Earlier this month, AYM was able to host a group of confirmands from FPC Charlotte for a Mission Immersion Weekend. During their weekend with us, the group split into three smaller groups to go out to serve in the community for a few hours Saturday morning. One of these 8th graders, Reid Bond, served at the Veteran’s Restoration Quarters (VRQ) where he made a connection with one of the veterans over a shared task, military connections, and UNC basketball.
Reid said that when he first found out he was going to the VRQ, he wasn’t nervous, but was more excited. “I knew we would be working with some homeless people, and having military experiences…I knew I would learn a lot…I just think it was more interesting to hear their backgrounds.” Reid said had never worked with the homeless population before, but had some experience doing the type of clean-up work they were doing at the VRQ that day. As they divided tasks as the VRQ, each group of youth was paired with an adult, mostly adult chaperones from their church, but Reid’s group was paired with Don*, a veteran and resident at the VRQ. Reid said, “I lucked out in that way…to get to hear his story.”
Behind the VRQ runs a stream from the Swannanoa River, along which a prayer knoll and gazebo have been built to give the veterans a space to relax in peace and enjoy the river. As Don, Reid, and the rest of the group walked along the stream, cleaning up debris from recent flooding, Don and Reid realized they had a connection. Reid mentioned that his brother was going into the military, and his cousin had just enlisted. Don knew where Reid’s cousin was stationed at Fort Bragg. This one connection opened the door for more conversation over their shared love of UNC basketball and outrage that the coach hadn’t called a timeout in the Duke game. Reid said, “I didn’t know his past experience, what led him to the VRQ, but it definitely broke down boundaries where I could hear his experience. I’m not sure I would’ve gone up to him and started a conversation if I wouldn’t have [had that opportunity].”
In serving with others we have the unique opportunity to learn from them and their experiences, to recognize their gifts, and to break down stereotypes we may have had. A shared task or meal opens the door for engaging in conversation and making connections that wouldn’t be possible if we were simply serving from behind a counter or the privacy of a food pantry closet. It also allows us to hear the needs of the community from the voice of someone from that community. Our best example of the “serving with” model is Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. He calls disciples from this area before ever beginning his ministry there, and then calls a tax collector from among the margins of society to be a disciple in this ministry.
We’ve created a study guide on these texts to get your youth thinking about the “serving with” model of service (especially if they are coming to AYM or RYM this summer)! Check it out here!
What are youth doing in your community to serve with those on the margins? Let YMCo know at [email protected]!
*Name has been changed for privacy purposes.