St. Louis Mission Trip – Day 5

St. Louis Mission Trip – Day 5

 

Today was our easiest physical day.  We began the morning at General Assembly (the national governing body of our denomination) for a communion worship service.  Most of our group was amazed at the different cultures that were represented in the worship service.  We had someone read in French from Isaiah, prayers in Spanish, a brief passage from 1 Corinthians in Farsi, Call to Worship in Korean, and so many more languages.  When we prayed the Lord’s Prayer, we were instructed to pray in our heart’s language out loud.  It was wonderful to hear the many, many different languages being spoken!

 

During the afternoon, we engaged in a conversation about race.  We tried to put ourselves in a different perspective in a passage from Mark 5.  The same story was heard from four different angles and each group had to immerse themselves in the story, seeing it from their perspective.  After this frustrating exercise (everyone wanted everyone else to understand and agree with how they were feeling in the story but people had a hard time thinking about others), we discussed the events of Ferguson, where Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer.  We talked about how the group exercise that we had just completed was an example of how life is: we are all living the same human existence, but we see things from different perspectives depending on our circumstances.

 

After dinner, we returned to General Assembly to see how our national level does its business.  While the time we spent was not the most exciting, it was good to see how votes were taken.  Advisory Delegates and Young Adult Advisory Delegates first vote to give their opinions and then the delegates vote for the official vote.  The two votes we witnessed were both easy votes and unanimous votes (one was to approve someone continuing the job he has done for the past several years for another term and another vote was to rearrange some things on the agenda).  We heard reports from the Presbyterian Publishing Cooperation, Board of Pensions, Loan and Investment Program, and much more.

 

We ended our evening with a wonderful devotion led by Sydney and Josey.  They asked one question (how are women treated different today than they were in Jesus’ time) and we had discussion for more than an hour.  We talked about dress codes, women’s fashion, the responsibility of guys to control how they act, rape culture, and so much more!  Then we closed out discussing Jesus meeting the woman at the well and how that broke cultural boundaries.

 

We are on hump day, the middle of the week, and the exhaustion and lack of sleep is really beginning to show.  Please continue to pray for us as we head out tomorrow for a morning of work, an afternoon of site seeing, and an evening of the Hands and Feet Initiative celebration!

St. Louis Mission Trip – Day 4

St. Louis Mission Trip – Day 4

 

Day four of the mission trip was long.  Really, really long.  We began at Mission: St. Louis, as part of a massive cleanup effort.  There were a couple hundred volunteers working to clean up the neighborhoods around Mission: St. Louis.  Our group was walking around picking up trash while other groups were cutting grass and making the area look better.

 

Our group, along with our new friends from Virginia, walked around in the St. Louis heat picking up trash and trying to help make the area better.  Several residents who saw us thanked us for our efforts.  On the return back to Mission: St. Louis, we had a local reporter interview us about what we were doing.  (As soon as we find the link to the article, we will post it.)

 

We must have collected at least 20 large bags of trash in our several block walk.

 

After lunch, we went to General Assembly for the first time, where we participated in a march from GA to the St. Louis’ Justice Center.  The march was a protest against cash bails, as that usually impacts those without the financial resources to get out of jail.  The Presbyterian Church (USA) raised over $47,000 to bail minor offenders from jail.  Some of these offenders were in jail for traffic violations and other minor misdemeanors.  As part of the rally and march, we learned about how Philadelphia and other cities are doing away with cash bail for minor offenses.  The new District Attorney in Philadelphia proposed a plan where there is no cash bail for 26 minor offenses.  It is estimated that of the 6100 people in the Philly jails, about 20% of them are for bail related issues.  Following the new DA’s plan, at least 10% of those will be set free until their trial.  Six hundred and ten people would be able to go home to their families and continue to work until they are given a proper trial.  The cash bail system punishes those who do not have the resources to get out of jail, essentially saying those people are guilty until proven innocent.

 

The people who were bailed out were most likely happy to be able to return home.  They came from a prison called The Workhouse, where there is no AC nor heat.  Rats and roaches have infested The Workhouse and the food the inmates are served usually is not fit for animals.

 

Our evening devotion was filled with plenty of discussion about what it would mean to release those people with minor offenses and how Jesus would react.  What would Jesus think about cash bails?  What would Jesus think of setting the prisoners free?  What does Jesus tell us about how we should deal with the captives?  These and many more questions filled up our over 90 minute discussions.

St. Louis Mission Trip – Day 3

St. Louis Mission Trip – Day 3

 

Awakened by a beautiful sunny day, we were up and ready to go. Our cooks sent us off with a wonderful breakfast and it’s amazing to see everyone helping out in the AMEN house to get us on our way as the youth are well into doing their clean up rotations for the week.

 

One of the things I have noticed is that our youth are starting to ask a lot of questions about serving here in anticipation for the week. Who will we see…what will we do…who will lead us….all great questions. My hope is they will see God in themselves, and help others to see him through their service. As adult leaders, it was encouraging to see them work today preparing for tomorrow to touch someone’s life in a Christ like way.

