What is the Freedom Ride?
The Freedom Ride is the summer mission trip for the Youth Ministry of Greenwood Forest Baptist Church, but it's also a spiritual pilgrimage for the whole community of faith. We'll be engaging in acts of service and visits to sacred sites on a trip to Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma, Alabama.
Who can go on the Freedom Ride?
Everyone in the church is invited to come on the Freedom Ride and we will do our best to accommodate everyone who comes. For example, we are taking a charter bus and staying in a hotel in Birmingham instead of taking vans and sleeping in a church Fellowship Hall in order to make the trip open to everyone from children to senior adults.
The Freedom Ride will be dealing with themes in American history like lynching, segregation, and fights for civil rights and be engaging in hands-on service activities, so if you do not know if you or your child is prepared to engage in those activities, please consult with Wes Spears-Newsome, the minister in charge of the trip, to see what options there are for your family. The trip will be tailored to those participating as much as possible.
Should my child come on the Freedom Ride?
All youth group participants should come on the Freedom Ride as it is the capstone experience for their year of Alpha & Omega. Children who would normally attend Passport Kids are also welcome to come and the final activities list will be designed to accommodate those that come. We cannot make the decision for you about whether or not your child should come on the trip, so keep in mind some of these experiences that they will have on the trip:
- It will be roughly 8-10 hours of driving to Birmingham at the beginning of the week and then another 8-10 back to Cary at the end of the week.
- They will have a variety of enriching experiences in museums and at monuments in Central Alabama. It's rare for children to be afforded that kind of experience.
- They will have lots of questions for you and other participants on the trip, which will lead to very interesting discussions!
If you want to have a more in-depth discussion about your family in particular, please feel free to set up a time to talk with Wes about it.
What kinds of things are we going to be doing?
We will engage in service activities like any other mission trip -- ideally projects that focus on issues of central concern to our church (e.g., hunger). As we get closer to the date of the trip, those service projects will be detailed to participants. These activities will be tailored to the participants going on the trip and their range of abilities.
We will also be engaging in spiritual pilgrimages alongside our work to places like Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Additionally, we will engage in worship and communal discussions around what we are learning and experiencing on the trip each morning and evening.
What do I need to do to get ready for the Freedom Ride?
Once you've registered for the Freedom Ride, be sure to sign up for at least three of the pre-tip events. Children under youth group age are the only people exempt from the pre-trip requirements. We will look into providing a few child-oriented pre-trip events in consultation with families going on the trip and will provide those families with a syllabus of children's books on freedom for them to engage with as a family.
Why mission trip AND pilgrimage?
Mission trips are transformative events for participants! But acts of service that are not closely wedded to the spiritual life are activities we can do at home as well as across the country. Jesus also calls us to do more than serve -- God calls us to be transformed! When we go on a mission trip, we should be changed by the place that we go and the people that live there. Missions trips are spiritually formative experiences in that way.
In a similar way, pilgrimages are physical journeys to places of spiritual significance. Like going to the Holy Land and walking where Jesus walked, taking a physical journey to a place where we know God has done great things can change our spiritual lives. When we walk the streets of Birmingham where marchers were set upon by dogs and hoses, pray before the memorials of lynching victims, and stand on the bridge where people were beaten marching for their right to vote, we go where God has gone before us. The hope is we encounter Jesus in a new way in these places.
...... But what's freedom got to do with Jesus?
You'll have to come along to find out! ;) But seriously, freedom is central to the message and ministry of Jesus. In his first sermon, Jesus declares that he has come to preach good news to the poor and proclaim release to the captives. Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians that Christ has set us freedom for freedom! He calls us to stand firm and not submit to things that would bind us. Freedom from all other forces in the world and total allegiance to the kingdom of God is part and parcel of the Christian life. Jesus has freed you from other loyalties in his death and resurrection, so you are totally free to follow him. Many leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were Christians and it was this belief in freedom that kept them going. The Freedom Ride hopes to give each of us a little bit of their spirit.