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NYC Mission Trip

2 Aug

Last week about 30 teens and adults from my church went on a week-long mission trip to NYC to work with Operation Exodus Inner City, Inc.  The mission of Operation Exodus Inner City is to promote personal growth, high educational achievement, and leadership to underserved children, with an emphasis on the Latino community in Washington Heights, through quality out-of-school education, caring mentoring relationships, school placement and parent workshops, all guided by the transforming power and values of Jesus Christ.

Our week was a mix of intense emotions.  Some days we were very excited about what God was doing in and through us, and other days we just asked ourselves why we were even there.  Some of us had a more difficult week than others.  I would say that I had one of the better experiences, although there were a couple of mornings I woke up absolutely dreading the day.  There’s no doubt we were all pushed completely out of our comfort zones.  Most of us had little or no experience working with kids, and the ones who did were not used to working with kids from different cultures.  Also, most of the females on the trip did not enjoy the tiny showers we had to use, or climbing 5 flights of stairs to get to our rooms, and having to go down one flight just to use the restroom.

While we were there we did have a fair amount of time for sightseeing and just hanging out on the weekends and in the evenings, so that was really fun – getting to spend time with some incredible people in one of the most incredible cities in the world.  One night a few of us even sat down right in middle of Times Sqaure and played Catch Phrase.  (Kudos to the coolest pastor ever, Scott Stewart, for the idea). 

Although we got to do some fun things (not to say working with the kids wasn’t fun), here is how our day went 8-5:30, Monday-Friday: Leave the hostel we were staying at by 7:20 every morning, take the subway to Washington Heights (or Inwood, depending on which site you were at), walk to your site, hang out for a few minutes and pray before the kids started to arrive, play games with the kids for about 30 minutes, have a morning assembly, and then go to our classrooms for reading time.

At 10:00 we got to leave our classrooms and take a break until 11:50, when we would start lining the kids up for lunch.  We walked them to a nearby school to have lunch at 12, and when they were done we took them to the park for 2 hours.  After park time we would head back to Exodus, let the kids change their clothes if they got wet at the park, have snack time, and then head back to the classroom for creative (craft) time.  After crafts we went to praise and worship to end the day where we would sing some songs, have a drama/skit, and have a talk/Bible study.

Wednesday was a little different than the rest of the week, though.  People with grades K-3 took their students to Columbia University for the day, while grades 4-8 went to The New School and to Wall Street.  Friday, our last day working with the kids, I gave a talk to the elementary school kids about how Jesus is the true and better Joseph (our theme for the week was forgiveness, so we were studying the life of Joseph), which I really enjoyed.

My partner and I worked with the kindergarten class all week.  Before going on the trip, I was hoping to work with the middle schoolers, but knowing what I know now, I am extremely thankful for getting to work with my awesome group of kindergarteners.  Probably my least favorite thing about working with that age group though is that it is much more difficult to communicate with them on a deeper level than it is with older kids. 

During the week our pastor encouraged us to make an effort to really get to know at least one kid and to have a meaningful conversation with them about Jesus.  I don’t know how much God used me to minister to the kids in the city, but I do know how much God used the kids and the city to minister to me. 

After arriving at JFK airport on Saturday, we took a bus to the hostel we were staying at.  It was about an hour ride and I sat by myself listening to my iPod, looking out the window at the city and praying.  As I looked out down at the streets full homeless people, moms with children, and teenagers, I suddenly realized how much Jesus loved and cared about these people and about the city.  It was like I was actually seeing people the way God sees them.  This was pretty amazing to me, because I had been to NYC and seen all of these things before, but it didn’t mean anything to me then – my heart didn’t break for the people, but this time it did.

About a week before the trip I had been reading a chapter in Mark Driscoll’s book Vintage Church called “How Could the Church Help Transform the World?”  Here are a couple of paragraphs from it that I want to share:

Sadly, most Christians associate the city with vice, not virtue.  In truth, cities have long been seen as a haven for violent crime, sexual sin, and drug abuse.  But sin is often most clearly seen in the city simply because it is more concentrated in the city than in suburban and rural areas.  As a result, the correlated need for God is most clearly seen in the city.  The rawness of the city makes it exactly the kind of place that God would use to convince people of their need for him.  Furthermore, by revealing the unveiling of a city upon his return, Jesus intends for Christians to love cities in the meantime…. Plainly stated, cities are the most strategic place for Christians and the gospel.  Because government, law, education, healthcare, information, media, arts, sports, entertainment, trade, travel, population, and industry are concentrated most in a city, cities are the foundations from which culture flows.  Therefore, Christians who flee from cities only to complain about the kind of culture that is flowing into the culture from the cities are both foolish and hypocritical.  The answer is for Christians to love the city, move to the city, pray for the city, and serve the city until Jesus returns with his city, from which all culture will emanate throughout the new earth.

Mark Driscoll, Vintage Church, pg. 297-299

So during this trip, there were a few main things that God showed me about himself, and about myself as well.  One thing I became more confident about was the fact that God WILL give us more than we can handle.  Despite the phrase “God will never give you more than you can handle” (which you will never find in the Bible, by the way) that many Christians like to throw around, I sincerely believe that God will “give you more than you can handle” so that you depend solely on him – not on yourself, or anyone or anything else.  I do realize that 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that God will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but that is a little different.  I also learned how much God really does love the city and the people in it, and I think it’s pretty sad that the majority of Christians would never want to live in a city because of its “sinfulness.”  And I learned that when you start to see people the way God sees them – not through the corrupted lens of your culture – that it will change your life.

Here are some more cool pics from the trip…


  

 

What’s on my mind.

6 Jul

Here is what is currently on my mind:

  • The fact that I only have 2 ½ weeks left in my summer statistics class.  While that makes me incredibly happy, it also kinda sucks because that means I don’t have long to pull my grade up.  I will never take a summer class again in my life.  Especially not one where you have to do almost everything online.
  •  

  • I leave for my NYC mission trip in 18 days!  I’m extremely excited.  Really looking forward to working with these kids and all the other people on the team.

 

  • And lastly… I move to App in 45 days!  I’m so ready to move… although not necessarily ready to start classes.  Thank God I will have like a three or four week break between my summer class and fall classes!
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