fincastle, Virginia. Each summer I held a different job. My first summer I was a senior counselor, my second summer I was the craft lady, and this past summer I was a high ropes instructor.
Working on the high ropes tower.

Now I am in BVS. My current position is Assistant Workcamp Coordinator. My work has had me traveling to so many places and I loved every minute of it. I went to Maryland for orientation, Haiti on a site visit for a workcamp next summer, and Indiana for Powerhouse. This position has been so exciting through traveling and all of the work that comes with preparing for workcamps. I am eager to continue learning and preparing for my big summer!

-Jenna Stacy

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Community Living

A Few Updates:

 Things are going well here in the Elgin house, the five of us are more or less getting into the rhythm of all living together, while constantly learning what makes each of us tick. All of us have been enjoying the new gym membership we have at the YMCA and are bracing ourselves for the cold winter ahead. The Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren has welcomed us in, and has all of us involved in some way – from teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, Vital Ministry Journey, eating at Common Meal, working with the youth and more.  And since I’ve been here, we’ve been blessed with dinner invites, gifts of bikes, dishes, food, piano music and even getting our piano tuned! (Perhaps the first time in many many years!)  Each of us has been busy working away in the Elgin offices, in our respected fields. The NYCers are getting ready for registration to open in less than a month, Jenna has been hard at work, writing the Workcamp curriculum, and I've been sending out press releases and making phone calls to see how all the new BVSers are doing.  We all went our separate ways, last week, for Thanksgiving but have now coming back together for a short amount of time before we’re off again for Christmas.

Community Living:

One of my favorite things about this year is the chance to live in another intentional community house.  This will be my third community living in the past four years, and I have to say, I’ve learned so much from each of these experiences. These homes have been filled with much joy, laughter, and housemates who have become great friends. And although I really enjoy living with others, community living isn’t all glitz and glamour; it can and will be challenging, and it takes lots of patience and perseverance to understand and work with differences. So why take the energy to live with others?

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.
Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”   
Jane Howard

We all may not live in intentional communities, but  we all seek community– rather that’s in your family, your friends, your co-workers,  a sports team, etc. I feel like as I get older – finding these communities that fulfill me are getting harder. Yet, our basic needs remain the same, and one of those needs is a sense of belonging. (Pulling out some psychology class right there – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Humans Needs) When talking to volunteers about how their placements are going – the most common hardship is not feeling connected to the surrounding community and finding it hard to make friends-,aka not feeling like they belong.  I’d say this is a common feeling that most people experience. And since I struggle with this myself, it makes me realize how grateful I am to live with others in a very intentional way and just how thankful I am  for the many communities that have given me a sense of belonging.  Because like Jane Howard says, “you need one” 

I hope everyone is enjoying this holiday season!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Another Round of the Real World

       As I skimmed over a few of the previous blog posts, to see what others have written about,  I found that people transitioning  in and out of the BVS house has been a very common theme.  And the theme, it seems, lives on, as I am the newest member of the house, as of three weeks ago.  I’m Chelsea Goss, a young adult in the Church of the Brethren, who has spent the last three years as a full time volunteer, after graduating from the much beloved  Bridgewater College.  I have volunteered in Portland Oregon, as a BVSer, working with On Earth Peace, as their Peace Retreat Coordinator. I worked as a resident volunteer and summer program coordinator at Camp Bethel for a year, along with an internship with New Community Project, which I followed by continued work with NCP, at their Spring Village site in Harrisonburg, VA. And now      I’m here, in Elgin, for my second year in BVS as the Orientation Assistant for Brethren Volunteer Service. 

