Wow, what an incredible trip this was for all of us. The anticipation and excitement of what kind of service we would be providing to those in the south side community of Chicago was prevalent in everyone’s minds, or least I’m sure in mine, on the trip there. Great group of kids in my van. Sleepers on the way there; chatty and singing on the way back!
The trip proved to be an eye-opening experience for me in two ways: 1) Just how awesome it is to be given an opportunity to immerse your mind, heart and soul in doing the Lord’s work and helping others in such a hands-on way, and 2) To fully realize what a spiritual, respectful, intelligent and hard-working group of senior high youth we have at Epiphany. Their work ethic and compassion really shined through– even at moments of exhaustion or boredom. Proud to be their youth leader for the week! I learned as much from our own youth while in Chicago as I did at the different ministry sites.
Once in Chicago, our particular group was assigned to the ministry site that was actually right there onsite at the school we were staying/sleeping at. At first, this seemed like it might not be as “interesting” as those groups that got to go offsite but that thought quickly left our minds as we made our own adventure right there at the Salem Christian School – and once we realized our showers were right down the street!! The majority of our work there was more of the physical labor type – painting (we have quite the painters in our group – Julia and Lauren did a bang-up job on the stairwell of the school!); caulking, plastering/sanding (our interior decorators Kelsey, Marnie, and Lauren will certainly now know how to renovate their own homes one day!); moving heavy boxes of classroom supplies, constructing sturdy wooden tables for the classrooms (Wynn and Phil were such the hard-workers and covered in sweat most of the time!) One of the best parts of the week was the day we visited the Dream House, an organization who focuses on rebuilding and renovating abandoned houses. They had a house they needed help with right down the street from their offices –and this was our job for the day! We spent hours ripping walls down and tearing them apart with axes – you should have seen the look of excitement in Winn’s eyes when he found out we were going to be doing this. I think he ripped down the walls in an entire room or more! We all felt like we got quite a bit done at the house and then spent some time cleaning up and shoveling all the garbage into bags. The kids worked very, very hard this day. LOTS of sweat that day!
Another experience that our group had that definitely opened our eyes to the needs of some of the young ladies in the inner city was the day we went to the Young Mothers organization down the street from the school. We helped them collate and package some of the newsletters they were sending out. We also watched a video about the people that this organization serves: young mothers between the ages of 10-18 that have had children (most of whom are single mothers) and are struggling to make it in this world. Something like 84% of young girls in this part of the city had babies before the age of 18. A startling statistic that made us all realize what a dire need these folks had for an opportunity for an education, to make money and possibly start a career in order to provide for their families and provide a roof over their head. The Young Mothers organization provided just that – a shelter for a limited number of participants in the program, an educational opportunity, and career development training. They have helped many, many young women face this feat and beat it!
And a favorite day for many of us was the day we got to spend time with the children who attended the Salem Christian School. The teachers needed help tending to the children while they had a staff meeting so we played games with them, ate lunch with them, listened to their stories and saw God in the eyes of these children and their innocent and carefree ways. It was obvious that some of these children were so appreciative of all the attention and laughter and fun that they were able to have that day with our teens. A few of them especially fond of a couple of youth! They were sad to see us go, and we were sad to say goodbye as well. They touched our hearts in a special way that day!
The other very unique and special experience for me and my husband Tom was that we were able to go on this trip with two of our daughters –and this was such a special and meaningful thing to do this as a family. I hope the girls will never forget it and how it seemed to touch them so deeply to serve others in need and be in fellowship with each other and with so many other great youth and adults.
The Chicago trip was such a wonderful experience – and couldn’t have been with a better youth group! It’s so special to see that all of our teens are being exposed to this type of experience at a young age. I never had that opportunity as a child/teen. I can’t imagine the impact it will in some way be sure to have on their futures!