Monday, February 20, 2012

Chicago Mission Trip: Day 1


Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is about to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.
St. Teresa of Avila

While this is a new quote to me, it is appropriate to my prayers while we were in Chicago. Originally, I "wanted" to go to Chicago to be there for Austin and to experience something special with him - just the two of us. As we got closer to the trip becoming a reality, I realized that if my motivation was simply to "tag along" with Austin and not really do anything other than be a chaperone, maybe I wasn't meant to go. So my prayer during the fundraising part was that Austin and I would be able to raise enough support that we could both attend and not have to worry about the trip financially at all. If that happened, then I knew that I was within God's will to go. If it did not, then it was God's will for Austin to go alone. We sent out support letters to family, friends, and acquaintances. We laid out exactly what the trip was about and what we had planned to do. God made it abundantly clear that I was to go along, for myself, as much as to be there for Austin and as a chaperone for the rest. Not only did we raise enough support for Austin and I to go, but we made enough to send a third person and make a dent in a fourth person! The letters and support flooded in and it was absolutely awesome to see God's power and the way he used our family and friends - and to see their obedience to the Father. God fairly screamed that we were both to go.

We had several fund raisers, but even up to a week or so before the trip we had no idea if, financially, the group would be able to afford the trip as a whole or if parents would have to quickly make up the difference. I continued to abide in Christ and trust Him that He alone would provide the means. One plus we had was that there was never a deadline for the entire amount; we had to make a deposit (which we were able to do), but the rest of the money was not due until we actually arrived at the Dream Center in Chicago. How appropriate that it was literally up to the day that we left that we not only had enough money, but suddenly had a surplus! God was already showing us how powerful this trip was going to be, but many (all?) of us didn't recognize it at that point yet.

I was a nervous wreck prior to the trip. Looking back, I see that it was definitely Satan messing with me - in some huge ways and in other, smaller ways. The day before the trip, the kids were being awful and I was having a very difficult time getting packed and everything ready to go. Much to my dismay {and embarrassment} now, I had the worst adult tantrum ever. It was awful. And like other huge moments in my life, I was ready to throw in the towel and not go. I said it a few times. Thankfully, I didn't let that stop me but for an hour.

I was a little nervous about where we would be staying and knowing what Global Expeditions had told us about the location (it wasn't the safest place - and especially nerve wracking when you are used to a very small town). But one of my biggest fears was the youth. I hadn't been exceptionally involved with the youth in our church up to that point (I was still trying to tell myself I didn't like high schoolers much). Other than the fundraisers (which were fun), I had minimal interaction with many of them and I had convinced myself that they all hated me and it was going to be miserable. Now I know that was also Satan, but wow was I concerned - overly so - about that! 

We all gathered in the church parking lot at about 6 am Sunday morning. Everyone was filled with a nervous energy and excited to get going. Everyone was also surprisingly well put together for that hour! We all gathered around and prayed over the trip, our travel, and each person going. Then we said goodbye to our families, got into the van and didn't look back! 

There was a lot of chatter on the way and everyone had a great time. We were staying in the Humboldt Park area of Chicago - which is a Puerto Rican area. We ended up getting to Chicago earlier than expected. We hung out in the heat for a while and then were able to get together with everyone in the Dream Center office. We waited for what felt like hours, but once everyone was registered, paid for, and ready, they took us to our dorms.  The girls to one and the boys to another. The poor boys went to a hard gym floor to stay for the week - but they had air conditioning. The girls got a pretty nice - but sweltering - apartment. We were about 10 blocks from each other; both in buildings owned by the Dream Center/New Life Covenant Church. We (the girls) actually had much nicer accommodations than I had anticipated.

Because we were the first youth group there and our activities didn't start for a while, we had some time to just hang out in our apartment and relax. It was great and a lot of fun to get to know these girls a little better.

Later in the evening, we had supper provided for us by the Dream Center/church. All I can say is WOW! Every meal they made us was amazing! It was authentic Puerto Rican food (not to be mistaken with Mexican). I discovered I could survive on that the rest of my life! Following supper, we had a service to get us right and ready to go. We spent a lot of time in prayer and I was honored when two of the girls came to me to pray over them. Austin sat struggling through the service and was not really approaching anyone to pray with. I knew that he was close to Dustin (our youth pastor at the time) and began praying that he would go to him. I felt an urgency, so prayed harder, when he suddenly got up....and came to me! It was very powerful to be able to pray over my own son and whatever it was he was struggling with and something I will never forget (it was very different than any prayer I had prayed over him prior to that trip - but not since).

After the service, we were given a brief time of teaching on how to evangelize and the different ways to go about it. Then they had the kids practice on each other. Because it was already pretty late, that was the extent of our Sunday night. We went back to our dorm and relaxed in preparation for the next day.