Malachi Black served last year as an LVC Volunteer at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska. When asked about why he was drawn to LVC after college, he said that he was searching for something more than just a job. He quotes, “I wanted to be challenged in every aspect of my life and the concept of intentional community really drew me into the program.”
Currently, Malachi still serves on staff at Grace as Outreach Coordinator. Recently, he was interviewed on the podcast Things That Matter, which is the official podcast of the Nebraska Synod ELCA. You can listen to the podcast here, and read more from Malachi about how he strives to create intentional community in Omaha below.
How did your LVC year impact your desire to be in solidarity with others? Did you learn how to live in community without an agenda with your housemates, or was that something that came from your work at Grace?
Can you talk about why you were so shocked to be hired by your LVC Placement? Many Volunteers hope this will happen, was that the case for you?
Everything was moving so quickly for me. Several months had passed and we were already being asked about doing a second year. I really did not know what was going to happen; part of me really wanted to do a second year just to stay where I was. I wasn’t ready to find a job or move on yet. I did not know of anyone being hired at Grace, so I never considered it to be an option. I suppose that’s why it was so shocking to me.
Tell me about one of your favorite conversations with a “stranger” from the community where you do your outreach.
Recently, while passing out event fliers, I came upon a house on the corner where I was actually ending my route for the day. I decided to stop over since I saw two people sitting outside. What was meant to be a simple hello turned into over two hours of conversation with a mother and her son. We talked about everything from religion, both historic and current, to science and understanding dimensions. It was such an enthralling conversation. Needless to say, the young man plays piano and now comes to the church to practice. He and I sat and talked quite a bit about various things; I was impressed with him as a seventeen year old. To me this is the meaning of life: connecting with others because we are drawn together in one life.
Do you find that many folks begin to attend church after you’ve developed a meaningful relationship with them, or that most of the time your relationship remains outside of the four walls of the church?
I have not had any members who have joined because of the relationship I have established with them. I also do not see that as an issue, since I find that many people are on their own faith journey and explore it in their own way. What I do find is residual participation in activities that Grace hosts, and I see them involved in other activities in the community.
I think when we consider the words, “love your neighbor”, sometimes we miss the practical piece to what is being said. When we think of love as, “considering the highest good for another”, it really challenges us. Why? Because we cannot be limited to just what we think is good for another. It means we must be in relationship with others and come to better understand them and what the greatest good is for them. Sometimes, when we develop relationships with others, we come to learn that the best good we can offer is simply ourselves. To simply be present with another can be the difference between life and death.
Finally, Malachi adds:
One thing that has really resonated with me throughout my Volunteer year and continuing with my work, is having respect for differences. We live in a world of tolerance that says we should agree to disagree, or simply keep away from those who are difficult or do things we don’t like. We have become segregated in our daily practices and associations in an almost natural way. This whole experience has really challenged me to step outside of those boundaries that have been self imposed or simply followed out of habit and patterns. It has taught me that when life begins to feel comfortable, to be wary of the boundaries that keep me from truly living.
This story originally shared in the June 2016 Leader Letter.