At National Orientation, our LVC leaders succeeded in preparing us for the challenges of communal living. As a house, Redeemer spent hours considering our communication styles, our conflict resolution skills, and the goals and expectations we had for ourselves. However, nothing could have prepared us for just how much fun we would have!
For cynical folks like me, this introduction may seem extremely canned and insincere. Don’t get me wrong, like any LVC house we have ongoing debates, struggles, and conversations around how we want to live, where our priorities lie, and how to spend our money and time. But I really must emphasize how much we like each other at Redeemer.
The main way we display this love for each other is through food. As a house, we have committed to sharing three home-cooked meals a week. We prioritize not just the shared experience of eating the food, but also cooking together and finding sustainable ways of obtaining food that also benefit our neighborhood. For example, on Saturday mornings you can probably find at least three of us at a neighborhood farmers market or stocking up on free produce at a nearby food bank. Our host congregation, Redeemer Lutheran Church, also provides a fantastic example in sustainable food practices. Redeemer has a community bread oven and a community garden, so it’s not unusual for us to enjoy some fresh wood-fired pizza or for Bex to come home from work at Redeemer with baskets of tomatoes, kale, and more.
(In fact, we’re rolling in so many free vegetables, eggs, and watermelons that we’ve had to freeze a lot of it and stock it in our upstairs refrigerator. In our quest to eat it all before it spoils, we’ve come up with a very simple motto — TAMVU, TAMEU, TAMWU! There’s always more veggies upstairs, there’s always more eggs upstairs, there’s always more watermelon upstairs. These are fun acronyms to yell out when you’re looking for something to cook with; you should try it some time.)
Meanwhile, you might imagine cooking together is a great way to demonstrate service toward your fellow housemate. Watching my housemates cook, however, is also a simple way to learn more about giving and taking in a community relationship. Where I fail, my housemates are there to help me. If I don’t know how to brown beef, for instance, Theresa is there to assist me. Isaac is incredible at making basically any breakfast food, Elshaday can fix a mean curry, and I’m still thinking about the egg bake Grace made for dinner one night. (As for me, my specialty is keeping Redeemer House well-stocked with homemade chocolate chip cookies, fudge, soft pretzels, salted brownies, and more baked goods.) We all have the gifts that we use at our placements every day to connect with others and benefit the neighborhood, city, and world around us, but food preparation is an easily-overlooked way to get to know someone and how they experience the world. It’s a privilege to be able to come together and experience that at least three times a week with my LVC housemates.
Thanks to the bonds we’ve built through the simple act of feeding ourselves, we’ve developed a tight-knit community that also keeps a list of our weird quotes on the fridge, is eagerly awaiting a free family portrait session at our local library, and is throwing an Earth Wind and Fire-themed party on September 21st. We are able to engage in deep conversations while washing the dishes or watching Netflix, and we are fueled and ready to participate in LVC and live out its core values. Food makes the work of building community easier and more fun, and I am so glad we decided to prioritize it. As we settle into north Minneapolis and begin to lean into the spiritual, emotional, and physical work ahead of us, it’s relieving to know that the hard work of building community now is worth it and Redeemer House has a solid foundation supporting us.
Dylan Walker, a St. Olaf College alumnus, is serving this year at Redeemer Center for Life in Minneapolis, MN.