NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — If your church or family group is looking for a service opportunity this summer, whether on the ground in cities across the U.S. or on the computer screen across your kitchen table, DOOR Discover is ready for you!
DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection) is now accepting interest forms for its weekend and weeklong Discover programs, which include both in-person and virtual formats that are offered from May through July. To register, go to the DOOR Discover web page. DOOR is a partner organization of Mennonite Mission Network.
The theme for both the in-person and virtual DOOR Discover programming is "Be intentional," focusing on loving your neighbor, fighting for justice, seeking God's face and recognizing implicit bias.
"To think about challenging systemic policies that disproportionately disenfranchise people of color is a great starting point," said Andrea Sawyer-Kirksey, executive director of DOOR. "But we want to encourage and challenge the folks who come to our programs to go even deeper."
Ordinarily, the Discover program would welcome youth groups and families to DOOR Discover sites in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Miami for justice-focused service-learning experiences during the summer. In 2020, the program shifted to a completely virtual presence, though its focus on how individuals in communities experience homelessness, food insecurity and institutional injustice remained the same. This season, the program has been retooled for a summer in which some groups may want to travel in-person to a host city, while others are looking for a virtual experience.
For groups that travel in-person to DOOR Discover locations, the experience will resemble what DOOR Discover has focused on in past seasons, with a few socially-distanced twists. Groups will gather for reflections and learning experiences every morning and afternoon in parks across the city. Service locations will focus on activities that take place outside or physically distanced indoors. Each group will arrange their own food, transportation and lodging, to ensure the safety of the community members and host churches who would normally help with those needs. Ample time has been scheduled for groups to explore the host cities outdoors, at their own pace, and visit historical sites and connect with local leaders.
While the virtual Discover program will focus on the same themes, the experience will be fine-tuned to feature more games and experiential learning to ward off potential "Zoom fatigue." The program also includes opportunities for groups to envision and participate in service projects in their local communities.
"We have put together some really, really great programming for our virtual spaces that we think people will enjoy," said Sawyer-Kirksey. "We've been able to test it out, because we did virtual week-long Discover [programming] last June and July and got some really good feedback."
The virtual format also enables Discover groups to connect with and be led by young adult participants from another DOOR program, Discern. Normally, DOOR Discerners would lead in-person groups, developing leadership skills and exploring faith and justice issues in the cities where they live. This season, as leaders of the virtual Discover program, Discerners will guide groups through games and creative activities to compliment the daily service-learning components.
"We can't [virtually] bring in the folks who ride public transportation — who changed the lives of kids just by having small conversations with them — or the corner store owners, or all the guys on the basketball court that get into pickup games," said Sawyer-Kirksey. "But we can bring the stories and the lessons that we learn from engaging with justice issues that take us outside of our comfort zone and help to transform us, so that when we go back into the places that we have come from, we show up there with a different intentionality."
For more information and to register your group, go to the DOOR Discover web page, and follow DOOR on Facebook for up-to-date information.