From Philadelphia to Wooster

Well, it is just past midnight, and over the past week that has meant: it’s time to write a blog post. There were so many stories to come out of this trip, and I am sure students have told them all after getting home Saturday night. God did so much in the lives of everyone on the Philly 14 trip, and I am so glad to have been a part of it.

Over the past week, I wrote (with Rachel taking my place the one night) for the people who were following this trip, especially for the parents of our students. Hopefully what was written helped everyone feel like they were walking right along side us, so they might experience God working in both the lives of the people in Philadelphia, and the people on our team. Hopefully what was read was encouraging and uplifting. But tonight, I’m not writing for the parents. I’m writing to the students on this trip. So, students, listen up!

Let’s look at just a short list of things we accomplished on this trip:

  • Staffed a VBS (Kingdom Kids Camp) for over 250 inner-city children
  • Passed out over 100 lunches to the homeless at Logan Square and Love Park
  • Performed not one but two park programs for even more children in the city of Philadelphia
  • Lead over 30 people to Christ! AMEN!

But it is easy to look at this list and think that is all you did. Far from it! God did so much more through you this week.

  • Planted the seed of the gospel message in the hearts of countless people (both children and adults)
  • Blessed Urban Hope’s staff
  • Hopefully grew closer to God through team times, devotions and every other experience on this trip
  • Made some new friends and strengthened old relationships
  • Some of you really opened up and shared your heart with the people around you
  • Blessing the leaders on the trip by always being ready to serve and having a good attitude about everything, no matter the circumstances

Some of you may be at home right now, and maybe you did not lead anyone to Christ. Maybe you had a ton of  “problem” children and you feel like you did more disciplining than teaching. Maybe your conversations with the homeless were less than what you hoped they would be. Maybe you miss the people you got to hang out and serve with this past week (I know I do!). Maybe you are feeling like you didn’t make a difference this week.

Well I’m here to tell you that you did. Even if you didn’t make a difference in the lives of children (Spoiler Alert: you did, whether you saw the end result of them giving their lives to Christ or not, you made an impact on them.) and even if you did not make an impact in the lives of the homeless (Shocker: you did, whether your conversations seemed to go well or not, you may never know how God may use what you said to impact someone) and even if you did not encourage the people around you (Secret Encouragement Partners ring a bell?)  and even if you did not bless the Urban Hope staff (trust me, they were grateful for all that you did this week) you made an impact and were a blessing in my life.

When the trip started, I was probably just as nervous as some of you were. It was my first time going on a missions trip as a leader, and I was nervous and excited to see what God would do on this trip.  So many of you did not know me at all before the trip, yet almost all of you at the very least said, “Hi” to me. I had great conversations with so many of you, laughed with you, watched God work in your lives, and was so encouraged by how you all seemed to welcome me on this trip. I saw so many of you serving every day and it lifted my spirits to see that.

To those in my van, I will always remember fondly our times in The White Knight! To those on my street team, we did not have as much time together as we thought we would, but when we were together it was always a blessing, and the highlight of my day! To the guys on the trip, even though you were messy (Ha, ROASTED! Shots Fired! Bang Bang!), you stepped it up this past week and made an impact, and I am so glad I got to know so many of you! To the girls on the trip, thank you for being great examples of how to love on kids and for really being leaders during Kingdom Kids. Even to the leaders, thank you for all the awesome times we shared, whether in leaders meetings (Sea-Kals) or even with our group messages (my phone still has not quite recovered), you were all so encouraging and you made this week something special! You truly had serving hearts, and you led the students incredibly well.

Trust me, if you students made a difference in the life of one dude from Wayne County, you made an incredible impact for the Kingdom of God in the City of Philadelphia. People are closer to Christ now than they were when we first got there, and that is thanks to you and God. Now that you are home, keep it up. Don’t stop! Bring the mission trip home with you and reach all the people around you! Everyone needs Christ, not just the lost and broken of Philadelphia! God can and most definitely will use you if you let him!

