How do you explain one week which feels indescribable? If I could use two words to describe the week it would be "holy chaos". We learned this phrase from Haywood Street- a church converted to a day shelter sort of place for homeless individuals. At Haywood, there's always so much happening and it truly is a whirlwind of "holy chaos". Even compared to 12 Baskets, which is a soup-kitchen-type-place that "rescues" food from restaurants and reserves it. 12 Baskets is a place which welcomes every person who enters its doors and instead of just simply serving food- it gives the individuals the option to order whatever they'd like from the menu.
When we first heard about this trip and going to Asheville- I didn't think anything of it. I didn't realize that Asheville's reputation was one of that where poverty is hidden and that those who live in it are looked down upon. And just because a city has a reputation for being wealthy or "nice" or whatever the reason, doesn't mean that there aren't individuals who suffer from this. Behind any city lies so much, and in these parts of society lie problems of poverty, homelessness, and gentrification, which go overlooked for the image of a place.
And it isn't just prevalent in Asheville, it's an issue which happens all over. I learned about this further in depth while on mission "immersion" this past week in Asheville, North Carolina.
So much happened this past week, from serving at 12 Baskets Cafe to packaging food at Manna Food Bank to walking the "invisible block" in Asheville and talking with the API or Asheville Poverty Initiative. Each experience allowed us to gain connections not only within our group and grow friendships, but create a connection with each individual that we talked with. At 12 Baskets, we were told that the most important thing we could do was to look someone in the eye and talk with them. And it wasn't only at 12 Baskets Cafe that this was true.
We saw all over Asheville just how the city attempts to keep up this image and they literally try to drive those who are homeless out of the city. Our eyes were opened to so much in learning about Asheville- it created curiosity towards us relating what we had learned to our own cities.
To be honest, I had no clue what to expect from this trip. Having gone to Memphis last year and serving there- I thought I'd at least know some about what we experienced and learned of. But I was at a loss for words about this entire experience. If I'm being honest, I don't know if I can ever really fully explain this experience and convey its impact. After going with this group to Memphis last year, I thought that I had a clue about some of what to expect from this trip. Oh, how wrong I was. And I think anyone who went on this trip, no matter how hard we might try to put into words what this experience was like and meant to us, it just won't be the same.
But within one life-changing week, I do know that I'm thankful for a group of people who mean so much to me and that we are able to share experiences like this, what they mean, and how they've changed us all for the better- opening our eyes to a world outside of the bubble we live in.