Wednesday, September 3, 2014

2014 Young People in Mission

We are so happy to now be leading up Young People in Mission, our region's young people’s rally. Churches from across the Southeastern Jurisdiction sent their youth groups to beautiful Lake Junaluska to join together and be part of this event. YPIM is an incredible opportunity for these young people to connect to leaders from across the United Methodist Church. The speakers and workshop leaders are key people in the UMC who shared their passion of missions and justice with the students who attended. Not only were the participants educated and equipped with knowledge and insight of what it means to be intentional, mission-minded justice-seekers, but they then connected with these leaders so they can have the opportunity to engage in ways they perhaps feel called.

Thank you to everyone who used our #ypim2014 hashtag. We loved seeing the event through your eyes; many of the photos on these posts are from you!

Click on the photos below to be taken to separate posts on the various components of 2014’s event. There you will find photos and lots more information on all the fun we had at Lake J! The 2015 Design Team is already hard at work making sure next year is just as amazing, and we can't wait to share that information when it becomes available. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, enjoy reliving the memories from this year!



{2014 Young People in Mission} The Speakers

This year’s speakers were chosen by the Design Team because of the initiatives they take within their ministries to advocate for social justice.
photos courtesy of Jeff Cope
Rev. R.G. Lyons is the founding pastor of Community Church Without Walls in Birmingham, Alabama, a church that was created to be for and among the impoverished in the West End of the city. “I was honored to have been the Bible study leader for Young People in Mission and excited that I was asked to speak about justice. Being attentive to justice keeps our mission work from being patronizing, it ensures that not only are we changing other people's lives but that we are open to our lives being changed as well, and most importantly, the work of justice is long-term. It is not just about building a house or serving food. It's about bringing God's kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven. It's not just about serving the poor, but about working to end poverty. Thank God for the passion for justice so many of these young people demonstrated. The future of our world and of our church is in good hands.”

Jasmine Smothers was an ideal speaker for YPIM. Her primary responsibilities in her role as Associate Director of Connectional Ministries of the North Georgia Conference are Vital Congregations, Black Church Development, Multi-Ethnic/Cultural Congregations, support and training for Cross-Cultural/Racial Appointment, and developing Young Clergy leadership. We had a wonderful morning hearing her thoughts on Relational Justice.

On Tuesday morning, we had the opportunity to listen to Olu Brown speak on the topic of Restorative Justice. Rev. Brown is the lead pastor of Impact Church in the West End of Atlanta, Georgia. "I was blessed to share and participate with young people who are passionate about reaching the world for Jesus Christ. Ministry through missions is vital and important in helping the Church remain connected to the world. The young people inspired me as they are truly involved in missions and seeking to know how to live a life of selfless service."

photos courtesy of Jeff Cope
We were thrilled to have Rev. Dr. Denise Honeycutt be our featured speaker on Wednesday morning. This incredible woman has lived a life centered around bringing justice to our broken world. Currently she is serving as the Deputy General Secretary for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Here in the Southeastern Jurisdiction, UMCOR and natural disasters are synonymous, and while we are beyond grateful for the resources and relief they bring to us, many are not aware that UMCOR provides relief for a wide variety of human needs, from poverty and malnutrition to health and sanitation. They have a fantastic model for addressing these issues regarding human justice, in that they do not simply put a band-aid over the problems, but they work towards solving them at the root to create sustainability and empower those they serve.  

Please see our post about the Imagine No Malaria offering we had after her time speaking with us on Wednesday.

{2014 Young People in Mission} The Design Team

Many students are involved with their church’s youth ministry: it’s a great way to meet friends, have fun, and of course, learn about the love and new life found in Christ. Watching a young person “get it” is one of the most rewarding parts of working with students, and it’s even more exciting when they feel a calling to take their roles within their student ministries to the next level. The Design Team is open to any student who is entering 9th grade, but has not yet completed their first year of college. It is comprised of a Chair, Vice Chair, 4 others from around the Jurisdiction and two Young Adult Representatives who take on the responsibility of dreaming up what each year’s event looks like. While we here at UMVIM, SEJ handle much of the administrative side of things and provide support, it’s these dynamic young people who translate their vision and ideas into reality. Who else is better to engage students than their own peers after all? Not only is being on the Design Team a lot of fun, but it’s also an incredibly opportunity for them to make new friends, work on a team, network with key people within the church, build their confidence, and even their résumé!
We will have a blog post soon about the 2015 Design Team, but first we wanted to give this year’s team the opportunity to share what this experience has meant to them. 

