Chicago Missions Trip Update
Mission Chicago 2014
Today is Thursday, and if you've ever been on a missions trip you know that today is the day when the lack of sleep, the new diet, lots of activity, and unfamiliar routines all converge in a perfect storm of exhaustion. Thankfully everyone seems to be handling all of this very well. We still have all 14 members of our team, projects are getting accomplished, and all are learning about the greater work that is happening among the poor and impoverished in Chicago. Here's a bit about what we've been up to so far:
Travel: Everyone arrived safely after a 10+ hour trip from Chattanooga. I joined up with the team once they arrived in the city on Saturday and everyone got settled pretty quickly at Sunshine Gospel's headquarters on the south side of the city.
Fun Stuff: We've enjoyed a lot of fun activites already, with a night in the city ahead of us tonight. Saturday evening the kids were exposed to some true Chicago cuisine at Portillo's in the heart of the loop. After many "I didn't know food could taste this good" and "What don't we always put real chocolate cake in our shakes?!" we headed off to Navy Pier. Most of the students wanted to see this due to its reference in the new Divergent books and movie, and it didn't disappoint. The evening was beautiful, the ferris wheel was very high, and there was a ton to look at. The 90s band at the end of the pier was great for us old leaders and the students even sang along to a song or two.
On Sunday the non-Chicago natives nearly froze to death in the frigid low 60s watching the Cubs play at Wrigley. I didn't see what the big deal was, but several new Cubs sweatshirts seemed to do the trick. The Cubs almost won, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
Work Stuff: There are two big projects Sunshine has a working on. Most of the team is helping renovate some apartments above Living Hope church just a few blocks away. All of them are learning new skills, from hanging drywall to making screens to painting and masonry. Everyone has had a great attitude and a lot of work is getting done. The other team is working across the street from Sunshine on a coffee shop/community center that they hope to open in July. At the moment there is only 1 coffee shop in a neighborhood of 26,000 people and they hope this will become a great meeting place and bring some positive life back to their community.
Today the team from Living Hope will also be handing out flyers throughout the community inviting the kids to come to their summer program, Y-Vibe. You can pray for their efforts and that a ton of kids would come.
Bridge-Builder Stuff: Bridge-builders is the name of the ministry we are participating in throughout the week. They have a number activities which open our eyes to what life is like in Chicago for the poor.
On Monday the team went to Pacific Garden Mission and observed the ministries there. PGM is the largest homeless shelter in the US and the students had a lot of interesting thoughts after their time there. I'll let them share those with you later.
On Tuesday we participated in a meal-share time. Each leader took a group of two or three students and a few extra bag lunches and engaged the homeless in the loop. The students would simple ask, "Would you like to share a lunch with us?" to a poor or homeless person on the street. Despite the light rain, it was a great time of learning what it's like being homeless. A common observation from the students was that the homeless are regular people, like us, that have come on hard times. Each one had a unique story and most were very pleasant to chat with... most, but not all. Again, you'll have to ask about that later.
On Wednesday we rode the L (elevated train/subway) from the southside to the northside and back for a few hours. The students were encouraged to engage with the passengers and observe the changes in the city depending on where they were. Again, it was an enlightening time getting to know a really diverse group of people from all over the world and all over the city. Talking to strangers was harder for some, and easier for others (i.e. Don Pierce), but each of us had unique stories from our conversations.
Spiritual Stuff: Our first "spiritual" activity happened on Sunday morning as we worshipped together with Woodlawn Community Church. The sermon was excellent, the singing was great, and it was wonderful to worship with another body of believers in a totally new way. Every morning we begin with personal devotions with we discuss later in the day. Each evening we have a time of singing, then a lesson from one of the leaders here about race, justice, and other key issues in Chicago. All of this, plus the other activities of the day, feed the final debrief discussion at the end of the evening. All of the students are participating well and seem to be learning a lot.
Thank you all so much for your prayers throughout the week. Please continue to pray for us as we strive to finish strong. As sleep lessons and relationships deepen students tend to become more open and vulnerable to spiritual things. We hope that through these experiences and our conversations that lives will be changed and that the Kingdom will grow, not just here in Chicago, but back home in TN as we return.