Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I am afraid if I wait much longer to write this post some of it will be lost. So...

I really wasn't sure why I was going on this trip other than to show others the love of Christ, I love Chicago, I love the city, I love the diversity and I love the in your face ability to help others.

I know there is the ability to help others right here in our neighborhood but I have found that those that really need it are usually the ones who try to hide it and are struggling to get by without any ones help. It seems that those that abuse the system are the ones that are more obvious about needing help, they aren't afraid to ask. No I know this isn't in every situation but it use seems that way.

Anyways back to Chicago, I really wondered what in the world we could do in that small amount of time.

The first night we went to the Sears Tower, which isn't called that now it's the Willis tower. We were 103 floors up looking down on Chicago.

Everyone went their own way once we got up there to see the view. I sat there alone just watching the cars and the city buzz below us. For a moment there was this peaceful quiet as I sat there and watched the world below. I didn't hear anyone around me and for a moment I wasn't busy running around crazy and not paying good attention to what was going on around me. It made me realize that I don't have to be fast paced. I need to slow down and pay attention to what is going on around me.

The next day we made our way to Breakthrough Urban Ministries. Breakthrough is in East Garfield Park Area of Chicago. They have a food pantry for the community, a preschool and various after school and weekend activities for kids and families. They have a Day Center during the week for people to come in off the streets and get a meal and other services. Breakthrough also has a place for people to come and stay. They typical stay for 6-8 months and Breakthrough helps them work on their job skills, schooling, locating a job and getting back on their feet. They also have the men and ladies take part in a weekly Bible Study. There are so many services that they provide, it's amazing!

We started our day out with a tour of the facilities and some more information about the ministry. After our tour we cleaned the preschool room from top to bottom. During cleaning we took a break for lunch. We were able to take our lunch and go down to the Day Center and eat with the women who had come in to have lunch. At first I was very apprehensive about where to just go sit and struck up a conversation with someone. I am not good at just starting up a conversation with people I know let alone people I don't know. I stood and analyzed the room for several minutes. Then this boisterous lady came in with two little girls. She sat the girls down and then went to get food. That was it, I went and sat down. I have no problem talking to kids. So I sat and talked to them while their grandma got food. The oldest was 7 and in first grade, perfect I can relate Ellie is in first grade. We talked about first grade and her likes and dislikes. The youngest was 4, she didn't talk much. The grandma came to sit down, she was a little grouchy. One of the little girls started talking about her dad and the grandma interrupted her and said "don't go there, we are not going to talk about your mommy and daddy." The grandma finally started talking to me and was talking about classes she was taking and how she had to write a paper on the movie The Help. I made the mistake of telling her I had seen it. She immediately wanted to to write down the cliff notes for the movie. Luckily she had to go take a smoke break and had to leave the building.

After she left everyone in our group was still sitting and having conversations with people so I went and sat down with a lady. I introduced myself and she told me her name was "Debora, you know like in the Bible." She was a very pleasant lady and was very good at conversation so that helped me out a lot. She talked about how her daughter and son have nothing to do with her anymore. She said they are too busy in their jobs and life to think about me. I ask her what her favorite thing about Breakthrough was and she said the Bible Study. She said "They let me ask questions. Lots of people don't like you to ask questions. They just want you to believe what they say and never question it or look it up for yourself." She went on to say "if they don't have the answer they will try to find an answer for me they don't just forget about it hoping I will." Debora also said "they treat me like a real person. Lots of places don't do that they make you sit in their service and expect you to become like them. Breakthrough lets you be you and loves you for who you are." She went on to say "they really try to help you get out of the situation you are in, they don't just feed you and preach at you they help you." It was time to get back to work and so I had to say good bye. I ask her if I could take a picture with her and she said "yes, just don't put me on tv." I agreed!

Back to work we went and we finished the preschool room and cleaned the library and bit and cut out some things that had been laminated. As we left that day the walk to the EL was different than the walk to Breakthrough. You could just tell by looking around that the neighborhood was hurting.

The next day we headed to Breakthrough's men's shelter to cook and save a meal for the men that lived in the men's shelter. The team work during the meal was amazing! It was so great to be able to serve these men. After they got their first plate I went around and offered to get them seconds. It was a great day full of great conversations. As we left there I couldn't help but leave slowly. I just had to walk away slowly taken in all that had happened and the neighborhood. As I walked I prayed for Breakthrough and the people that they touch. I prayed that that the neighborhood would be open and receptive to what Breakthrough is doing. It was just what I had to do. Leaving was hard, I wanted to do more.

The rest of the weekend was good. We attended church Sunday morning at Willow Chicago. It was amazing how everything built on each other. Someone in the church shared their life verse and it was Eph. 3:16-19 mainly vs. 18.
I like both of these versions:
Ephesians 3:16-19
The Message (MSG)
14-19My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19
New International Version (NIV)
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

They showed a recorded video of Bill Hybels preaching. He was talking about his Life verse, it was a series they were doing. His verse was:
1 Corinthians 15:58
New International Version (NIV)
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

I also like The Message's version of this verse.

