Mission Year https://www.missionyear.org Thu, 17 Jan 2019 15:24:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 https://www.missionyear.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/MY-Favicon.png Mission Year https://www.missionyear.org 32 32 Just Breathe https://www.missionyear.org/2018/11/21/just-breathe/ https://www.missionyear.org/2018/11/21/just-breathe/#respond Wed, 21 Nov 2018 20:40:53 +0000 https://www.missionyear.org/?p=4436 Sit with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire next steps. Exhale throughout your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips lightly if this seems awkward. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound Close your […]

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Sit with your back straight.

Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire next steps.
Exhale throughout your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips lightly if this seems awkward.

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 8
  5. This is one complete breath. Inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Assess how you feel… 

What you just partook in was a breath relaxation exercise that many people use as a tool to achieve general relaxation and manage stress. This may not be something you’re familiar (or comfortable) with and it sure was weird for me at the beginning, but during my Mission Year training, breathing was a large focus in helping to care for our souls. Since training I have found myself doing similar exercises, taking deep breathes, and taking notice of my breathing a lot throughout these last three exhausting weeks of training and transition.

City life for me is exciting and exhilarating and holds lots of great experiences and opportunities, but is also incredibly draining. Recently I’ve been feeling rather claustrophobic. Philly row homes are great and all, but it’s a whole lotta people packed into not a whole lotta space (plus sharing a home with 7 grown adults already isn’t the roomiest situation). *Fun fact: Philly is the 9th most densely populated US metropolitan area.

I appreciated the breathing exercises brought to my attention in training because they not only gave me practical resources to implement, but allowed me to be more mindful of my body, act rather than react, take a break from constant autopilot mode, create space in the cramped atmosphere, and be more attentive to the ways in which God is present and working through me during this new season of life.

I rarely taken notice of the thousands of breaths our lungs take every day; the very thing that keeps us alive and functioning. Likewise, I find myself getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that I forget to take notice of the ways in which God is constantly present in my life.

Recognizing my breathing has allowed me to calm anxieties and center myself on why I am here in order to not get caught up in my uncontrollable worries. It’s also allowed me to appreciate my body and take note of the complexities God created us with. He literally breathed the breath of life into us (Genesis 2:7)! So cool, right!

I encourage you to look more into breathing exercises and begin to implement them in your life as a way to create mindfulness, calm your soul, and bring awareness to your body as well as the ways in which God is present and working within your life. More information about the breathing exercise can be found here.

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Giving Thanks in a Broken World https://www.missionyear.org/2018/11/21/giving-thanks-in-a-broken-world/ https://www.missionyear.org/2018/11/21/giving-thanks-in-a-broken-world/#respond Wed, 21 Nov 2018 20:13:22 +0000 https://www.missionyear.org/?p=4433 “Thank God ahead of time.” Fr. Solanus Casey It’s not always easy to give thanks, especially when we are surrounded by so much brokenness. But gratitude isn’t dependent on our circumstances. Solanus Casey (a Detroit monk who is under consideration for sainthood) reminds us we don’t even have to wait until God resolves our situation […]

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“Thank God ahead of time.” Fr. Solanus Casey

It’s not always easy to give thanks, especially when we are surrounded by so much brokenness. But gratitude isn’t dependent on our circumstances. Solanus Casey (a Detroit monk who is under consideration for sainthood) reminds us we don’t even have to wait until God resolves our situation or brings peace to the world. We can thank God ahead of time.

I wrote this reflection as a way to focus myself during the holidays and also to practice gratitude even in the midst of the brokenness of the world.

Giving Thanks in a Broken World

We give thanks today
Not because everything is right
Or good or just or perfect
We know the world is broken

We give thanks today
Not because we ignore
Pain or injustice or heartache
We see it and feel it deeply

We give thanks today
Not because we endorse
Everything about thanksgiving
Or history or culture
We hold tensions and critiques

We give thanks today
Not because God has blessed us over others
But because we recognize that our blessings
are undeserved

We give thanks today
Because we got up this morning and
life is a precious gift that we should
never take for granted

We give thanks today
Because gratitude is the anti-dote to entitlement
And the impetus to generosity

We give thanks today
Because we believe that God deserves
Our gratitude even when life is overwhelming

We give thanks today
Because we remember what we’ve been through
And how God has delivered us
Which gives us grace for others
And hope in whatever we are going through now

We give thanks today
Because we have people in our lives who
See our brokenness and choose to love us anyway
Hallelujah!

