“We have to recognize that there cannot be relationships unless there is commitment, unless there is loyalty, unless there is love, patience, persistence.” – Cornel West


Mission Year started on the premise that kingdom ministry is rooted in relationships. If you think about it, God works almost exclusively through relationships. As Scripture says, Christ shows up “in the midst of us.”

The purpose of calling young people to devote a year in one neighborhood is to allow more time for team members to build relationships and share life together with their neighbors in the city. The most beautiful fruit from Mission Year continues to be the mutual bonds of relationship that form each year.

As we hit the halfway point in the year, I want to share some stories about how our team members are becoming rooted in relationship and how God is showing up in the midst of them.



“One prominent narrative about people in public housing is that they are lazy and out to get any handout they can get. I have been finding that in many cases the women living in this type of housing are some of the hardest working people I’ve met. A week or two ago, I went on a home visit to “Ms. K.” From the time she let us into her house until the time we prayed with her, she didn’t stop moving. She was running around sweeping and mopping and trying to catch up on housecleaning in the few hours she was home and awake. I learned that she works nights way on the other end of town and has to leave the house around 6:30pm to ride transit to a vanpool in order to get to work by 10PM. She gets off work at 5am and travels back to get her 4 kids off to school. Her car is in the shop and she’s doing her best to hold down laundry and cooking dinner and cleaning. She emphasized multiple times that she wants her kids to invest in their education so that they can have a better life than herself. I have no idea when or if she sleeps. This woman’s dedication to her kids is downright impressive.

My time in “the Gardens” continues to open my eyes to the everyday realities faced by inner city kids. I can’t claim to understand their experience, but I feel that I’ve gained some insight into the multi-faceted challenges that feed into the cycle of poverty. I have gained faces and names to put to prayers for justice and feel increasingly connected to the issues that face these students.” – Adam Blykert, Englewood Team



Mrs. Rebecca is an innovator and visionary, but more than that she sees the value in everybody and puts that value to work. We inherited her friendship from last year’s Mission Year team who collaborated under Mrs. Rebecca’s leadership and wisdom to create a garden in a neighboring lot. This year I have had the privilege of visiting Mrs. Rebecca most Saturdays for what we have dubbed “art club”. What started as a project to create art for the garden has grown into a time of fellowship I look forward to each week. Always working towards something new, reading up on new strategies and sharing her findings, Mrs. Rebecca runs her home like a business and her art like a profession. Most importantly she cares about me, asking how I am and always offering advice. I see Christ in the investment she puts in her neighborhood and the people around her.  -Erin Riley, Hunting Park Team



“The highlight of this month was hosting Houston’s very own Mr. Jesse Lott for community dinner this past Saturday. Jesse Lott is a Houston based artist whose work has been showcased all around the United States, check out his work here.

Not only did we feast last Saturday, he also taught us how to re-purpose wire hangers into sculptures. This art lesson was one of a kind and is a memory I know I will continue to treasure because I was in the presence of someone who legitimately enjoys what they do to the point that it is no longer just a “job”, but something they do not mind sharing with others on their spare time. What a gift!

It is in moments like these that remind me of the ways in which community makes me come alive and encourages me to pursue things I enjoy to the extent that I would not mind teaching it on my days off. “ – Saajidah Abdul-Hameem Third Ward Team



“My time here in Rochester is going great! I’m getting more plugged in with my church, which is amazing. I have actually started working the soundboard for them now on Sunday mornings and I love it. Both of my service sites are great and I love working for the soup kitchen and the school. I am now tutoring 6 kids and I love every moment that I have with them.” – BJ Dykeman, Mission Year 2 Team

Hope you enjoyed getting a snapshot into the lives of our team members. Thank you for partnering in relationship with us!



Image credit: Andrew Lake


shawn-2Shawn Casselberry is Executive Director of Mission Year, and the author of God is in the City. He lives with his wife, Jen and dog Colin in North Lawndale, Chicago. Follow him on Twitter to read more.