In Nashville or South Africa, Couple’s Mantra is to Love, Serve Neighbors (Theresa Laurence, Tennessee Register)
Whether working with refugees in their jobs at Catholic Charities of Tennessee, or as resident directors of Friendship House, a residential community for adults with disabilities and Vanderbilt Divinity graduate students, or on their next adventure, at LIV Village in South Africa, Bailey and Jordan Collins just want to "be good neighbors, to love and serve others. It's kind of our mantra."
The idealistic young couple is eager to take a leap of faith now, "before we get stuck with a mortgage and have to pull ourselves up from the roots," according to Jordan, and they hope to put down new roots in the LIV Village in Durban, South Africa, a residential community that serves orphaned and vulnerable children.
Bailey, originally from Alabama, and Jordan, who was born and raised in South Africa, bonded over their love for the people of Africa. She had traveled to Swaziland and always knew she wanted to return to the continent. Jordan came to the United States to attend Belmont University, but always felt he would go back to his home country.
Jordan had been to LIV in the past, and after Bailey visited Durban and LIV for the first time, "it felt like a perfect fit, all of my dreams were right there," she said: farming, outdoor education, working with children, communal living, cross-cultural experiences.
The LIV Village, founded by an evangelical Christian South African couple, Tich and Joan Smith, is a model of community living, where orphaned and vulnerable children can live, learn, and be loved in a safe and nurturing environment. They can go to school, church, receive health care and therapy, music lessons, and, when they're older, job training. The Village is also designed with eco-friendly features including vegetable gardens, solar panels and water catchment for the homes.
Bailey and Jordan Collins, who married in 2015, will not only be working with the resident children at LIV, they will also be raising their first child there. Right after the couple confirmed their decision to move to South Africa, Bailey found out she was pregnant, due in June. "That could've stopped us, but we had a really strong feeling that we still wanted to go," said Jordan. "Very quickly, we realized the ways that this move will be such a blessing for our little family" Jordan wrote on the couple's blog, www.baileyandjordan.org/blog. "Our child will get to grow up at LIV with so much love all around him/her."
Jordan Collins, a 2015 graduate of Belmont University, who studied theology and music, is wrapping up his time working with the Refugee Resettlement Office of Catholic Charities, where he was a housing specialist, collecting and distributing household furniture and items to help establish homes for newly arrived refugees. "I try to make it look like a nice, welcoming place to stay," he said.
In the LIV Village, Jordan will work with local musicians to provide private lessons to the resident children. He will also be assisting with the Gap Year program, mentoring young people just out of high school who choose to take a year off before college to learn and serve. He will also be working to start a program that reaches out to other schools in the area to get involved with LIV.
Bailey Collins is finishing her stint with Catholic Charities as a Refugee Youth Program Assistant, where she ran after school programming for Somali refugees at the Pruitt branch of the Nashville Public Library, located in the Napier housing project community.
"I really love working with kids," said Bailey, a social worker, and is looking forward to working with children in a variety of settings in the LIV Village. She plans to continue her education online, working towards a master's degree in social work while serving in the LIV Village. "This is the best way to further my studies while getting real experience with the people I want to serve," she said.
While Bailey and Jordan Collins are rooted in their Christian faith, each raised in different Protestant denominations, and most recently at home in the St. Augustine Episcopal community at Vanderbilt, they don't see themselves as missionaries, following some kind of direct order from God to serve the people of South Africa. Rather, they are following a calling to serve "with purpose and passion," said Bailey.
Wherever they are, both Bailey and Jordan relish the idea of working cross-culturally. "We choose to put ourselves in a place where people don't look like us, and have different stories than us," said Bailey.
The couple look to Jordan's parents, American missionaries who still live in Durban, South Africa, as role models, people who "sacrificed their own comfort for others," said Jordan, reaching out to people on the streets, taking abandoned and orphaned children into their home.
Jordan, with his long, brown dread locks, says he considers himself South African, and that his parents worked hard to give him and his two older brothers "a South African experience," sending them to public schools with white, Indian and black children, and not remaining walled-off from the larger culture.
Born just before the end of apartheid and Nelson Mandela's election as president of South Africa, Jordan said he is "excited to step back into South Africa," which "still feels very young," as new leaders with new ideas take on the country's racial and economic challenges. "I'm excited about what our generation can do," he said.
The Collinses have an open-ended commitment in the LIV Village, but plan to stay at least two years before they decide what's next. They will be provided with a room and board while residents there, but they do not receive salaries, and like most all LIV workers, must raise their own funding to support themselves. Jordan says they realize they are "incredibly lucky to be able to do something uncomfortable. ... We have family and friends to catch us."
While the Collins family will be living a simple lifestyle in the LIV Village, they look forward to the challenges and rewards to come from that. "Our kid will not have the best stuff, but hopefully we can teach him or her how to love people well," said Bailey.
More information can be found at www.baileyandjordan.org and at www.liv-village.com. The couple is still in need of funding to support themselves during their first year of service at LIV Village. Donation information can be found on the couple's website.