Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Noon

Yesterday was another full and wonderful day. Teams served in their groups for the morning. The Children's team had a blast helping with the school carnival! The team at Sunshine was hard at work planting grass seed for a new park area and planted flowers along the curbside of the Greenline coffee shop. The Living Hope crew continued organizing the thrift store (it looks fantastic!), working on the apartment, and helped Living Hope spread the word to the community about their VBS program starting next week.

We toured Pacific Garden Mission, one of the largest homeless shelters in the U.S. where we got to learn about their mission and heart for sharing the Gospel and caring for the homeless community. We were then blessed by a message shared with us by CW, the youth pastor for Sunshine. He led an engaging and thoughtful discussion on Ferguson and the issues leading up to that event. CW shared how sin, gentrification, and broken politics all have contributed to the issues we are seeing in the media today providing our students with a new perspective. God is growing and stretching our team in compassion and understanding as well as challenging us with what our own response is as Christians.

We then had a late night treat of Harold's chicken...a must when you're in Woodlawn!

Pray for us today as we will be finishing in our service teams! We will then head for some fun at the lake and beach. Tonight we will have our final debrief and I am praying and believing God to move in powerful ways in our team tonight. Please continue to cover us in prayer. If you would, I would greatly appreciate prayer as I travel and transition to leading our juniors in Guatemala.

All for Him,

Thursday, June 18, 2015

More Stories...

As we head into another insightful night of teaching, I wanted to share with you more stories from our students!

One thing that I took away from today is that Jared was talking about different ways people enter poverty and I always assumed that poor people on the streets were poor because of buying drugs or stuff like that. I realized that there are tons of ways people could end up on the streets and all kinds of people can wind up on the streets -Jacob B

Something that really stood out to me this week was our trip along the “El” talking to strangers. I began speaking to a man who just sat down near me, and next thing I knew, we were talking about local sports and how he didn’t like Chicago teams. He seemed like a great guy and I really enjoyed talking to him. Then he asked where I, along with a couple other Wooddale kids, were from, so we told him. His eyes lit up, and he just seemed super excited about what we were doing. He told us that he was a Christian himself and felt completely redeemed. He told us his testimony after that. He said that he grew up on the South side, when during that time, fighting was what gave you a name. It wasn’t about the violence, but instead, it was just about honor. Therefore, it was no surprise that he got in a fight with a man in a restaurant and tragically, the man died as a result. He was sentenced to 8 years in jail. He had to leave his daughter and wife to go to jail, one of the hardest things he did. Two years in jail, though, a pastor came and preached the Gospel to him. From that point on, he was much happier and studied the word of God religiously. After he told us his story, we were in awe and he gave us many nuggets of wisdom that will change my view on life forever. -Dillon Z

This week I have been given the chance to serve on the Sunshine service team. We have been gardening in front of the Greenline coffee shop that Sunshine runs. We are also working on cleaning out an empty lot to plant grass in order to make a park for the children to come play in. It has been a great experience to serve the people of the Woodlawn neighborhood in this way. It is always fun to talk to the locals that stop by and to see their faces light up when we tell them what we’re doing. Thank you to everyone for all of your prayers throughout this week! -Claire L

The meal share was a really cool experience for me. Even though my group got turned downed seven times, it was still cool to approach the people. We asked a lot of people if they wanted to share a meal with us but they all said that they were too busy trying to make money. However, they did want the meal so we gave it to them and some of the people only wanted the water. So although we got turned down to have conversations, we were still able to pray with them and for them before we went on our way and that was a special experience. -Maddy B

Chicago has been an absolute blast so far! I have been working on the children’s team, and working primarily with a 1st grade class. My partner, Katie S and I have been blessed with an amazing teacher. My kids have shared with me some stories of their home life, including how they have lost loved ones to violence. Even with this, they still are so joyful and genuinely happy almost all of the time. I have had many opportunities to tell these kids about the church that we are staying at and also the love of Jesus. The kids are such a blessing to be around and I can’t wait to see them again tomorrow -Joe M

This week I have been working with kids at the local school. I was put into a 3rd grade class and I had the privilege to work with these kids and share their daily experience with them. The problems that the school and its students face hits me hard every time I walk into it. I have more of an understanding on how Jesus loves us, because of these beautiful kids. It breaks my heart to see these kids with such dreams about going to college and getting an education and knowing they are already at a disadvantage. God has shown me to love them and love the people in this community just as he loves us the broken and helpless. These kids and this experience has grown me in my Christian faith and its something I couldn’t get anywhere else – Abbey M

Last night I heard Joel talk about Chicago’s history and the reasons for the racial and economic differences in the neighborhoods. I learned a lot more about Woodlawn and how it came to be this way. It made me aware that there are still very big struggles that we choose to ignore or just don’t know much about because it’s not our experience. Since it’s not our experience and we have no ties to these people we don’t commonly involve ourselves in their struggles. But that’s what we should be doing…recognizing when others are in need of help and love and coming to their sides. We are in need of loving God’s people more and I hope that’s something some of us can try and change. -Alyssa L

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Today's highlights include Stratified Monopoly, serving in our work groups, another great message from Joel, and thoughtful discussion.

