I feel like it’s only appropriate for me to start out by introducing myself. So, Hi! I am Parker Barnes. I am a rising sophomore at Campbell University where I study Communications and Christian Ministry. I found Raleigh Youth Mission when Katherine Blankenship came to Campbell’s connections, which is kinda like chapel, but cooler, and told us about what she does in downtown Raleigh. I immediately knew that I wanted in. I had, just the weekend prior, been talking to my mom about how I had been praying about what God wanted me to do over the summer. I was pretty much a dead tie between interning at a nonprofit and being a camp counselor. So when Katherine gave her talk at connections I knew RYM was for me. I walked my smiling and joy filled self up to the stage and told Katherine with confidence “RYM is what God wants me to do this summer.” Katherine, probably freaked out said, “well the application will be out soon.” And from then on I knew that I would be spending my summer in downtown Raleigh.
Last week I had the opportunity to take a group of young people to Church of the Advocate, a regular mission site for AYM throughout the summer. Church of the Advocate is an open-arms congregation, welcoming any and all to come worship, have a meal, and create community with one another. My group and I joined the congregation for worship, and, although most of the service is traditional, part of the sermon includes allowing people in the crowd to share their thoughts on scripture.
Before I go further with the story, I’d like for you to take a moment to visualize what this crowd looked like…physically, emotionally, mentally. The service took place outside in a courtyard. It was completely open, an inviting space for anyone who may be walking down the street. There were people from every walk of life…some live inside, some live outside. Some are healthy, some are sick with mental or physical illness. Some face daily prejudice because of who they are, and some do not. Many of these people are commonly ignored by the everyday tourist-crowd of Asheville because they are, according to most of society, “different” from the rest of us. That being said, for many people in the crowd, this service was the only day this week they had the opportunity to share their opinion with people who care. This led to some interesting and uneasy topics during that day’s worship service, throwing my group off-guard. After everyone had shared, the service soon came to a close, and my group and I had a chance to reflect on what we had experienced.
It’s the last week of this summer of Mission Immersion, and on this Tuesday night after program, this group was heading to the Marble Slab to grab some ice cream, and invited my fellow Intern Will, and myself to join. When we walked into the ice cream shop, our adult leader decided to cover the entire group and then the other four people in front of us in line. The first of these was a young man, whom appeared to be in his late teens, early twenties. He had just purchased a cone, and then once he found out it was covered, asked if he could get some ice cream to accompany it, as he only had enough money to get the cone. After receiving his cup of butter pecan, he took a seat at a table under a window, and a few of our youth and an adult sat down and started chatting with him.