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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.  

Just Do It

Last week I had the opportunity to take a group of young people to Church of the Advocate, a regular mission site for AYM throughout the summer. Church of the Advocate is an open-arms congregation, welcoming any and all to come worship, have a meal, and create community with one another. My group and I joined the congregation for worship, and, although most of the service is traditional, part of the sermon includes allowing people in the crowd to share their thoughts on scripture.

Before I go further with the story, I’d like for you to take a moment to visualize what this crowd looked like…physically, emotionally, mentally. The service took place outside in a courtyard. It was completely open, an inviting space for anyone who may be walking down the street. There were people from every walk of life…some live inside, some live outside. Some are healthy, some are sick with mental or physical illness. Some face daily prejudice because of who they are, and some do not. Many of these people are commonly ignored by the everyday tourist-crowd of Asheville because they are, according to most of society, “different” from the rest of us. That being said, for many people in the crowd, this service was the only day this week they had the opportunity to share their opinion with people who care. This led to some interesting and uneasy topics during that day’s worship service, throwing my group off-guard. After everyone had shared, the service soon came to a close, and my group and I had a chance to reflect on what we had experienced.  

Overall, the young people and their adult leaders were particularly moved by the fact that people had a place to come be at peace when the rest of their life is often unsteady. However, they all agreed that they didn’t think they would be able to handle all of the different opinions and stories shared from everyone each week; it was overwhelming and hard to relate and connect with people in the short time we were there. Then, someone asked Pastor Vic and I, “How do you keep doing this?”

I was immediately struck by the boldness of this young man’s question. I had never thought about how I do my job in this context, but Pastor Vic had the perfect response, “You show up every week, and you just do it.” As he kept speaking with the group, I hung on to this response, thinking about my experience with relational ministry throughout the summer. I thought back to the first time I had visited Haywood Street Congregation or 12 Baskets or Church of the Advocate, or even when I just stopped to say hello to someone I had met on the street. I remembered how nervous and uncomfortable I was the first time…and the second, and even the third, but Pastor Vic was right- I just kept showing up and doing it, and soon, these folk were becoming my friends.

This experience with my group hit home for me because it was the first time I realized that my experience as an AYM intern is changing me into who I have always wanted to be- I am beginning to become a friend to people who I typically wouldn’t be friends with. I look forward to seeing them throughout my week, and I wonder about them if I don’t run into them. I am working with people, and I am building relationships with them, which is exactly what Youth Mission Co is all about: making the uncomfortable, comfortable.

When we accomplish this goal as an organization, we are able to show young people that they can do this anywhere. They can take the experiences they have meeting people, connecting with people, and relating with people throughout their week with us and leave knowing that when they go back home, they can begin to build relationships with people in their own communities as long as they continue to show up, and just do it!

Sara is a senior at Georgia College and State University.  She has been a summer intern at Asheville Youth Mission.  

Jesus Loves Me. This I know. Now it’s our turn.

It’s the last week of this summer of Mission Immersion, and on this Tuesday night after program, this group was heading to the Marble Slab to grab some ice cream, and invited my fellow Intern Will, and myself to join. When we walked into the ice cream shop, our adult leader decided to cover the entire group and then the other four people in front of us in line. The first of these was a young man, whom appeared to be in his late teens, early twenties. He had just purchased a cone, and then once he found out it was covered, asked if he could get some ice cream to accompany it, as he only had enough money to get the cone. After receiving his cup of butter pecan, he took a seat at a table under a window, and a few of our youth and an adult sat down and started chatting with him.

As I started to lick the last drops off of my ice cream cone, the adult who had  been sitting with the young man came over to Will and I asking if we had pen or paper, and things we could write down where Harry* could find resources. He had just arrived to Asheville about 2 weeks prior, was 21 years old, and living with Bipolar disorder, and had been kicked out by his family. Fortunately, I had just put a notebook and pen in my backpack that morning, and Will sat down and I stood as we talked through where Harry could go. As we listed off places such as Haywood Street Congregation, 12 Baskets Cafe, A Hope Day Shelter, along with street names, services, times, and people for Harry, he continuously pointed up and said “You did this” to God, and consistently thanked us and God for putting us all in the same place at the same time.  But there was one thing he said that stuck out for me.

“You know, I haven’t been very good at praying or reading the Bible, but God is still here.”

I’m not going to lie, in that very moment I started sobbing. God loved Harry so much, that he put all of us in each others lives, so we could learn and grow from each other. If there is anything I have learned this summer, it is that there is NOTHING someone can do that can make them undeserving of love, from God or the community.