But it is not always easy. If you find yourself getting knocked down and are going through some tough times in the days, weeks and months ahead, come talk to one of us leaders. We absolutely would love to be there for you whenever we can! Being a part of the body of Christ means helping one another, so never feel like you have to go through life alone.

Now I leave you with this, thank you for being a blessing in my life and for making an impact in the lives of those in Philadelphia. My prayer for all of you is that you keep staying in the Word of God, continuing to trust Him with your life, and to stay on mission here in Wayne County! God has given you all so many gifts and talents. Now it is time to use them in your hometown!

 

Finishing Strong

Today was a tiring day. Today was a hot day. Today was an encouraging day. Today was an uplifting day. Today was our final day in Philadelphia, and boy what a day it was!

We started with a great team time where our students were really challenged to go back to their schools and find those who are left out, the “outcasts”, and begin to love them like Christ does. First, though, we had one final day of Kingdom Kids camp to make in impact in the kids lives. This vbs-like camp is exhausting. There is nothing else I can think of to describe it. So when I say our students stayed energetic, singing, dancing and going crazy with the kids, and treated them with the love of God, it is one of the highest complements I can give them. This camp is HARD! But this team really pulled together and lived as vessels of God’s love to these kids this week, and it was incredible to see.

Then we had a “scavenger hunt” tonight. We went to the South Street neighborhood and the students were challenged to talk to people; people different from those they would normally come across in Wayne County. During debriefing, students had story after story about how this simple one hour activity made an impact in their lives. It really was great to hear about all the unique interactions our students had tonight.

Remember Tuesday when we could not go up the “Rocky steps” and it worked out perfectly for Craig’s team time? Well tonight we got to go to the “Rocky steps” and it worked perfectly for what was in store for tonight. After just about everyone ran up the steps and yelled “Yo, Adrian”, we split off, guys with guys and girls with girls and revealed our Secret Encouragement Partners. I think this is always one of the best parts of any trip. It is just an hour of our students and leaders encouraging and sharing about how they saw God working in the lives of other people on this trip. It is just an uplifting time, and it is great to see how everyone saw the person next to them go through life change throughout the week. Cool stuff!

Now the students are in various stages of sleep/lack thereof, and our leaders are sleeping. To all the people who have followed this trip, thank you for your prayers. To all the parents, thank you so much for sending your students, and for giving the leaders, the Urban Hope staff, and the Lord Almighty an opportunity to help guide your students along their spiritual journeys. For me, this has been one of the best weeks of my life, and I am sure most, if not all, of the students on this trip would say the same. To all the students on this trip, you are awesome (especially my street team of Bree, Darin, Kennedy and Tyson, always serving without a complaint, even when you are getting smacked in the face by a salad with Italian dressing. You guys are the best!)

Keep us and safe travels in your prayers tomorrow, and then pray that the students will take the next step and bring the mission back to Ohio, in their schools, homes and friend groups. Imagine the impact of 39 students living fully for Christ!

Also, keep checking the blog after the trip is over. We will be posting some personal stories your students have told us from the past week, along with a wrap-up summary of the whole trip, at the end. Seriously, God did a ton of work this week in the lives of your students, and I cannot wait for you to hear about it! As for us, next stop: Wooster, Ohio!

The pinnacle

I wish you could have been at our team time together tonight when I asked how many of them had shared the gospel today….and almost every hand went in the air……I wish you could’ve been on the steps outside Urban Hope listening to our adult leaders listening and mentoring and discipling our students….overflowing with truth….speaking truth into their lives. I wish you could have seen our students loving kids AND adults this evening at the park and sharing conversation (and the GOSPEL) with them. I wish you all could be here to witness our students jumping out of their comfort zone for God’s Kingdom. Because we win….when the kingdom wins.

Our students blow me away every day. I talked with a girl tonight who said ‘when I came I wasn’t sold out for Jesus….but I can’t wait to go home and make a difference’ … And that’s exactly what we talked about at team time today…..’the pinnacle’ …..

