Month: July 2016

“Superpowers” by Troy Schmidt

The nice part about a job with a fairly consistent schedule is that on any given day I can provide a pretty good guess about what I’ll be doing. Every Sunday a few things happen: I forget to eat dinner because of poor time management, groups arrive, I struggle in the name game we play, and the night concludes with orientation. During orientation every week we ask the kids to put on flexibility pants and humility vests, two (imaginary) articles of clothing that provide them with superpowers. Flexibility pants give you the power to be flexible at work sites, which means being prepared if plans change. Humility vests give you the power of being humble enough to do any job that’s asked of you.

These often go hand in hand at our various worksites. For example, at Manna FoodBank a group may be sorting bulk products like potatoes or pasta when Josh comes and asks for two volunteers to come throw out old moldy squash. Thanks to both of these superpowers any member of the group can do this with only an acceptable amount of complaining. Our flexibility pants and humility vests also don’t come off, which means, by my count, I have on at least nine of each of these articles of clothing on right now. All of these pants and vests come in handy, because as an intern our weeks/days/hours often call for us to be flexible and humble. Sometimes you get to a worksite and it takes longer than expected to check in on the computer, sometimes you get to a worksite and finish everything the agency asked you to do all day in the first hour, and sometimes you make a wrong turn even though you’ve already practiced driving that route and know where to go.

No job site requires more flexibility or humility than a Wednesday afternoon at Haywood Street Congregation. Haywood Street is a congregation of mostly homeless members who come together for a worship service every Wednesday and Sunday. There’s also a free meal served before the worship (you don’t have to stay for worship to eat the meal) so on an average summer Wednesday they see between 300-500 people. In the middle of all this craziness our groups set up tents, giant Jenga, and corn hole. We then walk up and down the street, handing out popsicles as a way to break the ice and start a conversation with our neighbors. This five cent Popsicle can lead to an invitation to play games or simply provide our neighbors with a way to cool off. Handing out popsicles often requires a lot of humility. These are people who we are taught growing up to avoid. These are people who we avoid eye contact with when we’re driving or walking downtown. These are people we are taught that are very different from us. We use the Popsicle to humble ourselves and share the love that God calls us to share. When we do this right, and truly humble ourselves, some amazing things can happen. Some groups bring guitars and our neighbors teach them how to play new songs. Some groups make friends with the children of Haywood Street, children they wouldn’t otherwise talk to. Some groups even get to study the bible with our neighbors, and hear new perspectives.

Once we finish handing out popsicles and eating our lunch we join the worship service of Haywood Street. Worship at Haywood Street is unlike any worship most of the kids have experienced before. There is much more crowd involvement, people are allowed to speak their minds after the scripture is read. Anyone from the body is invited to serve communion. I’ve had communion offered to me by members of the youth group and a young adult wearing a shirt with a picture of Michael Jordan dunking. And, if you’re really lucky, sometimes the closing hymn will be “Celebrate” by Kool & the Gang and the entire congregation will form a conga line around the sanctuary.

As 3:00 rolls around and we end our day at Haywood Street, groups are typically exhausted. Wednesday afternoon marks the end of that week’s worksites and being in the sun all day in this summer heat can drain even the most energized of kids. Which is why there’s one Wednesday afternoon that stands out to me. We were all standing around waiting for the adult leader to bring the van around so we could load it with our supplies. The kids were playing corn hole and I was talking to a different adult off to the side. A man walked out of the kitchen pushing a silverware cart. On a typical Wednesday they serve between 200-500 people so you can imagine how much silverware there was. I heard a crash and immediately knew what had happened. I turned around to tell the kids to help him pick the silverware up but I no longer saw them by the corn hole boards. I continued my scan towards the cart and found that all of the kids were already on their hands and knees picking up silverware. Even after they were told they were done for the day, they did not hesitate to serve, and to serve humbly. Because the worksite might end, but flexibility pants and humility vests never come off.

“Our Valley” by Lauren Nalley

Hey guys! My name is Lauren Nalley and I’m a intern at Asheville Youth Mission this summer. I’m currently a sophomore in college in Colorado, but I am really excited about being able to work in Asheville this summer because this is where I was raised. I’ve lived in Asheville for 18 years and am super excited about giving back to the community which has given me so much in the past. My blog post this year is a video of spoken word slam poetry. I wrote this poem about my time in Asheville through out my life and what I have learned while being a part of AYM. It refers to many social justice issues which I have noticed in particular throughout these past weeks including homelessness, racism, police brutality , and many others. I hope you enjoy!