The Living Hope group did an amazing job working on the interior of an apartment that a couple will soon move into! They hung cabinets, tiled the bathroom, and other various tasks all with a servant's heart. The Children's team continued serving in the classrooms. They have immersed themselves into the culture of the school and have touched and been touched by the people in the community. The Sunshine group continued working on the community garden projects. This team is not afraid of hard work and their efforts will have a visible impact in Woodlawn!

Stratified Monopoly simulated economic realities in the U.S which demonstrated some of the financial barriers that continue the poverty cycle. This sparked interesting discussion and provided us with a new view on economic contributors that perpetuate the poverty cycle that we may have not considered before.
Joel again blessed us with his teaching. Tonight, he shared the history that has shaped the economic and racial realities of neighborhoods in the city and suburbs of Chicago. This background enriched our understanding of Woodlawn and challenged us to ask ourselves, what is our response as Christians to injustice.

More tomorrow....keep praying. We feel your prayers. Praise God for what He is doing!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


All is quiet while I write to you from the church as all your kids are sound asleep after another beautiful day in the south side.

Today students continued serving in their work groups at the school, at Living Hope Church, and at Sunshine. In the afternoon, students had the opportunity to share a meal with someone from the homeless community in the financial district of Chicago. Be sure to ask them about was so encouraging to hear them share about how they stepped out in faith to share a meal with someone and hear their story. God is at work in and through our students!

Tonight, Jared shared a message on the question "Why are people poor?" He shared three reasons why a person may fall into or stay in poverty: tragedy, personal sin, and injustice and oppression. He then shared more about the reason the Bible speaks about the most...oppression and injustice. Jared's message challenged and encouraged our students to dig more into understanding God's heart for the poor, what this looks like on the south side, what this looks like at home, and what our response is as Christians to oppression and injustice.

Below are some reflections from our students on their experiences so far.

We are so thankful to be a part of what God is doing on the south side. Keep praying for us.


This trip has been amazing and has opened my eyes to see more about diversity and racism. It’s only been a few days and I am already wishing that this trip would be longer. I have grown in my faith and have become close to the kids that I am working with at the school. They make me smile and laugh when I spend time with them and they have been amazing to work with. My highlight of this trip was definitely riding the “El” train because I made an amazing friend named Bernard. He taught me so much about life, Jesus, and our society, and I can’t wait to see him again in heaven someday.(Charlie S)

One event on this mission trip that really impacted me was the meal share. We talked to a girl named Eliza, she was 16 years old (our age) and desperately wanted to go to school and get a job. This really put things into perspective because I sometimes don’t want to go to school which I now realize was quite selfish. We had already given all of our money and lunches to other homeless people that wanted nothing but that. We were feeling pretty discouraged that we hadn’t had any conversations with people. That’s when we saw Eliza. We had nothing to greet her with but a dollar and she received us with open arms. She sat with us and told us all about her amazing story. The only thing in her life constant enough for her to hold onto was God. This was so encouraging for my faith knowing how much she had been through and how strong she was in it. I will always remember Eliza and her story for my whole life and I am so blessed for the opportunity to hear it. (Laura H)

We have been to serve on the children’s team and we can see the impact not only in their lives, but ours too. Earlier today, there was an award ceremony for the elementary kids that had awards to receive such as perfect attendance, most improved, citizenship, and A and B honor rolls. We were surprised to see a young boy in our first grade class lagging behind with tears in his eyes, arms crossed, and a scowl on his face. At first he pushed us away telling us he didn’t want to talk. We told him we were always there if he wanted to tell us why he was sad. Minutes later he tapped our shoulder saying in a soft ashamed voice “I’m ready to talk about it now.” We immediately got on our knees to comfort him. He proceeded to tell us he had not gotten any awards at the ceremony and felt stupid, as a lot of his classmates were boastfully waving their awards in their air. We told him it shouldn’t affect how he felt about himself and how he should use it as motivation to work extra hard next year to receive one. We hugged him and he kept thanking us for the encouragement. We got back in the room and decided to quickly scribble out an “award” as an attempt to try and cheer him up. We wrote something like “best effort in the class – we will never forget you and you mean so much to us.” When we gave to him, he stared at it for a bit and then we asked if he wanted us to read it to him. As we read it, his eyes brightened up and he began to have tears again, but telling us “they are happy tears!” and hugged us again with a big smile. We had no idea that this little piece of paper would have such an impact on this kid and how easy it was for us to do something small for him, but it made a big difference. It taught us that we don’t have to do something big to make someone’s day better. (Jackie B and Lauren W)

One thing that I took away from today is that after the meal share, I realized that that there are tons of ways people could end up in poverty and my perspective on the poor has changed (Jacob B)

Working in the elementary school on the children's team has given me a new perspective and has changed my entire outlook on my life. I have come to the realization that I am blessed beyond belief. I have come to absolutely love the girls in my class, and I hope they feel the same way. I can’t wait to hang out with these kids for 3 more days and to see what Jesus is going to do in my life and theirs!!” (Sarah D)

Monday, June 15, 2015


What a joy to be a part of what God is doing on the South Side!

