Monday, June 18, 2012

Youth Week of Mission in Durham: Summary

Already the posts are coming in from our Montana youth mission team. We will insert this post about last week's Durham youth mission week (follow up to the Day 1 post) with a summary of the rest of that week's activities and learnings. It is a little long, but please keep reading.

Counting the inventory at DERC with a trainee
Day 2 (Tuesday): Durham Economic Resource Center (DERC) Click here to visit the DERC website
Each morning of the week, we began with prayer and scripture. Our guiding scripture this day was the story of the feeding of the five thousand. In that story, the disciples wonder how there will ever be enough to feed so many people. But they shared what little they had, and there was more than enough left over. That kind of describes our experience at the Durham Economic Resource Center (DERC). DERC is a non-profit organization that seeks to help people get to work who might otherwise be barred from employment. Criminal history, lack of experience, and other factors can often make getting a foot in the door anywhere difficult. DERC accepts people whom other employers might reject and gives them practical skills. DERC also operates a clothing distribution center where they make clothes and other accessories available to other non-profits in order to raise money for their program. St. Luke's is a member of DERC, so anyone associated with us can go to DERC and get new clothes. All you pay is a small handling fee. You can get a new shirt (all the clothes are new) that would cost $30 at a big box retailer for $3 at DERC! St. Luker's should all consider going to DERC, because the money we spend there directly benefits the job training program.
Dividing toilet paper donated from a big box retailer
(because of damaged packaging; it would have been
thrown away otherwise!) into bags for distribution
at DERC. 
Our group learned about DERC's mission and then spent the morning helping to sort the merchandise. We got to work alongside some of the trainees and hear their stories.    

After a picnic lunch at the Durham Central Park, we gave the group a challenge: learn how to ride the DATA bus in order to visit Southpoint Mall. After some figuring, they were able to find the right stop and catch the bus. We saw a lot of Durham on the way! Then at the mall, we went on a scavenger hunt, comparing prices for back to school clothes with the cost of clothes at DERC. We also compared the friendly, community atmosphere at DERC with the hurried, less than friendly atmosphere at the mall. Although, the ice cream we had was tasty!

We closed the day back at St. Luke's with reflections, writing in our journals, and prayers with more thoughts about how sharing with others, like in the feeding of the five thousand, is part of being in God's family.

Here are some direct comments from our youth and adult team members about Day 2 (warning: there are some inside jokes...indications that we were having a good time!):
Figuring out the Durham Area Transit system
so we could take the bus to Southpoint Mall.
"They don't have cow pants at DERC."
We sprinted across the mall to take a picture with Justin Bieber (or a picture of him).
Ms. Hill at DERC said, "Don't work 'em too hard, we want them to come back."
I learned that you can still have stuff without spending a lot. You can spend $3 on a hat at DERC as opposed to $302 at the Hat Lounge at the Mall.
It was cool to see how DERC gives people who need a second chance an opportunity to help themselves.
"Let's have a little chat...oh not THAT kind of chat."
At the end of the day we considered the question, "Which is more like the kingdom of God: DERC or the Mall?" The group overwhelmingly said, "DERC!"
Finding community in unexpected places. We weren't just working FOR, we were working WITH the people at DERC.

Mr. Fred explains how DERC trainees also learn
"green skills" like organic gardening, insulation
and weatherization, and solar energy technology.
The Mall was fun but not as
friendly as DERC.

Our group plays the "group juggle game" on the
Streets of Southpoint. Onlookers were a bit mystified.

Day 3 (Wednesday): Eno River
Guiding scripture of the day: "He opens His hand wide and satisfies every living creature."
Our resident park ranger, Amy, led us on an adventure over to the Eno River State Park. We spent the first bit of time identifying creatures that indicate water quality. We saw enough of the bugs that have low tolerance for pollution so that we could trust the water quality in the Eno that day was "excellent." Then we learned about a plant species from South America called "alligator weed" which has gotten into the Eno ecosystem by accident. If left unchecked, this species could disturb the balance of native species. We identified a couple of patches and set to work removing the weeds from the river, placing them in trash bags for proper disposal later on. Then in the afternoon, we enjoyed some meditation time by the river and then some fun play. In our last hour, we went shopping for non-perishable food and toiletry items at a local grocery store which we planned to donate to Urban Ministries of Durham on Thursday.

Learning to identify creatures that live in the
Eno before we went looking for them with nets.
Here are some comments:
"I got 5 dragonflies on me." You have to be pretty still.
We kept swimming even when our shoes fell off.
"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming."
We wrestled a lot of alligator weed (but did not get eaten by it).
Some things got lost in the river.
We played a cool game of tag. Some people wore "fancy shoes."
Some members of the group got new names.
We saw lots of critters that told us that the Eno has "excellent" water quality.
Quiet time by the river. It was peaceful to just sit there and just be me and the river (and God was there too).
We bought $97.93 worth of non-perishable food to donate to Urban Ministries of Durham food pantry.

Day 4: Meals on Wheels/Urban Ministries of Durham/Bowling/Oakwood Community/locopops
Packing the meal bags for Meals on Wheels
This day was packed. We started off at Meals on Wheels of Durham, packing the food and driving 3 different routes. At each house or apartment, we knocked on the door and delivered a hot meal and a cold snack and a newspaper. Meals on Wheels delivers one meal per day to over 300 homebound persons in Durham, five days a week. This might be the only meal they have. It also might be the only human interaction they have, so our visit was important. Our guiding scripture of the day was from Matthew 25, the lesson of the sheep and the goats: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink...just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." We looked for ways in which we might be meeting Christ along our way. We prayed that we might bear the love of Christ to others in our service.
Meals on Wheels assembly line
After delivering the meals, we headed over to Urban Ministries of Durham, where we delivered our food donation and had lunch in the community cafe with the other guests. Then we had a tour of the food pantry and clothing closet and the overnight shelter for individuals and families.

