By; Michelle Witherspoon, South Atlanta Community Facilitator
Wednesday Night Youth Group in South Atlanta….
At REMERGE we don’t run programs, we facilitate community that welcomes the most vulnerable. Certainly we have programs, but programs come out of reconciliation.
It’s Wednesday afternoon and the doorbell rings like clockwork. A group of 8-13 year old children are off school and anxiously awaiting the large group gathering time we have every week. What strikes me every week is how eager they are to help organize, prepare, play with Savannah, load the 15 passenger van, whatever we are in need of they are eager to help.
It is THEIR community after all. It’s not mine, it is OURS.
This is a value I tried to establish early on because often times in inner city ministry children are “given to” rather than invited to give, create, discover, and lead. Some might say it’s a little thing, but it really is a huge thing. We ask the children their opinions, and when strangers and guests visit our community we ask the children to serve them. When you come to my house for the first time, I serve you because you are my guest. Same principle with our community. It establishes a sense of ownership and value.
Another thing I notice almost every week is their excitement about youth group. They love being together. We ride together in our beat up 15 passenger van (shameless plug to buy us a new van!), then start setting up tables and chairs, preparing food, and every week it is almost a fight to be a ‘kitchen helper’.
Children want to participate! They want to help and they take pride in it.
Often times I am hard pressed to hear of a child who just didn’t want to come on a WED night. I cannot take credit for this because our leadership team is incredible and diverse in skill set, but more importantly the children help make it special. They like it because they participate in creating it! Whether it be the meal we share, the lessons or activities we do, or the games we play the kids weigh in on what we do.
Lastly, I am most proud of the vulnerability I see our community offer. 2016 offered a lot of opportunity to dig deep into one another’s hearts. The election, the police brutality, and just day to day life offered plenty of material to process through emotionally. I was so blessed and encouraged at the genuine conversations and feelings that were shared throughout the year. It was honestly what helped me not get in a discouraged place myself when things got intense during election season. I have so much love for this community and am so blessed by the kind hearts within our community. On an ongoing basis, I get thank you cards and random gifts dropped off at my house. The generosity these children have toward my family is humbling. So please be encouraged that the “ministry” we are doing here is often more about who we are sharing our lives with rather than to.