Love and Belonging

The first week of anything can challenge us and even be difficult. My first week at AYM was no different. It was difficult, but just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth doing. Our first week was worth any difficulties that we encountered, because we were able to serve the people in our community here in Asheville.

Our first week I took Northwest Presbyterian Church of Atlanta to 12 baskets and we helped serve the meal for the people who came in to eat. Almost immediately my group of 6 middle school boys saw that there was a chess set on their coffee tables at 12 baskets. They were all excited, most of them loved to play chess. They asked if they could play a game of chess and I told them that maybe if we had some time at the end of the day then they could. After that we started getting ready to serve the people coming in.

Once we were a little bit into our serving, a man named Andre came in and sat at the adult group leaders table. As he was talking with the adult group leader for a little while, he mentioned that he plays chess. The adult group leader told Andre that some of her youth were really wanting to play. I told one of the youth to go ahead and play Andre.

Andre is from Poland and when he moved to America he couldn’t find a job that would pay him a living wage. It turns out that Andre is an amazing chess player. One after another, he defeated the youth in chess. After every time Andre would win he would teach the kids some reasons that they lost. He would tell them complicated chess strategies. Eventually, after he had defeated everyone who wanted to play him, he told us about a special skill he has.  He can play chess with his back turned to the board. The person playing him would call out their moves and he would tell us his move and we would move it for him. Andre then played one of the youth again doing this.

Andre and the kids got so much out of this experience, all because we were playing a game with him. In our program we talk about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In the hierarchy there is a section called “love and belonging.” That’s what those kids were giving to Andre— a sense of love and belonging. This is just one of the many things I’m excited to experience as the summer goes on.

Brady Harding is an intern at Asheville Youth Mission and a student at George Mason Univsersity.

Deep Gladness

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” — Frederick Buechner

My deep gladness is lived out at Raleigh Youth Mission (a part of Youth Mission Co).  I began this past August as the Director of Raleigh Youth Mission and in this short time I have experienced pure joy!  I have experienced the joy of numerous agencies that are meeting the needs of those who are experiencing homelessness in Raleigh, NC – filling those gaps that enable them to move through their struggles and temporary situations with dignity and with hope.  I have experienced the joy of young people who become aware of the issues that surround homelessness and the complexity of it all – and not becoming overwhelmed but rather come to an understanding that they can make a difference in the lives of others.  And I have experienced joy to work with a staff that has a passion for youth and for justice systems that give all people an opportunity to flourish – who have the ability to look forward and ask “How can we meet the needs of those we serve with innovation and creativity?”

Youth Mission Co is a ministry that connects deep gladness with the world’s deep hunger – a ministry where we meet God face to face in the lives of those we serve.  This is not just another mission trip – this is an opportunity to live out the Word of God in our everyday lives, as we challenge our groups to go back and serve in their communities – partner with agencies that exist in their hometowns and see where God is already at work in their midst. Youth Mission Co is a ministry that allows us to all come together to share in our gladness, for our souls to be nourished and our hungers to be satisfied! Come and share with us!

 

Rev. Linda Harding is the Director of Raleigh Youth Mission.  She is a pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and has served churches in Virginia and Colorado.  

Mission Our Worship, Part 7: Sent Out To Serve

For the last several weeks we have been looking at each part of worship and considering how we can “mission” that element of the service.  From being called together to confession of sin, from hearing God’s Word and responding with what we believe, we have discussed how each part relates to social justice and the command that Jesus gives us to “love our neighbor.”

Typically the end of our services includes some kind of Charge and Benediction.  Often a pastor leads it by coming out to the center of the room, raising her hands, and gives some final words to the congregation.  This part of worship reminds us that God sends us out into the world, and blesses us for that journey with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit goes with us.

What are the places God is calling your congregation to go?  What message does God give us to share in those places?

