I bet you didn’t know the NBA sent four young adults to our area to help support community programs. Not the basketball association, the National Benevolent Association (NBA), the health and social services ministry of the Disciples of Christ Christian Church. Through its XPLOR program, the group pairs young adults with local Disciples congregations and community organizations, providing opportunities for community service in exchange for professional development and vocational discernment opportunities for the young adults who participate. This year, twenty-two residents, aged 21 – 30, have been sent to six host sites around the country. Locations include churches in Arizona, two sites in California, Missouri, Dallas, and here in the Hiram/Mantua area. Four Xplorer residents have been sent to the Hiram/Mantua area this year as part of this national program. Claude Goree hails from Selma, California; Diamond Green from Springfield, Missouri; Sarah Smith from Bluefield, West Virginia; and Benton Stull from Pratt, Kansas.

Twenty-three-year-old Claude entered the program after earning a degree in culinary arts. He is currently working with Family and Community Services in Ravenna, one of the largest social-service organizations in Northeast Ohio. At FCS, Claude will be helping people of all ages through programs that provide food, clothing, shelter, counseling, and mentoring.

Diamond works at the Little Village Early Learning Center in Hiram, where she works with kids ranging from toddlers to school age kids. She shared, “those little daredevils push your limits, but you love them just the same.” The 21-year-old student’s major is currently undeclared, but she enjoys technical writing. As part of her XPLOR experience, Diamond will be honing her writing skills by crafting blog entries for the program.

Sarah is a 23-year old chemistry major with a Masters degree in Education. As part of the XPLOR program, she works at Hiram College, where she is involved in events such as Warm Wishes, and Campus clean up,. In her role as service coordinator, Sarah solicits student volunteers to help implement service programs campus-wide and in the local community. Her work for Make a Difference Day paired students and volunteers from Hiram College sports teams with organizations needing assistance with service projects on the national day of service in October. She works with an XPLOR resident from last year that was hired by Hiram College after completing the program.

Benton is working with the Mantua Restoration Society, where he works with the community organization to help further renovation and utilization at the historic Center School building. Twenty-eight-year-old Benton studied History and Religion in college, as served in the Army before enrolling in the program. He is enjoying his work with the Restoration Society, and is considering becoming a pastor.

“This program is for young adults seeking a year of discernment,” their spiritual companion, Linda Idoine explained. “Each individual is connected to a church, and is seeking spiritual discipline and guidance to find meaningful work for their lives. Linda, a Disciples of Christ church member, meets with them regularly to keep apprised of their progress and help them negotiate through any issues that may arise.

Not surprisingly, the program’s four cornerstones of hands-on service, simple living, leadership development, and spiritual discernment on vocation held great appeal for all four XPLOR residents. Benton agreed, sharing that he was intrigued by the opportunity to discern the meaningful work God intends for him. He’s been considering ministry for the past eight years, and hopes the program helps him make a decision on his career path by the end of his residency. Sarah concurred, adding, “My last semester in college I realized that what I thought I wanted was actually what my parents and professors had planned for me.” Diamond agreed, “I’m looking for a plan; the XPLOR program is helpful in helping me determine what to do.”

The residents practice simple living by sharing a two-bedroom, one bathroom home in Hiram where they share cooking, grocery shopping, and household chores. They established house rules and hold weekly meetings to help them coexist peacefully. Each XLOR resident works with one of the three local Disciples of Christ area churches in Mantua, Mantua Township, and Hiram, where they serve in a variety of capacities. They are each given opportunities to preach, and engage with congregants of all ages.

Linda was involved with last year’s participants, keeping track of where each former resident ended up. “Their placements within the community really helped them with discernment,” she added. She’s optimistic that this year’s participants will have a similar experience. The 10-month program ends in mid-June. For more information in the program, visit nbacares.org.