Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good
- Friday, February 25, 2011
Matthew Price has deployed his legal training to advance the Kingdom value of justice for the poor in Uganda. There he mentored paralegals and law school students from the Ugandan Christian Law Fellowship (UCLF), training them to provide representation to victims of illegal detention. Matthew and his team visited police stations and jail cells to advise prisoners of their rights under Ugandan law. By the end of his first year in Kampala, Matthew and the UCLF lawyers had offered representation to over 200 prisoners. Through their intervention, Matthew explains, "these prisoners have finally tasted justice in their case, whether by way of an acquittal and release or conviction and [a] defined term of sentence."
Architect Jill Sornson admits that as a graduate student, she struggled to understand "how my faith and my design passion merged." Initially she thought being a "Christian architect" meant lovingly witnessing to her non-believing peers. She continues to see such relational ministry as vital, but over time she recognized that she could also promote the value of creation care through her work. She turned away from working on high-end condo projects that didn't seem to add much value to people's lives. "I wanted to design buildings to create healing spaces [and] promote sustainability."
Oceanographer Jorge Vazquez also advances environmental stewardship through his vocation. A love of creation was instilled in him as a child, through long walks with his father along the beach. Today as a scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, Dr. Vasquez works to improve the quality of sea surface temperature data records, an important element in the quest to understand and monitor global warming.
With intentionality, we can often find ways to advance the common good right in our current jobs. An engineer might advocate product reforms in order to promote better worker or consumer safety. A middle manager could design a new internship program at the firm that provides fresh economic opportunities for minority teens.
If we can't "bloom where we're planted" in these ways because of our lack of seniority or other barriers, then we can donate our professional skills to a nonprofit that's engaged in a Kingdom cause. That's what young Christian marketing, IT, and human resource professionals in the Big Apple are doing through Hope for New York's "Professionals in Action" program.
Or we can consider launching our own "social enterprise" that draws on our vocational talents and networks. That's the path graphic designer and illustrator Jessie Nilo has taken. In 2004, she started Vineyard Arts, gathering about 20 artists from her church, Boise Vineyard. Together they're promoting the values of beauty and healing. Members have been visiting a nursing home and a local Crisis Pregnancy Center, facilitating art projects by the elderly and by scared teen moms-to-be. The art helps draw people out from their anxieties and sadness, Jessie reports.
Through vocational stewardship, we can experience more joy and meaning in our work. Simultaneously, our efforts offer others foretastes of the Kingdom.
Sounds like a winning combination.
Dr. Amy L. Sherman directs the Center on Faith in Communities at the Sagamore Institute. Her new book on vocational stewardship will be published later this year by InterVarsity Press.
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