Friday, June 08, 2012

The students are coming!

Here ends the second and final week of training.  On Sunday evening, I will meet my first group of students and will officially begin my hosting duties.  In general, I am excited to finally get to spend time with students and plug them into ministries in the city.  I learned this week that I will mainly be working at By the Hand – Cabrini Green, an afterschool and summertime program for students in first grade through high school.  BTH invests in its students holistically over time – mind, body, and soul.  By providing tutoring and extra academic help, issuing prescription glasses to students who do not pass eye examinations, and helping students form a relationship with Jesus through Bible studies and worship, BTH works toward a goal of getting all of their students into college and developing competent adults.  My location in Cabrini Green is a very low income neighborhood, which was once marked by public housing high-rise towers, but is now marked with homelessness (thanks to the Plan for Transformation – I’ll explain in the next paragraph.)  I will primarily help with the summer programming at BTH during the day, as well as take my groups to various homeless shelters and food pantries in the evenings.  Here is a video that paints a picture of what BTH does: 

I have spend a lot of time this week practicing giving my prayer tour.  Basically, a prayer tour is a tour of a part of Chicago in a van which features a city host (me) describing the history of the area while the students pray for the area.  The tour I lead is in the South side of the city – an area that is predominantly black.  Chicago used to use discriminatory policies to keep blacks in certain areas, and we can still see those effects today.  The South was also home to many of the largest housing projects in the city.  Now, most of the projects have been torn down because of The Plan for Transformation, a city policy aimed at spreading out poverty.  However, the city’s plan to build new low-income housing after tearing down the projects failed when it ran out of money.  Despite this, public housing continued to be torn down and in doing so, left 25,000 people out of homes (that is a figure from just ONE of the many, many projects, the James Taylor Homes.)  The South side is not all low-income, though.  In fact, there are a lot of really nice areas on the the South side.  On my tour, I pass Barack Obama’s house and Jessie Jackson’s office.  We also go through Chinatown and Bronseville, the former Black metropolis of Chicago and home to famous jazz artists, Bessie Coleman and Louis Armstrong.
All of the emails, comments, thoughts, and prayers and very encouraging!  I am definitely being energized in Chicago; God is teaching me a lot and making my heart break for some of the things that break His heart.
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