I defined the pinnacle of spiritual life as being ‘living for the moments that last forever’ ….. Or living on mission. Wow did our students blow us away! We talked about how we wanted to be people that just couldn’t shut up about Jesus and how he’s changed our lives (Acts 4:20).

There are students on this team that have led 5 or kids to a saving faith in Jesus …. Praise HIM!

There are students READY to leverage their life for God’s glory and Im so spoiled because I get to watch it. I get to see it first hand.

Thanks for your prayers….we love being here. And we’re learning to love each other and have eyes for people like Jesus does. Pray for us even more as we started to turn the corner and talk about what mission looks like in their schools….what living on mission looks like in Wayne County. I’m pumped about how God is increasing our faith as we continue to trust Him and his care in the moment.

Guest Writer, Rachel
(I sent Jesse to bed since he skipped lunch to put up the pics!)

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk

Pretty sure I have said this every day, but today was awesome! Our park program tonight was uplifting, and we had some fun tonight.

But it all started again with Rachel leading team time. To start off, Rachel had Abby Massary share her story, and it was a great one. I really think what she had to say made a difference for these students, and it is always great to hear people open their heart and share their life with others.

Then Rachel talked about how humility, when founded in faith, is key to living a life on mission. Once we become second, and God becomes first, that is when we can truly bless those around us, whether in Philadelphia or back home. Our team time was followed by the testimonies of two Urban Hope volunteers that broke our hearts. To see what these two people have gone through and to see that they still live their lives on mission for Christ is so encouraging. “You are going to go through some trials,” one of them told us, “But you have to keep on following Christ!” It was a great challenge to our team.

After that, Kingdom Kids camp happened. We had even more kids attend today, and our students did a great job leading. Kids came to Christ and others seemed to have gone from trouble-maker to peace-maker overnight. One story that was great was one of the groups had a team that was rowdy the first two days. They even started today off on a sour note that included a food fight, with chocolate milk being splashed all over the wall! But after lunch, that group of rowdy kids calmed down to the point of being respectful, but still having a load of fun. Because of that, our students could spend some time with their kids and one of the kids prayed to accept Christ! What started out as a food fight turned into a spiritual war, which Jesus won! Amen to that!

But right after the camp, the students practiced for the park program later that night, and then ate dinner. They went straight from camp to the park program, with only enough time to practice and eat in between. Talk about tiring! Yet, our students showed the most energy they have all week. Students were stepping up, leading kids in the program (think a VBS-type event that takes place in a public park), dancing and just making fools of themselves for the amusement of children. Kids heard a valuable lesson, with skits, music and a Bible story, that God is the only god, and there are no others like Him. The workers at Urban Hope thanked us, as our students were the fastest to set up and the whole program from start to finish ran smoothly. For a group that was tired and worn out, this was just plain awesome!

Then we took some time to have a bit of fun, and what could be better than a team-wide trip to Target. Some students bought some gifts for their secret encouragement partners, and others just got a small, tiny, minuscule amount of caffeinated beverages. But the trip was a blast and between that and our individual times in our van, we just had fun! And after hoping for unity, I think the park program and the trip to target were the pieces that put us over the top. I think we are one cohesive unit now, and that is just fantastic to see.

Thank you so much for your prayers. Thursday will be tough again, as we are doing the camp and then another park program in the evening. So it will be a long 7:30AM-8:00PM, but the students have shown time and time again that they can do it. So many stories of how God is using and working in and through your students, I wish weeks to just write it all down. But I am sure you would love to hear it from them personally too! Only two more full days left, pray that we are able to make the absolute most of our time here! With God on our side, how can we fail?

Come Together

Philly TeamTuesday was another fantastic day. This team is a great group of students, and it has been a true blessing to watch them serve!

Our day started with Rachel leading us in a great team time. She shared how we need to trust God in the moment to jump out of our comfort zone courageously. Being careful is being calculated and using your brain to figure out how to go out and do something, while fear is an emotion and it focuses on what might happen. Rachel brought up the fact that fear is such a small thing when we compare it to the shear power of God and His awesome strength.  God will provide the strength to jump outside your comfort zone, and that was a perfect message for our team to hear this morning.

