NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — Every summer as temperatures climb up and schools wind down, many church and family groups visit DOOR Discover sites in Atlanta, Chicago and Denver to engage in service and learning experiences. Far from the typical week-long "mission trip," participants spend less time ladling soup, and more time living the DOOR mission statement, to "encounter the city through the eyes, ears and heart of God."
This summer, however, as Coronavirus looms over any potential social gathering, the Discover program looks very different.
Andrea Sawyer-Kirksey, executive director of DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection), will lead a free webinar on July 28 at 6:30 p.m. CDT introducing DOOR's virtual Discover experience. DOOR is a faith-based network that provides opportunities for learning, service and leadership for youth and young adults in cities across the United States, and is a partnership program of Mennonite Mission Network.
"We don't want to take the summer off," said Sawyer-Kirksey. "We may not be able to meet in person, but by going virtual, we can still provide the same quality education and reflective space for an intergenerational audience."
The virtual Discover experience was unveiled earlier this summer, and now DOOR is bringing it into the limelight through a series of live interviews and roundtable discussions. They will begin with the introductory webinar on July 28. To register, click here.
The weekly discussions will continue every Wednesday through August at noon CDT and will center around topics such as leadership identification and decolonizing service. To be notified when each discussion goes live, follow DOOR on Facebook.
The shift to virtual gatherings has brought changes to the Discover program, and yet its focus on discussing issues like homelessness, racial bias, and systemic injustice remains vitally important. The online format has enabled DOOR city directors to work collaboratively. Together, they bring stories and perspectives from Atlanta, Chicago and Denver during each four-day Discover experience. Participants listen and unpack topics together, engage in theological reflection, and join in games and service opportunities in their local communities.
"[DOOR participants have] always been bridge-builders between our local communities and the world that exists outside of those communities," explained Sawyer-Kirksey. "And that has proven to be a way to create a new kind of neighborhood, a new kind of neighbor, a more biblical kind of neighbor."
DOOR has two programs that complement each other. Discover provides visiting groups with opportunities for learning and service. Discern, DOOR's summer staff program, identifies young local leaders and helps them explore faith and community justice issues by hosting groups in their city.
Sawyer-Kirksey believes this relationship is key to pushing back against the "disconnect" that so many people feel across the country. "[Discover groups] reside with us as an organization in the city, and then because of their connection with us, the local communities begin to embrace them," she said. "[The communities] get to know the [Discover participants], care for them, educate them, love them, pray for them, and then put them gently back into their environments that they came from, with a different worldview."
"This is a time where people are maybe feeling isolated and lonely," said Sawyer-Kirksey. "We just want to have an opportunity for people to come together to support each other, and also talk about what DOOR is doing to continue to serve and love our neighbors."
For more information and to register for this upcoming webinar, click here.