Monday, July 27, 2015

The beautiful rollercoaster called life!

Many CSM groups blog about their experience while serving in the city. It serves as a beautiful way to reflect on all that God is doing and teaching. We are grateful for Calvary High School being willing to share their experience at CSM Chicago with us. Does your group have a story to tell? Email us!

How many different emotions, feelings and experiences, ups and downs from one extreme to another can you have in one day!?! Go on a high school mission trip and you will find out pretty quickly!

Our day today was filled with new experiences both positive and negative. So goes not only the rhythm of a youth trip but also the rhythm of life as well.

We started our day with ICE COLD SHOWERS! Those of us who decided to brave the arctic waters the wonderful icy waterfalls could be heard throughout the house as they loudly expressed the awakening shock!

I can't say I totally toughed that one out but did subject my head to the joys of that brisk awakening - yup, I admit, I am a wimp when it comes to cold water!

We made our way to our day site in the morning which was to the Jackson Park Rec Center to help with their summer day camp, which supports summer activities for local children ages 6-12 years old. Today was "beach day"--- Every Monday is "beach day!" Groups are split up into 5 different ages groups with 1 to 2 leaders per group. Our group split up to help out with each of the groups as we played, hung out with and then walked to the beach at Lake Michigan for the day. Our students truly shined and stepped up to offer friendship, fun and mischief as we spent the morning at the beach. I think for most of our team, that would be a pretty great "up" for the day.

After returning to our housing site for a quick change and refresh we headed out into the city for our next adventure.

Our "assignment" was an experience CSM calls "immersion" and involves our students taking on the rolls of leadership among themselves challenging them to put themselves into the shoes of a homeless person by simulating a homeless scenario. Adult leaders were there to take a step back and let the students make the choices on where they were going, following directions, meeting people, making connections and seeing what life is like in the city if you are homeless and have very few resources. (we were able to make subtle guiding suggestions at times we saw necessary but mostly just observe) This experience was vastly different for each of our 3 small groups as they navigated through public transportation to the destination they were given. Some had overall positive experiences while others not so much. Our group of 4 students and myself were given $10 ($2 per person) to find dinner that would feed all of us by pooling the money together. 

Where would you eat, shower, sleep, be safe, connect with people if you were homeless. Where are you welcome, where are you not welcome, how do you get your basic needs met? 

This was a huge "out of comfort zone" task for our students to put themselves into and I have to say that the group of young people that I was with this evening made me so very proud of how they embraced this experience once they got past the approach of being a visitor and having the mind set of checking things off the task list and really embracing the experience.

I stood back and watched as they went from being "separate but together" to really bonding and working together...pooled their money together to buy a meal to feed not only the 5 of us, but 2 young men they met who travel around the country by hopping trains with their 2 dogs. Because the four students opened their lives to these 2, treated them as equals and with dignity...offering to sit down and share a meal with them they shared their stories with us, talked with us and made an amazing human connection with us and prayed with us.

Some of the feelings the students had during this experience were extreme as well. It is not always easy to feel vulnerable or lost. It's frustrating, it's uncomfortable, sometimes even maddening.

The following is a quote from a debriefing conversation with Heather Michel this evening. 

"There is a feeling of defeat, hunger, hopelessness, frustration...that turns to satisfaction in being able to figure out how to make something work."

I suggest any of you reading this blog to reach out to one or more of our students when they return and ask them about their "immersion" experience and allow them to share it with you.

They truly have some amazing and meaningful stories to tell about it and I can guarantee they will be from one extreme to another depending on who you ask and how the rhythm of that experience was for them.

Originally posted on Calvary High School Missions Chicago 2015 blog...

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