On Wednesday Night in program, we talk about Psalm 139, in which David talks about how well God knows him. We prompt the kids with a question about how it feels that God knows you so well. A slew of answers comes back with everything from scary to comforting, and I personally identify with the comforting side. The fact that God knows everything about us, yet he still loves us, makes it comforting to know that no matter what you do, God understands and forgives. Harry said it best, that even though he hasn’t always practiced his faith, he still knows and feels that God is with him and loves him. From the time we could talk, we are taught the classic song, “Jesus Loves Me” but it wasn’t until recently that I fully understand the extent to which that love reaches, or the fact that its a two way. God’s love has been visible in so many ways for me this summer. I feel God sitting in song at the bible study with youth after we finish the Free Food Market at the senior opportunity center, in the joy of the children from Children First as they run through a game of sharks and minnows, and in the face of community members as they slurp down a popsicle. But now its our turn to share this love.

I had a conversation with a community member recently, in which she told me how much it means to have some immediately greet her by name when she walks in a room. Something that small could make her feel loved. Its our duty, as God’s children, to make sure everyone feeling his love, and I think that the work that YMCo does is doing just that.

Kate Beeken is a student at the University of Tampa.  She is a summer intern at Asheville Youth Mission

Finding Your Self in the Haze of the Mountains

The world we live in today is overrun by desires and notions that we must all live the perfect life and have everything figured out.  If we mess up then we become outcasts by our peers, our friends, the media, or even society. We are told that not reaching these goals are caused by not working hard enough, not wanting it, that we are lazy, or that we intentionally did it to ourselves. We have turned into a world where egocentrism thrives as a result of this. As a culture, we masquerade in cities where the facades are beautiful but all the while the interiors are crumbling. This is how many of us live our lives, lost in the haze of the mountain just trying to get through another day without falling apart. How then can we find ourselves if we don’t even know where we are?

Each week a new group of youth comes to Asheville wearing these lenses of this world. Many come in with notions that they are here to serve for others and to better the lives of our friends throughout Asheville. At first glance, they see the gardening at Emma Community Gardens, painting at the Veterans Restoration Quarters, or packaging of boxes at Manna Food Bank as ways of helping figure out the lives of the people of Asheville.  This is because we see these acts directly affecting the lives of those experiencing homelessness or poverty. We assume that “they” themselves are the ones lost in the haze of the mountains and that “we” have already made it out since maybe we have a little more money, a roof over our heads, or even a car to drive. However, as the days go by each week, I see a change in the young people.

As the youth begin learning the names and the stories of those experiencing homelessness or poverty in Asheville, the youth begin seeing “those people” for who they are: as regular people who are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, and brothers. At the Free Food Market, we run outside of Kairos West Community Center, a mother walked up with her two young kids. She kept telling her kids that this was an outside grocery store so that they did not realize that their mom had to get this free food or they would have not of had a meal that night. My group broke down after hearing this and talking with the lady. They found out that she works just over the max hours for food stamps even though she does not make a living wage for her family. They found out she was a single mother. They found out that because of that she had to move her hours around the times that her kids were at school so that every night she could tuck them in to go to sleep. They found out she is just a regular person, like each of us, stumbling through the haze of life.

At the end of the week, the kids come up to me and say how they realized it is ok to not be perfect and not have everything figured out. It is ok to mess up and that our friends who are experiencing homelessness or poverty are just like us. The kids say they see that they are not the “perfect ones” but are just as flawed as those they have met. Like Shannon at 12 Baskets always says, “We all come to these spaces not just as ‘haves’ giving to others that are ‘have nots.’ However, we are all, each of us, ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.” We all come to these spaces to have our needs filled.” We are all wandering through the haze on the mountain. The only way for us to find our way, in a world that roots against us, is through community. This community, I have learned, must be of different people because that is the only way we can all help each other. We all bring something different to the table as gifts and as needs. This difference can be through race, ethnicity, socio-economic levels, different backgrounds, and even different views on life.

This summer, I have seen our youth, and myself, be transformed by the new culture we are creating. This culture is a community of love where we all recognize each other and realize that we are all in the haze together. This love helps remind us time and time again that we are all the Children of God no matter who you are or where you come from. I have learned we are never alone, and that together as a community we can find our way down the mountain and out of the haze. Now the notions of  “having everything together” or “egocentrism” are not the center or a concern of our new community.  At the center now is a rejoicing and a passion for each other to live together in harmony and in peace.

Will DeLaney is a student at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC.  He is serving as a summer intern at Asheville Youth Mission.