Just returned from a this year’s mission trip to Chicago with the senior high youth. They are really a great group of kids – kind and accepting of each other, compassionate toward those less fortunate than themselves, and willing to share their faith and pray out loud for a group. And Scott Russ has had a lot to do with all that. He’s really fun, but he’s also very open with the kids and serious about the word of God and how it affects their daily lives. I had always thought our youth program was good, but didn’t have any real frame of reference or comparison. We worked side by side, day and night , with four other youth groups. It was really clear - our kids are in the right place with the right influences.
We stayed in the Humbolt Park area of Chicago – a mostly Hispanic neighborhood. We slept on the floor of a classroom in a small Christian school and packed a change of clothes each day so that we could stop at a public pool or park on the way back from our work site, to take a shower. It amazed us each day that the nine girls in our group could be showered and out before the two guys! Then back to the school where we had a bit of free time before dinner and usually ended up socializing at Tastee-Freeze or on the steps listening to Ben play guitar and singing along. A night activity – a speaker, trip to Millenium Park, a local worship service, trip to the beach – a group worship service and finally, time with our own Epiphany group to download the day. Each morning, we had breakfast, devotions and then off to the work sites by 9:00am.
We were divided into four mixed groups. So I was with Chelsea, Sarah and Zana plus six other youth and a leader from a church in Grove City. Most of the week we spent at Casa Centrale, a social services organization serving the Hispanic community. The first two days we were with the older people that were in adult daycare. Many of them did not speak English, so we were a little apprehensive going in. Fortunately, our three girls have all taken Spanish, so that really helped and eventually the language of love took over. We talked, played games with them, did crafts, gave them hand massages with lotion and played lots of bingo! Our Spanish numbers are now very good! We got attached quickly and it was sad to say goodbye.
The next two days we spent in the Head Start program with children ages 2-5. It was crazy but the kids were very interested in having us there and liked all the extra attention. And we were able to do some cleaning and organizing for the teachers. The last day we worked to fix up the gardens and landscape at a school for disabled children.
You mostly think of youth mission trips as physical work, but most of ours was relational, which is a nice change and opportunity for our kids. And it expands their ideas of what kinds of service they can do back home.
And the trip back and forth in the 15 passenger vans…? What happens in the van, stays in the van!