Friday, June 24, 2011

See you tomorrow!

It is Friday morning. Hard to believe. We are tired today so if you read this early, we could use your prayers to finish strong. Attitudes are great!

I want to take a second to tell you about our amazing leaders. These leaders are all in! They are diving into the projects. They don't just supervise your kids working but they are digging in along side and I have been amazed! They take every chance to talk to your students, to lift them and encourage them. They are getting to know them and building bonds. I am so thankful for all of them and what they have done this week for the kids and for me and most importantly for the Lord! They are great role models for all of us and you can be so thankful. Thanks to their families and jobs for sharing them with us. God has worked through and in them and it has been a total honor to be with them!

Yesterday was a good day. Work projects are in full swing. The neighborhood Bible study was full of kids and the joy on our kids faces was priceless. They were in there teaching and loving on and playing with those kids! The work crew has been so flexible to travel around and work where they are needed. Yesterday they joined the garden crew and today they will work around the Sunshine offices. The sports camp took their crew downtown to the parks and the New Beginnings team continued to build relationships by reading with the kids, teaching them games and playing as well as helping with math and music. The garden crew is consistently our dirtiest team but maybe the most joyful :) They have really taken ownership of their corner and will leave their mark and the love of Christ.

We heard from a few community speakers in the afternoon. Porsha is a young woman from the neighborhood who grew up at Sunshine. She now attends college and has been our chef this week as she interns all summer. Hers is a story of finding the Lord and finding her way through difficult circumstances and through the generosity and love of God's people. We also heard the testimony of Antwon, a former gang leader but now a leader for Christ. He has many fascinating stories of his life before Christ. What sticks with me is that he explains that he was always supposed to be a leader of men. But it was supposed to be in God's kingdom, not on the streets. God gives us gifts and talents and callings and we have to submit them to him or they will be used to hurt us and others. Powerful testimonies of our loving redeemer.

Then we headed to the beach for an hour of fresh air and fun. It wasn't warm but it was great to be at Lake Michigan. We started by spending a few minutes, each of us alone with the Lord, quiet on the shore. Then there was rock skipping, glass collecting and jumping waves before we headed back for dinner. A much needed pause to breath!

After dinner we went back to New Beginnings Church for worship and the final teaching from Joel. The kids really enjoy his teaching so it was sad to have it end. He showed us biblical examples of oppression and what God says about it. He answered questions and then finished with a discussion on how we talk about these complicated issues. Listening is so important. We can have a tendency to want to explain away tough things or worse, if it is not our experience, we want to tell people that it isn't that bad or they are over-reacting. This is so harmful because it is their story. The best thing we can do is listen and try to understand. When we validate someone's experience, "wow, that must be really difficult" or " i can see why that would make you mad", we let them know that we are listening and they can trust us and we open the door for conversation and reconciliation. When we don't fully listen, get defensive or try to explain it away, we do the opposite.

Some big concepts and new perspectives but your kids are critically thinking and allowing God to move. My favorite part is to hear them share their thoughts after Joel speaks!

A pic of Joel and his wife Paula on their front porch where we eat dinner every night.

Here are a few more testimonies on what this week has meant to them...

"The trip has really been an eye-opener. The difference between my neighborhood and the south side isn't that much. I feel as if they only difference is that there is money in my neighborhood. I see so many homeless people compared to my neighborhood it is disgusting. But it is also a motivator to go out in my own community and help." - Cobi

"This trip has given me a completely new perspective and a new way to look at the less fortunate. The meal share was a really cool experience for me. It really opened my eyes and allowed me to see the homeless in a whole different way. Also experiencing the worship practice completely changed my views on worship as we felt God's presence in the room. I thank God for this amazing opportunity to go on this trip." -Taylor H.

