Stories of Transformation- DOOR 2017
Journeys of Transformation
By Andrea Sawyer-Kirksey, Executive Director
I’ve had the honor of working for DOOR for the past five years. After serving as Chicago Assistant City Director and then City Director, I am now serving as the Executive Director.
During my time as the Chicago City Director, I was able to watch hundreds of young people from all over the country be transformed as they engaged with our city and its people. Our Discover programing continues to be creative, engaging, relevant, and spirit-filled.
The work all our cities are doing with local youth through our Discern leadership development program is cutting edge; we are creating indigenous leaders who make their own communities stronger. These local leaders need our DOOR community as much as we need them and I can relate to that. An amazing single mom of six raised me. I went to failing Chicago Public Schools and started college but was kicked out because of failing grades and a bad attitude. After my community helped me turn around, I went on to earn my Master’s, traveled the world, and taught at some amazing universities. God has brought me a mighty long way.
As you read through this annual report you will encounter other stories of transformation and God’s faithfulness. The DOOR community is amazing. I invite you to read our stories, get to know us, and join us on this journey to love God and people.
DOOR is a faith-based network of cities that provides opportunities for service, learning, and leadership development within the urban context. We host volunteers for a weekend to a year and offer opportunities for individuals and groups. The Discover, Discern, and Dwell programs are offered in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and Miami.
Discover: For groups to participate in coordinated weekend and week long trips designed to challenge them to “see the face of God in the city” as they spend time listening, volunteering, worshiping, and reflecting on their experiences. Read about Atlanta Discover
Discern: For individuals, primarily from our neighborhoods, to spend three to twelve months developing their leadership skills, discerning their call, and exploring vocational possibilities. During the Discover season these individuals play a key leadership role in showing and educating visiting groups about the issues of race, poverty, homelessness, and hunger. Discerners help visitors to connect faith and justice as they lead daily devotions, reflection, and prayer.
Discern is an opportunity for emerging urban young adult leaders to hone life skills, grow professionally, and become exceptional leaders both in their community and the larger world. Read a reflection from a Los Angeles Discerner
Dwell: For individuals to spend a year living in intentional Christian community while serving in a local agency placement, worshiping in an urban congregation, and reflecting together as a community. Read a reflection from a Chicago Dweller
By Chad Wright Pittman, Atlanta City Director
Our Discover theme, Moving Toward Mutuality, explored the ways that we can be with our neighbors and not just for them. With Christ as our example, participants looked at our mission to be more than just giving to those in need, but also to be with those around us. We used this lens to look at issues facing Atlanta (homelessness, gentrification, food insecurity), and to think about the ways that God calls us to be in relationship with our neighbors, listening and learning from them, and moving toward mutuality.
Puneet, a student from Timmy Global Health at Purdue, shared with me his passion for service and for understanding issues facing the marginalized locally and globally. His interactions during the Discover week reshaped the way he thinks and speaks about people experiencing homelessness and how he hopes to keep that reframing in his future work in the public health sector. We covered topics from voluntourism to gentrification, and the work this college group has been able to do through Timmy and partners like DOOR that continues to shape the way they see their own futures and participation in making the world a more just, peaceful, and healthy place.
The Discover experience helps of all ages participants move towards mutuality as they interact with the face of God in the city.
2017 Discover by the numbers
2,327 participants | 18 denominations | 45,000 hours of service
By Arthur Penate, Los Angeles Discern Alumnus (2012-2015)
My experience as a Discerner was life changing. I met many different people that had amazing stories to share with me about their lives and what had led up to the moment where we’re standing in front of each other. I was surprised to see how many people I was able to relate to and met many that shared very similar interests. I gained a lot of knowledge from those who visited but learned so much from those who shared the summers with me as well.
Being part of this DOOR program with a bunch of my friends made it very comfortable for me to open up. I could honestly say I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having met guys like Marvin and Mathew (former Los Angeles City Directors), who came to the neighborhood with a purpose, to genuinely make an impact and bring strangers, who otherwise probably wouldn’t have shared a conversation, together to build a better place. I think they did just that. They also helped us, the teens, by breaking through to us, showing us how to write resumes, speak in front of huge crowds, and many more skills that you usually have to pay for in this city. They definitely made a tremendous impact in my life as well as the entire program and without leaders like them the experience wouldn’t be the same. Even through the tough experiences we all shared, because we all hit some challenging obstacles together, there was always a lesson behind it. To take a challenge as anything less than a learning opportunity is unacceptable. That’s what Discern taught me.