Here’s an exercise you can do with your youth to “mission” this part of worship.  Ask your pastor(s) for a few standard charges and benedictions that they say, or that are found in the Book of Common Worship.  Choose one and re-work it to be specific to your local context and situation.  How might you share this new benediction with the congregation?  Here’s how one might sound if we were doing this exercise here in Asheville, NC…

“Go out into Asheville in faith.  Don’t be scared, but be brave.  Hang on to the things you know to be right.  Don’t disrespect any neighbor, even if they disrespect you.  Give strength and comfort to the patients at the Haywood Respite who need a friend, and the folks at A Hope Day Center who feel they don’t have a future.  Love everybody, from Livingston Heights to Pisgah View Apartments.  from the mansions of Biltmore Forrest to under the bridges downtown, being joyful about the hope and possibilities that the Holy Spirit gives each one of us, because God’s grace, mercy, and peace is promised to us all, no matter what.”

We hope this blog series has been helpful to you and your youth group.  May God continue blessing you and your church, so you might in turn be a blessing to others!

Bill Buchanan is a pastor, husband, father, and avid fan of live music.  He’s the Executive Director of Youth Mission Co 

 

 

Mission Our Worship Part 6: What Do You Have to Offer?

Welcome to Part 6 of our blog series, Mission Our Worship.  We are looking at the different parts of worship and considering how we can engage in related acts of mission.

In our last post we discussed that after hearing God’s Word read and proclaimed, we are inspired to stand up and say what we believe.  That’s more than some litany read aloud by a congregation once a week– it’s a call for our whole lives.  Whenever we see injustice or strive in the context of our world, we are called to speak out based on our faith and our convictions.

Today we look at the part of worship known as the “offering.”  No matter what flavor of Christian you might be, this is a part of worship we definitely all hold in common.  (Perhaps because collecting an offering is a major way that churches stay open!)  In the earliest times of our faith (like, Old Testament early) worshippers brought whatever they had to give as an offering.  If they were farmers, they brought their produce.  If they were shepherds, they brought some of their sheep to offer up to God.  Even today in our worship services people bring not only their money, but also their talents. If they are musical, they might offer a song in worship.  If they are an artists, perhaps their art might be utilized to enhance the service and point to God.

Engaging in mission is all about worshiping God through our actions towards others.  It is about loving our neighbors.  So, what do you have to offer…. to God, and to your neighbors?  If you are musical, who needs to hear that song, not just in worship, but in the world?  If you are academically gifted, who can be helped, and benefit from your intelligence?  Are you a good friend?  Who needs a friend right now?  Are you a good writer?  What needs to be said, and to whom?

Don’t worry if it’s not perfect.  God doesn’t expect perfect… just faithful.

Next up:  The Prayers of the People.  Stay tuned!!

Mission Our Worship, Part 5: Saying What We Believe

Welcome to Part 5 of our blog series:  Mission Our Worship.  Week by week, we are looking at each section of worship and thinking about how we can engage in acts of mission that are related to each of those elements.  In previous posts we have discussed how God calls us, not only to gather together in worship, but also calls us to love and serve our neighbors.  We have considered how adoration of the creator leads us to care for what God has created.  Confessing our sin requires us to be aware of the ways that we, individually and collectively, have hurt our neighbors through social injustices.  We’ve also talked about how the Spirit uncovers more of the power and meaning of Scripture when we study the Bible in community… particularly with neighbors who are different from us.  Our collective wisdom and collective experiences of life provide a richer soil for our growing understanding of God’s Word and its application in our lives.

Everything that comes after this point in worship is in response to hearing God’s Word read and proclaimed.  For many of us, the sermon is followed each week by some kind of creed or litany.  You could say it is a kind of “dialogue” with the proclaimed Word.  Given what we have just learned from the Scriptures, what do we now have to say in response?