"This trip has been more than I could have ever expected. We were told what would happen but there were so many things that were twice as amazing. The experiences on both the EL train and meal share were at first nerve wracking but they ended up being a really cool way of looking at the city and God in a new light. Walking into the room for our first Chicago meeting, there were many people I really didn't know and now I know most of the people that are here quite well. I've learned many things that I never would have expected about them and I am glad that God put them into my life." - HaileySue

"This week has been eye-opening. As a leader I feel that I have learned just as much as the students. The thing I am most excited about is bringing some of the knowledge from Joel's teaching back home. At the same time I am anxious and nervous about passing on this information in a way that they can see it as we did. The kids have been amazing, being on time, staying together. As a leader we don't have to worry because they have been such a good group." - Eric S.

"This trip has been amazing for all of us! Watching these incredible kids serve with all their hearts and step out their comfort zone has been a blessing to be a part of! We have all been challenged in unique ways through this missions trip and have had to rely on God in many ways, and through all of this, we have grown together as a body of Christ in wonderful ways! God has pushed us to serve together beyond our expectations! What a blessing these kids are and what a God-filled missions experience we are bringing back and living out even more back home! God is amazing!" Kari Halling

"This trip has been ground breaking in that God has broken stereotypes that I had in my mind about the homeless and this community. I thought that people would be mean to me but we are here and I say hi to everyone and everyone says hi back and asks what we are doing and they are so friendly. I feel like I am in my neighborhood, just a little tighter. I used to think that if someone was poor they were lazy and they should get a job but now I know that it is more complicated than that and tragedy and oppression are big causes of poverty. This trip has been ground breaking for me." Cole

There is so much more and tomorrow we will be together. A couple of reminders. We should be pulling into Wooddale at 9am if not a little sooner. Can't wait to see you all there! Reminder that Sunday morning is a celebration service to bring the teams together and you are all invited. 9:45 in the Hillside Room. God has been doing a work and we want to help the kids stay connected to be encouraged in their faith all summer. This Wednesday is Boats & Bonfires. Check out the Senior High calendar for more ways to keep your kids on fire for Christ this summer!

Prayer requests: Please pray for energy and finishing well today. For Bob to rest for our travels. My camera was lost/stolen from one of the teams (it was left and then taken so no one was in danger or pick-pocketed - don't worry!) but we are believing that someone might see the pics and that this is a missions trip and return it. They have all day!

Thank you for your prayers and partnership on this adventure. We have felt them and appreciate you so much. See you tomorrow!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

We can't believe it is already Thursday!

Happy Thursday!

With another awesome day of ministry behind us, the kids are out serving again this morning. It is the first day of the neighborhood bible study where they will finally meet the kids they have been inviting these past few days. One work project is complete and the work crew will be outside working with the garden crew. The sports camp is heading with the kids to a water park weather permitting. Your kids are amazingly hard workers. No complaints! No slacking! We are all so proud of them. Sanding, cleaning, serving, wedding, painting, playing, reaching out. They are an awesome team. God is good and working in and through them!

Continued prayers for good weather, safety, health and open hearts all around are greatly appreciated!

Yesterday the teams had great service days and came home tired but pumped about what they are experiencing. Here are a few pics from the New Beginnings group and one of our accordian playing bus driver, Bob. He has joined the garden team in ministry and is encouraging and loving on all the people that pass by.

In the afternoon we had what is called 'the EL experience'. We get on the EL on the south side and ride it to the north side and back. It is a chance to notice the people in the city, how it changes as you travel as well as to just talk with people. The goal was to listen and learn about people. It was a stretching activity helping kids to get out of their comfort zone and share with people. Each group stayed in their groups of 3 and leaders were spread out among them. It was so fun to watch them smile with people, reach out to people and share God's love with people in different ways. Here is what two girls said about the experience and a story about one of the special people some of our kids have had to chance to get to know this week.

