Saturday, 30 July 2016


Hello everyone and welcome to the final post of the week! We enjoyed a fantastic day of seeing "Finding Dory" come to life, along with many other aquatic animals! As the day sped by, we then had a nice dinner at the Food Life restaurant inside of Water Tower Place! We returned to the church and recapped our week of love, friendship, and service! Our seniors ended our night with an inspiring worship and we are sad to see them off. However, we are anticipating the next chapter of their lives almost as much as they are! 

Traditionally, "Cookies with Ken" is a detox time before bed where the group can share conversation while enjoying a few Oreos and potentially gain life advice from one of our favorite volunteers Ken! Tonight, Lainey Slack awarded Olivia Benz with the who knows how old, burrito for her incredible service and wonderful presence on this trip. However, everyone one of these students has done that as well! 

We want to thank you again for your thoughts, support, and prayers throughout the week! Please continue that as we are traveling home tomorrow morning! 


Friday, 29 July 2016


My apologies for keeping you on your toes for the past two days and not posting! It has been pretty busy around here, but in the greatest way possible. We have had a great couple of days that were completely full of love and service! We have been everywhere from parks, summer camps, Inspiration Corp., homeless shelters, and of course Fourth Presbyterian Church! We have also been touched by all of the people that have stepped into our lives this week!

As we have completed the final work day, I cannot fathom the amount of respect I have for these students. They have put their hearts and souls into this work week and sure have shown it. I cannot believe the growth I and the rest of the leaders have witnessed this week. The students have grown in their faith, their relationships with each other, and I think Ben Higgins might have grown a couple more inches as well :)

We are looking forward to having a fun day at Shedd Aquarium tomorrow and enjoying each others' company for one more full day! Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers, and support throughout this week!


Wednesday, 27 July 2016


We had a jam-packed day full of service and great company! The students did very well in the morning and we were able to make it to breakfast by 8:00am. We quickly ate and prepared for the rest of the day. The leaders of Fourth Presbyterian Church kindly split us up into two different groups and sent us to different sites. 

One group traveled to a park to play all sorts of games with younger kids during their summer programming. These children attend Fourth and are apart of this program to give them something to look forward too while they're on break. As the program serves lunch, it might be the only meal the students receive all day. 

The other half of our group stayed at Fourth and learned about an organization called A New Life for Old Bags. For some of the families that have been apart of this trip in previous years, this may sound familiar. Four years ago we visited a retirement center where we cut plastic bags and tied them together to make 'plarn.' (plastic+yarn=plarn) With this plarn, volunteers help crochet and create a bed mat for those who may be homeless or are in rough situations. Today, we were able to do this conveniently in the church blaring some throwback music and having a great time! We were proud to witness the students’ mow through the plarn in about 3 hours. One of Fourth's interns, Elaina, even had to go find more plastic bags! After they accomplished this task we gave them the option of joining the rest of the group to play with the younger kids, or to take a stroll around the river walk. The boys chose to play with the kids and the girls chose to walk with some of our leaders! Later, we grouped back up to help Norman organize Fourth's pantry. They use this pantry to make meals for those in need. Norman explained that in one day, they will make and serve 600-800 sandwiches! It was an amazing opportunity to help make this an easier task for them. 

Everyone grouped back together in the late afternoon to have a little bit of free time. The students played a variety of card and board games and enjoyed each other’s company. 

As usual, we ate dinner and ended the night with small groups and worship. These were both a mix of emotional and humorous conversations. We are very eager to see what God has to bring into our lives tomorrow as we have a very busy day once again! 


Tuesday, 26 July 2016


Today was a wonderful day full service and friendship! We started the morning by fueling our bodies with a nice breakfast together. (Us leaders love to witness the change of pace in the mornings as the week goes on.) We continued our morning by discussing homelessness with Katie, the woman running the service group programming at Fourth Presbyterian Church. It helped the students conceptualize the challenges of the those who we come in contact with, will be facing. After a fun ride on the L, we arrived at SOS Children's Villages. 

"The village consists of twelve family homes and four duplexes, which house children and SOS parents. The village can house up to 90 children. In addition, another 24 homes are in the process of being built for moderate-income families through the Chicago Department of Housing’s New Homes for Chicago and will round out the scattered site community. The village also has a director's house, administration building and playground."