Often this “response” is a statement that is read by the whole congregation.  Often the text of what is said is something that some group of people (past or present) has created as a public declaration about faith and life.  Some classic examples of what I’m talking about are The Apostles Creed and The Nicene Creed.  Those are very old statements, but some are more “modern” (as in, written in the last centruy).  For instance, The Barmen Declaration was written by German Christians in the 1930s because they found it important to say publicly, “Jesus is Lord.  Not Hitler or anybody else.”  All these statements were written within a context, with all the politics, concerns, debates, and societal problems that came with that context.

So, how do we “mission” this part of worship?  In many ways it is by simply doing what so many groups of Christians have done before us… discerning and saying what we believe!  What are the issues and questions that we are discussing as a people today?  Locally, nationally, or globally, what needs to be said, and said together as a group of Christians?

In the past, these statements have typically been made by “official bodies” represneting countries or denominations or elected groups and assemblies.  Technology has now “flattened” alot of those ways of communicating.  Now anyone can make a statement and send it around on social media to see if others agree or disagree.  (Such as, “If you feel this way too, like and share it!”) Another example of how folks have made a statement together is the let’s be neighbors signs that have been put in many front yards or businesses. There’s no “official body” deciding that we all will now believe this statement of inclusion.  But many folks have made the choice to say it, and they have let their neighbors know that they feel this way.

So, what is it that your faith and the guidance of the Holy Spirit is leading you to believe and say?  What is God putting on your mind and heart that the world needs to hear, at this time and in this context?  What statement can your youth group make together, and how can it be shared with others?

Having heard God’s Word read and proclaimed, let us stand and say what we believe!

 

Bill Buchanan is a pastor, Christian Educator, father, husband, and live music enthusiast.  He’s the Executive Director of Youth Mission Co.

Mission Our Worship, Part 4: Proclamation of the Word

Welcome to Part 4 of our blog series “Mission Our Worship.”  We are spending time looking at each part of a worship service, and then considering how we can do mission activities related to that part of worship.  Here’s a quick re-cap:

Call To Worship:  God not not only calls us to worship, but is calling us throughout the week to serve our neighbors.  Be intentional and mindful of what God is calling you to do, and with whom God is calling you to be in relationship.

Adoration:  In worship we spend time in adoration of God, for who God is and what God has done.  Chief among these is praising God as Creator.  In adoration of the Creator, we can protect and care for God’s creation!

Confession:  This element of worship is all about recognizing how and where we have fallen short of the call and responsibilities that God has given to us.  Likewise, engaging in Christian mission is also about knowing and understanding the social injustices present in the world, and how we have participated in that brokenness.  We do this with a sense of humility and repentance, knowing that God forgives a repentant heart and empowers us to make the world a more just and compassionate place.

Today we will discuss the section of worship that is all about Proclaiming the Word.  For many of us, in our weekly worship services this begins with someone offering a prayer asking God to help us hear and understand the the Bible text(s) for the day.  Then, someone reads one or more passages from the Bible, followed by someone giving a sermon explaining what the passage is really about, and what difference it makes in our lives.

At first glance, the way to “mission our worship” here seems pretty obvious:  we should go out and “preach the gospel” to people in the community!  Certainly this has been a form of mission in the Church for a LONG time.  We even read stories in the Bible where Jesus is seen doing this, as well as the Apostles.  We also have seen (or heard of) evangelists and preachers of more modern times who stand on a street corner, or on a college campus, or at a festival, and “proclaim the gospel” to the passers by.  Typically (or perhaps, stereotypically) it is a message of judgement and shame more than one of hope and compassion.  I would even venture to guess that most of us don’t feel equipped, or interested, in taking part in that kind of mission of proclamation.

Instead, allow me to give you another model of how we can “mission our worship” when it comes to the proclamation of the Word.  Jesus once said, “When two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them.”  (Matthew 18:20) We count on that being the case when it comes to reading and understanding the Bible.  When a group is gathered and is studying a passage together, we get the benefit of everyone’s different perspectives and different experiences that shape who they are and how they see the world.  Therefore, if we study the Bible with people who are different from us, the experience and understanding of the text becomes even richer!