2017 Discern by the numbers
32 participants | 84% local participants | 12,000 hours of service
By Emily Mikhail, 2016-17 Chicago Dweller
Just over a year ago, I was in the home stretch of preparing to move to Chicago from Texas to begin my year of service. At the time, I had only spent a few days in Chicago as a high school senior on a field trip. Public transit remained a novelty for me: I had yet to live somewhere where the bus was the only way to get around. I knew that I would be living in East Garfield Park, but had no sense of what that meant. I had no idea what zero degrees really felt like or how draining it would be for it to still be chilly in May. I had never lived in a neighborhood that regularly made the local news.
I tried to enter this year of service with minimal expectations and to be open to the journey. Even with that, this year was much different from what I anticipated. I recently talked with someone considering this program, and she asked me "Would you do this year again?" I won’t pretend this was an easy year, but I don’t know that any Dweller could tell you that. As a community we faced many challenges, both within our house and around the realities of living in the West side. I think, though, that I would still do this over again if I had the choice. I stayed in Chicago and started a Master’s in Social Work program. This experience has already been immensely beneficial. Through the many DOOR engagement opportunities, I have a much better understanding of the unique history that created Chicago. One of the most authentic ways I can continue this work is to challenge the dominant national narrative about this place that I love, and continue to educate others about the reality of life in this beautifully complicated city.
2016-17 Dwell by the numbers
23 participants | 7 denominations | 15 states represented | 42,000 hours of service
Staff - Invited to Transform
By Heather Gordon, Denver City Director
As the nation shifted into uncertainty and chaos with the 2016 election, I found myself wanting to engage social justice and community outside the walls of the classroom and to see how other people of faith grappled with and addressed issues of injustice and racism. This hunger was the beginning of my journey to DOOR Denver.
Upon my arrival at the end of May, I saw how deeply connected DOOR was with the Denver community – from partnerships with local congregations to longstanding relationships with partner agencies. As I come to understand the Mennonite and Presbyterian traditions, I have been challenged to see community, outreach, and ministry with new eyes. Through work with Discover groups that come from all over the country and many faiths, I have been transformed and stretched in how I understand the intersection of faith and justice. I walk away from conversations with fellow DOOR staff humbled by their passion to lift up their cities, commitment to personal growth, and skill at helping transform young people by prophetically speaking truth to the many issues of our cities and accompanying them on the hard conversations.
DOOR for me is about transforming the spaces we share and occupy through the grace of God. This community is committed to wading into the messiness of relationships between diverse groups of people and power dynamics and shining a light on God’s presence in those spaces. I am very grateful to be a part of a diverse faith community who encourages and embodies the beauty of transformation and who works hard at building the Kingdom of God in our cities.
By Benjamin Ledell Reynolds, DOOR National Board Chair
“In everything give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:18)
For over 30 years DOOR has been at the forefront of transforming the cities where we reside, and influencing persons, really, all over the world; and yet, there is a strong sense our work is ahead of us. We recognize we could not offer our labors of love if it were not for the financial, volunteer, and prayer support of those who deeply care for this organization and the great work that is being accomplished. For that, we offer the simple and heartfelt words, “Thank you!”
Other than just being good manners, I believe there are resounding theological implications of “Thank you,” and a spiritual dimension to the discipline of saying it. God continues to call us to forge a future where we can see God, with a greater lens, at work in local communities and around the world. In order to remain strong, and attract participants to our programs, DOOR depends on each of us to meet the growing expenses that such ministry requires.
As DOOR lives out its call amidst structural and leadership transitions, may we take time to be thankful for the work we’ve accomplished together, and honor that work by sacrificing even more. This battle is not ours, it is the Lord’s; and had it not been for the Lord on our side we could not do what we’ve done in the past, and we certainly cannot do what we look forward to doing in the future. Thank you!
2017 Supporters by the numbers
80+ agency partners | 3 alumni on local boards | 136 individual donors who gave between $5 and $10,000
November 2017 year-to-date