And It Begins!

Whew, what a day! After travelling over 450 miles, we finally made it to Urban Hope! We only had a couple stops along the way (8) but who’s counting? We are here in Philadelphia, excited for the week ahead.

Our day started early, and at 7:30 the Pastoral Staff at Grace prayed with our team before sending us off on the road. All the students seemed a bit tired, but definitely ready for the day ahead. After all, who doesn’t love listening to and singing Silly Songs with Larry, eating Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Chipotle, and waving at passing cars as we inch along through Pennsylvania’s great construction zones? Everyone had a great time, but once we finally arrived in Philly, the fun truly started.

We arrived at Urban Hope a bit after 7, and we grabbed our stuff and headed into the Urban Hope Church for some orientation. Urban Hope’s staff taught us a bit about the neighborhood, (around 800-1000 people per block, and over 350 kids who attended their last kids camp 2 weeks ago.) Then they asked for volunteers for various jobs throughout the day camp, and all the students jumped right on board. The Urban Hope staff were happy they did not have to beg anyone to take a job (students even volunteered to clean the bathrooms!)  After finishing up with some crafts and decorations for the kids camp and the park ministries, the students got settled into their rooms and are headed off to sleep, I hope!

Thank you again for your continued prayer and support. Please pray that tomorrow would be uplifting as well as eye-opening. The day camp starts tomorrow morning and our students will be jumping right in. Pray that God will be moving in the hearts of the kids who attend the camp, and that He will also be working in the minds and hearts of the students as they serve all day tomorrow. It is going to be a crazy, exciting, fun day tomorrow, and our students proved today they are already up for the challenge!

Starting with a BANG!

The Philadelphia trip started with a bang tonight, literally! After a challenging team time led by Rachel, the team headed to the Orrville Fireworks! It was a fun way to get the whole team together to enjoy an awesome spectacle. Now everyone is back at the church getting ready to sleep. There are definitely a bunch of excited students on this trip! Pray for tomorrow, as sometimes having a ton of excitement and pent-up energy can be tough when you have to sit in a van on a long road trip. But don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll have some fun on the way!

If you are a parent and you want to know how you can best be praying for your student and the other students and leaders around them, here are the street groups each student is in!

Craig Winey

  • Jarred Browning
  • Esther Hart
  • Sydney Mullen
  • Lizzy McClure
  • Jon Lun

Kirk Benchoff

  • Matt Boreman
  • Derek Sansom
  • Erin Friday
  • Lauren Skaggs
  • Jordan Gingery

Abby Kauffman

  • Gideon Hart
  • Dalon Vura
  • Abby Radcilffe
  • Mary Hart
  • Shannon McCrossen

Randy Moomaw

  • Aaron Benchoff
  • Taylor Mills
  • McKenna Fox
  • Lauren Erickson
  • Clay Miller

Jesse Sansom

  • Darin Phelps
  • Bryanna Starman
  • Kennedy Kull
  • Tyson Lumley

Mariah Vacha

  • Grant Holcomb
  • Tirzah Talampas
  • Hannah Falkenberg
  • Grace Murray
  • Nate Smith

Jake Lawson

  • Micah Boggs
  • Megan Gonzolez
  • Grace Lemon
  • Lauren Harvey
  • Tyler Moomaw

Abby Massary

  • Noah Fetzer
  • Dan Malanga
  • Sonja Flory
  • Rheanna Troyer
  • Maggie Poorman

It is going to be a fantastic week, and it is going to be great to see how God works in the lives of the people of Philadelphia and the students here on this trip!




Chicago Day 6


What a wonderful day!! After 4 solid days of pushing very hard with our kid’s camps, we had the opportunity to have a relaxed morning and then go to a park in the afternoon. OH…but our work wasn’t done when we got to the park!!  It was SO exciting to watch our students serve at the park…we made hot dogs and delivered them to families at the park. Then the students would ask to pray for them!  MANY, MANY students had the joy of serving and then praying with strangers.  OF COURSE, we sent them in groups BTW! 🙂 It was an energizing and exciting time for the students!

THEN…we had a game of hand-ball and kick ball…SUPER FUN!! A time to just enjoy each other…

We also went (very quickly!) to “The Bean” in downtown Chicago. After a long…WELL…very long-round-about way to get there we grabbed some pics of our team at the bean…SUPER FUN! 🙂  Then we ended our night at a White Sox game and watched fire works. They were beautiful!!  Then as we walked out of the stadium we could see the Chicago Skyline and all of the fireworks that the neighborhoods were setting off…it was so neat.

OH…I should mention that we left the Sox game saying “O-H-I-O” and “Cleveland’s Better!”  LOVED IT!

I want to thank you again for praying for us. This has been a very deeply moving trip…one that has pushed our students AND is starting to IGNITE a fire inside of them!! PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for them as they return!


The Team at the Bean!


From the 5th Level of the White Sox’s Stadium!


Firework Fun!

Chicago Day 5…Spiritual Fireworks!!