The Justice League

Rachel Russell, Green Lantern, Chair: "For me, Young People in Mission has always been a very empowering event. It's a unique opportunity to come together and learn about missions and get a glimpse of what you are capable of doing through God. Design Team, specifically, has always been about people. I've never done anything else that allowed me to connect with other in the way that Design Team did. I was able to work on a closer level with organizations like UMVIM, I have a new family through the other Design Team members, and you're able to connect with the campers on a completely different level."

Ismael Luna, Aquaman, Vice Chair
: "It's my second family! Each of us have a special unique talent that we bring on the team. But we are all there for same reason, to experience God's presence in us and through us. We work hard, have fun, and joke around with each other. It's a privilege to serve on the DT with just an amazing group of people."

Ryan Calhoun, Batman: “The Design Team is the most humbling experience I’ve ever encountered. After attending YPIM for 4 years as a camper, seeing what happens behind the scenes and how much hard work and dedication goes into making this event possible has humbled me like nothing else before it.”

Devon Dollar, The Flash
: “It was a team that I will definitely miss and hope to work with somehow in the feature.”

Taylor Thomas, Superman
"It's an opportunity to show youth God's love by serving them."

Gracie Thull, Wonder Woman
"I love putting my energy and time into things that pay off for Jesus, and Young People in Mission Design Team has been a perfect outlet. It has also been REALLY fun. I have made new friends and done some crazy things that I would not have done otherwise, in essence, this experience has taught me to be brave in Christ."

Billy Rainey, Young Adult Representative
: “Guacamole Quarter Pounder.”

Laura Kigweba, Young Adult Representative
: “
When we were at Young People in Mission...that is what justice truly boiled down to. It was loving one another in a way we knew we could."

photos by Jeff Cope, Landon Taylor, Rachel Russell

{2014 Young People in Mission} The Workshops & City of Opportunity

One of the most advantageous components of this event for our participants is how our UMC Connectional System is so present. It is our hope that in our role of organizing YPIM, we give young people the chance to discern if they have a calling into the mission field in any capacity, and if so, to connect them with programs within the Church that can give them the opportunity to realize that calling. 

Many of these workshop leaders also set up informational booths Wednesday afternoon in our City of Opportunity. Not only was it a time of great connection, but it was a lot of fun. Thanks so much to Rori Blakeney and the General Board of Discipleship for furnishing popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones so that everyone had the necessary sugar rush for some good rounds of dodgeball!

photos courtesy of Rachel Russell
Take a look at the incredible array of workshops that were offered to the participants this year:

General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR), Jeehye Kim Pak
#NewChurch not Your Parents’ Church: How the UMC is Reaching Younger and More Diverse People

Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM), Becky Dean

Serving with the Poor

Global Justice Volunteers, Jason Riffe
Refugee Resettlement: Working in Solidarity with the Marginalized Faith, Justice and Planning for College

Just Peace Center for Mediation and Conflict, Haley Jones
Seeking Justice in Dialogue

General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), Clayton Childers
“What Does the Church Say About That”

Plymouth UMC: Cross (Christians Reaching out in Sacred Service), Jay Clark
From Mercy to Justice

Kingdom House, Kenneth J. Pruitt
Relational Justice: Creating Change in the City of St. Louis
Holistic Justice: Empowering the Whole Community

General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), Rori Blakeney
Justice: Stand, Speak, Spend

Birmingham-Southern College, Rev. Jack Hinnen
For Egypt to Israel: Relearning Justice
Personal Justice/ Social Holiness: Relearning Justice

Appalachian Service Project (ASP), Tim Norton
Work Miracles: Making Homes Warmer, Safer, Drier, in Central Appalachia

Urban Ministry, Danny Jones
Five Levels of Church Outreach

General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), Rev. Neal Christie
Connecting Mercy and Justice, Micah 6:8

Rethink Church (UMCOM), Sophia Agtarap
Strengthening Communities and Transforming Lives through Technology

