3 of our Graduated Seniors gave our sermon this year …
As some of you may already know. Our youth group this past week was in Memphis Tennessee with the Memphis Youth Mission working around the city. To say that this was the furthest from a stereotypical mission would be an understatement. When you think of a mission trip what comes to your mind? (Pause) “hard labor, giving food to the homeless, or working at a soup kitchen.” Its for a good reason. It’s what’s commonly done during mission trips. And for the most part had been done during the previous ones to Asheville and Raleigh I went on. By no means are these forms of mission work bad, but highlighting the nature of them it makes it more apparent how different this years mission trip was. For starters Memphis is a minority majority city which meant a race that is a minority in America, that being African Americans, was the majority in Memphis. This unfortunately, combined with the fact that Memphis has been crippled by loss of industry and the 1800s yellow fever plague left the city with a large amount of poverty expressing itself in small pockets all over the city. And what truly separated this mission trip from prior ones was of course, the actual mission work done. One of our youth leaders Vance Stiles said many of the locations would be striving for was to solve the causes not just treat the symptoms. I wasnt fully able to grasp at that goal until our second day where we visited the HUB hospitality center. There we met Mac, an African American in his late twenties to his early thirties who was one of the main workers there. After a few jokes were cracked he gave us a tour of the entire facility and talked about what work they do at the HUB. It slowly started to become more apparent. The only real handout the Hub had was free coffee. They were mainly focused of providing services such as counseling, lawyer set ups, phone use, iPad and internet use, and other services that helped the homeless get back on their feet. The HUB would also connect people with other shelters, soup kitchens, and more depending on their needs as well as hosting a Work Local lottery program that allowed those picked to work different labor jobs for $50 a day as long as they had some form of ID. Alongside that, the HUB provided temporary HUB IDs that would provide some identification in case they were caught on the streets by police as well as receive and hold onto any important documents mailed to the HUB for those that needed it. The final part of the tour was where the idea of “fixing the causes not treating the symptoms” became most clear. Mac went on a bit of a tangent about what the HUB aims to accomplish and what it doesnt. Mac explained “when you are just handing out peanut butter and jellies on the street, all you really accomplish is feeling better about yourself”. He knew that although a lot of organizations in Memphis and in the world were doing good work, they were not making much progress towards solving the problem. The HUB was the opposite. People like Mac focus on doing what to others seems like the impossible, solving homelessness instead of just putting a bandaid on it. My time at the HUB and what I learned there stuck with me for the rest of the week as I thought about the ways we often simply “put a bandaid” on problems we have or see instead of really trying to fix them. Ending homelessness may seem impossible to many but to people like Mac, it’s their daily job. Ending homelessness may appear as an insurmountable goal, but that is all the more reason to strive for it. And that’s exactly why it was written in Matthew 19:26 “with God all things are possible”.
Im sure mac is fully aware of what is capable through God and now My hope is that you can all think of an issue you might have or an issue you see in your community and work towards solving it at its roots. Thank you.
Good morning. As said earlier by Jordan, this year’s mission trip was to Memphis, Tennessee. Instead of painting you a detailed day by day depiction of what we did, I have decided to tell you what the word Memphis means to me. As we all know Memphis starts with an “m”. That first M stands for Myfa, which commonly gets mistaken for Mifa. Myfa stands for Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association. Their mission is to support the independence of vulnerable seniors and families in crisis through high-impact programs. Those programs can range anywhere from finding someone a bed in a pinch until a permanent one is found to one freshly cooked meal sent to your doorstep. Each meal is completed with a marinated chicken breast, steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes, one piece of whole wheat bread, and a single 2% milk. The group and I took route 28 on that Monday morning to drop off those exact meals. That is where we learned not only how grateful people were for their hot meals, but also little tidbits here and there. People genuinely were eager to share these things with us because it was important to talk, even if the talk was in fact nonsense. The first of the two examples would be a lady who walked with a crutch instead of a cane, she happily invited us into her home which smelled sweet. She proclaimed happily to those who brought in her meal in, that her home was from the 1920’s and that as much as she could keep original, she did. Or that another man had stopped us on his porch to tell us that someone was trying to buy out the world’s largest bass pro shop, which if you hadn’t know is actually in Memphis, and in buying out the shop they’d in turn make it a casino for gambling and other shenanigans as he put it.