 

Out in groups, some walked the streets passing out flyers announcing the work project tomorrow and many met neighbors while also getting to know the other youth groups here from Virginia. The homes we passed speaking to the history of the area from once prosperous to now many sadly in decay. Some worked with the leaders of Mission: St. Louis, getting ready for serving food tomorrow, and others worked sorting and gathering the tools and equipment we will put in our hands so we all are ready to start at 8:45 a.m.

 

The youth seem excited to get to know the other youth here on mission from a group of churches from Virginia. Some of them we will meet up with again when we go to Montreat later this summer.  After dinner tonight, they hosted us at their sponsoring church as we brought in ice cream and played nine square and sardines. (Please ask us about it when we get back). It was difficult saying goodnight because they were having such a good time but we will see them again tomorrow at the worksite.

 

As the days ends…the youth discuss their day with stories to tell and more questions. What does the Bible say about…? Fill in the blank…good works…faith…Paul…other religions…the questions continue as their minds and hearts awaken.

 

As we go out tomorrow please continue to pray for the youth. That they continue to grow in their conviction and carry God’s spirit out into St. Louis.

 

A reporter from General Assembly came and wrote an article about the work we were doing at Mission: St. Louis.  Check it out below:

 

https://www.pcusa.org/news/2018/6/18/youth-say-amen-hands-feet-initiative/

 

by Karen Bohlen

St. Louis Mission Trip – Day 2

St. Louis Mission Trip – Day 2

 

We made it.  We finally made it.  It seemed like forever in those awesome church buses, but we finally arrived in St. Louis.  The Amen House that we are staying in was originally built in 1913 and has been added on over the past 100 years.  We have been warned about plugging too many things into the sockets at once and overwhelming the electrical grid.  How will these youth survive without their electronics?

 

We found a wonderful park that we played four square and ultimate Frisbee.  The park is huge, spanning several city blocks and we had a great time running around.  Unfortunately, Adrian turned his ankle in the game because he is so good.

 

We begin our mission work tomorrow, serving at Mission: St. Louis.

 

Please continue to pray for us as we hope to be the Hands and Feet of Christ.

St. Louis Mission Trip – Day 1

St. Louis Mission Trip – Day 1

 

We left from the church this morning to begin our trek to St. Louis to participate in the General Assembly’s Hands and Feet Initiative.  We are excited about how God will use us this week as we represent not just Sardis but the Presbyterian Church (USA).

 

Today was uneventful, though our drive took much longer than anticipated since there was construction on several stretches of the interstate that slowed us down.  We did not make it to the Artisan Festival in Nashville like we hoped, but we made it to our hotel with no problems.  Now time to hopefully get some rest and continue our journey in the morning.

 

Please pray that God will use us this week and that we will open our hearts and minds to be instruments of God’s justice and love.

The Great Escape – Day 5

The Great Escape – Day 5

 

This is the last day at The Great Escape.  It has been fun watching our young people wrestle with their faith and ask some of the tough questions.  Some have made friends and some have grown closer to our own youth.

 

Hopefully everyone who participated in this year’s conference has had their faith stretched and grown.  Time will be the test that determines if that is the case.

 

Today was the infamous Crud Day, where we play in yuck (literally the absorbent stuff found in diapers), snot (a gooey substance that resembles, well, snot), shaving cream, and colored powder.  Everyone had a great time getting messy!  Unfortunately we did not get as many pictures as we would have liked, but the nature of the mess meant no one wanted to bring their cell phone to the party!  We did manage to capture a couple pictures, so we look forward to posting those at a later time.

 

Tomorrow, we travel home.  Please pray for safe travels for us.  And please pray for the experiences that helped to shape us through this week continue to benefit us!

The Great Escape – Day 4

The Great Escape – Day 4

 

I’ve had many people ask me why I enjoy working with middle school students.  Today was a perfect example of why.  We had such highs hanging out together during the afternoon’s Ultimate Sports Challenge as we literally cheered on our friends as they were playing chess.  Yes, I was “shushed” a couple times, but I was going all out for our youth as they played chess.  I even became a commentator for one of our youth’s game.  (“As the knight slides into place, the other pieces around it are getting nervous, until they realize the movement path of the knight.  But standing next to a big, stinking horse can’t be fun!”)TGE Lee 2018 359_729.JPG

 

We came in second and fourth in the soccer tournament, did well in the badminton tournament, and placed third in chess.  Everyone participated who wanted to and everyone had a great time cheering on our friends!

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The laughter and fun continued during dinner as we were all cutting up and enjoying being in each other’s company.

 

Then during the evening program, everyone went outside to spend some time in prayer alone with God.  Four hundred and sixty middle school students were all silent and spent time in prayer with God.  It was an amazing sight to behold!

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Then during our discussion following the evening program, the youth showed such love and support for each other as they shared what was on their hearts and minds during the prayer time.

 

These middle school students are some really special youth.  And they truly care for each other and share in each other’s joys and pains.

 

This is why I love working with middle schools students!