Generation Transformation, Diamond Pate and Whitney Peters
Becoming a Young Adult Missionary

Imagine No Malaria, Ashley Gish
SWAT: Imagine No Malaria

{2014 Young People in Mission} The Service

UMVIM emphasizes the importance of a church or individual connecting with a mission initiative, and continuing a holistic relationship with them that is giving of their energy, resources, prayer and people. (Click here to learn more about our mission and core values.) With the help of Forrest White, UMVIM Coordinator for the Virginia Conference, we were able to plug the participants into both mission and service opportunities at YPIM. What is a mission-based event without an opportunity to serve, after all? 

Serving is as fun as it is important, and we'll let the #ypim2014 hashtag speak for itself:

Thank you so much to all of the organizations who allowed the youth groups to spend a couple days with them in service. We look forward to working with you again!

{2014 Young People in Mission} The Music

photos courtesy of Jeff Cope
Eddie Willis is a United Methodist Deacon and the Wesley Foundation Campus Minister at Ole Miss whose passion is leading people in praise and worship. It was great to have him and his band back for another year. Everyone loved the worshipful tone he and The Narrow Path set for us go to God each morning and evening. Thank you Eddie for once again sharing your gifts and talents with us!

As amazing as Eddie and his band are, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear and see what our other participants are capable of. On Tuesday night, the great hall of Shackford resounded with the talents of our participants and the laughter, applause and cheering of the audience. The Design Team had a friendly lip-syncing competition amongst themselves, and the winners were chosen by audience applause. Congrats Ismeal and Devon for bringing the house down with your rendition of John Legend’s All of Me!

Whatever your talent is, we hope you're already practicing for next year!

{2014 Young People in Mission} The Offering

This year, the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission had the privilege of taking on the administrative role of the Young People in Mission event. Each summer, youth and young adults from across the Southeastern Jurisdiction gather at Lake Junaluska to engage in all aspects of missions.
While we might now be taking the behind-the-scenes lead, this event has been and continues to be youth-led, spearheaded by group of bright young student called the Design Team. When they all met at our offices in Birmingham early this year, they decided to focus on the topic of “justice.” They shaped and formed the entire event with this theme in mind, and set out to find speakers and workshop leaders who carried a specific passion for seeking justice in our world today. (Check out this post to meet the Design Team that made this year such a success!)

Ashley Gish is the Assistant Director of Imagine No Malaria, a denomination-wide campaign aimed at fighting and eliminating this very preventable disease that is rampant in parts of underdeveloped Africa. Ashley led a fantastic workshop where participants could learn about the UMC's comprehensive approach to fighting malaria. She was also an important part of the City of Opportunity, which is a connectional event that brings together representatives of various boards, agencies and mission initiatives within the United Methodist Church to engage participants with many ways that they can put their new-found knowledge into action. 
photos courtesy of Imagine No Malaria

On the Wednesday morning of the event, after UMCOR Deputy General Secretary Rev. Dr. Denise Honeycutt spoke on the topic of Holistic Justice, Ashley had the opportunity to address the young people in the crowd about the role they play in ending this disease. We thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take up an offering for Imagine No Malaria. To encourage audience participation, the Design Team promised that if they raised $500, then they would all happily receive a pie in the face! UMVIM Executive Director and Young Adult Representative Billy Rainey sweetened the deal even more: if they raised $1000, they would dye their hair any color and rock it out for the rest of the event.
photos courtesy of Ismael Luna and Paulette West
That is how much the 200+ participants raised to provide mosquito nets for beds. To establish basic sanitation practices. To clean up stagnant water and trash heaps where mosquitoes thrive. To educate and train locals. To improve hospitals and healthcare.

photos courtesy of Imagine No Malaria
The future of the mission field rests with this Next Generation. Educating and equipping these young people is one of the most crucial things we can do to ensure the people and causes we must advocate for are not forgotten as time goes on. How amazing to see a group of young people, many of whom do not even hold jobs just yet, donate their resources to such an important cause. We are so grateful for the active and important role Ashley, Imagine No Malaria, UMCOR and the rest of our denomination held at Young People in Mission this year. We hope to see them and YOU in 2015!