Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Blog Post #1: Junior High Mission Trip to Chicago 2011

Sunday, July 24
It was a bit hard to just run home wash my closes and head back up to the church on Sunday morning to get ready to head off for the final trip.  I actually used the Junior High class to help me out with getting the last-minute stuff ready after we had a time of prayer.  I also asked those who were not going on the trip to please keep us all in prayer throughout the week. 

We eventually piled into the vans and headed north this time!  We had a really good start as the Junior Highers seemed to display better bladder control than the Senior Highers.  I was mildly impressed.  I drove one of the 15 passenger vans this time.  I had Max riding shotgun.  Most of those in our van were boys.  Max took it upon himself to give this young bucks an education in country music just about the whole way up.  At one point, he found a polka station!  This was delightful!  The Junior High boys were squirming but they would not dare challenge Max.  They might whine a little but that was all.  Once the desire for perogies, polish sausage and a pint of beer became too unbearable for me, I had Max change it back to his country music.

After navigating through the traffic of Chicago, even on a Sunday afternoon, we made it to the campus of North Park University.  This college is affiliated with the Covenant Church.  Once we parked we met our host leaders for the week, Lauren and Rachel.  They told us that the group will need to be split into two separate groups for the week.  So I had all of the kids link up with one friend in a single file line.  Then I went down the line sending each pair to the left then the next one to the right.  So to be fair I let them have their one friend they really wanted to be with but the reality was that we all knew each other pretty well so they had friends on their team as well as the one they personally picked out. 

We also settled into our room situation.  It actually was a pretty sweet deal as these were apartments that would house 4-5 college students.  So the boys all slept in the living room area or the dining room area while this guy here got himself a room with a bed!  My room was right in the middle of the apartment so I was able to monitor the noise levels if needed but overall I was very happy!

Once we figured that all out we headed out for our first cultural experience eating dinner at a Columbian restaurant!  They would bring out large family style plates of food.  We were hungry enough that we would devour the first plate, and then another plate of something else would come out!  This happened several times until we were all stuffed.

After dinner, we did a driving prayer tour all throughout Chicago.  We spent 2 hours going to many different locations.  At each location we would stop the van, our host would explain many of the social, economic and spiritual issues that this particular area was struggling with and then one of the teens would take the time to pray for that area. It was great at first how our teens all had that blank stare when our host would ask someone to prayer.  They started to learn really quick that they need to get over this fear because we are all going to take turns praying all throughout the week!  On the prayer tour we learned a lot about the economic contrasts between the wealthy and the poor.  We were also pretty surprised to learn how real the issue of racism still is in Chicago.

Unfortunately we were unable to take showers this evening.  Very gross when you consider how much I sweat.  But I also had the extra issue that poison ivy was starting to get out of control on both of my legs.  So I waited until the boys were all asleep and then I snuck in a very hot bath to kill the itching.  There was only one bath in the apartment so the deal was that in the evening we would all go take showers in the locker rooms.  If we used the apartment shower we would have to wait for each person to shower one at a time it would take forever. 

Monday, July 25

We woke up and were ready to head off to our first day of ministry!  Both groups would spend each morning throughout the week going to a local YMCA and serving kids that were there for day care.  Then the afternoons consisted of a variety of ministry sites and opportunities.  My group went to our YMCA location and broke the ice with the kids.  It wasn’t very hard as some of the kids even ran to the teens and hugged them when they entered the room.  We had a good day playing in the gym kicking soccer balls around and playing “Duck, Duck, Goose”.  This particular YMCA was very, very nice.  The program and structure that the kids had throughout the day was really nice.  All the children seemed to enjoy their experience there.  

We left close to noon and ate our lunch out by our van.  This is always the time I take to shot 1,000 questions at our CSM leader.  I am always fascinated by these 20-somethings that give up their whole Summer for a very low-paying but very active and spiritually rewarding experience whether it is CSM or Mountain T.O.P. or serving in Africa.  Rachelle was the leader of this team.  She is from California.  She attended a CSM trip to Los Angeles as a teen.  Now she is serving in Chicago and loves it.  She has one more year of college to go and then the sky seems to be the limit to what she is open to doing.  She has traveled a ridiculous amount around the world going on mission trips and just traveling so we had a lot of questions about those experiences. 