The E stands for everyone loves coffee. Mrs. Denise would wake up and brew her iced coffee before she could even function, The Manna House would have already brewed barrels of the brown liquid and Hospitality Hub, who mind you has their OWN brand of coffee, would have already had it posted up by the front door. After this week I am thoroughly convinced that Memphis’s backbone IS coffee. However, the most impressive thing about the stuff is when these people get their hands on it, the mood in the entire community changes. This week id like to share a Prayer I heard about coffee with all of you.
C: “ Lord may you bless the coffee “
A: “And may you make it hot”
C: “Lord may you bless the sugar”
A: “And make it sweet”
C: “And lord may you bless the creamer”
A: “And may you let the sweetness take away the bitterness of the world”
The second M stands for the Manna House. The prayer we just said could be heard the Tuesday morning as we stood hand and hand on the side of the brightly colored house; Other chants hung in the air as the poor and the homeless pilled in to congregate in the back heard such as “don’t be a dope, get your socks and soap” I’d like to take a moment to explain that chant, Tuesdays are socks and soap days. Which means if asked you could receive a pair of fresh, clean socks and a bar of soap. Manna’s mission is so simple that is actually so beautiful. Manna’s mission is Hospitality. Hospitality includes basic services such as clothing, hygiene items, showers and serving coffee or other beverages. I am sorry to keep raving on about Manna House, but the place is painted head to toe and it feels like a home.
P stands for the power of prayer. Wednesday morning our group of 15, that is including out group leaders Edward and Vance, pilled into the small Episcopel church on a busy road. Those on their way to work, those off the streets, and the regulars also pilled in. There is a beautiful stained glass of sister Constantine in the back of the church. If you don’t know who she is, which I seriously doubt you would know, here is a brief history lesson. Memphis had 2 different outbreaks of the yellow fever, during the second outbreak sister Constantine returned to Memphis while on a pilgrimage to help those in need in spite of her own health. When she returned, she put forth all of her efforts and prayed to help as many people as she could, that is until she had in fact died from yellow fever 7 months before the outbreak had ended. Now ill bring you back to that day. The sermon was focused on two things, the first being to not forget the stranger, and the other is to remember the better angle. To which was a silent nod to sister Constantine and all her efforts during the Yellow fever. I think that she is a figure that we should all try to be like and remember.
H is for none other than HOT. I could lie to you all and say that the weather was perfect, cool crisp air every day but that would be a lie, and we all know that Presbyterians DON’T lie. The air was hot and muggy, your skin would feel slick and yet sticky, but the funny part is that the locals would complain, forgetting that on the 4th of July in Florida, there was a heat index of 110 degrees. It was hot, but we were glad to be there.
I is for independence. Depending on whether or not you were awake enough for the first sermon you may or may not have heard him speak on the independence of homeless people. Did you know that finding a home isn’t the problem, but keeping them in is? Some prefer street life over breaking the poverty cycle. The reason why is than once someone is placed in a home rules are set up to try and reestablish those people in society. The problem with that is, well one rule. At night guests are not permitted to stay. That being said people become lonely and prefer street life because they’ll always have company. Loneliness is the ultimate corruption of independence.
Lastly id like to leave you with S, Someone PLEASE tip the band. You may have noticed our manager on stage. If you are still confused, I am talking about the 5-gallon bucket labeled tips. Wednesday afternoon our group strolled down the famous Belle street. Music flooded the air as a band played “Shake your body down to the ground” by the Jacksons, however they didn’t sing the intended lyrics. “$5s, $10s, $20s tip the band. Someone PLEASE tip the band” This bucket will be used in our offertory today, so you will see it around later on.