At Asheville Youth Mission, many of our summer groups participate in Bible study sessions with our neighbors who are living on the streets.  At Church of the Advocate, for instance, youth groups bring a reading and artistic interpretation of a Bible passage to their Monday morning Bible study.  Then they engage in conversation with neighbors who are experiencing homelessness and poverty to discuss what everyone sees in the text and what it means in their lives.  At Haywood Street Congregation, groups participate in a worship service with a mix of community members- some poor and some not, some experiencing homelessness and some not.  Through a discussion style sermon, everyone gets to share what they see in the text and what it has to do with the world today.

What are the opportunities in your community to discuss the Bible with people who are different from you?  Do agencies and ministries in your area have Bible studies or open style worship services in which everyone, no matter their socio-economic status, is allowed to participate?  When we are able to both speak and listen, reflect and learn from each other, the Spirit speaks quite loudly.  And when the Spirit is at work, lives are transformed.

Next up, Response To The Word– Saying what we believe.  Stay tuned!!

Bill Buchanan is a pastor, husband, father, and avid college basketball fan.  He’s the Executive Director of Youth Mission Co.

Mission Our Worship, Part 3: Confession of Sin

For the last two weeks we’ve been discussing how we can “mission our worship,” meaning how we can take the elements of our worship service and translate them to mission related activities.  We started out talking about mission as a way to live out the command to “love our neighbor.”  We discussed the first element of our worship services, the Call to Worship, as a call coming from God to us as God’s people  We respond to that call through the rest of our worship service.  Likewise, God keeps calling us in other times throughout the week to engage in things that can help our neighbors; be that prayer, sharing resources with those in need, or sharing our time and talents to help others.

The next week we discussed the Adoration part of worship.  Typically this is a song or prayer highlighting the glory of who God is and what God has done.  We discussed how we can give adoration to God the Creator by honoring and caring for God’s creation.  This could look like participating in a river clean up or doing other ecology related projects.  For other ideas, visit your denomination’s resources for caring for creation!

Today we are going to cover the section of worship known as Confession.  After highlighting how amazing God is during our time of Adoration, we, in contrast, recognize how far short we have fallen in our responsibilities as God’s people.  Typically in our church worship services this can look like a prayer of confession, sometimes read aloud in unison, sometimes prayed silently, sometimes both.  This time of confession is not just about our own personal sins (i.e, everything I did wrong this week).  This time is also a time to recognize the collective sin of the community, even of the country and the world.  Sometimes our sin is not just in our actively doing something against God’s expectations, but also in our apathy and passivity in regards to the struggles of others.

So how can we “mission” this part of worship?  Well, if confession is about acknowledgement of sin, then we can mission this by educating ourselves in the ways that we have collectively failed to do right by our neighbors.  This can look like getting educated on various social justice issues, in our local community or more broadly.  For example, if you wanted your youth group to be more educated on racial injustice, perhaps this could include reading about these issues in books like Waking Up White by Debby Irving, or White Rage, by Carol Anderson.  Or maybe it is watching a documentary, like 13th, which discusses the pipeline of minorities being sent to prison.  Perhaps this looks like arranging for your youth group to hear from people in our community who are struggling, such as people who are experiencing homelessness and poverty.  Then, after hearing more about their experience, asking ourselves, “How did we as a society fail them?  How are we even now keeping them from getting what they need to succeed?”

Dealing with any problem, whether it is one person or a community, is first about admitting that there is a problem, and understanding what the problem is.  It’s also crucial for us to get some understanding of how we are part of the problem.  Then we can start turning toward solutions and a different way of living.