“What’s Your Name?” by Jane Langston

Every Wednesday evening, after groups have finished their last day of work sites and are participating in discussion and reflection during program, we do what we like to call “taking inventory”. We ask groups to reflect back on where they went, what they did, and who they met throughout the week. This is a time for them to recall favorite worksites, funny anecdotes, interesting observations, and meaningful interactions. It’s usually fairly easy to recall places they visited and things they did, but sometimes names slip away during the hustle and bustle of the day.

As we go to every work site, we always encourage the groups to get to know people—learn their names, have a conversation, make a connection—but we meet a lot of people and sometimes it’s difficult to recall everyone. Sometimes when people are remembered but their names aren’t, they’re identified by a nickname— Mr. No Ice Man, Suit Guy, Mad Hatter, etc. It’s understandable that sometimes names get forgotten. When that happens, identifying someone by the experience had with them is a good way to keep the interaction with that person alive. However, it’s important that when we remember people in this way we take care to remember them as real people and members of the community, not just as their funniest characteristic.

IMG_2454
RYM Week 1 group at Love Wins Ministries

Last week while serving at Shepherd’s Table Soup Kitchen with a group, I ran into a community member, Andrew*, that I had spoken to several times before at another of our agencies, Love Wins Ministries. I greeted him by name, and we had a brief but warm exchange about how he was doing. Because of the rotation of interns through different sites every week, my RYM shirt is usually recognized before I am, but Andrew told me that he remembered my face from previous Love Wins visits. It meant a lot to me that I was recognized, and as I thanked him for it, he reciprocated with his own happiness at being recognized and left me with a simple but profound observation: “There’s a difference between standing out and being recognized.”

Because life is a beautifully funny thing and God speaks to us in the most serendipitous ways, the following Sunday I happened to be visiting a church during their sermon series on how we are labeled by society. Every Thursday morning, my Urban Walk route takes my groups and me past the corner of Morgan and Blount Streets where Church on Morgan (a table of Edenton Street United Methodist Church) is located. It just so happens that this holiday weekend was the Sunday that I chose to visit. As the guest pastor, Lisa Yebuah, began her beautiful sermon I was struck by the relevance the message had to the observation made by Andrew earlier in the week. The message Yebuah gave that Sunday denounced the worldly labels that can unfairly become part of our identity. Sometimes the world incorrectly names us with words like addict, screw up, lazy, dirty, or any number of hurtful titles. We can become so familiar with these names that it’s difficult to remember that our only true identifier is that which God gives us: “my delight” (Isaiah 62:4).

As I type, my notebook sits beside me opened to the page where I scribbled the parts of Sunday’s sermon that spoke to me. The paper marking this page’s place happens to be a bulletin from the service with large bold letters announcing where we are in the liturgical year—Ordinary Time. The words, which catch my eye every time I glance at my notes, serve as a reminder that as perspectives are changed and eyes are opened throughout the summer, the lessons we learn need to be taken home with us as we go back to our usual communities and should be practiced throughout the year…even in “ordinary time”. In the combined words of Andrew and Lisa Yebuah: There’s a difference between standing out as…addict, weird, lazy, dirty…and being recognized as a Child of God in whom God delights. If my time with YMCo has taught me anything, then it’s taught me this: Learn a name. Learn a story. Connect with others. We do share a name after all: Children of God.

 

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our community members.

Palms Presbyterian Youth Reflect on What Mission Means to Them

Palms Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, FL is one that has made mission partnership their intentional focus, and have been engaging their youth in mission work for more than 30 years. Youth Director, Wilson Kennedy, says, “It’s the hallmark of youth ministry at Palms. This is how our youth are engaged in the world and think theologically and critically about our world and about how our faith calls us to be active and engaging in it.” A few months ago, before kicking off a summer of mission trips and local service work, Palms youth came together for a mission retreat. At the end of it, high school senior and Palms’ resident videographer, Jacob May, created this video, highlighting trips they’ve been on in the past, and what each member of the youth group feels is most special to them about these trips. The photos in this video are not only from their mission trips to the Carolinas and beyond, but also from work they’ve done in their home community of Jacksonville. Wilson says, “Because we’re situated two blocks from the beach, we’re intentional about being engaged in mission, and in partnership, and in solidarity in the beaches. There are over 250 chronically homeless people in Jacksonville, so we partner with organizations like Mission House and BEAM, which stands for Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry. Our church is also undertaking a study on issues of access [to services, affordable healthcare, job creation, and job training] at the beaches because we have the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor living together. So we’re constantly serving in different ways in our community and our neighborhood.”

Check out their video below, and then let us know what your youth group is doing, and why they think it’s so important. Email us at [email protected]!