"What the World Needs Are People Who Have Come Alive": Boston-North Backyard Mission

"What the World Needs Are People Who Have Come Alive": Boston-North Backyard Mission

In each month's Discipleship Matters newsletter, SNEUCC's Faith Formation team works to showcase the good works and best practices present throughout the Southern New England Conference of the UCC and beyond. If you're interested in having the work of your church/faith body or para-church organization showcased next month, please reach out to Faith Formation Program Support Associate Sean Amato for more details.
This month's Spotlight on Service is on Boston-North Backyard Mission, a service experience mission of the Second Congregational Church of Boxford. Coordinated by Betsey Guest-Natale (Christian Education Director), Boston-North Backyard Mission introduces its participants to the myriad ways in which they can use their skills to serve their community and the communities around them. The ministry takes inspiration from African American theologian and civil rights activist Howard Thurman, even quoting so far as to include the following quote from Thurman on their homepage:
“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”


I had a chance to ask some questions of Betsey about this ministry via email; this is what she had to say about the state of her ministry, how it effects its participants, and how your congregation might get involved with Boston-North Backyard Mission.

Sean: What is your role and what got you started on this ministry offering?
Betsey: Youth Ministry has been my vocation and passion for over 20 years. I have led youth mission trips for as many years. From experience, I know how transformative these extended service experiences can be. 
The idea of hosting youth mission trips was brewing at Second Congregational Church of Boxford even before I came to serve as their Christian Education Director. The volunteers who work with our youth as mentors on the mission trips imagined that we could host youth groups and provide service opportunities in our community, just as other hosts have done for us.
In 2019, a team of advocates from Second Church explored the logistics of such an endeavor. We have a wonderful church campus with a large parish hall for sleeping, an industrial kitchen, and outdoor worship space. We also have relationships with many local service organizations. We don’t yet have showers, although a decade ago, some forward-thinking members added outdoor faucets to a building on our church campus in hopes that they might be used for showers someday. 
The vision for Boston-North Backyard Mission was presented at our church annual meeting in February 2020 and received overwhelming support. It was a win, win, win situation. We would be able to provide experiences for youth groups, our community would benefit from the work of the volunteers, and the church building would be utilized in the summer months when it is often vacant. We could even employ a summer intern. With joy and hope, Boston-North Backyard Mission (BNBM) was born.
We were prepared to welcome guests in the summer of 2020. Then, of course, COVID-19 disrupted everything. We were finally able to welcome our first youth groups to BNBM this summer. A committee worked hard to ensure that our church and building were ready. My role is as volunteer coordinator involved working with various local service agencies to provide them with volunteers and to prepare them to welcome our groups in a meaningful way.
Sean: Who are some of the partners and what is the work that youth will do at BNBM?
We are unique in that we can offer experiences in both urban and rural settings with a variety of experiences. Some of the rural experiences include Windrush Farm, one of the first therapeutic equine riding centers in the United States, and the Giving Garden at Rolling Ridge, an organic farm growing fresh vegetables for food pantries. More urban experiences include Cor Unum Meal Center in Lawrence and Somebody Cares Food Pantry in Haverhill. Youth could be picking vegetables in the morning and handing them out at a food pantry the next day. They could be clearing a horse trail for the sensory garden in the morning and sorting through children’s clothing in the afternoon. 
We work with our groups to allow them time to explore the area if they want. We had a group from Wisconsin arrive a day early so that they could go on a whale watch, and we arranged for a service opportunity closer to Boston on the day when our group from Vermont planned an evening Red Sox game.
Sean: What support do you provide for the groups that visit the program?
When designing our program, we set out to take the best practices of the places we have served and implement them in our program. If a group needs help with reflections, we can help. Along with our space that includes an outdoor worship space overlooking a pond, we have a basketball hoop and picnic tables. We provide our groups with sleeping mats which are often the bulkiest thing to pack. We host a Wednesday night dinner for each group with a guest speaker from one of the agencies we serve. The dinners are a great opportunity for our congregation to welcome our volunteers and learn more about our local agencies.
We set up all the volunteer opportunities. Groups need to provide their own transportation and food, apart from the Wednesday night dinner. We happen to be within walking distance of Paisley’s Farm and Benson’s Ice Cream, which is an added benefit.
Sean: What is the impact on youth?
It’s fun to listen to the kids after their experiences to see what excited them. Some kids are extroverts and love being around people, while others like to be behind the scenes.  That’s why offering a variety of work is so important. We are guided by the words from Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” We seek to help our youth figure out what makes them come alive. 
One of our participants this summer told us, “The week was fantastic, and the accommodations at the church were wonderful. Everyone along the way was so gracious. It was a remarkable experience, and my youth are still talking, and can't wait for the next Mission Trip.”
Per Betsey, BNBM's programming generally runs Sunday through Saturday, although "[they] are open to hosting shorter trips to meet the differing needs of churches." BNBM can accommodate up to twenty-five participants comfortably.

More complete information about BNBM's can be found on Boston-North Backyard Mission’s web page: https://www.secondchurchboxford.org/church/backyard/

The Faith Formation team would like to extend hearty thanks and congratulations to Boston-North Backyard Mission for their good works and ready engagement with their community. How is your church putting faith into action? Share your stories with Program Support Associate Sean Amato, and you may just be spotlit in the next issue of Discipleship Matters!
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