We give thanks today
Because brokenness is not all there is in the world.
There is love, goodness, hope, peace, and kindness too.
And love is greater than hate
Hope is stronger than fear
Peace is more enduring than violence.
And that is something to truly be thankful for.

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Why I’m Doing Mission Year: Agnes Filiatreau https://www.missionyear.org/2018/07/17/why-im-doing-mission-year-agnes-filiatreau/ https://www.missionyear.org/2018/07/17/why-im-doing-mission-year-agnes-filiatreau/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 18:33:50 +0000 https://www.missionyear.org/?p=3456 July 2016 was the end of my first year at a Christian summer camp called Barefoot Republic. On the last night our director had us sum our summer up in one word. My word was changed. Proceeding our choosing, she then had us look up in the index in the Bible App the word we had […]

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July 2016 was the end of my first year at a Christian summer camp called Barefoot Republic. On the last night our director had us sum our summer up in one word. My word was changed. Proceeding our choosing, she then had us look up in the index in the Bible App the word we had chosen & see if the Author of Creation had anything to say through His word. He did, and this was the first time the Lord used this image of the wind to speak to me, in Exodus 10:19:

“… and the Lord changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt.”

In March of 2017 I was only two months away from graduating college with two degrees in film & in theater. The month of March was spent in prayer about what I was to do after graduation. I remember lightly swinging in a hammock on a Saturday morning, going through a healing prayer & asking for the Lord to reveal what the lies were in my life at the time & then correcting them with the truth. I distinctly remember Him asking me to be still & that was when I recognized that the wind was gently blowing. He sent a flood of emotions & as I interpreted my feelings, my heart was identifying with the wind. That it didn’t matter where I was to go because wherever the wind took me, He would breathe life into it and declare good.

After another summer at Barefoot Republic, I made the decision to stay in my college town, Bowling Green, Kentucky. Although God’s presence was so articulated & known throughout the year, I couldn’t understand why I was suffering through unemployment & loneliness. After losing job after job, & unfortunately getting fired from the one job I wanted in Bowling Green, I asked God on my front porch, “God, where do you want me?” With no hesitation a gust of wind blew west & immediately knew right then the Lord was asking me in such gentleness & kindness to go, to leave my comfort zone, as I thought of the lyric from So Will I by Hillsong: “If the wind goes where you send it / So will I.”

See, growing up, I never wanted to stay in Kentucky nor have I ever felt at home in the small towns I’ve lived in. The dream in my heart has always been the city. No particular city but any time I’ve visited a city: New York City, Chicago, Atlantic City, Nashville, even Louisville… I have always felt comfort, assurance, & surprising confidence. 24 hours didn’t even pass before I began searching thoroughly through Google for yearlong internships & gap year programs. After a couple of days, I found Mission Year’s website. I spent the whole day going through the whole website, reading other people’s experiences, & most of all praying about the decision to apply. I was drawn to Mission Year because of one of their eight core values that is diversity, in which is so important to me. When I came across their heart for diversity, mercy, & justice, I knew I just needed to take a deep breath & a leap of faith by applying.

How funny is it that through all this God spoke through the image of the wind, that in the end (or perhaps, only the beginning) He would place me in the Windy City. Jesus is alive. His Spirit is moving & breathing & living & speaking. I’ve chosen a verse from scripture to articulate my purpose in doing Mission Year & it derives from John 3:8:

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

 

 

Agnes Filiatreau is an incoming Mission Year team member. Support her by visiting our donation page!