Our afternoon was spent going to 2 different Senior Living Centers to spend time with them and lead bingo games.  We stopped at a CVS and got a bunch of random prizes.  Many of it was toiletries stuff.  I think we tossed in a slinky just for fun.  Little did we know that we were about to enter into the most dangerous and volatile area in all of Chicago.  Our first stop was actually pretty nice.  There were a lot of elderly Asian people who came out and played well.  The only issue was that our teens were not loud enough.  If you have been around me at all, you know I do not struggle in the area of volume.  In fact my very first girl friend in Junior High tried to teach me how to not talk so loud.  She failed.  So I went to the front of the room and used my big, booming voice to holler out the letter and the numbers.  Every once in a while I would yell out something that didn’t make sense like: “OH . . . Henry!” or “Bee – Have!”.  I would get some confused looks and some smiles.  Some caught on, others didn’t.  Many of our teens sat in with the people and played with them.  Of course we would never take a prize and they knew that. 

After a fairly positive experience we headed off to our next Senior Living Center.  What we were unaware of was that we have now just crossed into the territory of Mordor and the eye of Sauron was looking at those prizes we were carrying!  You could almost hear that deep, diabolical voice saying, “I see them!”   We entered into the meeting room and everything seemed to be very similar to that last place we were just at.  I helped to pass out bingo cards and I was also looking for any extra ones so I could also play.  Unfortunately, one of the elderly women picked up on my intentions and started pointing at me while saying, “YOU CAN’T PLAY!”.  She said this over and over again until I realized that she was being quite serious and I better just go sit down and shut up. 

I went to the back of the room and decided to observe things as I checked my emails on my phone.  The first sign that something was not all good here was when I looked up and noticed that one of the women who seemed upset about how the game was going, grabbed a bingo card from someone claiming to win and chucked it at my teens who were running the bingo game up front.  I was fully engaged in watching what was going on now in that my own daughter was one of the ones standing up their trying to lead the game.  The look on her and Morgan’s face was awesome!  Their eyes were about as wide as they could get them as they tried to continue on calling numbers. 

Within minutes, apparently one woman felt that she had won and another who was strategically sitting up front facing the aisle, believed strongly that this woman was a liar.  So as the winning woman was trying to get a prize, the woman who disagreed decided to reach out and grab this woman by the back of her belt.  She pulled with enough force that the woman started to lose her balance and fall backwards.  This was one of those “slow-motion” moments where you can’t believe that you are seeing what you are seeing and your eyes and mouth are about as wide open as they can get.  As she fell backwards, she landed right in the lap of the lady pulling her.  She jumped off her lap, turned around and the foreign languages began to fly as they turned red in the face. I thought for a moment we were going to have a full on fight.  What was I doing? I was staying right where I was at in the back of the room far, far away from this whole thing!  My luck, if I had tried to intervene, would have been not good.  If it was a kid fight, or a teen fight, or even an adult fight that would have been different, but 2 elderly people? No way.  Besides it was way to awesome to watch my daughter react in the middle of it all.  This is a story she will remember forever!

After our exciting times with Bingo madness, we met up with the other team on the beach of Lake Michigan to debrief how the day went.  It was an interesting debrief as our leaders had the teens act out 3 scenes of how their day went.  Of course, my team acted out the whole Bingo death match.  The memorable scene from the other group was that Nile, our straight-faced, monotone-voiced super jock, apparently was reading books to the kids they were with.  His team seemed to really enjoy seeing him do this.

For dinner that night we went to a Thai restaurant.  I ended up sitting next to Rachel Mellett.  If there were ever 2 people who had completely different views on food it would be me and Rachel.  I ate anything and everything brought out to the table and I couldn’t get enough.  Rachel on the other had would look at something on the table and make comments of great dis-like as to what the plate of food reminds her of, its putrid smell, and when she would try just a little bit you would have thought she tasted a cockroach.  I gave her a hard time.    

When we arrived back at our rooms, we were finally allowed to take our first showers.  We all showered in the athletic locker rooms.  This was a nice place to shower as everyone was able to be showered quickly and the facility was very nice.  It was also air-conditioned so you weren’t sweating again once you came out of the shower. 

When we got back from showers we were blessed with the arrival of our other intern Hannah and our Senior Pastor Doug!  Doug’s first initial observation of our sleeping quarters was not positive.  He was a big overwhelmed by the heat and humidity.  He wasn’t sure that he could get any sleep in these conditions.  But whenever any officer has his general come to visit him in battle, it is wise for that officer to make sure the general is well taken care of .  So I got him set up in a bed room that was just for him and we got some windows open and fans going to make it somewhat comfortable. 

Once Doug got settled in, I took the teens to the corner McDonald’s for a snack.  We hung out until about 10:30PM and then headed back for lights out.

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