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Unity and Community Across Differences: A Reflection on the Haywood Street Congregation in Asheville, NC

A few weeks ago, I brought a group of students from the Appalachian State Wesley Foundation to Asheville with the intention to serve with Haywood Street and be in community with our unhoused and formerly unhoused brothers and sisters.

I was initially so nervous. I had interned this past Summer with Haywood Street and had experienced God in ways that I hadn't before, and I was not sure how a group of 18-22 year old from suburban areas of North Carolina would receive a place that shares the gospel in such a raw, honest form.

The countless stories of death and resurrection.
The countless tears and the laughter that were shared together.
The countless sensations of comfort and discomfort that I had experienced.
I had no idea how any of it would be perceived.

I was so fearful that the raw, honest truth of Jesus that Haywood Street reveals with such ease might have been too difficult for the suburban college student to comprehend.

The second we stepped out of our cars in the church's parking lot that worry washed away! Robert, Keith, and Wayne welcomed us, hugged us, laughed with us, and served with us in ways that so many of those who had come to serve hadn't experienced prior to that weekend.

Rather than separating ourselves due to physical or monetary differences, we were all united. We broke bread together, we worshiped together, we prayed together, we served together, and we laughed together. We were together in community.

Theologian, philosopher, and founder of L'arche communities, Jean Vanier, once said:

“Look at your own poverty
welcome it
cherish it
don't be afraid
share your death
because thus you will share your love and your life”

My family at Appalachian State and my family at Haywood Street came together and formed a much larger, stronger family. We all identified where we were impoverished, and we all celebrated our poverties.

My two families unified, and it was one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had. All through serving as the body of Christ and doing life together as the body of Christ.

Thanks be to God.
Amen.

This reflection orginially appeared in the Oct 24, 2016 Haywood Street newsletter under the title, "A Reflection From Dustin: 'Families Uniting.'" It is reprinted here with pemission of the author and Haywood Street Congregation.

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Dustin Mailman

Dustin Mailman is a senior at Appalachian State University. His major is religious studies and his minor is sustainable development. He is currently a certified candidate for ordination with the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

About This Blog

Read and comment on a range of personal reflections and perspectives about poverty and Ministry with the Poor. Our goal is to attract diverse voices and points of view from United Methodists and friends, including people and communities living in conditions of poverty, other experts, religious leaders, community organizers, advocates, policy makers, volunteers, and all engaged in Ministry with the Poor.