"I found it really easy to talk to people. Before we went on the EL I was super nervous that I wouldn't have the confidence to talk to people. I asked God to give me that extra boost because I didn't want to miss out no this experience. When we got on the train Kelli pointed out a person that I could sit with and it came easy for me to ask him questions about his experience on the EL and why he rides it. And after the first guy it was much easier to talk to people. I learned that people like being talked to and it's easy to talk to people. I just needed that extra boost from God. I would love to do it again. It was a really great experience!"
- Camrie

"I learned that people are pleasantly surprised when you want to talk to them and when you ask about them they are interested in you in return. I met a man who seemed lonely. We talked for a bit and he said he didn't want to talk about religion but then that was all we talked about. He had a very negative experience with Christians trying to force things on him. I told him that I just wanted to hear what he thought about it all. He was pretty upset with Christians and I was struggling to know what to say so I prayed and asked God for help. Then there was a guy sitting behind us and he said, "I am a Christian". He shared about his faith and his church and the first man and I just listened. He had to leave first so I asked the first man what he thought of all of that. He told me that he was confused and I might not understand but someday I would. I felt that God totally put the second man there to encourage me and to help the first man hear the truth."
- Kristin H.

"I am having a great time with the daughter of the leader of our work project, 5 year old Shanti! The first day she was attacking me with paint and she puts worms on my back. She is really polite and a little bossy too. I feel like God has put her there to bring a lot of joy in the day! She calls me "JoJo". I am having fun with her and feel like we have a good connection." - Joe

I wish I could put every story up here but I am so excited for you all to have great conversations with your kids when we return. They are going to want to share so if you can set aside a time to look at pictures and hear the incredible stories of what God is doing you will be blessed!

After the EL experience and another great dinner at the Hammernick's, Sean (one of the Sunshine staff) gave the lesson. It was entitled "The 'Others'". He shared about the way we view people that are different from us as others. A highlight from his talk was the concept that we first look at the world from our cultural or social ideology and that in turn effects out theology (the way we read the bible) which effects out methodology - the way we live. As Christians we must have our theology first effect our cultural & social ideology and then our methodology. Deep stuff - your kids will explain it to you :)

We had some Wooddale time where in a big group we talked through some of these tough themes of race and education. Your kids are so sweet at sharing their hearts, asking tough questions, pushing back on ideas in a respectful and being transparent with their feelings. WOW. Then they spent time in their training groups sharing stories and highlights from the experience in the meal share and on the EL. I love to hear their minds working and hearts changing.

After some silliness we got off to bed to rest for another day. Know that your kids have been great about being on time and going to sleep and following guidelines. A leader's dream!

Thanks again for your prayers and notes. The kids really love when you write. You can comment here or at my email -

Blessings and love! One more post and we are on our way back to you! We both, don't want to leave and can't wait to get back to you all!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I think it is Wednesday :)

Hello Team Chicago!
Thank you much for your prayers and comments. If you are having trouble commenting and want to send a little message to the team, you can email me at

What an amazing day we had!!

We start each day on the bus at 7:30am and head to the Sunshine office for breakfast. From there the different work teams head out to their sites.

Some of the guys from the work crew spent the day hanging doors in the new church. They worked hard and long and are being a great help to Pastor Brad. The other group completed canvassing the neighborhood inviting kids to the VBS and served at another church in the area cleaning and doing odd jobs and little service projects.

The Sports camp kids took a group of kids to the museum of science and technology.

The New Beginnings VBS continued to be with the kids, they helped clean up the church taking care of our mounds of garbage (what troopers)! Tristy is even teaching piano lessons. You have to be creative when their is no working piano but she made it work!

The gardening crew is working so hard - out in the sun - it was a beautiful day but hot hot hot! They are working at two sites and are incredibly hard, joyful workers. Here are a few pictures of one of the sites where they are painting among other gardening tasks.

After work projects we headed downtown for the meal share with members of the homeless community. Your kids were bold and humble and kind. Here are a few words from them about their experience.