Speaking of turning, that is really what this whole confession thing is about.  Confession, or the act of repentance, means to turn away from one thing and turn towards another.  In our confession we turn away from the sins of our past and turn toward God and God’s call to live a more righteous life.  Perhaps we can “mission” this by asking ourselves, “What is one change we can make in our daily living that can turn us away from being part of a social injustice and move us towards something more just?”  Maybe it means changing some of the products we purchase, or how we use our natural resources.  Warning:  Confession is a long term endeavor.  Yet, so is God’s promise of forgiveness.  As we strive to live more justly, we remain thankful that our God is a God of second chances!  (And third, and fourth…)

Next up:  Passing of the Peace!

 

Bill is the Executive Director of Youth Mission Co.  He’s a pastor, father, husband, and a avid watcher of Stranger Things.  He lives in Asheville, NC.  

 

Mission Our Worship! Part 2: Adoration

This is the second of a series of posts about how we can take our worship life out into the realm of mission.  In our first post, we talked about YMCo’s definition of mission… which is essentially obeying the commandment to “love our neighbor.”  And, of course, if we want to love our neighbor we need to know something about our neighbor and the life that they are living.

We also discussed that the first part of worship in many of our churches is typically the Call to Worship.  God does the “calling.”  We do the responding to that call throughout the rest of the service.  Likewise, God is also “doing the calling” for us to engage in acts of mission– throughout the week and throughout our lives.  So every time we read a headline, hear a news story, or see a situation where people are in need, we must be attentive to the call that God is making and consider how we will respond to it.

After the Call to Worship, many churches typically have some kind of period that is all about the Adoration of God.  It could be a prayer.  It could be a song.  Whatever form it takes, the content of this time of adoration is centered around who God IS.  For example, we might sing classic hymns like “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” or “I Sing The Mighty Power of God,” which talks about many of the great acts of God.  Chief among these acts being the creation of the whole world!

Now, if you are truly in awe of what someone has made, you don’t turn around and damage or destroy that creation!  Therefore, I’m going to propose that a way we can “mission our worship” when it comes to adoration is to take care of the things that God has made.  This includes the environment and all the creatures in it!

What agencies, ministries, and organizations in your community are taking care of the environment?  What are the local, national, and international movements in which you or your youth group can participate?

Here are some ideas:

Join in on a local river clean up event.

Start a campaign in your church to get all bulbs changed to CFL or LED.

If your church doesn’t already celebrate Earth Sunday, talk to your worship leaders about offering a special focus that day on caring for what God has made.

Participate in a study regarding pollution emissions in your community, including what kind of fuel sources the local power plant uses, and what percentages of local air pollution are due to vehicles, households, businesses, etc.

Explore what resources your particular denomination offers in the realm of Creation Care.

When we have a mission to care for the creation, we are in turn giving adoration to the Creator!

Next up:  Confession of Sin as mission.  Stay tuned!

Bill Buchanan is a pastor, father, and husband.  He’s the Executive Director of Youth Mission Co, which includes the programs of Asheville Youth Mission, Raleigh Youth Mission, and Memphis Youth Mission.  He lives in Asheville, NC.

“Mission Our Worship” Part One: Call to Worship

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of participating in a video call with the youth group of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Fairhope, Alabama.  The topic was discussing how we connect our worship life with our lives of Christian service.  I very much enjoyed the chat, and it led to some great conversation among the Youth Mission Co staff.  The result of this inspiration is a short blog series where we will break down a worship service into its various parts, and then discuss how each part of worship relates to Christian mission.  We will also give some examples of how we can “mission our worship” through some simple acts of service.

But before we jump into our first element of worship, here are a few words from us about our own understanding of Christian Mission in today’s context.

