Other + Wise is an experience and opportunity for a group of people who are committed to learning about themselves and people who are different than themselves.
It has been many years now that our director, Vance Blackfox, has been creating cultural immersion and cultural education experiences for youth and their adult leaders.
Vance started his professional work with youth when he was hired to serve as a youth director at the age of 18. Vance began producing cultural education experiences for youth and adults while serving as chairperson of the Lutheran Youth Organization’s Multicultural Advisory Committee as a teenager.
However, the “mission” experiences that he experienced as a youth were what encouraged him to want to give youth a new type of leadership and mission experience.
Vance is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and grew up in a small Cherokee community that hosted countless youth and adult groups who came to do service projects, also known as “mission trips” or “mission work,” for the youth and families in his community. It didn’t take long for Vance to realize that even though his family and community is arguably the oldest Native American Protestant Christian family in what is now known as the United States, the church and her congregations continued to want to bring Jesus to him and his community. That even though Jesus had been hanging out in the Cherokee Nation for about 200 years already, non-Native Christians still insisted on coming to do mission to him and his people. This type of paternal “mission work” is still happening every day, and all over the world.
It is the Other + Wise team’s hope that the participants who have an Other + Wise experience will begin to understand “mission” in a new but very old way. Other + Wise believes that the work that Jesus did throughout his life time was because of a call to service, instead it was his mission and ministry to be in relationship with us. Jesus was journeying with and creating relationships with those whom powerful in our society – for a very long time – have decided are “the other.”
It is the Other + Wise team’s dream that youth, youth groups and congregations will commit to learning how to be in better relationships with people and peoples who are different than themselves. The Church needs leaders, both youth and adults, who are being prepared to truly know something and someone other than themselves. Other + Wise believes that Jesus calls us all into relationship with others and that the only way to be in relationship with people who are different than ourselves is to listen to, learn from, and interact with the people and cultures different than our own.
It is the Other + Wise team’s commitment to provide effective programming and to journeying with those who are willing to join the journey. Other + Wise believes that our week long cultural immersion and cultural education experiences are most effective when people journey together. The experiences can be and should be the start of many journeys that deeply value building relationships with people who are different than ourselves, cultural competency, justice work, and doing mission in a new but very old way.