Monday, September 25, 2006

Oh those wonderful days of summer...

"I went to NYC with CSM this summer. I had such a great time seeing God
work through me and the mission team I went with. Our group was
fortunate to get two awesome CSM leaders who gave us an awsome
oppurtunity to serve God and others. The main thing that I learned
while I was in NYC is that most homeless have a beautiful soul they
just want to be listened to and know that there opinions counts."
-Katie, Summer trip participant

"I am from Springfield, Ohio, and i worked the team in Chicago this summer. My group had the opportunity to work with Cornerstone Community Outreach, doing a Bible school for the kids there. They were simply amazing. To see the way they cared for their siblings, and to see how interested they were in learning about the Bible was amazing. God truly taught me this summer what a child-like faith looked like, and how to have it for my own. Thank you so much for the work that you guys do to change peoples lives. You are truly a lifeboat for God in a dying world."
-Rick, Summer trip participant

"This summer I went to Chicago with my youth group. It was AMAZING! It was my first mission and definitely not my last! Every morning we worked at Carol Robertson Learning Center with the head start program. Ever since I was a little girl I have always wanted to be a veterinarian when I grow up. But my week in Chicago changed that. Working with those kids was an experience I will never forget. It even changed my career path. I am now going to be an elementary school teacher. After working with those kids for a few hours for five days I got extremely attached to them. It was very hard leaving on the last day without crying. I just recently got the pictures developed and the only things I have pictures of is those kids. I almost cry every time I look at them because I miss them so much! You guys are doing a great job with your mission work. You have changed my life and I'm sure many more."
-Becca, Summer trip participant

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Being a homegirl is what it's all about...

Our group was scheduled to serve at an after-school tutoring program in a Watts neighborhood (in South Central Los Angeles). As we pulled off the highway exit and drove towards our destination, I could tell that our group had just entered an unknown world - filled with gangs, drugs, prostitution. The van got silent and all the students (and adults) just took in the scenery of this wartorn community as I explained how we'd be serving. We were headed to the heart of the chaos - to a church that is swimming against the current. In a community where 30% of all students graduate and 100% are affected by gang violence, they provide tutoring and a safe haven for children and teens.
After an afternoon full of shy "hello"s, timid group members trying to help kids their own age with their homework, and eventually some crazy playtime (with 2 pools and a bounce house!) - the pastor sat our group down to explain their ministry and the challenges they face. The adults and students (actually from the LA area) were able to peer into this world that literally existed in their own backyard.
We returned each afternoon to dozens of smiling faces, ready to learn and play. On our last afternoon there 3 of us group members were sitting with 2 of the boys from the program - trying to help them with their worksheet on counting money. One of the boys (we'll call him "Eddie") turns to us and says (with his million dollar smile) "Who's your friend?" We each ponder the question and say "You are! Why, 'Eddie' - who's yours?" He smiles again and begins to point to different kids in the room "He's my friend...she's my friend....she's my friend...he's my friend...she's my friend...and're my homegirl!" (as he puts his short 6 yr-old arm around one of the girls from our team next to him). It was in that instant that the two worlds became connected, the bridge was built, a relationship was formed and hope was discovered. These kids needed their hard outer shells, but they were just that - kids - on the inside still. They made the statistics we had heard real and the hope of a life changed ever more critical. Our students left not just being more knowledgable about the neighborhood with its pain and hurt, but also knowing that they did and can continue to take a part in giving these kids a future (homeboy "Eddie" included!)

-Sarah, City Host in Los Angeles