It may seem premature to state this…but I love my new job: Partners in Health and Wholeness Regional Consultant. I started working with the North Carolina Council of Churches on Monday. So here we are, day four. And what can I say? Things are going pretty well. So far I have been to a monthly staff meeting, a quarterly Governing Board meeting, (how did these two events happen to fall on my first two days on staff? It must have been Divinely ordained to be so…) and I have spent two days in my new office at Guilford College UMC in Greensboro. I have met wonderful people, learned several new computer systems, quieted rumors, listened to kids play on the playground outside my office window, and received a warm welcome from NCCC board members and staff.
To explain the rumors, it has begun to spread around GCUMC that the entire staff is being put on a diet. Several staff members of GCUMC have approached me to share their concerns: just because I am using their office space for PHW it does not mean I can throw away their junk food! They have assured me they are not interested in eating kale for every meal. It is as if they think I have been placed here, in their church, as a part of some conspiracy to take away all the food they love! I went on to quiet their fears (at least in part) and explain that my work is a deeper calling to encourage God’s people to become good stewards of our bodies, which are an incredible gift God has given us. It is not about eating all kale all the time. (Although if you are wondering, the nutritional content of kale is fantastic and it can be prepared in a variety of delicious ways!) “Well, as long as you know I’m not going on a diet!” they’d say. I’d smile and nod as they jetted in the opposite direction. I mean it when I say: this is going to be fun!
But before all this excitement, I had my first day of work at the council. My first morning I made the commute from Greensboro to Raleigh with a cup of coffee my brand new husband made for me in our brand new French press coffee maker. As I carried it into the office (although nearly empty and growing cold) I thought to myself, “I wonder what PHW’s stance is on coffee… Is it too acidic? Do the healthy antioxidants outweigh the potentially unhealthy aspects? Is there too much caffeine? What will they think of me?!” I soon relaxed and acknowledged that this stream of consciousness was just new job nerves–I care about living out a healthy lifestyle, and they already know that. As I sat in our staff meeting and listened to updates and prayer requests, I felt completely welcomed and at home. I realized what I have known since I became interested in this position—that the people who work for and support the North Carolina Council of Churches are kindred spirits. They are people who maintain a beautifully complex balance of pouring their lives into the work of the Gospel, yet not taking themselves too seriously. They embody “doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly” with our God as the prophet Micah calls us to do. It is an incredible gift to be surrounded by such down to earth people doing such holy work. I am excited to be a part of this holy work and to dive right into the work of PHW, kale and all.
–Shannon Axtell Martin, PHW Regional Consultant