I’m happy to introduce Alex Benson this week, a student at Luther Seminary and editorial assistant for this CSL newsletter. Alex’s post is a great example of how our students have experienced stewardship before seminary, and how that broad vision shapes stewardship in the classroom. Each newsletter goes through several layers of editing, uploading, and sharing. I’m grateful to have Alex’s careful eye guiding the process. As you will read below, she already has many stewardship lessons to teach us.
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
Diapers, Glitter Glue, and Unexpected Lessons in Stewardship
In between undergrad and seminary, I spent a year serving with Urban Servant Corps, a Lutheran full-time volunteer program in Denver, Colorado. I lived in intentional community with fourteen other volunteers, and together we grappled with questions about social justice, spirituality, and simple, sustainable living.
Life as a full-time volunteer can easily be perceived as one of scarcity, but, to my surprise, I discovered great abundance: an abundance of joy, love, hospitality, and inspiring generosity. I learned most about what it means to live generously in my time serving at a women’s shelter in inner city Denver. Although it wasn’t so much on my mind at the time, I now realize that stewardship was in many ways the sustaining force behind much of the work we were able to do. Stewardship showed up in unexpected places and in unexpected ways, refreshing reminders of God’s abundant grace and mercy in the midst of some of the world’s most broken realities.
Visions of Stewardship
Stewardship looked like the retired high school teacher who volunteered his time every Monday and Tuesday to share of his trove of wisdom and unquenchable passion for youth and their families. It looked like the nurse who showed up on her days off each week with armfuls of picture books or Play-Doh because, “our kids will just love these.” Stewardship was embodied by the Lutheran church group who volunteered to cook and serve lunch one Wednesday each month and made everyone’s day with a fresh salad and warm brownie.
Stewardship looked like the shelter’s major donors who helped sustain salaries and made the construction of our beautiful building possible, with its sunlit café dining room, well-stocked art studio, rooftop garden and playground. Thanks to their generosity, the building was not an overcrowded, gloomy shelter but a warm haven of hospitality.
Stewardship of a different kind showed up in the dedicated volunteers who returned week after week to read books and hold babies, to teach computer classes and lead art lessons, to organize the free clothing boutique and help stock the food pantry with boxes of Cheerios and cans of peaches.
Stewardship showed up in coloring books and tubes of glitter glue, tubs of Legos and plastic kitchen sets that were donated to the children’s area, helping to create a safe place for kids to play and to learn. Stewardship looked like baby blankets knit by faithful church women and boxes and boxes of diapers collected by the local elementary school.
Stewardship provided piles of backpacks and stacks of spiral bound notebooks just in time for the school year. Stewardship was behind neatly wrapped Christmas presents and plastic Easter eggs filled with jellybeans, Halloween costumes and sparkly Prom dresses that brought a sense of normalcy to occasions that for our clients could become painful reminders of what was not available to them.
Perhaps most profoundly, stewardship was embodied by clients and former clients who had once been the recipients of such generosity: the fierce, strong women who knew what it was like to care for young children when they didn’t have a stable place to call home, women who had faced head-on the crippling reality of mental illness and addiction, women who had made mistakes, and women who had been faced with a nearly impossible battle from day one. These women showed up with baby clothes outgrown by their own children, strollers that they no longer needed, and books that were ready to be shared. Stewardship showed up in information sharing: the advice from one mother to another about where to find affordable family housing, how to navigate the public transportation system, or where to find a hot meal on the weekends.
My Urban Servant Corps journey led me to confront the painful realities of homelessness and poverty but also invited me to experience what it means to give generously out of God’s promise of abundance. To be a faithful steward is to recognize God's abundance among us and to seek out ways to creatively share these gifts with the broader community. This courageous generosity, in its many forms, speaks words of hope to God’s children: “I see you. You matter. And you are so dearly loved.”
Alexandra Benson is an M.Div. student at Luther Seminary and a graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. She currently serves as the Program Assistant and Editorial Fellow for the Center for Stewardship Leaders.