Sunday, July 04, 2010

Nashville Mission Trip: Day 3

What a day we had!  I switched over to one of our other teams that had Patty Sutton as their leader.  Today we went to a day shelter for homeless people.  When we arrived we split up into teams to do various jobs inside and outside the building.  I took two of the teens outside to clean up around the facility.  It was a little hard to do this at first because there were many homeless people already outside watching everything we do.  And a lot of what we had to clean up was from them: cigarette butts, wine bottles, beer cans, etc.  It was hard for me from the stand point that there were 3 large trashcans right in the area they hang out yet the evidence of their vices were littered all over the ground.  But the teens and I did our best and as we were cleaning we got to talking to some of the homeless people.  I eventually got them to move so that I could clean up around the bench that some of them were sitting on.  There was one guy in particular that seemed very outgoing towards everyone but extremely intoxicated also.  He reminded me of the coalminer in “Blazing Saddles”.  He meant well, but it was very hard to understand him.  Once we cleaned up the outside we checked in with the other groups inside.  There we some teens cleaning up shelves in the back, some were helping make lunch, some were helping in the laundry area, and some helped with serving and cleaning up lunch when all was done.  This was an intense experience for me in that there were so many homeless compacted in one area.  The entire cafeteria was filled and all the other serves were very busy with people coming in and out.  Being there for the first time was hard feeling like a complete outsider.  I knew that if I would have been here for a week or so I would feel more comfortable getting to know some of them.  But being there for the first day I felt good about my ability to complete tasks yet nervous about reaching out to the people. Our teens did really well with everything that was asked of them.  Just as we were leaving the homeless facility one of the guys who was there stopped us and prayed for us.  It was a very meaningful and touching prayer that he said for our team.  

After that we went to a church called Family Affair Ministries.  This church was having a day camp for their elementary age kids.  Many of our teens had the opportunity to spend time with the kids playing out on the playground, playing sports and also watching them prepare for their program they were working on for their closing program.  It was a really nice church and once again the kids were just amazingly wonderful to spend time with for the afternoon.  Our teens did a great job warming up to the kids and integrating in with them all throughout the day. 

We then left and went to dinner.  The group I was with went to an Indian restaurant.  It was amazing food.  We all ate really, really well.  The other groups went to a Vietnamese and Ethiopian restaurant.  They came back with not so glowing reviews.  Some of it was good, some of it wasn’t. 

For the evening all of our teams ended up at Family Affairs Ministries church for a concert.  We were the first group to arrive when the evening already started.  It began with the pastor of the church who gave a challenge that was bold, loud and bordering on Pentecostal.  She was amazing and extremely compelling and you knew you were in trouble if you yawned or looked bored.  Then the singer started up and she was really, really good.  At first all of our teens were sitting together looking like the suburbanite, middle-class, vanilla folks that stood out from the rest.  But half way into the concert our teens were dancing with all of the church kids and celebrating and worshiping together.  You began to get a picture of what the kingdom of God will look like one day.  It was an awesome sight.  Our teens were spiritually energized from the experience. 

We came back to our home base and had our debriefing time.  There were many stories about serving in a mobile soup kitchen, playing with kids, working at an urban garden, and interacting with all types of people. 

All the teens are in bed now and we are getting ready for another day!  Tomorrow is our “Urban experience” exercise and it should be a great activity for the teens to learn about the challenges of homelessness.  This was a powerful experience on the New York trip so I am looking forward to watching the teens go through this and hearing their stories.

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