And that spell Memphis. However, I have some other points id like to leave you all with just because they didn’t fit into the word Memphis. The first is that because we were such a small group, we often held hands when joining in prayer, I have never squeezed hands when saying amen but I’m almost certain that because of Vance, our group leader, my whole group squeezes when saying amen. The second is if anything I said up here confused you or you have more question about what I’ve said, to please ask any of us we would be happy to tell you more about our trip and what we did, and the third and last thing is the passage I found one late night when I was goofing around flipping through the bible. I thought id share it with everyone this morning just because I thought it was so fitting for the trip, I also implore everyone to join hands much like we did this trip and pray with me after, feel free to squeeze. Isiah Chapter 32 lines 16-18 “The lords justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effects will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, and in undisturbed places of rest”
God may you relate that passage to everyone here today and those who need peace most in their lives in Memphis. May you watch over each one of us and love all your children with the upmost affection. In your holy name we pray, Amen.
This year, as I’m sure you’ve heard, our youth group went to Memphis Tennessee for our, and my last, mission trip. I have been on 6 out of the 7 mission trips since my 6th grade year and all of them in different states so I mean it when I say this one was particularly special. Our group participated in numerous different activities around the city as we sought to serve the community, learn about its history, and discover how god is present in both Memphis, and us. The theme that the organization we were with focused on this past week was bringing the worlds of abundance and scarcity together. As we learned, this is best achieved through the act of being generous. However, generosity never comes without sacrifice and I had the opportunity to learn more about this sacrifice through the many different locations I visited this week in Memphis. Now let me give you a little background on Memphis for anyone who has never had the chance to visit. Memphis used to be a trade and industry center due to its strategic location along the Mississippi River, and also hosted a large African American population following the civil war. The thing that stood out to me most about Memphis however was how diverse the city was in its lower and higher income areas. Often, I’ve found that major cities have obvious areas where you can delineate between the higher and lower income parts of the city as was the case with Raleigh which our group visited last year. This was not evident in Memphis as you could walk 2 blocks in downtown from a major tourist area and find an entire skyscraper that had been abandoned or someone on the streets panhandling for change. There was scarcity all over Memphis but fortunately enough, there were those willing to sacrifice what they had to share their abundance. The first place I visited in Memphis was the Manna House. The Manna House provided showers, clean clothes, hygiene products, and coffee in the mornings for those in need. During my time at the Manna House I helped in the back where I would get hygiene products and clothes as requested by those who stopped by. The House is run entirely by volunteers who donate their time and resources everyday to serve those in need. Later in the week we participated in a church service at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral and following the service, helped to serve breakfast to the homeless and low-income community of Memphis. This time, the church sacrificed its resources to provide a necessity for those who have less. The theme of those with abundance sharing their time and service with those living lives of scarcity was a recurring them at a majority of the sites I visited this week. This theme is not new to me from the many past mission trips I have been on. But what I did discover this week was one of the ways God ties into the theme of generosity. During our evening program with Memphis Youth Mission we read a passage from Matthew about the laborers in the vineyard. In this passage a landowner hires people to work in his vineyard at different times throughout the day and in the evening pays all of the the same 1 day wage, upsetting those who had been working since morning and felt they deserve more than those who started working in the late afternoon. The landowner responds to their complaints saying “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” At the beginning of the passage Jesus claims that the Kingdom of Heaven is just like this parable. When I first read this passage I had thought it somewhat unfair that those working longer had earned the same amount as those who had hardly worked long at all. Yet as I thought more about it I realized that this passage was not about the unfairness of the situation but the generosity of God. God, like the landowner, did not care when the people came to him, but rewarded them all equally. Whether you are someone who has served as a faithful Christian all your life or someone who found God late in life, he accepted you into his kingdom regardless. This was often the case in the sites I visited this week. At the Manna House, all those who showed up that morning would pray before getting coffee and showers. At St. Mary’s, those getting breakfast would attend the morning worship service before they got their food. And sure there were some who showed up only for the food or the opportunity to get a shower. But, most of the time, the people using the services at the Manna House, and at St. Mary’s, the ones who lived lives of scarcity, the ones who relied on those around them with more, to share their abundance. They were the ones who had found God, who have seen his generosity in him and in others. Despite the world constantly being against them, these people had found God and worshiped him as deeply as a lifelong devoted Christian. The way I saw God integrated into this community despite the poverty found all over Memphis is what made my last mission trip stand out to me from all the rest. So now I ask all of you, when have you seen or received generosity? In what ways can you sacrifice your abundance and be generous towards others? And how has God been generous in your life?