When It Comes to Helping Others, Raleigh Youth Mission Keeps Focus Close to Home

Summer is the season for faith-based mission work.

Adults and teens representing many congregations collaborate on projects that take them across America and around the world to help others. For the participants of Raleigh Youth Mission, the year-round focus is on coming together to immerse themselves in volunteer work in the capital city.

“I would say that many folks who grow up as Christians know they should love their neighbors as themselves,” said Bill Buchanan, co-founder and executive director of Raleigh Youth Mission, or RYM. “What we are doing at RYM is giving them opportunities to get to know some of their neighbors here in Raleigh who are going unnoticed and neglected.”

The group was founded in 2013 by Buchanan and his late wife, Aimee, both Christian educators and ordained ministers with the Presbyterian Church USA. RYM grew from Asheville Youth Mission, and a chapter has also been added in Memphis, Tennessee.

Groups come for week-long stays in the summer and during spring break, or weekend sessions year-round, to immerse themselves in service with a number of community partners.

“We are not just an organization that drops in for a few sessions each summer and then goes away,” Buchanan said. “Our RYM Immersion Director is here 365 days a year building relationships with these agencies and staying in the conversations locally about the issues of homelessness, poverty, food insecurity and more.”

This summer, groups joining RYM have served at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, Loaves and Fishes, North Raleigh Ministries, The Shepherd’s Table and the Ruth Sheets Adult Day Care Center, among others.

Groups are housed and eat their meals at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Raleigh. Buchanan says while RYM has the Presbyterian denomination tied to its founding, groups from other denominations participate. During the week, young people study Bible passages and create art that helps them reflect on their experiences as they work through the theme of “Creating Space: Whoever Welcomes You, Welcomes Me.”

“It’s all about a Christian call for hospitality to others, especially the folks on the margins,” Buchanan said. “Or as put in the book of Deuteronomy, the widows, orphans and aliens among you.”

An important theological component to Raleigh Youth Mission is that organizers intend for the work to be done with a post-colonial mission perspective.

“A colonial perspective is one where there is an assumption that we are the givers, the ones with all the resources, all the answers and all the things to offer,” Buchanan said. “It also assumes that they who are the receivers, are the ones who have all the needs, but have no resources and nothing to teach or offer.”

Instead, the volunteers are taught not to assume anything about the people they are helping.

“We find that folks in the community living through poverty and homelessness have a lot to teach us about flaws in the societal systems, about resiliency, about strength and faith and many other things. So our youth come in with a Christian call to help others but they also have the calling to come in with humility as learners, listeners and recipients of some of the wisdom that our neighbors have to impart with us.”

For more information, go to raleigh.youthmissionco.org.

Volunteers needed

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church is looking for volunteers to help with the monthly Coffeehouse event from 7 to 8:30 p.m. July 28.

Coffeehouse is an outreach that provides music and hospitality for adults of all abilities. This month, music will be presented by Sojourner.

The call goes out for extra assistance during the summer when many of the regular volunteers are away on vacation. To volunteer, email coffeehouse@gslchurch. org or call the church office at 919-848-1573.

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church is located at 7000 Creedmoor Road in Raleigh.

Gospel concert

Glen Royal Baptist Church in Wake Forest will present a concert featuring The Social Security Boys, a gospel trio, at 6 p.m. July 30.

The concert is free, but a love offering will be taken. Glen Royal Baptist Church is located at 731 Elizabeth Ave.

Send faith news to carla.turchetti.writer@gmail.com.

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