       After my 1st year of full-time service, when I decided to continue in the volunteer realm- I was asked the often question of, “when are you going to get a real job?”, or “when are you going to enter the real world?”.  So you can believe that now on my 4th year of volunteering with plans for a 5th year I receive these same ‘real world’ questions. (Although, a few have given up asking) And I understand where these question are coming from –  those wanting to know that I’ll have a retirement fund, and be able to financially  take care of a family, or to have some higher career goal worth working for.  And although I have these same questions for myself, in no way do I see them more a part of this real world that everyone wants me to enter.  I don’t know what is more real than devoting your time and efforts into serving others. (It’s that what we are called to do as Christians)  What’s more real in this world than living in community with others and building relationships, with taking time to listen to stories of those who are broken or need a listening ear, of being more in tune with God’s creation, by living simply, etc.   I feel like these years of volunteering are just as real, as any job I could get in the ‘real world’ that I supposedly haven’t entered yet.  My question is how can we live in the “real world” while not being of this world? How can we make our real world be a place of learning, experimenting, laughing, communing, serving etc.  and not allowing ourselves to get so bogged down by living in a society, where the way to succeed is measured by the amount of money you have, your schooling, your occupation, or what size jeans you fit into.  I realize that being a full-time volunteer might not be the best way to save money for any future child’s college fund, or paying off a mortgage, but for now, this is my real world. And I know that I have learned skills and have had experiences that will help to guide me for not only whatever job I someday may have – but have helped form life style choices that I hope can be implemented in all stages of life.

On another note – I’ve learned that having a Halloween party, at the BVS house, is a must. Here are all the housemates dressed in our finest yellow costumes. 


Monday, September 16, 2013

Transitions, tossing grits, and Tim!

Lately it's been rainy and chilly here in Elgin and if you look hard enough, you’ll be able to spot a few trees with leaves that have begun to change colors. The transition between summer and fall has begun.

While Elgin has just begun to transition between seasons, the BVS house has been in transition all summer long! In the 3 months that I’ve lived here, three housemates have moved out (Rachel, Tricia, and Kendra), Julia came for a month-long interim placement (and left), Jenna moved in last month, and next month one more will join us. Meanwhile, I traveled to 10 states this summer so I haven’t even been around much myself. The last three months have been full of transition for everyone here. Apparently this is normal for the Elgin BVS house….no more clearly evidenced than by our discovery of a box of grits in the pantry that had an expiration date of 01/2000. Anyone leave that behind? (sorry, we threw it out…)

Since we have been in so much transition, I haven’t had the chance to introduce myself on this blog yet. My name is Tim Heishman and my BVS position for the year is National Youth Conference Coordinator, a position I share with two extraordinarily talented individuals and good friends, Katie and Sarah. I grew up in Harrisburg, PA and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I am a recent graduate of Eastern Mennonite University, where I majored in Biblical Studies and History.

Some of my hobbies include running, traveling, gardening (it helps keep me ‘grounded’ with all my traveling), cooking, exploring new cultures and learning new languages (especially dialects such as ubi dubbi or pig latin), sharing laughter and good humor, playing cards or board games, reading and writing, talking theology, spending time with family and friends, and singing in choirs.

I really value the joys and challenges that come with “living in community,” or being part of an intentional community (yes, even as an introvert). I lived in community for 2 years in college and also last year in a Mennonite intentional community in Baltimore. Those experiences were both challenging and joyful. In each setting, I was nourished spiritually, through the ups and the downs. Henri Nouwen, one of my favorite authors, says that “Doing things together is more important than doing things alone.” I really think he’s on to something. Sure, some things are much easier to do alone, but when we do things together (especially things that are difficult), we allow God a space to work that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. And we are changed as a result. So I'm excited to grow, change, and be challenged here in Elgin, with my new community!

God is always moving and I’m looking forward to seeing what that looks like in myself, together in our community, in Elgin, and around the denomination this year. And I look forward to sharing some of that with you right here, for what it’s worth….

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My roots have grown, but I don't know where they are

It’s BVS orientation time here in our house, which means that one of our housemates is gone for close to three and a half weeks! The four of us were reunited for a day and a half after my crazy, week and a half roadtrip, which I documented on my own blog.

For 2013, I have decided to keep track of all of the miles that I travel for trips. It might seem like a funny thing to keep track of for someone who lives in an intentional Christian community. Humorous (and sad) because the memories and experiences that come from intentional community…come from physically being present. The experience comes from navigating life together. Shared laughter over dinner or the grumpiness in the van after a long day at work are moments that define us as a community. Albeit in small and mundane ways, but they continually structure who we are as a community nonetheless.