Early in the life of the church, a lot of “mission” was synonymous with evangelism.  After all, the Jesus Movement was in its infancy, and so the task at hand was preaching the good news and getting folks on board.  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”  (Matthew 28:19)

Over time, a lot of the work of Christians doing mission out in the world was also related to helping others with their immediate needs and welfare:  providing food, healthcare, shelter, education, etc.  Sometimes this was done as a “hook” to then  guide the recipient into “right beliefs.”  Sometimes it was offered with no strings attached, simply putting into action the compassion that Jesus himself showed and that our faith inspires.  “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat your fill” and yet you don’t supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?  So faith, by istelf, if it has no works, is dead.”  (James 2:15-17)

At Youth Mission Co, we keep our baseline theology of mission pretty simple.  When Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, he responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and … and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22:37-39) Christian mission is about knowing your neighbors, and then acting/living in ways that are loving to them.  In fact, loving our neighbors is a way of loving and glorifying God… which is the task of our worship.

With that said, let’s jump into it!!

For many of us, our worship services begin with a Call to Worship.  A crucial thing to understand here is WHO is doing the calling.  In a literal sense, during our services there is often a pastor or some other worship leader standing at the front leading this part of worship.  They say a line that’s printed in the bulletin, and then we repsond back with another line.  But what’s really happening here is much more than just some call-response ritual that calls us to order.  We believe it is GOD that is calling us together.  It is GOD who gathers us in and who desires this community assembly.  It is God’s own invitation, God’s call that is the first part of our worship.

How can we “mission” that part of worship?  One idea is simply to be more intentional about hearing God’s call to us in our daily lives.  If you read the newspaper each morning, read it considering the ways God is calling you to take some action with the things that are covered.  For instance, I read an artcile that a local family here in Asheville was recently in a car crash.  Is God calling me to offer to bring them food?  or maybe contribute to a trust fund for those children?  How about when you listen to the news on the radio?  Or read a news article online?  Or even when you hear announcements each morning at school?

After all, God doesn’t just call us in the first five minutes of a worship service.  God is calling us throughout our day, and throughout our whole lives.  What are the ways that God is calling you to take action in your community?  When God calls, how will you respond?

 

Youth Mission Co Executive Director Bill Buchanan

Bill Buchanan is a pastor, father, spouce, and the Executive Director of Youth Mission Co.  He lives in Asheville, NC.

I Cannot Waste My Breath

I feel like it’s only appropriate for me to start out by introducing myself. So, Hi! I am Parker Barnes. I am a rising sophomore at Campbell University where I study Communications and Christian Ministry. I found Raleigh Youth Mission when Katherine Blankenship came to Campbell’s connections, which is kinda like chapel, but cooler, and told us about what she does in downtown Raleigh. I immediately knew that I wanted in. I had, just the weekend prior, been talking to my mom about how I had been praying about what God wanted me to do over the summer. I was pretty much a dead tie between interning at a nonprofit and being a camp counselor. So when Katherine gave her talk at connections I knew RYM was for me. I walked my smiling and joy filled self up to the stage and told Katherine with confidence “RYM is what God wants me to do this summer.” Katherine, probably freaked out said, “well the application will be out soon.” And from then on I knew that I would be spending my summer in downtown Raleigh.

I have always been a thinker and so when I went through a difficult time in 2015 I handled that no differently. I thought about it A LOT. I went through a time where I was unsure about the legitimacy of who Jesus was, although I had grown up with both parents working in the Methodist Church. I mean y’all, my parents met in seminary and my first word was “amen,” needless to say, no one ever thought that I would doubt who Jesus was. But I did, just like most people do. I questioned if God was good, if God was for me, if God really was all that people say God is. Yet, through all of this questioning, God was not offended, in fact God used it for his glory and for my good (Oh what a good God we have!). So one day, after a lot of questioning, doubt, and fighting on my own, I asked Jesus to come and help me. And just like that He was there. He said “Parker, you’ve had a rough go of it, how about you hop on my back and I’ll carry you for a while.” And that is exactly what He did. Everything was not perfect in that moment, but everything was different.

