Mission Year seeks to build beloved community by equipping people from all cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds for service in God’s kingdom.
As an organization, we appreciate and celebrate diversity as a gift from God. We are committed to creating communities where everyone is valued and supported in who God has created them to be. Because we desire diversity, we fight homogeneity, resist segregation, and build bridges between dividing lines of race and class.
As a person of color, you may be asking “Why should I do Mission Year?” You may wonder if Mission Year is for you. We believe there are a host of reasons you should do Mission Year.
God calls people from all backgrounds to be part of kingdom work. God may be calling you to step out from where you are to experience another aspect of who God is. We need and want your leadership and perspective. Your life experiences, gifts, and talents were given to you for a reason: to be used for God’s service. Come and see what God can do through you when you put your life at God’s disposal.
We are changing the face of missions.
The majority of the global church (and the world) is multicultural, yet the majority of missionaries are white. God wants representatives who reflect the diversity and beauty of God. Mission Year is changing the face of missions. And you have been requested to help. Churches and organizations are requesting volunteers of color. It affirms the dignity of the people in the community. It is both affirming and empowering for kids and youth to see people helping and serving that look like them. We need role models like you.
You can develop as a leader by learning from and working with local pastors, community leaders and activists. Our communities are filled with heroic servants of God working hard daily to make things better. You get to meet them, shoulder the load, and learn from them.
Deepen your own cultural identity. Mission Year’s emphasis on culture, racial justice, and self-reflection will give you space to appreciate and celebrate your own cultural heritage and how God can fully use who you are. In addition, our cities are rich with cultural and ethnic diversity. Learn about the history, struggles, and contributions of other cultures. Broaden your view of God and the world by learning about other people groups.
Become more aware of structural injustice and explore ways of challenging them. Much of the poverty and injustice in the city is systemic. Examine the systems that keep the marginalized oppressed. You have a heart for justice? Mission Year will give you opportunities to become an advocate for children and families struggling from racial and economic injustices.
You want to grow in your faith. Mission Year supports you in your walk with God and challenges you to develop a life of faith. Also, you will be part of a diverse team working together for a common purpose. Together we accomplish more than we could on our own. Multicultural teams become a powerful witness in our segregated communities, church, and world.
Gain practical job skills by working with dynamic non-profit organizations and ministries that are meeting the holistic needs of the community. Mission Year is so much more than an internship. You will discover long-term vocational opportunities in the city with Mission Year or other non-profits and ministries. Mission Year will introduce you to a whole new set of possibilities for your future career. Also, you can get a Masters degree through Mission Year’s Eastern partnership.
One of the challenges people of color have in doing Mission Year is explaining it to their family. We understand this. Mission Year can be a difficult thing to explain. Click here for some things you can share with family that may have reservations.
As an African American leader, I understand why people of color may be hesitant to join Mission Year. Fear. Money. Family.
In 2004, I began the process to move Mission Year to be a safe, supportive, and worthwhile opportunity for people of color. We did not just make cosmetic changes. Being an organization committed to diversity goes way beyond just posting people of color on your materials!
We changed the entire culture to make sure people of color were supported. We have made huge strides in recruiting, training, program resources and leadership development. We set up a multicultural panel to critique our existing model and construct a new approach. We started recruiting at diverse events. We provided an extra layer of mentoring in our cities for team members of color. We adjusted our curriculum to represent female and multicultural voices. All of these steps help move us closer to our desire: the beloved community where all are represented and valued.
I am excited to say that we have significantly increased the numbers of people of color in Mission Year since that time (from 5% to 20%). As I encounter other service programs, I can honestly say Mission Year is one of the more diverse Christian year-long service programs out there. In 2012, over half of our Alum Interns (second year leadership opportunity) were people of color. This reflects our seriousness about developing leadership. We also launched a new Urban Leaders program for teens living in our Mission Year neighborhoods. We are committed to developing leaders within the community as well as those who come from outside.
Being an African American leader in missions presents a lot of challenges and discouragements. But the progress Mission Year has made gives me hope. We are changing the face of missions. We are committed to this. We are not there yet. With your involvement and help, we can get there.
If you join Mission Year, there is a commitment to support you culturally, personally, and financially. Thank you for considering joining.
Leroy Barber, friend and President of Mission Year (2006-2013)