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Why We Are Doing Mission Year https://www.missionyear.org/2018/07/10/why-we-are-doing-mission-year/ https://www.missionyear.org/2018/07/10/why-we-are-doing-mission-year/#respond Tue, 10 Jul 2018 17:31:33 +0000 https://www.missionyear.org/?p=3430 Josh and I grew up in the church, going to church camp, volunteering our time, and doing what was easy. We wanted to do something more, something challenging!  We wanted to stretch our faith and grow with each other and in Christ but we didn’t know what that looked like. Josh and I were adult […]

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Josh and I grew up in the church, going to church camp, volunteering our time, and doing what was easy. We wanted to do something more, something challenging!  We wanted to stretch our faith and grow with each other and in Christ but we didn’t know what that looked like.

Josh and I were adult leaders at the Sylvan Hills Senior High Winter Retreat and we heard a story that sat right in our gut. It made us want to leap out of our comfort zone! It went like this: A group of people are all standing around watching a man tight rope across the grand canyon, they are hooting and yelling.  The tight rope walker wanted to continue impressing the crowd he had gathered so he began walking backwards and the crowd clapped and was amazed. The man did not stop there; he grabbed his bike and rode across and the audience was silent in amazement. He juggled fire bowling pins across and even went blind folded. The crowd was sure he could do anything by this time! The tight rope walker then pulled out a wheel barrow and asked the crowd for a volunteer. He told the crowd he is planning to put the volunteer in the wheelbarrow and go across the tight rope blind folded. Absolutely no one raised their hand, some people walked away, and some people laughed. This story made Josh and I think why are we not trusting in God and jumping in that wheel barrow even though we know he can do anything!? Why were we not trusting him with our whole heart? We knew right then that we needed to stop controlling our lives and let our future up to the one who knows best. Josh and I decided to jump in the Wheel Barrow.

After making this decision Josh and I still struggled with our future. We talked about buying a house, starting a family, going on a vacation, and traveling. None of this felt like it was what God wanted from us. We weren’t perfectly happy with any of those decisions. I found Mission Year on the internet and started talking to married alumni and finally filled out an application. We got accepted and since then we haven’t been distracted with other life avenues. We know that this is what God wants us to do RIGHT NOW. We know that God will continue opening doors for us and guide us step by step. For us, we are doing Mission Year to grow a stronger relationship with Jesus, each other, and to love everyone around us like we love ourselves.

 

 

Josh & Katie Fishburn are incoming Mission Year Married team members who will be serving in La Grange, GA. To support them please visit our donation page!

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Why I’m Doing Mission Year: Chor See Chan https://www.missionyear.org/2018/07/03/why-im-doing-mission-year-chor-see-chan/ https://www.missionyear.org/2018/07/03/why-im-doing-mission-year-chor-see-chan/#respond Tue, 03 Jul 2018 16:20:28 +0000 https://www.missionyear.org/?p=3395 Having been a Christian for all my life and a full-time community organizer in a low-income urban renewal spot neighborhood in Hong Kong for 3.5 years, I am desperate to sort out a lot of things. How could we stay hopeful in this unjust world? How could we not become burnt out when pursuing justice? […]

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Having been a Christian for all my life and a full-time community organizer in a low-income urban renewal spot neighborhood in Hong Kong for 3.5 years, I am desperate to sort out a lot of things. How could we stay hopeful in this unjust world? How could we not become burnt out when pursuing justice? What is the ultimate goal of pursuing social justice when it seems the world won’t really change much? I learned so much about justice from my non-Christian friends that I had gone through a hard time and I had many doubts on Christianity and church.

 

To Kwa Wan, Hong Kong

 

I really want to learn to integrate my Christian faith with my action in a sense that explores the deepest meaning of God’s truth and love, rather than using just some Bible verses to justify myself. I long for a community that encourages me to serve and pursue social justice, while putting as much emphasis on spiritual growth of both the ones who serve and are served. I hope to build a healthy lifestyle instead of  draining myself for the never-ending needs of the society. That’s why I find Mission Year an amazing surprise God provides for me – integration of community, justice, fellowship, disciplined lifestyle and spirituality.

 

Chor See Chan is an incoming Mission Year team member from Hong Kong. Learn more and support her by visiting our donation page!