Then camp happened. It is such a crazy 4 and a half hour period, I cannot really describe it. And this is not an easy group of kids. 200 children from an impoverished area with broken homes produces some rowdy kids. Yet, even with some tough kids, our students kept moving forward, with smiles on their faces, continuing to love on the kids no matter what. Not to mention it was HOT! One place said the temperature hit 100 today, and it felt like it.

So it was great to take a step back tonight,after such a scorcher, and just spend some time as a team. We went to Steaks on South and got incredible cheese-steaks! We had a great time just being together and then moved to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. We then planned to go the “Rocky steps” where Rocky Balboa ran up and celebrated in the climatic montage in the movie Rocky. But as we drove there, a thunderstorm rolled in, and we could only drive past and look.

However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. When we got back, we held another team time at Urban Hope. Craig Winey got up and just shared his heart and soul with our students. It was awesome, because instead of doing it at the Rocky steps like we had planned, we were in the basement of Urban Hope, with very few distractions and everyone was able to focus on what Craig had to say. He really encouraged all of us to make sure, even when we go back home, to keep up our “spiritual training”.

Thank you for all your prayers. Moving forward, pray for our team to become unified. Jake Lawson talked with the team about unity on Monday, and we really saw the team starting to come together today. Hopefully they really continue to come together as a team tomorrow! It is awesome to see how God is working in the lives of the students on this trip. We will update more as soon as possible, and hopefully get more pictures as well. Until then, check out our Facebook page,www.facebook.com/WoosterHSM, which gets regularly updated with pictures.

When Worlds Collide

For our students, today was not just a step out of their comfort zones, it was a giant leap! Walking the streets of the inner city while picking up kids for a church camp is not your typical Wayne County activity. Yet all the students had smiles on their faces, practicing the first rule for Kingdom Camp: Be Friendly! Students stepped it up today, and over 100 kids heard about Jesus because of it.

After the kids were returned to their homes, everyone got back for a debriefing period, and boy did everyone look tired. But our cook for the week, Angie, soon took care of that with her delicious pulled pork! Angie’s story was also encouraging. She and her husband came to Christ after their youngest son attended multiple camps here at Urban Hope. The people of Urban Hope prayed for 10 years for Angie and her husband, and God finally got a hold of their lives. It really showed our team that we might not see it over this week, but the work they do will plant the seeds in the kids lives that may impact them and their families down the road.

Then it was time for our homeless ministry.We packed lunches and then headed for Logan Square and Love Park. For those who had never been on this trip before, they were pretty nervous. After we got out, we were swarmed by some homeless people looking for the lunches. I totally expected a bunch of totally overwhelmed students, but I was completely blown away by these students. They just took it in stride and struck up conversations with anyone they could. Some conversations lasted well over 45 minutes, a lot included our students sharing the gospel with these people and most ended with students praying with the person they met. What was a group of pretty nervous students transformed into a group of students excited and on-fire for Christ after the great experiences they had. Seriously, I could write book about all the conversations and interactions the students had tonight. It was an incredible experience, and our team seemed a bit closer afterwards!

What started as a giant leap out of their comfort zones turned into students jumping into the hands and feet of Christ today. Students really started to see people through God’s eyes, and it is a beautiful thing to see. During the kids camp, the gears were moving in the students’ minds and hearts, but the homeless ministry really drove it home! These people aren’t really scary. They are people with unique stories  to tell, who just want someone to listen to them and love on them, and that is what our students are doing. Our hope as leaders is that they will continue to have their eyes opened to God’s viewpoint, and that it goes home with them, so they can see the people at home through God’s eyes too.

Keep praying! God is doing great things with this team, and we are not even halfway through. Pray that students would continue to look at everything through God’s eyes, not only during the camps and the ministry opportunities, but even when we are sight-seeing and cheese-steaks eating tomorrow night. God is always at work, even when we are not! And He is definitely at work here on this trip!