by Matthew Littrell
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs
up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
-Isaiah 43: 18-19
When I read Isaiah, the message of this piece of scripture particularly stands out to me. In Isaiah 43, the prophet Isaiah is giving words of encouragement to the discouraged and exiled Israelites. Isaiah is trying to get the Israelites to understand that their God is the same God now as He was in the past. The same power God exhibited when He brought his people out of Egypt and saved them in the wilderness is at work all around them today. Isaiah is trying to tell them that God made a way in the wilderness then, and He can and will do it again.
Each Monday morning, I give a glimpse of this context to our youth. I want each youth to understand that the same God at work in the Bible is at work here in Charleston. The same power God exhibited when He forged a path for the Israelites and raised Jesus from the dead is at work here in this place. That same God is at work today, preparing a way into all your hearts. I then pray that each youth will begin to experience the transformative power at work this week.
However, I did not truly understand what it meant to experience the power of God until I had time to interact with the groups this week. One of our main discussions was about being willing to be uncomfortable. Many youth on these YMCo Summer Mission Immersion Trips are stepping into the uncomfortable world of service for the very first time. Many have never had the opportunity to serve their neighbors in need of a hot meal. Most have never handed out water bottles and snacks on a hot day to locals in the community. These trips are about embracing the uncomfortable and striving to be vulnerable.
by Will Macaulay
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those
who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom. And they are getting
killed. And their lives are being taken as they pursue justice and peace for all.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil
against you, falsely on my account. And they get imprisoned for the crime they didn’t commit.”
Liturgies from Below, Cláudio Carvalhaes
After my fifth week of programming in Asheville, I’ve decided to take a moment to reflect
on the mission of YMCo; as well as my own personal mission. Included in YMCo’s mission is the
pursuit of justice, the encouragement of creativity, and the transformation of people and
As far as my own personal mission, I believe in my purpose of creating peace and
discovering what that entails in the few communities that I call home. For each, I believe that a
basic understanding of what justice looks like among the people and contrasts of a community
is the cornerstone of beginning to create peace.
Here in Asheville, our curriculum is focused on how everyone can contribute to
addressing the core issues around us that result in extreme poverty, hunger, and pain. While we
believe volunteering at various agencies to provide basic relief to the symptoms of poverty is
both necessary and, to some extent, a responsibility to the privileged, simply slapping a
bandage over the most vulnerable and marginalized groups is not enough. On top of
contributing the time and resources available to us, it is insulting and inhumane to turn our eyes
away from the things that cause many to go hungry, or go without shelter, or remain stuck in a
cycle of poverty.
“But I say to you who hear. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” - Luke 6:27-31
This passage is one that can sometimes be confusing to youth in our bible studies. At first, I read it as telling people to simply love others and treat them well. Then, after a bit more consideration, I thought it was preaching to let other people treat you poorly, to be a pushover, to not stand up for yourself.
However, one of my favorite parts of leading this Bible study is giving youth some historical context on what this verse says to do. For example, it reads, “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” At first, this seems like a direction to take the pain that the world throws at you without pushing back. However, in the historical context, people in power would typically slap people below their social status with the back of their hand. To turn and offer the other cheek would be to demand that they treat you as an equal and assert your dignity.
by Alison Sink
Revelation 21: 1-3
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home[a] of God is among mortals.
He will dwell[b] with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them and be their God
The first weeks of the summer season are often a whirlwind of making sure that we all know what we’re doing and where we’re going. Seeing in our first groups is exciting, all these smiling faces that are here to learn and grow and serve. As we embark on this summer of service, we are unpacking the ideas of what it means to usher in the Kingdom of God. During my time in different agencies in the Asheville area I have had lots of little moments in which I have seen the creation of the Kingdom in this present day and age. When I think back to some of these experiences, one in particular comes to mind.
Anna J. Cooper Haywood, A Woman from Raleigh We Should Know
In honor of Women’s Month I want to share a story about an amazing woman that I discovered on my way to work one day. I was driving to my office in downtown Raleigh, while stopped at a red light, I noticed a historical marker on the side of the street. It stated: “Anna J. Cooper, educator, orator and early black feminist…” I made a note to myself to look up more information about Anna. To my amazement here is what I discovered!
“If you inquire into the history of the metropolitan area in which you live, you will probably find ample evidence of how the federal, state, and local governments unconstitutionally used housing policy to create or reinforce segregation in ways that still survive.” ― Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
Right outside the Raleigh Youth Mission office is Nash Square. It is a green space full of trees nestled in downtown Raleigh.
On January 6, 2021 America watched as a crowd of thousands of people participated in a protest that turned into a riot. That riot included storming the nation’s Capitol building while our elected leaders were still there, working to fulfill their duties to the constitution and to the people that elected them.
Most of us have heard the saying: “Never talk about Religion or Politics…” However, I am learning that if we never talk about religion or politics then we will never get to the root causes of our deepest suffering, and we will fail to be the people we were created by God to be. Now, I don’t mean to imply that religion or politics are the root issues that cause us pain, rather it is the idea that there are “some things” that we should not discuss.
In his book turned motion picture Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson recalls how his grandmother used to tell him all the time, “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance… You have to get close.” Bryan took this message to heart; his experience in law school interning with a non-profit working with inmates on death row propelled him into a career of advocacy.
You have to get close.
Though I have lived in Asheville since 2002, I am in my second year as the Mission Immersion Director at AYM. Recently I have been thinking a lot about why groups should come to Asheville for a mission experience. In other words, why AYM? Yes, you may know Asheville is a destination city with lots of great hikes, waterfalls as well as great food & music venues. AYM is located right downtown at First Presbyterian Church, and who doesn’t love getting candy at Mast General?! Over the past dozen years we have established relationships with many non-profit partners who are doing great work in the community.