I have so enjoyed the 4th of July over the years. My wife’s brother shoots off fireworks and it is a BLAST to see them!   This year we had some SPIRITUAL Fireworks to celebrate!  24 kids gave their lives to Jesus today! PRAISE GOD WITH US! Stop right now…pause for just a moment in your day and THANK GOD for allowing to see this happen. It is truly a privilege. So wonderful…

Tonight as we closed our night…we ended by talking about what we will do when we head home…The theme was “Invite to Ignite!” Meaning…if we want to ignite the fire in the hearts of our friends for Jesus…if we long to see God IGNITE life change in…our families…our classmates…then we must INVITE them to have a relationship with Jesus Christ AND to come with us to church.  INVITE to IGNITE!

What happened after this was very cool…all over the building groups of students were sharing with each other…encouraging each other…and one group has even gone so far to make plans for a consistent gathering for accountability.

SOMETHING IS HAPPENING…I ask you to pray…pray past the mission trip…pray for the rest of the summer and the school year. Pray that these students have the passion and courage to follow through with their plans.

GOD IS SO GOOD!  Grateful tonight for how God is working!

Chicago Day 4

Our morning starts every day with worship and prayer together after we have time for devotions. This morning we stopped and prayed for individual kid’s names that we have met over the first couple of days of our time here…FOR 5 STRAIGHT MINUTES we prayed!! It was AMAZING!  Our kids didn’t only say name after name after name…they did it without even looking at their notebooks!! They KNOW THESE KID’S NAMES and are deeply moved to see them come to Christ!!

Think about it…We know John 3: 16…we may even know it too well…so well that it loses some of its power…this morning though…as the the names were shared…it really made me think…”God MUST be smiling right now!!”  Because this is his heart…he sent HIS Son to die for us…he sent him here because He LONGS to have a relationship with us…AND now he was hearing HIS people praying to him the names of people they knew needed him. SO, SO good!  Moving!!

THEN…at dinner tonight…one of our students shares how a young child named Joshua gave his life to Jesus. WOW!!!!!  Just love to see God move like that!

So I want to ask you…if you are reading this right now…whose name would you pray to God?  Whose names would you lift up to him from your school, work place, neighborhood, etc.? DO IT!!!  Our God answers prayer…so follow the example of our youth and pray right now for people that you know that need Jesus!!

Chicago Day 3

2 Timothy 1: 7  “God did not give us a Spirit of timidity but a Spirit of power, of love and self-discipline.”

After we had some personal time with God…after had a really good time of prayer-thanking him for many, many things…after we sang together and then Pearce Perry challenged us from the Word on unity…

Then we shared Timothy 1: 7.

You have to understand that serving in the city is different from our County…I know we all know that…but you just can’t ever prepare a team completely for that until they experience it. And when part of our team went to Inner City Impact yesterday…it was really difficult. The kids didn’t listen…ICI changed the plan…it was hard. AND to our student’s credit, they moved through the day very well.


Then Tuesday happens…the students get challenged with 2 Tim. 1: 7…to serve in GOD’s power…to share HIS love with these kids and the leaders they are working with…AND after a long night of cleaning up water…we had to have the self-discipline to stay focused.

AND OH MY OH MY did they ever!  We had an amazing 2nd day!  Kids were prayed with…kids were loved on…families were prayed for on the streets…it was a very sweet day.

What is the lesson here?  When we struggle…fight through…use your self-discipline to help you persevere…and then regroup and GO into action!! AND OUR STUDENTS DID!


Let me close with this story…a kid came up to one of our students and said “today is the second time I have ever prayed in my life. And the first was yesterday!” Our student talked with them and prayed with them…it was so precious. This child is taking steps closer and closer to Jesus!

KEEP PRAYING!! We need you!


Chicago Day 2

I cannot believe that 2 days have already flown by for our Chicago Mission Trip. We traveled to Chicago on Sunday and had a great time at the park…we took some time to prayerwalk through the park. Praying for the people that we saw there, for the people that we would meet this week and for each other. A GREAT way to kick things off.

Then we headed out to an authentic Mexican Restaurant…they made ALL of their food from scratch and we closed the place down with our group of 39…we literally took up every seat in the place!  And the food was AMAZING! 

Then we headed to New Life Community Center…the church where we will be staying and 1/2 of our team will be serving there all week. It was so, so good to hear the heart of Jeremy…an intern with New Life. He attends Moody Bible Institute and has chosen to move into the neighborhood and serve with the church. His passion for our Savior…for this neighborhood was deeply moving.

After a night of hanging out and playing basketball we kicked off our first full day…and it started off GREAT!  We have 4 student leaders on this trip…Ally Zook, Taylor Bennington, Jon Geiser and Jenna Liles…and our worship intern Ben Engle…they led us yesterday morning in a very powerful Team Time on Identity. “It is not WHO we are, it’s WHOSE we are…And I am His!” So good!

We jumped into the rest of our day and the students were solid. 1/2 of our team serves at New Life an the other 1/2 is partnering with Inner City Impact.  It was fun to see our students serving, loving on kids, sharing their faith, being PUSHED by the behavior of the children, SWEATING like crazy at the church. I couldn’t be more proud of our students. EXCITED to hear more stories of how they impacted kids.

 Please keep praying for our team!  God is up to something in these student’s lives and it is fun to watch him work in and through them!!