"The meal share was sweet, to listen to the person and their stories. It made me feel like in the future I want to talk to other homeless people and try to have relationship with them in Minneapolis because they are in need of help and I can do that and others can do that. This experience made me see that many of them work together but they are still separated. One word that describes it, amazing." - Austin

"Yesterday was really an eye opener. Although our man didn't speak very much I think he enjoyed the company of being with others. But when there was some silence, I would look around at the people walking by and they would look down on him. It really bothered me because why did they have the right to look down on him. We are all made in God's image. But then I thought, well I have probably done that too back at home. It was a cool experience because I think we all may be guilty of that but we are all God's children and we should love one another.Now I have a whole new perspective on the homeless. I always thought that they brought it upon themselves but now I know that I don't know their stories and there are many reasons they could be in that situation. It was a really cool experience." - Natalie

There are many more stories. Please ask your kids to share with you what happened but even more - what God has taught them and how they are changed. Our conversations have been awesome!

I will share a bit from my experience. Kari Halling, Eric Swenson and I met a man named Robert. We sat on the side of a building and shared a meal and talked. He grew up in the church and so we were able to engage in some great conversations about the Lord. He even grew up in the neighborhood where we are staying. When it was time for us to leave I gave him a few dollars for dinner and he held onto my hand and said, "people don't think that I am human. They think that I can't feel". We were able to shake his hand and put a hand on his shoulder and tell him that we see him and that we see that he is made in the image of God and he is loved. It was powerful for us to be reminded that when we walk by and look away out of our own discomfort and misunderstanding, they see it and they feel it and we communicate something that does not extend God's love. We told him about the church we were at and like a great mom Kari had him repeat the name of the church and told them that they would be expecting him. God is good and we are believing for a better future for Robert and all the people that we met. Will you pray for that with us?

Amazingly enough, it doesn't end there! We had a great dinner and went back 'home' for worship (Kari Nelson and Tristy have been leading which has been really neat). Joel spoke last night on Micah 6:8 and how that applies to poverty. He taught us about the 3 reasons for poverty (sin in the world/tragedy, personal sin and oppression/other people's sin)and we dove in to what it means to be oppressed and what that looks like in this community. It was a history lesson complemented by the stories of personal experience and how the Bible has an answer for God's people. Micah 6:8 addresses them all. (act justly - oppression, love mercy - tragedy, walk humbly - discipleship & forgiveness of sins).

Lastly, we had a special opportunity to step in to the church choir rehearsal. Now this was a rehearsal but when they rehearse, they worship. We listened to the worship leader as she encouraged them to stretch themselves in worship to lead others into the presence of God. A powerful word for sure but then they sang and worshiped and we were able to experience God through was powerful!
Here is what one student said...

"The gospel choir was really great to listen to because you could tell that they were just worshiping from their heart and just doing all they could to give God the glory. During that time I thought that this is how we should worship in church. Not just sing the songs but to really mean it. I got a different mind set on what it means to really worship. God is our audience of one." -- Jack

Whew! What a day! We had some time to be together and the kids were lights out by 11:30pm. A great day and a refreshing night. They are up and out there ready for ministry.

Thanks for your prayers. Everyone is feeling good. We ask for prayers for continued good health and safety. For the people we met yesterday to have seen Jesus in us and for his provision for them. Thank you!

Today we have our EL experience and more teaching from Joel.

More tomorrow! Keep those notes coming.

Love and blessings to you from the south side!

Kelli, for all

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday morning

Good morning family and friends!!

Yesterday was a great day! The kids were pumped to begin their work projects and dive into service.

Two of our teams are working with Pastor Brad. The work crew will be helping him clean and build his new church building and one of our childrens teams will be helping to run a neighborhood VBS. Monday both teams helped to get the word out about the VBS. They met the neighbors, invited people to church and canvassed the area. They really enjoyed being in the neighborhood. They said people were really friendly and wanted to talk. They also got to see the space where the church will be and learn about Pastor Brad's vision for the area and this church.

The sports camp group went swimming, unexpectedly. :)But they were ready for anything. Buddy had this to say:
"Today we got to go swimming and we didn't have suits but we (the boys) jumped right in anyway! It was cool how we opened up to the kids and they opened up to us. Now we're buds."
Lucas said:
"Please pray for more kids to show up at camp. The kids were really happy and energetic. So much fun! We put everything we had into them."

The New Beginnings VBS was able to work with 20 students yesterday from preschool to age 14. They are supporting the teachers by playing games, tutoring activities and recess supervision. You could pray for this team for opportunities to take on more responsibility.

