I can confidently say that being uncomfortable isn’t one of our favorite feelings. Whether it’s an encounter with someone new or old, or just an awkward situation, no one likes to be uncomfortable. Being in a new place with different people isn’t easy, especially when you are trying to share the gospel with strangers. But the 37 students in Southern Philadelphia this week have gone above and beyond, stepping out of their comfort zones, to change the lives of kids and adults in the Kensington area. Every day has been a new adventure as no two days in Philly are the same. This past week, our students have been leaders at Kingdom Kids Day Camp as well as servants in the city of Philadelphia. Starting early in the morning, our students are serving intentionally in the community as hundreds of kids come to Urban Hope to have fun playing games, memorizing scripture and learning about the hope of Jesus. With two day camps per day, Grace students are on the move almost constantly as they interact with kids and share the gospel with them on their level. Students are creating an energy-filled environment as screaming the verses is the norm and getting kids involved is a common goal. During the evenings, students have had the opportunity to serve in the streets and interact with the homeless which was an awesome experience with countless stories shared by students. By giving out care packages and pizza to those in need, students got to pray and start up spiritual conversations with many people. We are also having a lot of fun because missions trips are fun! We got to really immerse ourselves in the Philly lifestyle as we ate Philly cheese steaks and spent an evening at a Phillies baseball game. There are also the prank-battles between the boys and girls which account to our lack of sleep, sorry mom!
There are so many opportunities for students to share the hope of Jesus to the kids and many have taken this awesome opportunity and led kids to Christ this week. Praise God! The week isn’t over yet and there is still so much that God is going to do in the lives of our students and through them. From a students leader’s perspective, it has been so awesome to simply watch students younger than I live and push through adversity towards the goal of reaching kids in the name of Christ. Every single student on this trip has gone out of their comfort zone which is HUGE! Each student is unique and every comfort zone is going to be different and that’s okay because God meets students where they are at and uses them for His glory. We firmly believe that God moves when we move out of our comfort zones and stepping out in faith isn’t easy. But our students are doing a phenomenal job. Lives have been changed this week in Philadelphia and we cannot wait to see what is in store for us in the next few days. Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement! Keep praying for life change in us and through us:)
Today was amazing in Atlanta for me, Kristian Kirsch. The first time I went to my group’s location, I was a bit intimidated but I absolutely bonded with one of many kids, Addison. We were doing gospel bracelets for the kids there and I helped him make his, explaining the significance of the bracelet. I did a repeat-after-me prayer with him, helping him understand what it meant to follow Christ and how He loved us. I’m not entirely sure if he thought much of it, but it definitely planted a seed for the community there and I’m so excited for the future for these kids and I hope our purpose radiated into these kids in some way.
Today in Atlanta was such an inspiring experience for me, Felicia Mercer. Everyday coming into my group’s location it is always filled with lots of happiness, love, and many hugs. The happiness from the kids spreads throughout the group everyday. Today we made gospel bracelets, and while explaining what each bead had meant some kids began to connect. It was so heart warming to see some children begin to understand that God does love them and is always here with them. I am so thankful for this opportunity to see these children grow with God.
My name is Will Arthur and this is my second year in Atlanta at the Haitian Church. Today on the skit team we shared the story of Jude being healed by Jesus. His friends cooperated to bring him to Jesus and helped make an amazing miracle happen! Chloe then shared the Gospel. We sang songs and then split into three groups to do craft (Gospel bracelets), rec (lil games), and chalk/bubbles with verse memorization. Overall today went very smooth as we got to share Jesus’ love with the kids.
Our team went to BAPS, Atlanta’s biggest Hindu temple. It was a unique experience for all of us as we learned about their beliefs and rituals. After we left the temple, our students shared stories of their experiences there. One thing that stood out to one of our team members was how the Hindu religion is centered around deeds and practices. However, as followers of Jesus we know that we don’t have to work for our salvation, it has already been paid for by Christ. After the temple visit, our team traveled over to Atlanta’s Global Mall and refueled at an authentic Indian restaurant, which gave us a bigger TASTE of their culture.
