Top Ten for AYM!! by Debbie Alford

2015 Top Ten List

I’m not much on resolutions, I often overlook them as the year progresses.  I’m more likely to review the previous year.  I’m always about my friends Best Nine of Instagram or Most Used Words on Facebook.  It’s New Years Eve so here is my Top Ten for AYM.  They are in no particular order.

10) There are many social justice issues that I have learned about since moving to Asheville.  The knowledge I’ve gained while working with AYM continuously reminds me to be involved in creating avenues for change.  I enjoy teaching our participants about hunger, homelessness, community, etc and helping them change the world.

9) AYM partners with over 20 local nonprofits.  All year, I’m connecting with volunteer coordinators to set up times for AYM groups to volunteer.  Sometimes when meeting with new agencies, they worry that our youth are too young or might not do a good job at the assigned task.  This summer I got multiple calls and emails confirming that our groups exceeded expectations and helped in so many areas.

8) Robert is always smiling and happy to give hugs.  We see each other often at Haywood St. Congregation.  He is always helping leading worship or serving in Respite.  Formerly homeless, Robert now lives downtown near many of our partner agencies.  Recently, in the pouring rain, Robert helped me pack my car to the roof with food to give away.  He then told me he was going to walk home.  I couldn’t let Robert walk home in the downpour so Robert squeezed in the front seat, his lap loaded with boxes of apples.  The conversations and laughter I share with our neighbors one of the times I see the face of God.

7) Each summer we hire college aged interns.  Without Catherine, Rebecca, Caroline, Bryce and Kevin the summer would not have been possible.  They were constantly on the ground with our youth groups at worksites and leading evening program.  I loved witnessing their leadership grow and change.

6) One of our regular service projects involves picking up food and hosting a Free Food Market at Kairos West Community Center.  During the school year I’m frequently with groups hosting the market.  My favorite moment was when a group of high school youth became friends with a child as his family shopped at the market.  Maybe they didn’t know it but those high schoolers embodied radical hospitality that day.

5) Our theme in 2015 was Broken Boundaries.  I got to ask youth hard questions and encourage them to think outside the boundaries that society puts in place.  I love that AYM is a place where youth can struggle with uneasy answers and grow in their understanding of who God has called them to be.

4) The colleagues I work with are amazing.  Bill, Katherine and I each bring unique skills to this ministry and I’m thankful that we round out each others skills and talents.  I’m thrilled that Dawn joined our team in the fall and has shared her gifts with us.

3) We begin each mission experience with asking youth to clothe themselves with Flexibility pants and Humility vests.  I’m also reminded that I need flexibility and humility as I encounter unexpected situations and challenges.  These are the times I’m reminded that God uses us despite our faults.

2) Asheville has a population of about 87,000 people in 44 square miles.  We have about 27,000 visitors on any given day.  Sometimes I feel like the visitors outnumber residents when Im walking around downtown.  Through AYM, I’m able to invite youth groups to discover Asheville through a different lens.  Through our “Walk in their Shoes” I’m able to invite them to consider what the tourism industry means for local people living in poverty.

1) AYM is a place of creativity.  We use art in our evening programs and are constantly thinking of different ways to engage youth and our community.  This year I’ve been able to connect with local youth leaders and nonprofits to discern new ways of connecting teens with service opportunities.  Look for more in 2016!