The week of June 20th, we took a group of our church youth to Knoxville, TN to participate in a summer urban ministry program. We as a group have participated in other summer programs but this was the first in an urban setting. For a week, we experienced a variety of faith formation, leadership development activities, and hands-on mission work with the homeless and less-fortunate folks in the heart of downtown Knoxville.
We worked in a facility much like our IFC. We assisted in Project Live, doing yard work for the elderly poor. We sorted and bagged food donations at Salvation Army and worked in their warehouse. We spent time at youth center. We helped at a day shelter for the homeless. We worked at their Fresh Air Camp, and we worked at a great community garden project adjacent to a public housing complex. A unique service was to walk up and down the street with a Red Flyer wagon filled with a pot of ice water to help refresh the men women and children on the street. What a week of growth!
Someone asked the obvious question; why couldn’t we do these same things in our community? The camp director provided the answer: it took them a while to structure all of the legal and bureaucratic requirements in order for young people to work at the various sites and projects. Their model works, and I’m sure that with some sound planning and hard work, we could provide our youth with similar experiences right here in our community.