Category Archives: Mission Year
A Season of Thanks
As the year winds down, it feels like the pace of life quickens. Though we’ve spent more than a month settling in, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re forgetting something as you walk out the door. Between moving across the country and adjusting to our new home, there’s a mentality of something missing that’s difficult to move past.
For the non-profits we work at, this is the busiest time of year. Shannon is busy at Emmaus House preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations in the neighborhood. At the Georgia Justice Project (GJP), where I work, parties for donors and gifts for clients in prison are being organized. We are at full tilt through the New Year as we encourage people to give thanks and celebrate.
My work at the Georgia Justice Project focuses mostly on maintaining a relationship with our incarcerated clients. I’ve now made a few prison visits and as most could guess, prison is a scary place. For some clients, hope is easy because they’re working towards a GED or participating in a work program. For others, the future is dimmer because they won’t accept their current situation.
We’ve spent the first six weeks of Mission Year practicing a “technology fast.” The idea has been to disconnect us from our normal comforts and force us to confront the realities of our neighborhood more plainly. As a software developer by career and nature, I was less than thrilled at the idea.
Our Technology Fast didn’t mean living an Amish lifestyle. We still benefited from a great deal of technology: books, lights, kitchen appliances, the laundromat and more. Our fast was specific to the computer and, in particular, the internet. We were asked to avoid computer use altogether while at home and abstain from sites social, news, and those consumer related. In addition to computers, we were asked not to use cell phones. Whenever possible, we left them off or at home.
As young adults growing up in a digital age, connectivity with family and friends via cell phones and internet usage feels natural. By severing these connections, we were forced to pay attention to one another, to rely on each other, and to engage the community around us.
Our fast was practiced every day but on our Sabbath (which is Fridays). On those days, internet and cell phones were permitted.
A week ago we had a ‘solitude retreat’. It was one night spent about an hour outside the city in a beautiful park. Our purpose was to practice some of what we’ve been reading in Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry.
I found the book to be a good reminder of fundamental spiritual disciplines: solitude, silence, prayer, and retreat. Though it’s targeted more toward ministerial staff, I benefited from it and think newcomers to the disciplines would benefit too. You need to like his writing style to really get into it.
Shop www.GoodShoppr.com this Christmas!
At orientation, we were asked to raise our hands if we thought we could raise $250,000 for Mission Year. To a room full of college-aged kids, the amount seemed ridiculous. Waiting a moment, I sheepishly put my hand up. For a great program like Mission Year, I at least had the hope to think that I could raise such an amount.
After the session, Leroy came up and asked me what my plan was. In truth, I had envisioned a site like Good Shoppr a few years ago. At orientation, I realized now was the time to make it tangible.
And so I got back from orientation and conscripted my mom and a friend to help. About one week later we had www.GoodShoppr.com up and running. After another week and we had our first sales.
Good Shoppr is an online shopping site with a simple premise: 5% of sales will go toward our fundraising for the duration of our year (until July 2012).
This talk was one of three primary motivations for participating in Mission Year. Though not a “fun” talk (the beginning is rather comedic), the reality of the challenges he described connected with me.
It’ll be the best thirty minutes you spend today.
What’s Peoplestown Like?
On September 1st we had the opportunity to visit Atlanta and the neighborhood we’ll be living in, called Peoplestown. The neighborhood is in some ways different than the stark concrete jungle I’m accustomed to seeing in movies about the inner city. There are plenty of trees and grass around. The houses are rather cute for the most part. But at closer look you discover that while pretty in a way, many houses are in disrepair and surprisingly a large percentage are boarded up. The neighborhood is not diverse by any means. From what I could see it’s 100% black. That is until we moved in. When we got off the bus at the corner where we’ll be living we overheard someone say. “Do they KNOW where they’re going?” Another thing that stands out to us is the amount of litter on the sidewalks. It’s ridiculous! Either these people don’t value themselves and their environment or the people walking through the neighborhood on their way to/from the nearby Braves baseball stadium don’t seem to value them. We did find that people are VERY friendly. They are quick to say, “Hi, how y’all doin’?” with a smile on their faces. We hope this will help us as we make friends with our neighbors. As crime goes, Peoplestown does not have high incidences of violent crime. There is a lot of theft though so we have a simple solution. Don’t have anything of value. There isn’t much in terms of stores. There is a Laundromat, a few convenience stores and one grocery with not much selection. It doesn’t seem like much but we’re really excited to call this neighborhood OURS.