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Why I’m Doing Mission Year: Emma-Claire Martin https://www.missionyear.org/2018/06/18/why-im-doing-mission-year-emma-claire-martin/ https://www.missionyear.org/2018/06/18/why-im-doing-mission-year-emma-claire-martin/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 16:55:33 +0000 https://www.missionyear.org/?p=3300 Campus ministry was not on my list of what to look for in a potential college. For me, God existed at summer camp. God sounded like guitars singing through cheap speakers, smelled like midnight campfires, and faded away as I drove home on Saturday. It wasn’t until my first year on staff that I wondered what life […]

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Campus ministry was not on my list of what to look for in a potential college. For me, God existed at summer camp. God sounded like guitars singing through cheap speakers, smelled like midnight campfires, and faded away as I drove home on Saturday. It wasn’t until my first year on staff that I wondered what life would be like if I was Christian every day – every hour of every day – instead of just a few times a year. That fall I started college at a Methodist-affiliated university (that I didn’t know was Methodist-affiliated until after I got there!) and was immediately embraced by the American University United Methodist Student Association. But still, I was a film major. I was going to film school after college. I liked being Christian but every time I got more involved in the church, be it planning worship services or nerding out about Biblical Greek to English translations, I’d tell everyone it was just a hobby.

 

Then I was introduced to Job 38, arguably the greatest rant in literary history. Job is acting like he’s figured out the rules of the universe and the meaning of life, when God comes down and knocks some sense into him with such great lines as “Do you send lightning bolts on their way?” and “Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice?” Basically, the moment Job is certain he knows what’s up, God storms in a flips all the tables. When I found myself as  President of AU’s Methodist-Protestant ministry and taking my first seminary course as an undergrad, I got the sense this was my own Job 38 moment. My first post-grad plan was to work on a cruise ship, and when my application wasn’t accepted I couldn’t help but laugh because getting on a boat to avoid ministry is literally already a story in the Bible.

 

Jesus has two mustard seed analogies that are often lost on modern readers that don’t live in a primarily agricultural society. When he compared both faith and the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed, he was comparing them to an invasive weed. His audience did not like mustard seeds, which were notorious for taking over an entire garden, and they would have gasped at his scandalous analogies. The Kingdom of God disrupts society. It does not accommodate oppressive regimes and wealthy empires. It discomforts the comfortable. It brings untamed wilderness to the neatly trimmed garden. Similarly, mustard seed faith disrupts your soul, your opinions, and whatever plan you had for your life. I love my job right now as Seasonal Assistant Director for a Christian camp in Kansas, and I’m excited to know I have another adventure waiting for me with Mission Year when the summer ends.

 

Emma-Claire Martin is an incoming Mission Year team member. Support her by visiting our donation page.

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God Was the Light Left On https://www.missionyear.org/2018/06/05/god-was-the-light-left-on/ https://www.missionyear.org/2018/06/05/god-was-the-light-left-on/#respond Tue, 05 Jun 2018 17:49:05 +0000 https://www.missionyear.org/?p=3254 This is my first year as a city director for Mission Year, and within that role I have the privilege of walking alongside the team members in Philly as they live out the highs and lows of their year. A reoccurring conversation that I’ve been a part of with a few of them has centered […]

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This is my first year as a city director for Mission Year, and within that role I have the privilege of walking alongside the team members in Philly as they live out the highs and lows of their year. A reoccurring conversation that I’ve been a part of with a few of them has centered around the ways that we experience God and the spaces we expect God to be. For some of them, the old avenues have been closed off, or they are exposed to realities that they’d been able to hide from before and now demand to be reckoned with. There is an invitation to blur the boundaries between sacred and profane and take ownership of their faith independent from some the influences they’d previously entrusted it to. They find themselves confronted with the types of death that precede resurrection.

It has been an inspiration and a gift to bear witness to the work they’re doing, whether it’s in asking the hardest of questions, taking themselves and Jesus more seriously than ever before, pursuing healing and wholeness, or learning to claim their voice and trusting what it says. One of them wrote in one of her newsletters:What I have begun to realize though, is that I was holding myself and God to standards made by those around me instead of listening to my voice and trusting myself to name where and how I experience God. I have felt more connected to God while gardening, on walks home while the sun is setting, and in meaningful conversations with my neighbors than in structured church settings. But because those aren’t the ways that I was told to experience God, I wasn’t giving myself permission to acknowledge those moments as holy and sacred and expecting God to be in only specific settings in specific ways.”

