What does cooking, jackhammering, and diving into ocean waves fully clothed have to do with living out a vision of mission work?¬†¬† There is no quick answer that would properly capture the experience that some of our teens had over the Memorial Weekend.¬†
Two months ago, ten youth in next year‚Äôs coming of age program articulated an inspiring vision of what a mission experience might include before even knowing their destination.¬† ¬†They wanted to become a closer group by ‚Äúhaving each others' back,‚ÄĚ doing hard work, and having ‚Äúserious fun.‚ÄĚ¬† They wanted to change their environment and to explore.¬† They wanted to have a new experience and learn something new about themselves and the world while meeting new people.¬† They wanted to be useful, to help others, and to do something meaningful.¬† They wanted to discover what they take for granted and be a 'little' uncomfortable and inspire each others‚Äô lives.
A lofty list?¬† You bet!¬† How many of these goals did they meet?¬† 100%.¬†¬†
The group set off on a journey of a mere 11 miles from our church campus to our neighboring city, Lynn, Massachusetts.¬† Through the hospitality of folks whose lives and vocation are indistinguishable from each other and from the people around them, our youth had the opportunity literally walk the paces of typical smaller city life, with all of it‚Äôs stories of challenge and stunning hope.
A local deli restauranteur shared life lessons, a trip to Chelsea to pick up food supplies, and a chance to cook their own meal right on the large grill.¬† An international non-denominational Christian Church provided space for meeting and sleeping on the floor of their teen room and warmly invited us into their worship life.¬† A few local gardeners ‚Äďfrom homelands all over the world -- us welcomed our helping hands to work into their international peace garden that has been evolving in the alleyways of an elementary school yard.
The Unitarian Universalist Coming of Age experience is unique for using all available and compelling means for youth to live into the timeless questions, who am I?¬† who‚Äôs on my team?¬† how will I live out my faith in the world?¬† Mission experiences that interrupt the pace and expectations of day to day life become one of the most effective ways for youth to discover more about themselves while they are immersed into a landscape that is off their beaten track.¬† To be sure, this can happen anywhere ‚Äď near and far.
It is important to lift up the content that this experience for youth came out of -- and that is the church-wide initiative to focus on food issues and the Helping Hands partnership with The Food Project of Lynn, Massachusetts.¬†¬† By walking in the path of the congregational vision, learning with our Helping Hands partner -- Teen Interns of The Food Project, and discovering new opportunities and partners to convert the vision into a reality, one weekend became a pot of gold.
A regional church serving communities north of Boston, welcoming people of all ages, religious backgrounds, cultural origins, differing abilities, gender identity, political views, and sexual orientations.