At the village, the students helped an amazing woman named, Meg, clean up their garden. They did a variety of things including zip-tying tomatoes, pulling weeds, and even playing with a little boy and our new best friend, Big. Some of the students left the site early to go home get cleaned up, and head to another site called the Inspiration Corporation.

The Inspiration Corporation is an amazing place that serves meals to those in need. It works as many college meal plans do. They are given 20 points on a card and they can use them in whatever fashion they would like for a month. Inspiration Corp. serves breakfast; dinner, and they hand out sack lunches as well. 

We finally ended the night with much-needed showers and a nice spaghetti dinner. As one group prepared an amazing worship, the rest of us split up into groups as well to wind down for the night. We read and discussed Jonah 1 in small groups.  During worship, we discussed our day and what to think about throughout each upcoming experience of the week.

It was wonderful watching the students interact with each other today, as they were friendly and worked as a team. They really seemed to express the joy they felt through the hard work they accomplished today. We are excited to continue through the week and witness the amazing things God has to offer for us and of course help us collect all of our strength to offer what we have to these incredible people we will soon serve! 


Monday, 25 July 2016

Arrival - The Windy City

We made it!

After an uneventful bus ride and getting through stadium traffic for the Coldplay concert, we arrived at Fourth Church. We got to meet our team of people here that are on staff for The Urban Youth Mission program and they gave us the ins and outs of what our week is going to look like.

We got to have a huge dinner together of Chicago style pizza (the best kind) and salad, and the city immediately lived up to its name with a nice thunderstorm to welcome us. After dinner we got to have a short time of opening worship for our week together in the fantastically beautiful chapel, led by a pastor here at Fourth.

Tomorrow we're looking forward to our first day of work together!  Please pray for us, that we would be healthy and safe this week, and that we might have our eyes open to what God has in store for us.

Friday, 1 July 2016


The BOS (Burger of Service) originated in 2009 in Elkhart, Indiana after an interesting adult grilling experience. Since it has been awarded each year, and subsequently lived in the respective winner's freezer for a year.  Tonight the 2015 BOS, Nathan Higgins, AKA Tiggins, awarded the new BOS with this sought after title. The eighth holder of this title takes home the actual original burger to its sixth home. We congratulate, and celebrate, Sam VanMeter, as the 2016 BOS! This is also the first year we've had three BOSes on one trip! 

The BOS Family Tree
2009 - Claudia Benz - Elkhart
2010 - Zak Aker - Louisville 
2011 - Ben Higgins - Indiana University
2012 - Olivia Benz - Hanover
2013 - Alex Reese - Indianapolis 
2014 - Mary Stafford - University of Illinois
2015 - Nathan Higgins - Olney 
2016 - Sam VanMeter - Cincinnati, OH

WYSIWYG 2016 Day 4

And we have completed our final day. We were able to sleep in a little and begin our day with some play time in Smales Park! It was a beautiful start to our morning to get the students excited for the rest of the day. We then traveled a quick 4 minutes to The Shelter House where the students were very helpful as ALWAYS! They were split up into two groups. One group helped Miss V cook dinner for the residents while the others handed out snacks and talked to the residents as they were waiting. We all learned a lot and very much enjoyed having the opportunity to listen to their stories. To reward the students for all their hard work and dedication, we went to Washington Park where they passed the football around and played a few card games. The best part was running through the splash pad which made the car ride to shower feel somewhat damp. We left the YMCA and went back to the church to cook dinner and chill out. We enjoyed a nice n' fancy pasta dinner ft. Chicken and meatballs. Special thanks to Chef Eric! For student, Claire's, birthday we celebrated with mustaches and cupcakes! But the fun sure didn't stop there. We were graced by the presence of group two's wonderful devotion ending with a lantern send off. The students wrote their thoughts on what they wanted to give to God in order to receive what he would like to give back to them. This tied into our theme of the week, "you have to give seconds before you get seconds."

As we end the week, we all think about how thankful we are for each other and God's everyday gifts. We are all very proud of these 18 students for the hard work they have completed , the relationships they have built, and the progress they have made. We are sad to end this journey in Cincinnati, but cannot wait to witness it continue as we get home and go on with our everyday lives. We are praying for a safe ride home tomorrow! 

~Annie Merritt~