We began our day with a listening prayer exercise. Each team member sought the Lord’s guidance for the morning’s work. We then regrouped by teams to share what clues we had received. The clues were our literal directions. We spread out through Philadelphia praying for many, offering donuts, Slim Jims, poptarts, and encouraging words.
This treasure hunt and the other prayer exercises challenged everyone. Our emotions ranged from frustration to overwhelming joy. Team members who felt the Lord’s guidance shared their experiences with great anticipation of God’s continued ministry. Those who heard little or nothing waited quietly. The AIM staff reminded everyone that the goal is not some super-spiritual, mystical experience. Our Lord reveals Himself to everyone…through Scripture, one another, creation, dreams, even a burning bush! For everyone willing to actively participate, the prayer exercises offered time and space to hear God’s voice and to respond.
Our final day at VBS and day camp flowed smoothly. Our students finished strong with skits about Jesus walking on water (one of my personal favorites!), songs (Pharaoh, Pharaoh…Oh baby let my people go…yeah yeah yeah yeah…!!), games (too many to name), and coloring crafts. Many tears came (even outright weeping by some VBS children) as our students said “good-bye”.
The park day camp concluded with a hot dog cook-out. They too had had a full afternoon of ministry. Children climbed on our boys three at a time! The girls talked and played showing overflowing love to the children. They were all immensely patient. We watched one 14-year old girl, who came to know the Lord this week, blossom before our very eyes. From a withdrawn, somber child on Monday to an engaging, smiling active 8th grader, the Lord revealed His transforming power.
Once again, though, the brokenness of the neighborhood crept into the afternoon. Some young boys ambushed one of our groups walking day camp children home. Our adult leader and students broke up the fight. The boys followed continuing to grab at their children, shouting profanity, and frightening the kids. We’ll share the full story at the missions potluck (August 15 noon). For now, know that the Lord filled our adult leader with wisdom and a tremendous sense of God’s peace. He truly defused a volatile situation.
A word about our adult leaders… wow! Their love for the Lord and the students was abundantly clear this week. Sleeping on air mattresses in cramped quarters, minimal or no a/c, a mere six hours of nightly sleep, complete change in diet and routine, ever changing days’ schedules, surrounded with students always…and all while maintaining the patient and loving attitude of Christ. The adult team needed to respond to students’ questions, support the changes and encourage students. They had to drive and parallel park 12-passenger vans, remember the first aid kits, skip a shower so a student could get one before lights out, no email, limited contact with family, feeling at a loss for words when hearing students’ struggles, wanting to heal the pain and woes of our mission site, cutting construction paper crafts, repairing the game parachute, finding ever-wandering water bottles, collecting team members (again and again), waking up deeply sleeping teens (and telling them to go to bed!)…and stay in the Word and pray pray pray. Thank you, Lord, for working in and through our adult team! We are blessed.
This final afternoon of our urban short-term mission project offered one more opportunity to serve at The Rock ministry. Don and several students shared their gifts of music. They taught and worshipped with teens from the neighborhood. Powerful experience for all!
Our final debrief was both emotional and spirit-filled. Students and adults shared from the heart about the ways they were touched by God: one student who so clearly saw God will never doubt God’s existence again, one of the graduates challenged students to stay connected to God through the Word and prayer and CPC, many students tearfully expressed a brokenness for the children and families in Philadelphia, students thanked their leaders and one another, many shared their new hunger for prayer and ministry. We clearly saw God bring purpose, joy, and encouragement through the evening.
Our team returns with hearts broken for others. The Lord gave us His eyes. We ached for the pains of poverty, addictions, and homelessness… some of us even feeling physically ill. We sought to reach out to the needs of children, teens and adults.
He created “people eyes” in us.