May 24th – 27th was a weekend full of fun, learning, and calls to action for all participants and leaders of our 2nd Annual Servant Leadership Conference. YES provides this conference each year for those active members of YES that have been on at least one YES event (weekend trip, college day, family day, etc.). This conference offers the chance for leaders to explore a new city, relationships with the other participants, and most importantly, a deeper look inside of themselves and how they can be a true servant in their community. This year, the conference was held in Detroit, MI, where we got to see the sights and interact with the local community on many levels.

Here is a quick recap of our weekend:

We spent our first night arriving from all over the United States and meeting each other, many of us for the first time! We had group sessions on topics such as “Why are we here?” and “Embracing Adulthood,” learning from each other as we discussed the call to serve, and the grown up way to tackle issues that we face and see in the world. We also took the True Colors assessment, a personality test that allowed us to talk about the different ways that we function, and what this means in terms of interacting and working with others. Finally, we went into the city and enjoyed some Water Ice at the Detroit Water Ice Factory – a business that gives all of its profits to SAY Detroit – a local organization that partners with the Detroit Rescue Mission.

We started and finished each of our days in prayer, giving thanks for the day and blessing all of our participants and their experiences. In the morning we learned about MRAP (see Expose section) and got to visit a Syrian Refugee family. Afterwards, we went to the city of Dearborn for some incredible Arabic food! Our afternoon was spent on a city tour of Detroit – visiting the Heidelberg Project, an urban art development inspiring the joy of art in local communities, and the Spirit of Detroit, a statue in the heart of downtown. We had some more group sessions and talked about our visions for the world – each participant even made a poster about their “ideal world” and what it would look like in the newspaper the next morning if it came true!

We began Sunday with a beautiful liturgy service at the Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia, MI. Afterwards, we got to have brunch with two of our panelists. Angela is a social worker who shared her story and taught us about giving of ourselves, even when we don’t think we have anything else to offer. Phil, a teacher, discussed his time in Guatemala working at an Orthodox monastery, and encouraged us to see the people around us for who they really are, images of Christ. Our afternoon consisted of a scavenger hunt in the General Motors Renaissance Center and post-rain world party outside (pictured)! We were able to practice a lot of the topics of discussion we had listened to the past two nights and truly opened our minds and hearts to the city of Detroit one last time. Our last group session of the night was on “Becoming an Advocate” for the issues and people that we care about the most.

We shared a final meal together, and wrote personal mission statements for the year ahead. We were all able to speak them into existence and share them with the group. After many exchanges of hugs, we all headed our separate ways, equipped and ready to share all that we learned through our words, actions, and most importantly, LOVE.

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