SLAM (Students Living A Mission) was actually the acronym for a community service week facilitated by another organization that asked me to be the speaker at their event in 2001. That summer I was given the responsibility by that same organization to launch a student service program of which I chose to keep the acronym SLAM. This was the titular birth of the youth community service program, but not the beginning of our organization’s facilitation of such activity.
I was still a teenager when I started the organization [G.O.D. International]; so connecting with youth wasn’t hard, it was rather natural, they were my peers. The work of SLAM is at our organizational roots--getting young people together to collect and distribute needed items such as food, clothing and school supplies. Over the years, the same young men and women who facilitated these activities have far exceeded their service capacities. They’ve moved from collection and distribution to addressing worldwide systemic issues. As a young person, setting aside time to work hard and giving of one’s time, resources, and strength is very rewarding--and something that can change a person for life.
Seventeen years later, SLAM is now in its twelfth year and going strong. This summer alone, Students Living A Mission will mobilize over 800 young people from all over the United States to do community service for low-income families, refugees, and elderly of the greater Nashville area. Additionally, SLAM is facilitating international service opportunities for 70 young people this summer. In this edition of the Global Voice, you will read about the SLAM program and all that it’s doing this summer in Nashville and around the world. In this article, I’m going to share with you the reason why SLAM is still a program we are running and one we believe in.
There are three main objectives in the program SLAM. Our first objective is to serve the impoverished and marginalized of the communities within which we live. Creating awareness among volunteers of the systemic issues that exist in our world that put people in the positions of need they find them in is our second objective. Finally, the whole experience, both what they see and become aware of, raises ethical issues and demands of the young person to make moral considerations, including the moral obligation one has for those who can’t do for themselves.
Service. In the greater Nashville area, our service is targeted at the lower-income apartment complexes and public housing projects, as well as refugee communities spread throughout the city. We also serve the elderly, particularly the disabled and widowed. For these communities, we have distributed food and clothing, organized and facilitated kids’ summer camps, home renovations, deep cleaning and landscaping.
Through these projects, our volunteers have built relationships with people in need th at have lasted years beyond the specific weeks of service. Because of these relationships, our organization has been able to assist people within these demographics in everything from getting a driver’s license to having a safe birth experience.
Awareness. Many of our young volunteers come in contact with poverty for the first time on a SLAM service function. Their eyes are opened to the incredible challenges that those who have been widowed, disabled, abandoned or displaced experience on a daily basis. In addition to becoming aware of the needs, students also become aware of specific ways in which they can help. Many of our youth volunteers have organized independent clothing drives and school supply collections to meet the needs of those whom they met on a SLAM service effort. These experiences also bridge the young person into consideration of the needs of the poor and marginalized around the world.
Ethics. Being confronted with the real challenges that these people in need face, the young person is left to consider what role they will play in addressing such issues. SLAM also awakens the moral being in the young person, teaching them that everyone needs to play a part in the health of their society. Learning biblical principles about charity and generosity, as well as sacrificial love and vocation, the young volunteers can see that their futures can count towards the health of the world they live in no matter field they choose to enter into. They are taught that as moral beings, created in the image of God, who is a moral being himself, they are to get actively involved in remedying issues in society and working towards health.
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what the LORD requires of you; to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
The young people who volunteer for SLAM discover another way of living life: life with God-- living among the humble of society, and caring for them by doing justice and loving kindness. Thanks for your continued support which allows us to keep an effective program like SLAM going strong!