Unknown to me, God was beginning to weave a Holy passion in my heart, through my time of darkness. I began to ask bigger questions like “why is there injustice in the world?”, “what does God think about injustice?”, “do I have a responsibility to my fellow brothers and sisters who are being oppressed?” And, as many of us know God answered those questions, without any concern that it was going to turn my life upside down. God was doing all of this at a very interesting time, at an interesting time in our country. I don’t need to tell you that a lot has gone on in our country in the past year, you already know that, and if you don’t, just check Facebook. I began to feel uncomfortable about the way that my brothers and sisters were being treated. I began to acknowledge my privilege, and it did not sit well with me.

The biggest question I began to ask myself was- Why is The Church not doing anything about this injustice? I had read The Bible, I had obviously seen the way Jesus felt about injustice, I was confused why so many people were ignoring it. I was confused and kind of frightened.

This big question lead to a great deal of hopelessness. And think if we are honest a lot of us find ourselves there, concerning injustice in the world. We become immune to it, not because we think it’s okay, but because we think there is nothing we can do about it. The biggest thing that RYM, and the Raleigh community has taught me in general is that there is always something we can do about it.

My first devotion assignment of the summer was Genesis 2:4-9. In this passage the creation story is told in beautiful parable. It goes like this:

“this is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground- trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

I found myself looking at injustice like there were no shrubs, no plants, no rain and no work being done. I felt hopeless, this is how I felt before I began my own personal mission immersion at RYM.

But then I began my time at RYM and God allowed me to see how God had strategically placed streams along this dead land, to water the whole surface of the ground. God showed me that, in all his mercy, God purposely made Shepherd’s Table soup kitchen so God’s people would not go hungry. God purposely made Ruth Sheets Adult Day Care Ceter, so God’s children would never feel forgotten. God purposely made North Raleigh Ministries, so people would not go naked. God purposely made Healing Transitions so God’s sick children would know that they are never alone. God purposely made Church in the Woods so people could encounter to love of Jesus Christ. God purposely made Oak City Outreach Center so there would be no days where a child of God would not see smiling face. God purposely used and uses all of the agencies to give life to a land that can seem so dry.

And while I began to see God nourish God’s land, even though He had been doing it long before I knew of it. It began to give me new life. God used these strategically placed streams to pick me up out of the dust of hopelessness and breath a life of hope into me.

And even in all of that goodness God was not done. God continues to create, grow and plant new trees that are pleasing to eye and good for food. God continues to plant trees like The Raleigh Center and A Place at The Table. God continues to use the people who have been breathed on to water and grow new and beautiful things.

And what continues to amaze me about God is somehow God is able to hold the tension between the hopelessness and the hope. God still allows us, and validates us when we look at the world and say “this is all dead, I can do nothing good here.” God hears that prayers, and validates that sometimes we feel that way. Yet, at the same time, God rejoices with us when we say “oh the stream are beautiful, and I am so thankful for this breath of life in my nostrils.” God acknowledges that in the middle of the garden, at the core of humanity, there is a tree of life, there is a tree of knowledge of good and there is a tree of knowledge of evil. God doesn’t ask us to blindly hope. Instead God invites us to look at the world and see the good and the evil and to decide that we will not be okay with a barren world, but we want a world full of streams and trees.

I will forever be amazed at a God who trusts flawed people with not only God’s creation, but also God’s children. I am not going to lie to you and say that every day I end the day with shouts of celebration for the beauty of the world. There are days where I come to Katherine’s office and have a million question, most that can’t be answered on this side of heaven. There are days where the only thing that gets me through is throwing a football with my kiddos while listening to my lovely fellow intern, Ben’s, dad jokes. There are days where the only sense of hope I can hold onto is listening to “Quiet” by MILCK. Yet even in these days I remain in awe of the streams and trees that have been planted, and I remember that, as someone who has been breathed into, I cannot waste my breath.

Parker is a student at Campbell University.  She was a summer intern at Raleigh Youth Mission.