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.
I’ve found that while taking all kinds of students around Asheville and Black Mountain, it’s
worlds easier to point out the injustices around us than to realize practical solutions of justice.
Bringing justice to the people who have been failed and let down by their communities and their
governments can be served in many ways, hence our emphasis on personal creativity and
exploration. However, one moment in particular from this week was especially helpful in allowing
me to see how our curriculum sheds light on social justice in our students.
While spending time with the Haywood Street Congregation, namely by sharing a meal,
attending the Wednesday afternoon worship service, and, of course, connecting with a common
love for popsicles, the youth group I’ve had the privilege of leading this week expressed a
natural joy from having the opportunity to form a broader community with the congregation. This
congregation is largely made up of folks pushed to the margins of society, and this group of
students spent the day witnessing the humanity in those who have mostly been overlooked in
Asheville. In a discussion we had later in the day, these students were eager to share their own
ideas about how these folks could be better represented and included rather than continually
marginalized. I loved having the chance to see the impact that this short trip has on young
minds who are increasingly encouraged to think for themselves.
Peace cannot be achieved without a willingness to face the difficult and complex truths to
how justice can be served to groups of people forgotten and abused all around us. This is why
the mission of YMCo also centers around nurturing the ideas of creativity, individual and
communal contribution, and transformation. These are the characteristics of new generations
who will refuse to accept the injustices that many of us turn a blind eye to today. By keeping this
mission in mind, I can stay hopeful for the boldness of young minds to demand change be
brought about for the sake of what is right, just, and peaceful.