Over a year ago, an amazing conversation happened between pastors on both sides of the Mississippi River about entering into a shared ministry that would include local churches, two regions and a Disciple college. Could we bring a National Benevolent Association XPLOR House to the Quad Cities? We listened. We prayed. And we said yes to God’s Calling of bringing the possibility of 4 young people into an internship/mentorship/relationship program for 10 months.
So what is NBA XPLOR? It is a 10 month resident program where young people 18-30 can apply to live in a diverse community of peers, where they will engage in communal and personal spiritual practices ranging from prayer to simple daily meals together in a simplified living arrangement. They will relate to three Disciple-host congregations, as well as care for and learn from others in a community-service internship.
In August 2015, we welcomed Cristian Marin (Iglesia Cristian Del Este Whittier; Whittier, CA) Sarah Page Jones (Fairview Christian Church; Lynchburg, VA), and Anna Westin (United Christian Parish, Lakeport, CA) to be in partnership with Cedar Memorial Christian Church (Davenport, IA), First Christian Church (Davenport, IA), First Christian Church (Moline, IL), IL/WI CC Region, Upper Midwest CC Region, and Eureka, College. Along with these partnerships, we received $10,000 in grants from Pro-Reconciling/Anti-Racism Team in IL/WI Region and their Leadership Development Fund, CCIW received and gave $15,000 from the Oreon Scott Foundation, Victor & Doris Day Foundation, and a $13,000 grant from the Upper Midwest Region.
There are four cornerstones of the NBA XPLOR program in the Quad Cities. In addition to the Disciple mentoring relationship that the residents are building in our churches, they are stepping up into leadership roles in our congregations by working up to 6 hours a week. The residents spend Friday with a Spiritual director who will help them discern their vocation. Cris, Anna, and Sarah are living in a two bedroom apartment that is provided for by the program. But their monthly salary is only $450 per resident. So they have to work together as a house to be frugal with their money and understand what it might be like to live on a very fixed income. The last component to the XPLOR program is to provide the Residents with the opportunity for hands-on service with social service agencies that assist the community. Identified service sights for the Quad Cities include: Broadway Presbyterian Church Urban Garden Outreach, Quad Cities Interfaith, St. Joseph the Worker House and Braking Traffik. These agencies address issues of food insecurity through faith based community organizing, advocacy for victims of human trafficking, job discrimination for low income/homeless, working with area congregations around a campaign to raise awareness, organize around the alarming rate of mass incarceration of minorities in the State of Iowa.
On behalf of Cris, Sarah, and Anna and the congregations of First Christian Moline, Davenport, and Cedar Memorial we cannot say enough thank yous to our friends of the Upper Midwest Region and IL/WI Region for supporting us not only financially, but also spiritually. We hope to continue with a second year into the program and the opportunity to share more about this amazing cooperative ministry shared by the local, regional and general expression of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Rev. Linda Hunsaker