Saturday, 28 July 2018

Friday Fun

The Museum of Science and Industry treated us very well today! We learned lots of neat stuff and had tons of fun doing so.

The fun continued into the evening, when we walked across the street to Water Tower Place for dinner and dessert. 

The seniors put on a moving last worship, as they bravely and lovingly shared their testimonies with us. They have some extremely bright futures ahead of them!

Haley Ables wrapped up the mission trip traditions for us, when she passed down the infamous Cheese Danish to Sam VanMeter. She witnessed his light all week long when he enjoyed all
service activity and volunteered to take part in everything. The night ended with more card games and dance parties. Merry service trip to, and to all, a good night!

Friday, 27 July 2018

Thankful Thursday

As crazy as it sounds, we've made it through our last work day! It was a whirlwind in the best way possible. Students put their all into their last volunteer shifts as they sorted donations, packaged meals, played with children, and picked up beach trash. 

Following work, we had a special evening, as the summer staff from Fourth included us in a closing worship. Some students from the last small group even got to take part, making some additions to the schedule and leading their own activity. We reflected on Matthew 5:14-16, and how we have seen and brought light to Chicago, as well as how we can continue to shine once we leave. Students recounted memories from the week in which they saw and felt light, whether it was broadcasted by the people they served or the people they served with. To further express their gratitude and love for one another, they participated in a moving group activity. A small portion of the group took turns going around to the rest of the group laying one or two hands on either the other person's shoulders or head. Each hand and position had a different meaning: you are my friend; you mean a lot to me; you have made an impact on me; you play an immense role in my life. You could definitely feel love in the room. 

The love carried us through the rest of the night as we had Cookies with Ken, played card games, and dance (yelled) along to our favorite songs. No better way to end the last work day! Looking forward to our day of celebration tomorrow, as we head to the Museum of Science and Industry. 

Thursday, 26 July 2018

West Virginia Wednesday

Day 3 can sometimes be a rough one: you're more tired than you were the day before; perhaps you're achy from all of the walking and working. Your body is used to the schedule at this point, so it's easier to fight it. Yet despite all of this, our students absolutely seized the day! 

Groups worked with diverse groups of Chicago residents and organizations today, from senior citizens to day campers, and food packages to organic gardens. During devotions tonight, the leading small group asked students where they saw light throughout their days. They came up with this idea after learning that Fourth Presbyterian was built in it's specific spot with the purpose to be The Light in The City. 

One student saw light when she was spending time with an elderly woman with dementia. While her memory was not what it used to be, light shone through as she was able to make connections with a new person. When time rolled around to leave, the woman started to well up, saying she wished she didn't have to leave. 

Similarly, another student got to know another senior citizen at a different residential place. They also enjoyed their time together so much so that, when the group had to move on to another worksite, the citizen took the student's hand and wanted to hold on. The student said she saw light in her new friend and was humbled to have had a part in helping it shine. When it was time to let go, the friend said, "I'll hold you with my hand open". 

One small group got their namaste on with some of the day camp kids that come to Fourth each day for an arts based education during the summer. They saw light in the kids with whom they made fortune tellers and practices yoga. The kids were beyond excited to play with them and show off their stuff, and their light quickly spread throughout the room to create an enjoyable time for all. 

After talking about all of the moments of light from the day, the group wrapped up their worship with the only song appropriate to bring everyone's light and spirit out: Bring Me Home Country Road. 

The theme of light continued through the night as we walked down towards the lake to see the weekly firework show put on at Navy Pier. Group C (pictured below) wrapped up our initially weary Wednesday with quite a bang!

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Totally Tuesday

Day number two was one for the books! Students worked hard all day long, and they again reflected upon the things they saw and experienced. 