1 Corinthians 15:58
The Message (MSG)
58With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.

Bill Hybels talked about how we need to me immovable, we need to stand firm and let nothing move us from what we know is right. "We have to stay mentally tough and hold onto our core values." He said "we should always give our best. No matter what always abound in the work of the Lord, everyday."
Then he made a statement that really got to me. "motivation should come from within not from your pastor giving a pep talk or pleading with you."
I can't tell you how many times I have sat in a meeting and wondered and brainstormed about how we can get people involved. We need to stop and pray that God would motivate them to do His work instead of man trying to woo them into doing it.
So he went on to say this "your work is never in vain. No matter how visible or invisible, how big or how small, no matter what it's never in vain."
I needed this one! Sometimes, okay most of the time, I wonder if what I do even matters. Not that I want recognition in front of anyone, cause I don't. I just wonder if I didn't do what I do would it be noticed? Does what I do matter enough to make an impact in anyone's life. Most days I would say no it doesn't. Even if I don't feel like it makes a difference if I am doing something to show Christ's love to someone then it's not in vain and it is worth it.

So back to the first guys life verse Eph. 3: 18-19
" grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge..."

I think that sometimes I forget how much Jesus loves me. Even when man fails us he is there and he loves us so much more than any man could. What man is willing to die for you?

As we were driving home I tried to take a little nap, everyone else was. But I just could not go to sleep and the song 'Healing Is In Your Hands' kept playing over and over in my head. So I got my phone out, bought the song and listened to the words. It was so fitting to what God was speaking to me the whole trip.

Healing Is in Your Hands
No mountain, no valley, no gain or loss we know
could keep us from Your love
No sickness, no secret, no chain is strong enough
to keep us from Your love
to keep us from Your love

How high, how wide
No matter where I am, healing is in Your hands
How deep, How strong,
And now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands

Our present, our future, our past is in Your hands
We're covered by Your blood
We're covered by Your blood

How high, How wide
no matter where I am, healing is in Your hands
How deep, How strong
And now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands

In all things, we know that.
We are more than conquerors.
You keep us by your love.
You keep us by your love.

No matter what, no matter what our present is or past was. No matter what chains that bind us, what secret we are holding or what sickness we have. No matter what He loves us. Healing can be found in Jesus. Restoration can be found in Jesus.

I think this really reminds me of what Breakthrough is doing in the lives of so many, in Jesus name.

So through all this I need to slow down, be intentional, and love, love , love no matter what. I need to pay more attention to those around me and their needs. I need to rely on Jesus not man. Man will let you down but Jesus is always there no matter what.

So after all this between me and God in the van, everyone woke up an I wasn't tired anymore.
What happened in the van after that was amazing. I am not sure I am to the point that I can agree, well everyone in the van knows what I am talking about. But I think I walked away with a sense of I might be worth something. And just maybe there might be something good about me.

We ended the trip with a great family style meal at Cracker Barrel. And that's how it should have ended a family style meal. Because we are family. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to get to know the people that I went on this trip with more than I already did. I hope to get to hang out with them more than I did before we went. They are some great people after God's heart.

So back to one of my first statements in the blog "I really wasn't sure why I was going on this trip". I now know why, God had a lot to show me and tell me. I don't know if anything I did really mattered but I am guessing because I did it for the Glory of God that it did and it was not done in vain.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Chicago Mission Trip- The Logisitcs

We left River Valley Thursday morning and headed to Chicago. Once we got there we headed to the Hostel to settle in. We decided that evening to head to the Sears Tower. After the Sears Tower we headed to Giordano's for Pizza. Arloa Sutter the author of the book Invisible met us for dinner. Arloa is also the founder of Breakthrough Urban Ministries. We had a nice dinner with Arloa, it was good to be able to ask her questions. After dinner we headed back to the Hostel for the night.
Friday was a full day. We made our way to Breakthrough. Our time there started with a tour of the facilities and then we got to work cleaning the preschool room. When we broke for lunch we went down and sat with the women that were there for lunch. Some good conversations were had. After lunch we finished the Preschool room and cleaned the library as well. When we were finished we headed back to the Hostel for some debriefing. Friday night we ventured to Chinatown for dinner and shopping. After dinner we went grocery shopping for the meal we were going to make for the men at Breakthrough the next day. After taking the food back to the Hostel a late night trip to Target was a must.
Saturday we loaded up our groceries and headed back to Breakthrough. Once we were there we beta making the meal for lunch. We made Chicken and Noodles, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, and a Strawberry Shortcake style dessert. Once the meal was prepared we were able to serve the men and then sit down and eat with them. Several good conversations were had. We then headed out to discover a bit of Chicago. We went to Millennium Park to see the Bean and then some went to walk up Michigan Ave. and some went to see Buckingham Fountain. We all met back up at the Hostel to do a bit of debriefing. We all decided to head to Wicker Park for dinner and iCream. Some of the group went to a pizza place and some went to a Tapas place to eat. A trip to iCream was made after dinner then it was back to the Hostel to play cards before heading to bed.
Sunday a couple of us headed to Navy Pier to see the view before church. We attended one of Willowcreek's campus' for church. After church we had a meal together and headed home. There was some great discussion on the way home. Once we got into Dayton a stop at Cracker Barrel for dinner was a must. Then it was home to River Valley.