Month: July 2018

Mission Immersion: helping others while being helped

A core goal of Raleigh Youth Mission is to deter participants from the “savior mentality”, because we believe it is a toxic standpoint, and not a true reflection of the gospel. To achieve this, as a staff we are intentional to define the concept of mission immersion. Prior to arriving to Raleigh and receiving training- I was a bit unclear on the concept myself. Several friends and family members would ask.. sooo what exactly are you doing this summer? Mission immersion is like a mission trip in that you are volunteering, working with others, and maybe providing some relief to those in need. However, mission immersion takes this concept a step further. The immersion aspect is a dual idea that while we aid agencies in their mission, we are also learning ourselves. We learn about the agencies, how they’re funded, what services they provide, and much more. So instead of simply helping those facing poverty, homelessness, or food insecurity, we also teach our youth where these problems come from. At RYM, we teach curriculum to middle and high school students that challenges systemic issues such as gentrification, generational poverty, racism, and privilege awareness.

One agency we partner with that exemplifies the concept of mission immersion is Healing Transitions. This rehabilitation facility is for those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. The facility is non-profit, and it is totally free to clients. When we visit this agency, RYM participants receive a tour of the grounds led by clients currently going through the recovery program. During our visits, RYM staff members and youth have the privilege of eating lunch with some of the clients, and getting to know their stories. The youth groups participating in RYM witness first-hand what is potentially the most difficult time in someone’s life. It is real life, not a sugar-coated version of the truth, nor is it intended to be a scare tactic. But rather, a lesson. Often, people who struggle with addiction are connoted with the less fortunate, lazy, or are viewed as less than. At healing transitions, the youth learn that addiction does not discriminate across race, class, or gender.

A peer ran facility, Healing Transitions operates with a handful of full-time paid staff members, and the rest of the daily operational tasks are carried out by clients. The kitchen, schedules, laundry, and some office tasks are all carried out by current clients. A majority of the staff are also graduates of the recovery program, and their model works so well because the clients can relate on a personal level to their mentors. Every tour guide notes that without their peers, they would struggle to find the motivation to proceed with the recovery program. The peer facilitated model requires accountability, community, and among other things- trust. Like a well-oiled machine, every person is needed and valued, because all pieces must work together to achieve a common goal. These vital parts lead to success with clients, and this type of community-living approach translates to the space the RYM participants share throughout the week. As staff members, we stress the importance of living in community.  RYM Participants live in a space that is typically used for Sunday school classes with total strangers. This may not be the most comfortable of situations.

In no way am I attempting to equate the two living situations- it is beyond comparisons as to what it is like to be in recovery. However, the general idea is the same and it relates back to the overarching theme of what mission immersion means- to be fully engaged in your community while striving to live a life like Jesus. He reached out to the oppressed, the marginalized, and the outcasts in society. He did not cast judgement, but rather offered a helping hand, and carried out his actions out of love- not for the need of self-righteous fulfillment. God did not intend for humans to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, but rather be there for each other, and reach out a hand to help someone up when they fall.

 

Emaleigh Fleeman is an intern at Raleigh Youth Mission.  She is also a student at Georgia College and State Univeristy

God Loves Everyone

“You are a liar, you are a phony, and if you were to punch anyone in the face—it should be yourself.” These were the words my RYM group witnessed a woman reciting to a younger more vulnerable woman on the R-Line bus.

This week at RYM we learned about what it means to live abundantly, what living abundantly looks like, and how God has called us to serve those who lack abundance. During the week, we played an activity called ‘Continuums.’ In this game, someone reads out a statement, and people place themselves accordingly on a scale of “agree” versus “disagree.” The last statement in the game was “God cares the most about people who are poor and/or oppressed.” Once this statement was announced, the majority of people moved more towards the 100% agree spectrum. This shocked me. If anything, I feel neutral to this statement.

In my experience, the people who are poor and/or oppressed, suffer the most. They are amongst some of the loneliest people, the most invisible, and the most uncared for. Throughout my life I have been taught that God loves all his children. This past week, we have cared for those who are poor and/or oppressed by spreading God’s love, but what happens once we are gone? We are taught to continue these actions out of kindness and God’s will, but it is sometimes difficult to spare some change when we already have ill intentions. It’s no new news that people do not typically give money to people on the street. We are taught or assume that we should not spare a dollar, not even a dime, because the person may go and spend the money on alcohol or drugs.

It is difficult when we live in a world where it is not always safe to serve those, in a world where we teach our children not to give away their resources. But sometimes, God leads us to not turn our backs on those we are weary of, whether that be through their appearance or social status. I saw this with my group predominantly through our R-Line experience.

As the woman at the beginning of this story, made her final and ultimately crude remarks, my youth and adult leaders paid close attention to both women. The first woman, the one making the comments, appeared look like a well kept woman who had no patience for those who appeared lesser. In her lap, was a white plastic bag that contained a salad and other various food items. The woman had offered the other one her salad, but did not fail to admit that she must’ve been crazy to offer it at all. The other woman was skinny with tangled light brown hair, old beat up Nike sneakers, a black trash bag, and one pinched eye. As the older woman spoke to this lady, it was clear she could not hear very well. The other passengers on the bus appeared purposely oblivious.

There were many attempts made to help the young woman in need, but none seemed to work, for the woman was too timid and fearful. Finally, one of the adult leaders pulled out a sheet, and calmly spoke to the skittish girl about some locations she could attain a free lunch. The leader explained that on the sheet were locations the woman could find help for free, while paying no attention to the yelling woman. Eventually, it was our stop to get off and with this we asked the quiet girl if she wanted to get off with us as to direct her to Shepherd’s Table. She said no, but she kept the sheet.

Once we returned to the church, we debriefed, and prayed not only for the woman who needed a free lunch, but also for the woman who persecuted her. God loves everyone no matter what race, social class, or difference. It is debated on whether God loves or cares more for one people rather than another, but maybe some people need God’s love more than others. Some people have nobody to love or are loved by no one. Thus, it is crucial for us to spread this love and let it be known that people are loved, because without love there is hate.

Tai Ruinsky is a summer intern at Raleigh Youth Mission.  She attends American University