Getting to sit with them and hear how they’re processing their experiences has also offered a welcome reexamination of my own. In seeing the ways that they move towards agency, freedom, aliveness, and gratitude as they begin to name experiences as sacred encounters no matter how small, simple, or secular, I have felt a revitalized excitement to open my spirituality up towards that kind of awakeness towards God again.

I often look back with deep fondness to my first year here, the ways that God was vibrant and vivid, present within my neighborhood in a way I’d never experienced before. But, as is often the case, I grew somewhat numb as Philly lost its sense of newness and more or less fell out of the practice and posture of praying with expectancy for eyes to see.

I can remember meeting with my City Director Ra for a one-on-one sometime in the Spring when I was a team member and talking about how important my walk from the bus into my house after work every day felt. At the time, like the team members I meet with now, I didn’t have words or feel permission to name that experience as a holy one. Looking back, however, I can see it for what it was: worship, encounter, prayer. Even in those first months, I loved living in Hunting Park. I loved the neighbors I was meeting who also called it home, I loved the invitation to integrity it offered me, I loved the energy of resilience and redemption running through it. But I didn’t have words for all of that yet. Those walks were a way of communicating what I didn’t know how. Passing by Mama and George’s house before making my way up our slightly too steep front steps and through the threshold back home. This was my daily liturgy, my way of expressing in a way more deeply than I could say with words “I love it here.”

A number of other moments occurred while on some of my many trips between North and West Philly on SEPTA, and given how much I used to resent the amount of time I spent on buses, that made them all the more unexpected. One stands out in particular for being the first time I trusted myself enough to name a moment as a thin place where God had burst through the cracks. Towards the front of the bus, I noticed a young boy sitting next to his grandmother, resting his head against her as she patted his hair. Almost instantly, I knew that I was seeing the intimacy of God the Father with His Son, the gentle love that God our Mother embraces all her children with.

There have been many, many other moments – ones from my arduous time at KIPP where a student was generous and kind, or while sharing a special Family Night or team worship with my housemates, or sitting around our table with a rotating guest list of neighbors and friends, being smothered in hugs at church. Those were moments truly spent recognizing and celebrating the Imago Dei. There were sunrises on painfully early mornings that I learned to interpret as “I love you” and buds of flowers at the park bursting into colorful life in the springtime shouting “Resurrection is real!” Time spent at marches, vigils, protests, and rallies where praying with my pounding feet communicated the anger and lament far better than my words could and God was near to me in the sea of bodies shouting holy disruption and defiant hope. The murals throughout the city sometimes quite literally stopping me in my tracks to communicate what I’d been needing to hear: the heart on Spring Garden with “BREATHE” running through it,” the mural at the Simple Way telling me “Do Not Fear For I am With you,” the triptych off Girard exhorting me to “RISE UP! WAY UP! STAY UP!” or the wall adjacent to the Magic Gardens saying, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.”

There have been so many moments where God has come near, offering presence above all else. And my spirituality was at its fullest, most awake and most alive when I was constantly asking for eyes to see that. I want to return to that, and even in naming that desire, I’ve been reminded that it never really stopped.

In Philadelphia, the blocks of row homes are packed so closely together that they literally share walls, and in the back they jut out at an angle to create enough distance for windows. While this is great, it also means that the light from the room next door with said window pours in through my own, casting my bedroom in a yellow glow almost bright enough to read by. As you can imagine, that doesn’t make for the most ideal sleeping conditions.

Typically, the light’s only on briefly –just long enough for Mama and George next door to brush their teeth before bed, I’d imagine– and the room is awash for just a little while. A few months ago, however, I remember a night where I’d been drifting off to sleep only to be woken by the sudden glow, my tired eyes squinting against the invasion of light, glaring as I waited for it to turn off. Except, this time, it didn’t.