At Reach the Nations Church, the team fell in love with the kids at first sight, they were all playing, singing, dancing, and pursuing relationships with them. As we reviewed the lesson from yesterday, we found out that
At the Hispanic apartments, we found out they loved to play soccer and they just longed for the attention of others. Almost instantly relationships were made between the kids and our team.
At the Haitian location the team was more than blown away by the number of kids that came, which almost doubled the amount from Monday. The kids arrived with a crazy amount of energy and excitement to be there. It is so cool to see the relationships being formed with the members of the team with these kids, and we are super pumped to see what the rest of this week brings.
Our travel day yesterday went incredibly well, making good enough time to be able to attend North Point Church and hear Andy Stanley preach about recent current events and how we as Christians need to respond. This opened our hearts to prime our team for the coming week encountering different cultures.
This morning we met up with the team from Encompass for an orientation to their ministry and the city of Atlanta. They taught us about the many unreached people groups in our world and that God has a heart for the nations. Lunch was a fun experience at an international farmer’s market/grocery where we each picked snacks to buy and share with everyone, trying all sorts of new things. We are here to be learners and in the afternoon, we were able to split into three groups and run a kids camp in each locations. Three students explained each of their experiences:
Today we went to the Haitian Location, which was located right by the church we were working with, in a strip mall and got to work with about 15 kids. These kids were very relational based and so most of our time was spent letting them braid the girls’ hair and giving them piggy back rides. We also had the opportunity to perform a skit, create a craft, and play games, which were all based on our theme for the week: cooperation.
Our location was a little different than we expected it to be, but I loved it! I got the amazing opportunity to go to Reach the Nations church, which is located within the most racially diverse square mile within the United States. All the kids seemed to cling to us leaders, and really enjoy the games we played to get them engaged, which included Simon says, dancing squares, and ninja. I can’t even express in words how much these kids crave attention it was so cool to get to connect with them on that level. I loved being able to watch the people in my group including the leaders, truly love on the kids and give of themselves to serve, especially the skit team. Day 1 went great and I can’t wait to see how God will work the rest of this week!!!
Oh man what an amazing day!!! Today my location team went to Shallowford Garden Apartments in one of the culturally diverse neighborhoods. The people there were Hispanic and we got to perform a skit and play soccer with them. They were very receptive for meeting us for the first time.
Continue to pray for us tomorrow as we move on to Day 2 of our kids camp and learn about Hinduism as we visit a temple.
This weekend we got the chance to share the love of Jesus to people in some different areas of Cleveland. So many great things happened throughout the last few days, and these students worked hard to make sure people saw Jesus through them. Here is a glimpse of what we did this week. We started the trip off by splitting up and going to two different areas. The first group got the opportunity to go into neighborhoods here in Cleveland and pass out flyers to advertise for an event for Gateway Community Church, the church we were partnering with. The second was a group of students who went to a recreation center that got to be a part of an event for kids who have not yet experienced the hope of Jesus.
The first group who passed out flyers got the chance to practice one of our core values, life change is an invitation away! Students had enthusiasm as they approached houses to hand out flyers. There were conversations had and memories made. Specifically two girls got the chance to invite a family to church who were not able to go to the event, but still wanted to know more about Gateway. As a team our students were able to canvas over five blocks of houses. Now that’s working together on ONE team, to make ONE name famous!
The second team also practiced one of our core values this week because as you know, saved people serve people. We saw our 7th and 8th grade students step out of their comfort zone by loving on and playing with the kids who lived in the area. One of our girls made a connection with a little boy from the rec center, Carlos. Her face lit up as she watched the joy Carlos had from her being present and listening to him. This was a huge step for this particular student as she just accepted Christ for the first time last month at Beyond Camp! A girl, who came from death to life, made a difference in Carlos’ life! God did some great things in the hearts of these students and helped them be difference makers both in Cleveland and in Wayne County.
As a team, we trained our students how to share their story with others, and challenged them to do that this weekend. Day after day, the students were willing to share their story with leaders and each other without being prompted to. Through this, they got to know each other better and became more comfortable opening up with new people. As a take home challenge we encouraged them to share their story with their parents. We can’t wait to hear about it!
We’re excited to see what the rest of the summer brings as we continue to go out and be the salt and lights of the earth! #WeAreDifferenceMakers