This morning we began serving in our work teams. Our work teams will serve together every morning this week. There are three groups this year! One group is serving at one of the local elementary schools and assisting teachers in the classroom. Our students in this group are absolutely loving interacting with the elementary school students.

The second group is serving Living Hope Church by organizing the donations to the thrift store as well as preparing an apartment to be ready for a couple to move in.

The third group is serving with Sunshine Gospel Ministries and will be working on community garden areas as well as clean up of the Sunshine properties and lots!

The groups are listed below so you can be praying for them!

After work groups, we left Sunshine and headed over to ride the "El" train from the South Side to the North Side and back. Students were challenged to engage people riding on the train in conversations, to listen to the stories of others, and to observe. Your kids were incredible. It was such a joy to see them engaging and connecting with people on the train.
Tonight, we enjoyed a time of worship and were again blessed by Joel and his teaching.

It was a wonderful day.

All is well from Woodlawn.

Here are the groups. Please be praying for their continued positivity, their openness to what God is doing, their attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, their health, and their safety.

Elementary School Group

Leaders: Hamdi, Lou, Kelli
Sarah D
Abbey M
Alyssa L
Anna H
Tori G
Lauren W
Laura H
Elle K
Bowen J
Katie S
Charlie S
Riley K
Jackie B
Jake J
Allison H
Ellie E
Elizabeth C
Elise N
Joe M
Jake K
Jonah L

Living Hope Group

Leaders: Jason, Bunky, Dave
Graham T
Chris M
Calvin P
Josiah J
Clayton W
Tim S
Lydia Spr.
Wyatt E
Quinn N
Lydia Sch.
Joey R
Zach G

Sunshine Group
Leaders: John, Kristina, Erik
Claire L
Maddy B
Caleb H
Evan C
Jacob B
Dillon Z
Jeremy S
Nicole J

Sunday, June 14, 2015


What a wonderful first day in Chicago!

We started the day by attending the 8am worship service at Christ Bible Church. Pastor Ford delivered a powerful message that highlighted God's design for family and challenged our students to be obedient to what God's Word says about family and marriage. We were blessed by the beautiful worship music and Pastor Ford's passion behind his preaching!

We then began our site seeing and enjoyed visiting The Bean and other sites at Millennium Park.

Afterwards we enjoyed lunch at Navy Pier...

And then headed to the Skydeck at Willis Tower! We were blessed with an incredible view of the city and students enjoyed a devo time by the Southside windows.

Then we went back to Sunshine where Joel gave an orientation about Sunshine Gospel Ministries and safety. Joel then began what I know will be a powerful, challenging, and exciting dialogue about God's heart for the poor and his heart for us.

We are now at the church where we will be staying for the rest of the nights. Students learned which work groups they will be in and will begin serving in those groups tomorrow morning! We had lights out at 11 and they are all fast asleep.

Thank you so much for your prayers! You can also support us by writing notes in the comments section on the blog! Your note can be specific to your student (which we will read out's so fun!) or a note to the entire team.

Keep praying for us!

Love from the 2015 Chicago Team!


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Hello from Chicago!!

We have had a fantastic start to our week. After our send off this morning, we made great time and had lunch at McDonalds in Tomah, WI. We arrived in Chicago with just enough time to spare to enjoy the sunshine and head out for a walk to Union Station.

Along the way, we ran into a bride and groom who joined our group for a photo!

Ha! So fun. We took more pictures at Union Station,

then headed to Giordanos for some amazing deep dish pizza!

Afterwards, we went to Sunshine Gospel Ministries where we are spending the night tonight. Jared Hamernick, our Sunshine Ministries partner, was there to greet us and get us set for the night. We then had a time of worship and devo time with God. Each student has a devotional booklet they will be working through this week! Some of the students shared with the larger group about what stood out to them from the devo time. Some of what was shared included: "unconditional love comes from God," "Loving anyone different than us is challenging," and " 1 John 3:16-18.

Lights out was then at 10:30pm to get a good night sleep. We have an early start tomorrow with breakfast at 6:45am and then off to Christ Bible Church for their 8am service. We are in for a fantastic day exploring the city of Chicago tomorrow!

Keep praying for us! I'm believing God to do great things this week.

You can sign up to pray for us here:

All for Him

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chicago 2015

We're only a few days away! So excited to head back to the South Side and serve with our brothers and sisters at Sunshine Gospel Ministries.
Cannot wait to see what God will do this week.

Thanks for following along.