Feeding the Wolf

by Martha Lynn Coon, AYAVA House Coordinator

Twice a week I get to spend time with six incredible young people, sharing and learning from the ways that we encounter the good, the bad, and the Godly as evidenced in our daily lives. Brought together through the AYAVA House, a unique new program hatched in the Admissions Office of Austin Seminary, we are a motley crew:  Churched and un-churched, we are from different regions of the country, represent different racial backgrounds, and spring from a host of different socio-economic realities.  What connects us?  A desire to grow closer to a sense of who God is and what it means to have a godly call on our lives, embodying vocation in the truest sense of the word.  We do this by sharing the ups and downs of work, life, and our struggles to explore and understand this thing called "discernment."  And every Sunday night, we eat together.   

At our “family dinner,” as we’ve fondly come to call our Sunday night gathering, we take turns bringing a reflective thought or quote to share with the group and discuss after our meal.  This week, one of the participants shared a favorite proverb of his, one that helps him stay tracked to his own true north on a daily basis:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.”

“One is evil, which is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good, which is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” to which the old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

We’ve come to expect that in this community we call AYAVA House, an acronym for the hybrid program which incorporates Austin Young Adult Volunteers and AmeriCorps, we will feed more than our bodies when we gather together with purpose and faithfulness.  Like the Cherokee adage, each member of this community chooses which wolf to feed on a daily basis.  Not only are they committed to the heroic work they undertake as AmeriCorps volunteers, teaching literacy to adults and children and mentoring students from at-risk communities in the greater Austin area, but they are also committed to feeding their spiritual life through a year of intentional living at AYAVA House.  

According to its program description, AYAVA House participants “examine their individual call to a life of service and how this influences their larger vocational direction, exploring these questions through active citizenship in the seminary community, the city of Austin, and the expansive and expanding kingdom of God.” Practically, this commitment to vocational discernment is played out through a combination of education and experience in community service, theological reflection, engagement in spiritual practices, and simple living. Our hope is that by consciously satiating the better of our inner wolves, with grace this program will grow us as people, as a group, and as a community at large. 

Austin Seminary Approved as Young Adult Volunteers Site

Austin Seminary received approval from the PC(USA) as an official Young Adult Volunteers(YAV) site for 2012-2013 through the Ayava House program. As an approved site, the AYAVA House coordinator will work with the candidate and the Young Adult Volunteers program staff to place and house the volunteer in his/her year of service.

The Young Adult Volunteer Program offers exciting opportunities in Christian service and learning for young adults (19 to 30 years of age.) The Young Adult Volunteer Program has sites throughout the United States and internationally. Young Adult Volunteers serve in communities of need.

Learn more about the Young Adult Volunteers Program

Thoughts from the Residents

One thing that I’ve learned while in college and life after college was that everything that happened to me that was good was only allowed by God, which is why it is important to be naturally and spiritually dependent. This makes you aware of that which has been given to you is a gift, but it is up to you to discern and use it not only for your own betterment, but so that those you touch be positively affected by it! I am expectant that during my time in Austin and at the AYAVA HOUSE, I will be able to learn and be enlightened spiritually and naturally in my provident assignment by God. By working with others and helping the young I am sure I will achieve that and more. -- Jeffrey

The values of spirituality, social justice, simple living, and community are essential for the future I picture for myself. One of my mentors described this initiation experience as a process in which the old self is killed so that the new adult self can be formed. These values of discernment, service, reflection, spirituality, and simple living are the foundation of my new self, and I hope to be able to continue to cultivate them by choosing to perform them from within the AYAVA House intentional community. -- Kat
About the AYAVA House
(Austin Young Adult Volunteers AmeriCorps)

Ayava House at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is an Intentional Community for young adults, with the following guiding principles:

  • Vocational discernment
  • Service to the community
  • Theological reflection
  • Engagement in spiritual practices
  • Simple living

 Learn more about the AYAVA House program.

AYAVA House receives $10,000 grant from the CF Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia

The CF Foundation awarded Austin Seminary a one-time start up grant of $10,000 for the establishment of AYAVA House for young adults who are engaged in community service and social justice issues.

The purpose of the grant is to:

Engage the church (at the local, regional and/or national level) in the lives of young adults who serve in our communities and connect their service work with the word of the gospel of Christ and the life of the church.

Invite young adults who are passionate about service to understand the connection between their desire to serve and the church’s mission to address issues of poverty, inequality and injustice.

Encourage young adults to see the church as a powerful vehicle for engaging the world and as a vital place where they can invest their talents, resources and vision to transform the world.

Enliven and inspire local congregations through the connection with the young adult volunteers and their service in the community and make the congregation or organization more visible through the work of the young adults.

Establish intentional Christian communities for young adults that can be replicated in other communities throughout the country in order to build a national movement of local churches supporting young adults who will ultimately move on to a life of service.