When I returned from my week and half long jaunt away from 923, I came back to a regular house meeting…there were things that it took me longer to process or reminders that didn’t directly apply to me. Like, “Can we try to leave a little bit early…so that we’re on time for work?” Well, I haven’t even been here for the past ten days she’s probably not talking about me…or to me. Yet, she was. It’s a common plea and reminder that we hear often and just because I’ve been gone…doesn’t mean I don’t need a reminder to be in the van by 7:45am.

The travel schedule that pulls us away from our BVS home seems ironic to me, because …it’s harder to strengthen relationships when I’m not physically present, especially when I’m in a new state, with (mostly) new people, and a new church. Being here for ALL of those things is hard enough…not to mention being intermittently gone and missing bits and pieces of this place’s story. I know the story of where I came from – Weyers Cave. I know the town, the nice lady at the locally owned grocery store, I know the church people, the Valley people, the Bridgewater people…I KNOW that place. My roots are DEEP in that Virginia ground and when I come home…it’s like I hadn’t left. Yet, we all know that’s not true, either, because people grow and change and live even when you’re not there. Right?

It’s hard to think about the roots I have in Virginia, in the Valley and at Bridgewater, and the roots that I’m establishing here…the people that I am falling in love with each day, the old van that I can drive better than my own car, the welcoming church family and supportive co-workers, and the flat horizons and snowy ground. THEN having to uproot in a year and a half to (potentially) another new place with new people? Is that just the plight of young adulthood? Are young adult’s seasonal plants unable to establish deep roots in a place? How do you all feel about this? Are you all experiencing a similar phenomenon?

The Head and the Heart lyrics, “My roots have grown but I don’t know where they are” come to me immediately. If I bounce from place to place with roots here, there, and everywhere…is that okay? I don’t know about you, but I secretly LOVE that I get to travel. I am excited about the (freedom) that a young adult life can bring without having to “settle-down.”

They're so beautifully weird. I love it. 

I read a book by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, during my own BVS orientation, called “The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture.” I actually picked it up, because its design cover was reminiscent of our workcamp logo and theme “Deeply Rooted.” In his book, Wilson-Hartgrove talks about the importance of living into the daily rhythms of a place, of buying a house (that you’ll live in the rest of your life!), becoming a true part of the place around you and the people physically near you. He referenced the jet-setters who daily traveled around the world – whose roots were deeper in airports than in a home or city. Or in suburbia…where we don’t know who lives next door…and frankly don’t want to. The images just invoke emptiness and isolation. And it’s lifestyle choices that we’ve made for ourselves or that society has guided us to. He asks us, where is God calling you to be stable in your life? How can you be rooted wherever you are? Wilson-Hartgrove uses the stable imagery of his own intentional community and their daily rhythms, but suggests that stability with God can start by practicing daily rhythms of your own.

Intentional Christian community is a life choice that suggests we want to know people, know God, and be known ourselves. For that to happen, we have to be HERE…and in the BVS house…we are…for the most part. We work together. We eat together. We worship together. We commute together. We talk together. We meet together. When we’re here we really are together. Maybe that’s what’s most important.

I’ve been called to this time and this place…right now. I might not be here for the rest of my life, but I’m here right now. Trying to be mentally, physically, and spiritually present to the way the God is moving through these people and this place. We (secretly) know and (internally) acknowledge that this community is fleeting. By this time next year, the BVS house members will be different and its old members will have moved on…hopefully, establishing their own roots somewhere else. We ALL know that is our fate…we can’t live here forever. But we fully live here now and we fully love each other now and we fully seek God to come into this space now.

There probably aren’t too many intentional communities, Christian or otherwise, with members who travel as much as we do. (Maybe the Simple Way with Shane Claiborne’s speaking schedule?) The next time that all four of us are in the house together will be February 17th, and then the following morning I’m leaving for a short trip to California for workcamps. What is our life together!? Or I guess the better questions could be WHERE? It’s fitting that on that Sunday, February 17th, we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day. Celebrating love…together…in our home…with friends…here.