Sunday, March 24, 2013

one city, two worlds...

I'm sure it's like this in every city, but rarely do we have our toes in both worlds.

Last week, however, Marc and I ventured with a team of RUF students to Chicago for a Spring Break mission trip to the southside of the city.  (yes, the place with one of the highest murder rates in the nation)  We've taken students on this trip twice before, and it's been life-changing for them and especially for us.

But since my sister lives in a suburb just north of Chi-town, I decided to throw both kids in the van with  the students and we all made the 12 hour trek together.  (Crazy!, I know, but hey- this is how we roll, kids, so get used to it...)

Our students weren't the only ones there.  About 130 college students from several RUF's across the nation teamed up for this trip, so it was a good opportunity for our students to meet other RUF students among other things.  You absolutely MUST read this very short, yet brutally honest account from one of the other campus ministers about this invasion of predominantly white college students to the southside.

Go ahead.  Click on it, and then come back here.  I'll wait.

Wasn't that great?

There's nothing like an inner-city mission trip to show you your own sense of white privilege and entitlement, eh?

So, okay, back to what I was saying.

Typically when you hear about the southside of Chicago, it's most often about how many murders per capita are occurring there.  It's what the news tells you, and it's the place where people in the suburbs are taught NEVER to go.  So understandably, it's difficult to think that anything good and godly happens there.  Naturally, we look at the poor and the downcast, we hear of the gang violence and shootings, and we think, What good could come from THERE?

But it's such a contrast to actually GO and get a much different picture.

Thankfully God's kingdom goes beyond the borders of our suburban fear and into the heart of our cities!  Our students got to...

  • See that God is truly at work in the southside of Chicago and see firsthand the what the churches there are doing day in and day out. 

  • See that brokenness is just as much present in the suburbs, though often hidden by economic resources.

  • Experience and appreciate the food, music, and warm community of a very rich, but different culture than their own as they served in schools and helped out with work projects. 
  • Gain a sense of the diversity in God's kingdom, and catch a vision on how we can be bridge builders to the cities in which we live.

Fascinating stuff, right?  (Well, it is to us, anyways!  This trip and this ministry of Sunshine has definitely impacted us in our decision to adopt transracially.)

One city, two worlds.

Urban and suburban.

We'll start with the urban week of Marc and the students...

Here's a scene one of our students snapped of beautiful downtown Chicago on their night out.

This is the mural across the street from Sunshine Gospel Ministries, their host for the week.

Cool fact:  Everyone that works at Sunshine also lives in the neighborhood.

Here was the breakdown... each day in the Southside was divided into three parts.

1)  The first part of the day included service projects.  This (pictured above) is what Marc got himself into- sanding drywall and painting a church that is ministering alongside of Sunshine in the neighborhood.  (Looks like snow inside, huh?)

Many of our guys worked in the basement of an abandoned building that Sunshine is rennovating, digging irrigation trenches and stacking bricks all week.  (now that's really fun...)

This building will eventually become a coffee house, apartments, etc.  What a literal picture of how God takes our broken, wretched hearts and transforms them into works of beauty!

Other students from our group spent time in the southside schools, tutoring students, helping out in classrooms, etc.

2)  The next part of the day was about being exposed to what's happening in the city.  One day the students found homeless people and took them to lunch.  Another day (pictured here), they rode the train from the southside up to the suburbs, seeing the difference in demographics the farther north in the city they went.  Another afternoon, they toured the largest homeless shelter/ ministry in the United States.

3)  The evenings consisted of worship and a time of teaching.  (Pictured above is one of our students, Will, leading the music for the group.)

Our students all came back talking about what an impact Pastor J and Joel (the director of Sunshine) had upon their worldviews about the poor and about the city.  I love seeing our students wrestling against stereotypes and ideas they have grown up carrying, in order to see more clearly how Christ's kingdom spans across culture, race, and class.  This trip is awesome!

Here was an exercise the students did after their time of training:

"The Poor Are..."

And I loved this answer one of them wrote.


The final evening included a hip hop concert.  (Very fun for the students, as you can imagine!)

We can be praying for our cities, that God's glory would shine forth in them.
God is at work in the city!

And here is a snapshot of the other world where I spent the week... (to be continued)
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