Next it was fun time. Bowling at the Village Lanes in east Durham. We had so much, it was an act of evangelism just to spread the good news of joyful fellowship together. We also got to drive by La Iglesia El Buen Pastor, our sister Episcopal congregation. Two of the youth in our group this week are members of El Buen Pastor. We learned a lot about the cool things their congregation is doing. Did you know that El Buen Pastor distributes free non-perishable and fresh food on the first Saturday of each month to persons in need?!

Victory dance after bowling a strike!

On the way home, we stopped by the Oakwood Community (click here for a website) which is a house near the downtown library where six people live together in order to be of service to the community, live more sustainably, and enjoy more connections with each other and neighbors. One of the residents, Will, showed us their garden, duck and rabbit pens, water cisterns, and more. It was inspiring to see a different model of how people can live and make a difference. The two founders of the community are Episcopalians, by the way!

Then it was home to St. Luke's (stopping for Locopops on the way) and a farewell to our Duke intern, Javier, who was not with us on Friday (since he was leaving Saturday with the Montana group).

Comments from our team:
We had production line skills, putting the cold bags together.
The team building games we played earlier in the week taught us about working together in the assembly line.
Some groups went on a minor detour, but it was just a minor detour.
You had to yell really loud so the people could hear you at their door.
Some people invited us in for a visit. Some were just happy to get the food.
We thought about how we are helping older people now, but one day that will be us!
We were excited when someone wanted to chat with us..."that was fun."
We ate lunch at the Urban Ministries community cafe. It was pretty good, especially the doughnuts.
I was impressed with the way people at the cafe welcomed us to their tables.
At Urban Ministries, we heard a cool story about a 12 year-old who decided to collect over 800 pairs of underwear and socks for the clothing closet in the year before his bar mitzvah.
We heard another story about an 80 year-old woman who had a "coat-tillion" birthday party and collected more than 120 gently used and new coats to donate to the clothing closet.
A "mitzvah" is a good deed...and a commandment to do good for others. Two different people told us about this today.
At the Village Lanes bowling alley, one of our group actually got stuck to their ball and went careening down the lane. For real!
Bowling is a lot more fun with the bumpers.
Everyone got at least one strike!
We visited the Oakwood Community, a house of 6 people living together, raising ducks, rabbits, vegetables, and trying to live in harmony with the earth. They ride bikes, use a clothesline, collect rainwater, feed their neighbors for free. Thanks to Will for showing us around his home.
Bye to our Duke Intern, Javier, who is going to Montana with the group next week!

The IFFS relies on volunteers to help do the hard
work of planting and harvesting.
Day 5 (Friday): Inter-Faith Food Shuttle teaching farm in Carrboro
Our guiding scripture of the day was the parable of the mustard seed. In the kingdom of Heaven, the smallest seed grows to become a mighty shrub.

We drove to Carrboro (thanks to parents who helped with driving) where Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (the same organization we worked with on day 1) has a teaching farm on a piece of land owned by the Triangle Land Conservancy. Our farm guide, Steven, gave us a tour and explained that there is a group of refugees from Burma that also farm a section of the land. We saw them harvesting their produce to sell at the farmer's market...impressive!
Digging up grass for a new row.
The produce from this IFFS farm goes to the local homeless shelter in Chapel Hill. We worked creating a new row which will be planted with corn and okra. We also harvested cucumbers, basil, and cilantro (and sample some as well...yum), tended the new okra plants, watered everything, and did a LOT of weeding.

We enjoyed a celebratory picnic lunch at the farm with fresh veggies bought at the Durham farmer's market. Thanks again, Ms. Fran, for preparing the food all week!

The new row is clear of grass.
Now we start turning over soil
and raking it into mounded beds.
We then came back to St. Luke's for some down time in the youth room (including air hockey and foosball for some). We compiled our comments for the blog and played a computer simulation game called "Spent" (click here to play) which teaches about the realities of living in poverty (the game was created for Urban Ministries of Durham). The group had to make some tough choices between doing the right thing and having enough money (do you go see your child's school play or do an odd job and make $50?...our group begrudging chose the money).

Posing with the day's harvest of cilantro,
cucumbers, and basil which will be delivered
to the local food ministry and homeless shelter.
As a close to our day and our week, we sat outside on the playground and wrote in our journals then gathered at the outdoor chapel (and site of the future St. Luke's labyrinth) for a closing Eucharist service. We shared what "mustard seeds" of God's kingdom had begun to grow in us during the week. As always, we were sent out at the end of the service, "to love and serve the Lord." Thanks be to God for a great week!

Group comments about Friday:
Michael's back! Yay!
We met the "Okra family": Phillip, Emma Jane, and they had their three children: Paul, Britney S. Pears, and Fred. Fred married Sargeant Shirley and they had baby Lucy.
Even if you're covered in cow dung, life can still be good (but don't crow too much about it!).
What a wonderful, giant lunch with local vegetables! Thanks to Ms. Fran for the food this week!
We got to take home some cilantro and basil from the farm.
Shoveling is hard work, but it was good that Joe told stories.
We created a whole new row...a home for corn or maybe more okra.
"Everyday I'm shoveling."
Nanobots armageddon!

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