One year ago, LaKewell Gordon found herself in a new city, in unfamiliar surroundings trying to navigate the challenges of creating a sense of community. This year, through MCC’s Summer Service Program, Gordon is teaching others about the Chicago community she has grown to love.
Gordon’s summer assignment is with DOOR, a faith-based network of cities that provides opportunities for service, learning, and leadership development within the urban context. Gordon, along with other summer workers, ensures the smooth operation of summer programming at DOOR in Chicago. She works hand in hand with Andrea Sawyer-Kirksey, city director, on scheduling and coordination of work sites found all over the city. “Our work sites inform the youth groups about homelessness, poverty, social injustice, and food insecurity,” said Gordon.
Along with daily service projects another important aspect for the weekly groups is dialogue about racism, gentrification, and the perception of Chicago in the media. One particularly impactful evening for the groups is a discussion, occasionally facilitated by Gordon, around a 2014 op-ed written by fifth graders from the South Shore neighborhood entitled, “You Don’t Really Know Us.”
She is consistently surprised by how the groups approach these conversations with an openness and understanding to other people’s stories. In the beginning of the summer, Gordon expected ignorant comments on these topics. “They come here knowing nothing but violence in Chicago,” she explained. By the end of the week, the group’s mentality of Chicago changes. According to Gordon, it is also a benefit for the community to see groups walking around completing service projects in their neighborhoods.
Gordon’s faith is at the core of all of her work. She strives to be Christ-like in all situations, whether extending patience for the countless questions coming her way or showing a model of servanthood for the groups and local communities. Each day begins with worship and ends with reflections in an effort to continually bring everything back to the main purpose: being God’s hands and feet here on earth.
As for advice for future Summer Service Program participants, Gordon says, “Be ready to learn and develop. Be flexible. And expect the unexpected.”
The Summer Service Program supports young people of color to develop their leadership skills through working with their local churches and communities. Churches are invited to submit proposals for Summer Service. Find out more at mcc.org/summerservice.