Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
In just a few hours, I will be joining 12 other students on a weeklong road trip to Jubilee Partners, an intentional Christian service community in Georgia. This is not my first visit—I had the opportunity to stay there briefly on my way to the School of Americas Vigil a couple of years ago, and it left a deep impression on me. Walking their fields and joining them for communal meals, I was immediately drawn to these people whose interdependence allowed them to live so independently from mainstream cultural norms, and engage in such meaningful work.
As a Mennonite and an international development student, these are certainly things that I desire for my own life. Every day I am reminded of the many social and environmental problems associated with the Western lifestyle, and I want to live in a different way. I want to live generously, not possessively. Connected to nature, not separated from it. Selflessly, and in service to others. Living in this way requires accountability, and I believe that that can only come from a community of like-minded people who are struggling together to realize a common vision.
This past year, I think I may have found that community. We are not sharing a common purse, nor are we farming organically. As full-time students, there wouldn’t be much money in that purse, and there are only so many projects we can take on in addition to our schoolwork. But together, we are discerning our vocation and opening ourselves to the possibility of living in intentional community.
The idea is somewhat frightening. I am 21 years old, and have already moved about 10 times in my life. I desire a sense of belonging and a clear identity more than anything else, but a life rooted in a specific community is completely foreign to me. At both Jubilee Partners and another commune I visited in Chicago last year, full members commit to staying in the community until God calls them elsewhere. Maybe it’s a young adult thing, but my desire to find my place in the world and stay there is matched only by my feeling of restlessness.
Could I commit to staying in one place? As an international development student, I know that rootedness and strong relationships are essential for informed and successful community development work. And yet, this question keeps coming up. But lately, I’ve realized that my fear of committing to a certain place or group of people is based on a false idea that I need to find the perfect place or group of people to commit to. Once I began to see a community as dynamic, living thing—the culmination of our collective imaginations, I began to get excited about the idea of working with others to create the community that we want to be a part of.
I am looking forward to visiting Jubilee Partners, and having the opportunity to reflect on some of my ideas and questions about communal living. I am sure that that the trip will provoke even more questions than it will answer, and so I hope to continue the conversation on this blog and with my group of fellow travelers in the months and even years after the trip.