MEMPHIS – JULY 2018
Thanks to the generous support of family, friends, and the entire All Angels’ community, 11 youth from All Angels’ were able to spend a week in Memphis, Tennessee. In short, it was a challenging and transformational week. Our team of 11 youth and 3 adults partnered with Service Over Self (SOS), an organization that has been serving the Memphis area for over 30 years with sustainable community development practices. They challenged us to see where God has already been at work – inviting us to join in the story of God’s movement in the place we came to serve. Our team helped repair roofs, cleared brush, served at a community center, met over 150 youth from around the country and learned from locals about their experiences of poverty, racism, and injustice.
Some highlights from the week include:
- Finishing repairing two roofs of elderly homeowners that had extensive roof damage and yard brush removal needed to stay in their homes.
- Visiting the Civil Rights Museum, located where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Giving us a better understanding of the history and context of the civil rights movement and how it connects to the biblical call to justice.
- Learning from local Memphis residents about the political, social, and cultural differences from our life in NYC.
- Spending time worshiping and praying as a team – being challenged to consider our role in bringing justice and truth to the spaces we live. We were called to remember that mission is not merely a trip we take or something that happens far away, but something we live day in and day out.
- Sharing our own journeys of faith and hearing testimonies of people from Memphis
- Learning the story of a man living on the streets, and getting to go shopping for him so he could have clean clothes for an apartment interview.
As we left Service Over Self, we spent time as a team debriefing the experience before returning to New York City. Youth reflected on how they wanted this trip to change and transform their life back in NYC. Here are some paraphrases shared by youth.
- “I’ve seen the power of prayer. The team leaders could not be that happy and energetic at 6 in the morning without God’s help. I have tried praying more powerfully and boldly this week, and it felt nice. I want to grow in prayer.”
- “I was moved by testimonies on our team. I want to take more time to learn about others stories.”
- “I sat and talked with a family from Alabama. We talked about our lives, and I learned how different their lives are from mine in NYC.”
- “I was hesitant to come on this trip, and often downplay with my friends when I’m going to church camp or on a mission trip. I want to share more openly with my friends about my faith.”
- “I was so tired and exhausting trimming all those hedges – then the scripture came to mind about the vine and the branches, and it had a different meaning to me. Scripture came to mind about God giving us strength, and it made me want to push through the exhaustion and finish the task.”
- “I realize that being a good friend is a two-way street. I want to get to know better people who are different from me, but I’m going to have to step out of my comfort zone.”
- “It is not fun being around people who think so differently about things spiritually, culturally and politically, but it is good for me. It helps me see the bubble I am living in”
- “Being without my cellphone has been good – I’m enjoying what we are experiencing and realizing I’m not missing out on as much online as I think I am.”
- “I’m starting to understand the power of the cross. I hadn’t given it a lot of thought before.”
- “I’m learning its ok to rest and not always be active. I overdo it, and then I get hurt.”
- “I struggle with anxiety, but God has helped me push through my times of anxiety this week”
- “I didn’t know I could feel so much joy shopping for someone else.”
- “I feel pressure to always be funny – I’m learning I don’t always have to.”
- “Big Dog’s testimony was so powerful. He’s right – I have a lot more in common with people who are different from me that I realized. We all need food, shelter, clothing, community, and love.”
- “I don’t always spend my money the way others think I should. Part of human dignity is getting to choose how we spend money. Big Dog helped me think differently about giving money to someone who asks for help.”
All of us can find wisdom in the words of these youth.
- When do we assume our differences are too vast to build friendships?
- How can we stretch ourselves to build relationships with our neighbors who live on the street?
- How can we lean into the power of prayer and scripture to sustain us in challenging times?
- How can we learn from others who are different from us to stretch our own way of thinking?
- Might we be surprised by the joy that comes with radically giving to others?