The gardening team worked hard yesterday and had the dirt to prove it. Their leaders told me that they never had to be told to work and they were always busy. They are pulling weeds and cleaning up a lot near one of the partner churches.

In the afternoon we visited Pacific Garden Mission. We had a tour of the facility. This is the largest homeless shelter in the US. The tours are given by a person who has come through the facility and is now enrolled in their bible program. It was a great tour and awesome discussion about the different ways to do ministry and how God is at work there.

Dinner at the Hammernick's home is a special time of relaxing and fellowship. The kids are reaching out to each other and being intentional about having real conversations. So fun to be a part of it with them.

Last night Joel shared about Shalom. I'll let them tell you but it was a beautiful message about the way God intended things to be. A couple of powerful ideas from the talk:
We will never minister effectively to anyone that we think less of.
We are all broken. In this neighborhood they just can't hide it like we can in our neighborhoods.

We had an awesome group discussion with our team following Joel's talk and we, the leaders, are super proud of your kids!

I will keep adding pics throughout the day. Keep sharing your comments and thank you thank you for your prayers. Please pray for continued safety. The kids feel very safe and are full of joy. For energy and health and for the kids to remember to drink water! For God to continue to unite us as well as move and change our hearts.

Today we head downtown for the meal share after work projects. We can't wait to see what God will teach us today!

Blessings on you!

Pics from 1 work group

Pastor Brad explains the day.

Mari's new friend!

Sami inviting kids to the VBS.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday morning

Hello Families!

Thanks for your patience as we got settled into our 'home'. We are all set up at New Beginnings Church. This is where we will spend the next week. The pastor and his wife were there to greet us and they are taking good care of us!

The travel was great. Things went very smoothly and as I mentioned, we made good time so had an unexpected stop to Navy Pier to enjoy the lake and walk the pier. Our dinner at Giordano's was excellent. Chicago deep dish is filling! We ended that day at the Sunshine Gospel Ministries office where we spent the night. Sarah from Sunshine, gave us a tour of the space. It was fun to see that last year's work project has been completed and to know that our church had a part in building affordable housing for people in the neighborhood.

We were up early and your kids were amazing. Everyone was ready on time. This is no small feat with 42 people and 3 showers! We attended Christ Bible Church here on the South side. Some comments from your students about the service:
"so much joy in their worship"
"so welcoming and inviting"
"they made us feel that they cared that we were there"
"solid teaching"
We enjoyed a father's day message and our 3 fathers on the trip received father's day hats! picture to follow :)
After church we headed downtown for our "tourist day". We started at Millenium Park and worked our way by the Bean, the fountains and the lake. We had lunch by the river and then took a water taxi to the Willis (Sears) tower. We challenged the students to end our tour day enjoying the views but also to take some time with the Lord and ask him to give us a heart for this city. It was really fun and really special to end our time bridging the two experiences. A great way to change our mindset to start our work projects.
After the Willis, we went to Joel's home for dinner. Joel is the director for Sunshine. Our bus driver, Bob, shared a song on his accordian, yep, based on John 3:16 as an encouragement to all of us.
We are joining with a small group from Tennesse. They have 3 leaders and 5 students and are easy to be with and ready to make friends so that is another fun opportunity for our kids to reach out.
We ended the night moving into our new home, New Beginnings. Joel gave us an orientation - discussing safety (we are very safe and the kids feel safe), Sunshine and it's ministry partners. The students did ice breakers while the leaders met. Then Joel ended our time with his first lesson on God's heart for the poor. He spoke from Psalm 113 and it was a great start and focus for all that God is going to reveal to us this week. One highlight from that talk: if you have a passion for the poor or justice or racial reconciliation or any social justice type issue, but you lose your faith, you will not be able to make a difference. It is God that can sustain us when we dive into these difficult challenges. He calls us to it, and he sustains us. A good word!

