You Make Beautiful Things Out of Dust

  Russ Kerr was a 2014-15 Miami Dwell/YAV participant. Photo credit: Joe Tobiason

Russ Kerr was a 2014-15 Miami Dwell/YAV participant. Photo credit: Joe Tobiason

A friend posted a quote the other day that read, “a year from now the things you’re stressing about won’t mean anything.” While it was a little more inappropriate, its message was oddly comforting to me despite its employment of an approach avoidance tactic. Is that what it’s like a year out? The feeling that everything you stressed about doesn’t matter anymore?

Today I had the honor of attending Farm Church in Durham, N.C. I was captivated when the pastor, Rev. Allen Brimer, mentioned his vision for turning Farm Church into a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) site where volunteers run various urban gardens across the city of Durham for a year. And isn’t the YAV alumni community AMAZING? Of course I had to approach him after the service to hear more about his dream for Farm Church. I love meeting YAV alum chasing dreams and making them realities—lawyers, doctors, new worshiping community starters. It’s absolutely fascinating. A completely unexpected encounter I know that God placed into my life in this very time and this very place.

Today we sang the words, “you make beautiful things out of dust.” I’ll admit after my Dwell/YAV year with DOOR Miami I felt like dust. I felt washed out and what some people call, “YAV hungover.” Which really is just shear exhaustion. It’s how I feel now completing my first unit of CPE from this summer but this time I leave recognizing the fatigue having learned it from the year before. Did the feelings that I feel, the exhaustion, the things I stressed about during my Dwell/YAV year matter? It’s a hard question to answer because now, they don’t.

But to some extent, yes. They did matter. The things that caused me pain. The range of emotions I felt. The odd tension of holding excitement for the future and nostalgia for the past? Yes! Yes! Yes! What my friends Facebook post didn’t account for was the information. My pain informs me. My emotions inform me. The encounters and interactions were genuine and they inform who I became. They shaped me, molded me, and turned me into the messy beautiful work of art in God’s eyes that both you and I are. And that is good news! It’s good news that we are not robots trained to only take in the good and block out the bad.

There’s a messed up world around us that you will be awoken to or in tuned with during your YAV year. The world is an extremely vulnerable place. But Brene Brown and the last year taught me about combating vulnerability. As Rupert NaCoste spoke in a recent lecture, “I know things will get better because they always have.” Pretty hard to process after a year of living with your heart on your sleeve. A year of trying to get along with roommates and a small budget. A year of navigating different spiritual dimensions.

So what have I learned in the past year? Trust and be vulnerable. It’s simultaneously the hardest and scariest things to do together. To future Dwellers and YAVs, good luck. No matter how exhausted, frustrated, or vulnerable you feel, you’re doing the work. There will be days where you think you are not doing the work. Or the burden of the work of social change feels too heavy. There’s a big scary world out there that seeks your trust. It needs you. And as the song continues, “All around, hope is springing up from this old ground out of chaos life is being found in you…you make beautiful things out of dust.” And while it’s talking about God, I have to beg the question, what about you? You, too, can make beautiful things out of dust as the divine works through you. Go and do great things!  



RUSS KERR is a 2nd year M.Div student at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, V.A. He is a 2014-15 Miami Dwell/YAV alumni who spent his year working as a Community Organizer with Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida. He is excited for Gods calling and tries his hardest every day to live into that mystery. Other than guest blogging he enjoys ice cream, other people’s pets, and new music recommendations. You can read more about his Dwell/YAV experiences at