Serve Well Blog


Heating Up Compost
by Anne Basye - Krista Foundation

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press

LIKE composting food and garden scraps, reflecting on and processing a service experience can take a long, long time-and create powerful results. To the January debriefing retreat, 2011 Krista Colleague Lindie Burgess brought two years of rich composting materials she had collected through her service at St. André Bessette Catholic Church in downtown Portland, where she fully embraced her task to "create an environment of radical welcome" for homeless community members experiencing poverty and isolation.

The article "Service Compost" by 2003 Krista Colleague Sarah Wanless Zwickle, explored on the first day of the retreat, helped "action-oriented" Lindie use the composting metaphor to see the value of "sitting on some of my experiences" instead of expecting instant insights. "In my two years downtown I experienced community at its absolute best and its absolute worst," she says. "How do I dig through the really harmful memories in order to live in a way that honors that my journey has been both richly painful and full of joy?" 

During the retreat, Lindie and other participants were invited to put both positive and painful memories on the compost pile and let them decompose a bit. "The compost pile looks like it is dormant, but lots of activities are taking place," she says.

In the safety of the Krista Foundation community, where right answers are not required and wrestling is encouraged, "I could share the frustrations, joys and celebrations of service and lay those stories faithfully down," Lindie says. "For me, an important part of the ongoing work of processing is discovering a love and trust for God. I am still learning to be in community with God and it was important to be with others who are articulating some of the tensions I feel towards religion and the idea of God that I inherited from my very human teachers." 

Lindie is now Program Manager for the Moreau Center for Service and Leadership at her alma mater, the University of Portland. As her compost pile cooks, she is "paying it forward" by mentoring students as they learn from their own service experiences in the Portland community. "Turning things over in a facilitated manner with community input, I can leave behind some of the things I don't have to carry anymore, and end up with richer soil."

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