Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ember NYC

New York City, as you must know, is an amazing backdrop when helping high school students understand the way the world really looks. Being in NYC this weekend with a group of high school guys did not disappoint. Ember was asked to facilitate a weekend service experience for a church youth ministry group of 13 high school seniors and their leaders. We've worked with their leader, GM, for many years and consider it a privilege to be entrusted with a weekend with their students. Below are some details about what we did and what we hoped the students would learn. Long post - as always feel free to steal what you want. If you feel guilty, you can make a donation ;-)

: Coney Island Gospel Assembly
The initial request from the leaders of these boys were to serve with something to do with Hurricane Sandy relief. CIGA has found themselves at the epicenter of the relief work and there are still lots of needs right around the area. This element included going door to door around the neighborhood of the church to assess people's needs - CIGA had tons of food boxes, bottled water, heaters, and blankets to give to people that needed it. Our group broke up into teams and asked people. We then took the lists back to the church and got to deliver these items. Context and culture were focus points for the afternoon not only because of the disaster relief situation but because Coney Island has a huge Russian and Chinese immigrant population.

If you've followed how Ember has learned about service projects the past few years, you know that we are really careful about charity being toxic. I'm overjoyed about our experience on Saturday because student mission teams are seldom involved in a needs assessment process. Mission teams almost never ask the community what they really need and if they do, they are almost never in a position to help meet those needs. We were part of both, which was a huge privilege.

: Manhattan
Saturday afternoon and evening was spent doing some tourist things including visiting Grand Central Station, Times Square and the 9/11 Memorial. Again our central focus was context and culture - how many people from different countries can you talk to and identify any cultural icons, things that are important to this culture and therefore inform you about the people here.

: Bronxville Community Church
Since our hosts were involved in a church plant, that's what we did for church on Sunday. Bronxville Community Church has been in existence for about 2 years, meeting in a movie theater in the center of the village of Bronxville. Bronxville is a highly affluent community, about 45 minutes north of Manhattan. The lead pastor and planter was a bond trader before he was called into vocational ministry. Our boys were from a mega church, meaning that we made the point that seeing different expressions of Church is a good thing. We could have gone on about unreached cities in the United States, how this lead pastor is able to contextualize because he used to work on Wall Street, or how church planting is so difficult in New England.

: A House on Beekman
Sunday afternoon, we visited A House on Beekman, which can best be described as a group of friends that read the Bible, got convicted about how they were caring for the poor, moved into the South Bronx [the poorest neighborhood in NYC], and have a long term dream about complete renewal in this community. They started by just trying to 'be good humans and neighbors.' Five years later, they run an after school tutoring program, youth discipleship and a Mom and Me program, where they teach moms how to be parents. They also run a summer camp for 4 weeks each summer, just trying to serve families and their kids. Lots we could have talked about here, including the mission and incarnation, gentrification, sustainable and holistic community development, and the dynamic of living with the poor and being from the suburbs. Instead, we sent them for a prayer walk around the neighborhood, where 'everyone would know they were here to see Sara...'

: Hosts and Guides
We had some amazing hosts - two families that opened up their homes to our team. Both of the dads work in corporate America in Manhattan, love and pastor their families well, and have taught their children to serve the Church. Easily some of the most missional people I have ever met. And you know that our guides did some amazing work as well. ARotolo and DKnox both did amazing work helping lead, guide and serving this team.

A beautiful weekend. In 500 years, you and I might see how some of these high school boys marked human history.

More photos here.

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