Today they head off for their first day on their work teams. I have listed below what team each student is on so you can pray specifically. It is rainy today - warm but rainy so we ask for prayers for a little sun so we can accomplish the tasks and that kids in the neighborhoods will come out to the camps.

Gardening/Service: Maddie, Elle, Kristin H, Jack, Garret, Taylor S, Camrie, Laurel, HaileySue, Joe, Madison, Brooke, Kari H., Sara G, Erik and Eric
Work Crew: Austin, Cobi, Josh, Cole and Dean
Children Neighborhood VBS: Patrick, Jake, Taylor H, Sami, Mari, Chris
New Beginnings Kids Camp: Tristy, Sydney, Audrey, Tyler, Bea
Sports Kids Camp: Laura, Kirstin K, Lucas, Natalie, Alec, Buddy, Dan, Kari N, Alayne

Thanks for your prayers. Feel free to leave short comments and I will share them as an encouragement with our team.

We were thinking of you all on Father's day! You are so important to all of us! Check out the notes below...If you don't see your kid, look for it tomorrow!

Bill Lemmer - Hop you have fun in London. Love you and see you in 2 weeks!

Taylor S - Happy Father's Day!! I love you so much! I could not have asked for a better dad to adopt me!

Sydney D - Happy Father's Day Dad! I love you lots! Thank you so much for everything! I am so glad I have you as a father. Love always.

John Youngquist = Thank you for being such a great example and trying to understand my crazy girly-ness. I love you.

Daniel - Hey Daddy, I love you!

Garret - Have a great day!

Dan Grady - Happy Father's Day. I love you!

Taylor H. - Happy Father's Day Dad! You're the best! I love you!

Laura Cross - Happy Father's Day Dad/Dave! You're the greatest! love you guys!

Tyler - Hey Dad, Sorry I missed it but Happy Father's Day! I love you!

Patrick - Hey Dad, thanks for seeing me off, love you.

Josh - Dad, thanks for truly guiding us in the way of the Lord. I am truly grateful for all of the sacrifices you have done for me.

Buddy - Salutations. Jim, you are such a great father to your children, including me. I love you Jim. Buddy. PS Remember you have a father too. Hebrews 12:5-13

Austin - I love you Dad, thanks for all the support. Happy Father's Day!

Alec - Hi DADDY! do the lights work? oh by the way. love you.

Cobi - I love my Dad.

Madison - I love you Dad! Thank you for everything.

Tristy - Daddy-O. I love you so much! There isn't one thing you can't fix. You are the coolest of cool. Don't tell Lars. Love Squirtle.

Jack - Happy Father's Day Dad! You're a great dad! Love you!

Maddie - Happy Father's Day Daddy! I love you sooo much! Hope you had a good day! Love, Shnipy

Natalie - Happy Father's Day Dad! You're the best dad I could ever ask for! Thanks for everything! I love you very much! See you soon.

Brooke - Thank you for always protecting me, caring for me, and loving me through everything! You mean everything to me and I am so blessed to have you in my life! Happy Father's Day! I love you!

Kristin H. - Happy Father's Day Pa! I love you so so much! Hope you had a good time at Olive Garden! Love!

Joseph - Love you dad. You're my hero.

Kristin K - Happy Father's Day Dad! I love you so much! Thank you for all you do! I hope you got to see Greg, Joel and Kayla today!

Mari - Hi Daddy! I miss you and I love you BUNCHES! You are THE BEST dad out there and you are a super great influence and a person I will always look up to! U DA BOMB! I love you.

Jake - Dad. We drove through the tunnel from the fugitive! Happy Father's Day and thanks for the direction.

Whew! Love and Blessings on you. More tomorrow!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

We made it!

Hello families and friends!

Just a quick note to let you know that we are safe and sound. The kids did great today! We made great time and had a chance to walk Navy Pier before Chicago-style deep dish. We are spending the night at the Sunshine offices. We were greeted by Sarah from Sunshine, had a tour of the building and now we are off to get rest. I will send more details and some pics tomorrow!

Thank you for your prayers and sharing your kids with us. They are awesome!


kelli, for team chicago 2011