Similar to the chicken and the egg progression, I often wonder about the connection between faith and social work. Does my faith drive my social work or is social work a way of sharing my faith?
For me, it’s both. College was a time of choices. What would I choose to do when no one was looking, when no one was cared? I had a choice every day to live for Jesus in the grace He’s given me or live for myself in the trappings of this world. I chose Jesus, and although I’ve failed some, even most days, His grace is sufficient.
A trip to Poland started me down my career path. I read books and experienced people and situations that changed my life. I made a list of things I was and still am passionate about. Things like children who have no control over their home lives, sex trafficking, poverty, hunger, medical insufficiency, and trauma that affects each and every person for the rest of his or her life. Things that I had never had to experience and didn’t like thinking about. Things that made me cringe inside but yet cry on the outside. Hurt.
I realized that the people I cared for and wanted to help couldn’t pay for my services. In fact, many wouldn’t know where to get help or that help was even available. I wanted to help the helpless.
So now I’ve devoted my career and my life to them; the hurting, the helpless, and the hopeless. But what concerns me is how I see attitudes shift and helping change. Teachers become jaded, child welfare workers get frustrated, poverty and suffering is alleviated in one place only to return in another. The cycle is disheartening and the people are tired. Some become cynical and many just stop trying to make change because the change is so hard.
So how does that relate to faith? Why does it matter that my faith drives my social work and my social work shares my faith? Because I have hope. I know that in every situation, my God is present, He is working, and He knows best. I am a vessel. I may become more cracked with use and time but my maker fills those cracks and I grow. I am the young one with big eyes and bright ideas but I don’t want my light to dim. So I am making a choice now. I may feel the hurt, helplessness, and frustration but my God is greater. I listen to songs like this for inspiration – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJpt1hSYf2o
I choose to live by faith. I choose to find joy in the sorrow. I choose to wake up each day excited about what God may do. I choose to be used.
Allie L. works at Grace Abbott School of Social Work (University of Nebraska at Omaha) as a graduate assistant and at Project Harmony (Child Advocacy Center). She is in her second year as a dual degree student in the Master of Social Work/Master of Public Health program through the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She has been a member of NACSW since 2012.