Hello! My name is Charles Mullis. I grew up in Statesville, NC, and I was raised in the Episcopal Church in our very own diocese. After college, I knew I wanted to take a year to reflect, discern, and serve, which made JSC the natural opportunity to try. That discernment part is big—I would often joke with my friends that I changed my major or career path every week. Well, I can’t say that’s changed, but I can say confidently that I’ve learned more this month than almost any other in my life.
It’s hard to believe that at the beginning of this month, we were just finishing up orientation! After a relaxed Labor Day, each of us began working at our partner organization. Now I’m four weeks into my work at Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. I stepped into the office at an exciting time: Next year, Orange County Habitat will be celebrating its 40th Anniversary, and part of my job is to prepare for the celebration. I’ve already done a lot of digging through archives to learn about the organization, and as the year progresses I hope to reach out and collect stories from members of the community who have been involved over the past 40 years.
The other part of my job is to help increase community engagement in Habitat neighborhoods. This might involve attending neighborhood events and hosting listening sessions to strengthen the relationship between the Habitat organization and its homeowners. It turns out that a lot of thought and planning goes into building authentic relationships, but I am enjoying learning how it goes first-hand.
Back at the house, things are going well (to my pleasant surprise). We are getting along as a cohort and learning more each day about our living habits. The kitchen and bathrooms are staying clean thanks to our chore schedule (and the considerate actions we each take on a daily basis). We’ve enjoyed many great meals together, including broccoli casserole, chili, and omelets cooked in Ziploc bags (you read that right).
One of those meals was our first partner organization supervisor dinner, in which we hosted the directors and some board members of UCAN. We heard the amazing stories of the two directors’ career journeys, from a farm to the corporate world then back to agriculture—something they said they’d never do. It was deeply inspiring to hear from them at a time when vocational discernment is perpetually at the top of our minds.
On Sundays, we’ve continued to visit several partner congregations. While I grew up Episcopalian, I have never been exposed to such a great variety of different worship styles within our liturgy. Since starting the program, I’ve noticed that I’ve been especially attentive to the sermons. Whether they were written about us or not, I’ve never heard such poignant words as from the pulpit this fall. It’s almost like we’re in a time of intense spiritual growth!
Overall, this month has been challenging but rewarding. When difficulties arise, at work or within the cohort, I always remind myself of what this year is supposed to be: an opportunity for growth.
The Fellows (and Doug) hosted members of Urban Community Agronomics (UCAN) for their first Partner Organization dinner