Having lived in many houses, fifteen cities, and five countries, David Nordtvedt (Morrison Class of 2003) now lives in a nine by eleven foot room among the world’s one billion people who live in slum communities.
As a child of missionaries, David grew up in Taiwan interacting with people from many cultures. As a student at Morrison for ten years, he learned respect for different cultures and the beauty of cultures learning from one another. His Taiwan experiences and upbringing impacted him on his journey toward cross-cultural, cross-economic and distinctive life of Christian witness.
After living in Taiwan for seventeen years, David moved to North America for college, where he studied development geography. It was while taking a human geography course, with required reading of “The Guardian Weekly” periodical that David became acutely aware of the issues of famine, poverty, and injustice all around the world. As his awareness increased, David began asking and grappling with hard questions such as, “In a world of abundance, technology and progress, why is there so much inequality and injustice? Why is there slavery and poverty? Why can’t we share? How are Christians involved in changing this?”
This sparked an interest which first led him to spend a summer working with the poor in the Watts community of inner-city Los Angeles. Then he studied abroad in South Asia his last semester in college. From there, he volunteered and interned for various organizations in South Asia to gain deeper perspective. In time, he realized the creative ways that the church was already involved and how much still needed to be done among the poor. Shortly thereafter, David began graduate studies in community development in the Philippines, which solidified a direction in holistic mission work among the poor. He sensed that his role was to step away from comfort and security and to follow Jesus’ example of downward mobility among the poor. David joined Servants, an organization with a vision “to see the urban poor and their communities transformed by the power of Christ.” With Servants, David joined a team of five others who were dedicated to living among the urban poor. Ultimately, he took a radical step: He decided to move into a slum community.
Living in a slum community in South Asia is challenging, first of all, because of the simple living conditions and lack of privacy, but the challenges reach beyond that. As David explains, “It can be draining. The pain around me weighs heavily on me. I realize my own poverty and weakness and have more questions than answers, so I look to Jesus to as my hope and as the hope of my neighbors. I look to Jesus to show me how to act out his love and hope.” He’s still understanding how to communicate with neighbors in a language and culture not his own, which can be awkward and confusing. However, despite the challenges, David has found much common ground with his neighbors through friendship, sharing food, mutual respect, and living life together.
While spending two years in his slum community, David has devoted much time to acquiring the language and comprehending the culture in hopes of slowly becoming part of the community. His team lives in various slum communities to build relationships and prayerfully consider God’s invitation to share His love through word and deeds. David has been moved by the hospitality of his neighbors. He is learning a lot from them and continues to pray and trust God with his life among the poor.
David’s many experiences cannot be fully described. His visit to Morrison’s Spiritual Life Week in September 2012 allowed the community to hear his experiences first-hand and take part in knowing God’s heart for the poor. During David’s week at Morrison, he enjoyed connecting with students. David appreciated the time that the school set aside to focus on poverty and social justice and believes God will honor that. In bringing the theme of poverty and social justice, students were challenged to grapple with important questions.
Though his experiences in high school were many years ago, he knows that Morrison’s teachers continue to inspire and nurture their students in daily integrating their Christian faith and life choices. As David recalled, “My teachers invested in me, pointed me toward Jesus, and were a great example and encouragement to me in their work and friendship.”