I realized about twenty later that one of them must have forgotten to turn it off. If it had been any other neighbor, I probably would’ve laid there fuming, but because my love for Mama and George runs unfathomably deep, I tried to make room in myself to appreciate the light. I focused on how it made me think of them. How it reminded me of George’s endless stories and Mama’s bountiful hugs, the way you have to pry the shovel from his almost-80-year-old hands in the winter or how she always cooks two or three times more than she needs to so that she’s got food to offer her steady stream of visitors.

I thought of Mama’s commitment to our neighborhood, the countless hours she’s spent at meetings for community development organizations or working away in community gardens or sweeping the trash off of our block. I thought of the light that she brings to this place we both call home, and the Light that she professes as her source and hope. And then I breathed a sigh of gratitude for this light I’d previously been so bothered by, the ways it reminded me of these beautiful truths, the way it made me recognize: God was the light left on.

 

 

 

 

LukeHillierLuke Hillier Mission Year Philadelphia’s City Director and former Alum Leader and team member. Originally from Pataskala, OH, he attended Denison University. Support him and learn more on his blog.

 

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Being a Person https://www.missionyear.org/2018/05/22/being-a-person/ https://www.missionyear.org/2018/05/22/being-a-person/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 18:30:24 +0000 https://www.missionyear.org/?p=3203 When I returned back from Spring Break, Sacred Heart’s break had only just begun. This meant that last week was my first week back at work and it had been two weeks since I had been there. Factoring in snow days and missing art on Tuesday, that came to about 23 days without interacting with […]

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When I returned back from Spring Break, Sacred Heart’s break had only just begun. This meant that last week was my first week back at work and it had been two weeks since I had been there. Factoring in snow days and missing art on Tuesday, that came to about 23 days without interacting with our second graders, enough time for the classic myriad of questions to resurface. “Are you married?” “Do you live with your parents?” “YOU have a TATTOO?!?” These questions are normal. One I hadn’t gotten before though was from the boy who asked me if since I helped in both art and gym, was I actually two twin sisters and that’s how I was able to be in so many places around the school? Well played, kid. Inaccurate, but I like his style.

Being one person is hard. There’s the person we know would be of value to the people around us and then there’s the person we actually are. The theory is that living in intentional community would mean receiving the freedom to wear both hats simultaneously while inviting those around you to do the same. What this means as a Mission Year Alum Leader of community is unclear.

How much of myself is reasonable to give, if who I am feels at times more like a hindrance on the community than a help? How do I care for people without letting them equally care for me? Does existing in a leadership position always mean hiding a little bit of heart, a little bit of your feelings in the name of better gaining the trust of your friends? Is this what being self-less means? How is that sacrifice consistent with my belief that we can find God in our truest selves and that in sharing that truest self we can reveal that God to others too? What does it mean to practice these tenants of vulnerability that I continue to encourage my team as being good and difficult and worth it? How can I shout the praises of vulnerability without forcing myself to do the same?

But by the same token, how do I claw my way off a leadership pedestal without become exhausted and done in the process?

This blog post doesn’t pretend to have answers. I can’t always be optimistic, but I can promise it’s real. I have to believe this in itself can be a gift to my community. This in itself can be enough.

 

 

 

Erin Riley is a current Mission Year Philadelphia Alumni Leader. Originally from Owosso, MI, you can learn more by visiting her donation page.

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The Ideal versus The Actual https://www.missionyear.org/2018/05/08/the-ideal-versus-the-actual/ https://www.missionyear.org/2018/05/08/the-ideal-versus-the-actual/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 19:10:28 +0000 https://www.missionyear.org/?p=3138 I have been thinking a lot about the difference between the ideal and the actual. The ideal is who we want to be, what we project ourselves to be to others, and where we believe we are. The actual is who and where we really are. Honestly, it’s much easier to focus on the ideal […]

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I have been thinking a lot about the difference between the ideal and the actual.

The ideal is who we want to be, what we project ourselves to be to others, and where we believe we are.

The actual is who and where we really are.

Honestly, it’s much easier to focus on the ideal versus the actual.

