Finding Shalom in the City

[2015-16 participants]

Nathan: The Shalom Project is a year-long voluntary service and learning experience in Lancaster, Pa. We invite college graduates to Lancaster to live in community in a house in the city, work and serve full-time in professional internships, and to engage in a variety of activities aimed at personal growth and Christian spiritual formation.

We are more than halfway through our first program year, and recently took time to reflect together about this new experience. I asked the participants why they chose the Shalom Project, and what their experience has been so far.

Lenore: During my senior year of college, I decided to change my major. This left me unsure of my future. The plan that I had created for myself was no longer what I wanted. I decided to look for internship programs that would allow me to gain professional experience as well as allow me to reshape my future goals.

With the Shalom Project, I have been working at Church World Service as a Special Needs Facilitator assisting with resettling refugees. I have been given responsibility and expectations that I have felt under-qualified for, but my co-workers have shown me constant support. I’ve heard stories from refugees of horrors and trauma I could not imagine experiencing.

While my job can be stressful, it is extremely life-giving. Every day, I help empower a resilient population who refuses to be beaten down and rises above the oppression. I am extremely grateful for the Shalom Project and Church World Service, and everything they are teaching me about myself and the world around me.

Ellie: As a recent college grad who was transitioning from a year abroad in India, the Shalom Project seemed like an ideal way to jump back into a new phase of life here. Halfway through the experience, I can say that it was exactly what I needed.

I chose the Shalom Project because I love their blueprint for helping us build a life in Lancaster. The internships open up professional opportunities, seminars introduce us to people who influence and love this city, and community life provides support (and adventure!) throughout the year.

To my surprise, the internship placement has been what defined this year for me; I never expected to love my position at The Mix at Arbor Place as much as I do, and I am thriving with the responsibilities and creative freedom I have at work.

Erin: As a person who does not do well with abrupt change (this type of change constituting a fair amount of the past 3 or so years of my life), I needed to do something after I graduated from college that would ease me into the next phase of life. The Shalom Project provided this opportunity. And because the Shalom Project is a one-year commitment, I have the flexibility to take what I’ve learned somewhere else, or continue to immerse myself in this community. I have chosen to stay in Lancaster City for the foreseeable future!

In a Resident Assistant internship at Steeple View Lofts (an independent living retirement community in downtown Lancaster), I am learning a lot about the professional world, and my favorite part is interacting with the residents. At my internship at  the Ephrata Re-Uzit Shop, which supports MCC, I am learning how to work with people who think and dress differently from me – balancing the times I need to learn from them with the times they can learn from me.

In terms of the community, I am really enjoying living in community with the other Shalom participants (or Shalomie Homies, as we like to refer to ourselves!). I can ride my bike essentially anywhere within the city limits and can ride the bus most places outside the city.

I have been drawn to a great need in Lancaster to bring people back together: there has been a great deal of division in the past which continues to affect the communities in Lancaster city today. I am hoping to continue to be a part of bridging these gaps – bringing people back together and restoring broken relationships between different people groups around the city.