We are thankful as we see the financial support of friends and family in both donations and pledges. Your generosity has carried us to 97% of our personal goal. We hope that within the next month, we’ll raise another five hundred dollars to be fully funded for the year. Thank you for your support.
I’m excited to announce the launch of a new website designed to help us with fundraising for Mission Year!
Good Shoppr is a fun new shopping site that aims to give you a great shopping experience: a wide range of products, the ability to influence what we carry, and the knowledge that every purchase is in fact a good deed. You can browse and shop on Good Shoppr knowing that a portion of your purchase will go to the not-for-profit organization we highlight at the time.
We started Good Shoppr as a creative way to raise funds for charitable organizations. We are not in it for personal gain (other than the ability to support causes we care about), and all our proceeds will go to our chosen charities. (As we grow we may need to offset some taxes and expenses, but our aim is to keep those to a minimum).
Our affiliation with Amazon assures you of secure purchase transactions and reliable shipping. When you are ready to checkout, you’ll actually use Amazon.com and enjoy the benefits of your existing Amazon account.
Shop for goods, shop for good on goodshoppr.com.
We’re Moving to Atlanta!
We are excited to announce that we, Shannon and Grant, have decided to be missionaries for a year in Atlanta, GA starting October third. This is not a spontaneous decision but one we have talked about since we got married two years ago. We knew we’d like to do something crazy for God before we had kids but we also didn’t want to do anything while tied down financially. This July we paid off our car loan and Shannon’s student loans and are officially debt free! So starting at the beginning of October we are moving to a poor neighborhood in Atlanta called Peoplestown where we will live in community with our neighbors. While there, we will be volunteering fulltime at community service organizations. Shannon will be volunteering with a community called Emmaus House in the heart of Peoplestown. They offer many ministries to the neighborhood such as afterschool programs, senior programs, a poverty rights office, and more. Grant will be volunteering with an organization called Georgia Justice Project which offers free legal services to the impoverished. Grant will be a Prisoner Support Advocate and will visit and report on inmates. When we’re not volunteering we will be building relationships with our neighbors and discovering what it means to literally “love your neighbor as yourself.” We will also be pursuing a closer relationship with God with scheduled quiet times,weekly Sabbath days, Citywides (all-city worship and teaching gatherings), Weekly Reflections, training sessions, and volunteering with the local community church. We’re so excited about what God has in store for us!
A few months ago, I filled out an application that wanted to get to know me a bit more. I thought the questions were interesting and worth sharing. I’ve included my answers too. Feel free to share your answers in the comments.
In one or two sentences, what is your favorite “secular” movie and why?
I’ve always had a fascination with problem solving, machines, and learning. The movie “War Games” has elements of all three while teaching an important moral lesson about the futility of war.
Complete this sentence: “I think others would describe me as…”
I think others would describe me as driven. I can have a pretty intense focus. (Sometimes, I’ve rightfully been called a “bulldog”.) While being driven can mean passionate, it can also mean restless. I’ve also been told I’m “deep”.
In one or two sentences, what is your favorite “Christian” book (besides the Bible) and why?
My favorite “Christian” book is “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis. No book has ever painted a clearer picture of Heaven and Hell for me.
A poem about yourself from an eight-year-old perspective instead?
Still lives with K’nex in the house
My wife is prettier than a mouse
I love to play about and hop
I’m often found on my laptop