Academia, American culture, white culture, and even Western Christian culture often focuses on the ideal over the actual. But when we do this, we sometimes ignore the brokenness and injustice in ourselves and in the world.

This is how the religious leaders of Jesus’ day could have an ideal for upholding the law while neglecting the vulnerable ones the law aimed to protect.

This is how America could have an ideal of liberty and freedom while enslaving millions. Or have an ideal for justice while incarcerating more people than any nation.

This is how institutions (whether families, churches, political parties, or media) can have an ideal for truth and honesty, but stay silent in the face of abuse.

This is how you and I can talk and read and learn all about the Christian life, but still have shadow sides that we don’t want others to know about.

The truth is, the actual is much harder to look at.

The prophets point out the gap(s) between the ideal and the actual. This is why many of them are killed. This gap between what we say we believe and what we are actually living is what Jesus is getting at when he says be doers of the word and not just hearers. Or when he says to remove the logs from our own eyes first.

I went to a Christian college in undergrad where we attended chapel three times a week for four years. By the time I graduated I had heard a lot of sermons and frankly, I had heard enough. I was ready to go live it out.

So many people are talking about justice right now, but when will we actually do justly? There’s nothing wrong with being idealistic, but at some point the ideal has to be lived.

Our real work, in all areas of our lives, is to mind the gaps between our ideals and our actuals. This is what discipleship really is.

It is the embodiment of the things we say we believe. It’s what we actually live. It’s the practice of our values and beliefs not just the declaration of our values and beliefs. It’s the word become flesh.

In order to mind the gaps, we need authenticity to confess where we actually are and accountability to hold us to the ideals of who we say we are as individuals, institutions, and nations.

For the last 14 years, Mission Year has been an authentic space and Christian community that challenges me to see who and where I actually am so I can become who I say I want to be.

 

Image credit: Death to the Stock Photo

 

 

shawn-2Shawn Casselberry is Executive Director of Mission Year, the author of God is in the Cityand the co-author of the forth-coming Soul Force: Seven Pivots toward Courage, Community, and Change. He lives with his wife, Jen and dog Colin in North Lawndale, Chicago. Follow him on Twitter to read more.

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Poverty Sells https://www.missionyear.org/2018/04/24/poverty-sells/ https://www.missionyear.org/2018/04/24/poverty-sells/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 16:54:13 +0000 https://missionyear.cghweb.com/?p=3089 “Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old […]

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“Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.”
Colossians 3:9-11

 

There is an ugly side to the Christian nonprofit world.

I see many organizations exploiting poverty and the people they serve to sell the needs to their donors.

The more dramatic the video, the more extreme the poverty, the more despairing the story, the more money they are able to raise.

This causes organizations and ministries to sell poverty, to present a one-sided picture of people and places.

This is why many of us are surprised when we go to Africa and there are bustling cities with technology, innovation, and development or when we go to urban communities and see indigenous leaders doing significant work. We have been sold a single story.

While guilt and pity may motivate more people to give, we believe dignity, equity and love are better. Organizations may justify it as getting people to do the right thing for the wrong reason, but it often perpetuates stereotypes and can be paternalistic and dehumanizing to those we want to help. Not only that, it causes donors to be dehumanized in the process too, and for them to be seen only for the checks they can write rather than the full human beings they are.

You may notice we don’t put photos of poverty or homelessness or littered streets in our newsletters. You may notice we often tell stories of the resilience, strength, and faith of our neighbors. You may notice there are more pics of community members doing life, sharing meals, and walking alongside one another. You may notice that our newsletters are more about informing our donors about the complex issues that are part of life in the city and how the gospel challenges all of us to respond.

That’s how we prefer it. This better reflects the mutuality at the heart of mission. We believe this is more dignifying for everyone and more in line with Christ’s love. We aren’t here to peddle poverty, we are here to embody love. Thank you for partnering with us to affirm the dignity of our communities!

 

shawn-2Shawn Casselberry is Executive Director of Mission Year, the author of God is in the City, and the co-author of the forth-coming Soul Force: Seven Pivots toward Courage, Community, and Change. He lives with his wife, Jen and dog Colin in North Lawndale, Chicago. Follow him on Twitter to read more.

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