Throughout the day, our small groups of students sorted food donations at a food pantry; unpacked and bundled donated clothes and supplies for families with infants to young children; cared for a community garden; and picked up another beach. During our devotional time, the leading small group encouraged the rest of us to consider the impact that our work had on the organizations and communities within which we volunteered. They reached the general consensus that while their jobs could seem small and sometimes incomplete, they're all working pieces to a bigger picture. They don't have to do it all; they just have to do the best they can with the gifts that they individually have. Here's to continuing to recognizing and appreciating the little things and the big impact that they can have!


Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Monday Funday!

Monday Funday! Our group split up to tackle the morning in three groups. One group journeyed to Montrose Beach to pick up trash and recycling. The organiztion we worked with also asked us to take tally of the items we picked up, so that they could conduct research on the kinds of objects washing up. One student said that it seemed to her that "people don’t even realize the impact of one piece of trash. If you’re not kind to your world, it affects others."

A second group started at Fourth Presbyterian to sort donation and make sack lunches to hand out at a shelter nearby. A student reflected on the donation sorting process realized how complex of a process the giving/taking of these objects can be. "There was a lot to go through, so it felt good knowing that we were making a little bit of a contribution."

The third group went to Casa Central, a community center within a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood. Senior citizens from the community come to Casa Central to interact with each other and maintain physical and mental activity. Students played dominoes and other games with the folks there, and while there was a bit of a language barrier, they appreciated how the clientele tried their best to include them in this new place. 

After lunch, we returned to Fourth for a chat with Pastor Joe and an activity with the summer staff. Pastor Joe enlightened us about the unique, diverse communities of Chicago. His personal experiences with the various people and their cultures helped to give us a mental picture of what we might be able to expect throughout the rest of the week. Our perspectives were further educated through an activity that the summer staff led students through: a homeless simulatuon. Students were given various backgrounds (family, origin, monetary, job training, etc.) and different documentation. The goal was to gain housing. Only one student was able to achieve that goal, and while many got close, everyone experienced the same frustrations. Here's some of the insightful things they said:
--That was the worst game I've ever played. It felt like everyone was against me.
--It seemed unfair because everyone had different circumstances and privileges.
--The hardest part was having kids. I had to take care of them while also trying to wait in line all day for these documents.
--Some of the government officials were difficult to work with. It felt like they didn't understand.
--It was like people weren't seeing me, cutting in front of me and only worrying about themselves. 
--There was a collective "no" when they were asked if they think it's easy to get out of experiencing homelessness. 

All of these Day 1 Experiences, followed by discussion and contemplation during small group and devotion, mixed together to give us a great picture of what Chicago does and can look like, from various perspectives. We're excited to continuing learning and giving of ourselves to help this magnificent city tell a brighter story. 

Monday, 23 July 2018

Safe Arrival in Chicago

We have successfully and safely touched down in the land of Chitown! We got to know one another, along with the summer staff working here at Fourth Presbyterian, chowed down on some Chicago-style deep dish pizza, and assembled  our cots for the weeks’ slumbers.

Looking forward to a full day of work and fun tomorrow!

Friday, 13 July 2018

BOS 2018

The BOS (Burger of Service) originated in 2009 in Elkhart, Indiana, after an interesting adult grilling experience. A patty fell between the grates and became completely charred, but it did so much more than burn: it flavored the other patties above. The adults decided to award the BOS to a student who had a similar effect on the rest of the group: someone who worked hard and was a great team player. It is passed down each year, and tonight, the 2017 BOS, Noah Stubbs, awarded the new BOS with this coveted title. The tenth holder of this title takes home the actual original burger to its eighth home. We congratulate and celebrate Connor Buckley as the 2018 BOS! 

The BOS Family Tree
2009 - Claudia Benz - Elkhart, IN
2010 - Zak Aker - Louisville, KY
2011 - Ben Higgins - Indiana University
2012 - Olivia Benz - Hanover, IN
2013 - Alex Reese - Indianapolis 
2014 - Mary Stafford - University of Illinois
2015 - Nathan Higgins - Olney, IL
2016 - Sam VanMeter - Cincinnati, OH
2017 - Noah Stubbs - Purdue University 
2018 - Connor Buckley - Crawfordsville, IN