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.