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Ministry: RezYouth

Snapshots of Service: RezYouth Missions Trip 2017

July 19, 2017

After spending three days focusing on the idea of "mission on our doorstep" at the Provincial Assembly, eighteen students and four leaders from RezYouth joined fifty others from Anglican youth groups around the country on a mission trip to Chicago.

We partnered with City, Service, Mission, a ministry that hopes to transform students so that they'll make an impact in their own communities. Our students got to know Chicago—the real Chicago, where most people live and raise their families—through service projects and immersion activities in the neighborhoods of Uptown, Albany Park, Lawndale, and more.

In some ways, this wasn’t a traditional youth missions trip. Yes, we went to Chicago in order to serve, but more importantly, we went to learn—about the triumphs and challenges of this city in our backyard, about our diverse neighbors living there, and about how God is on mission through the Holy Spirit to bring justice, peace, and knowledge of himself to Chicago.

As one student put it, "By going in with the primary goal of learning, rather than simply helping someone out, I felt like I actually served much better." And another, "I realized just how human these guys are—guys that I had formerly just labeled as ‘homeless’ or ‘in-need’." Below are two more testimonies from our students. They represent well the impact of this trip on our entire team.

—Will Chester

Gwyneth's Story:

At the conference we listened to many global and local Church leaders. One night, a Nigerian bishop came to talk to the youth about persevering in faith and loving Christ, and he shared his story about how he came to Christ. This was one of the most influential sermons.
After the Anglican Conference, we traveled to a neighborhood [on the north side of] Chicago. One of my favorite things we did was serve at a soup kitchen. All the people were fed with such dignity and grace. Upon arriving, the guest would be seated at a table with fresh flowers. As a waitress, I would come, welcome them, and bring them their food. Bus boys would refill their drinks, and when they were finished, their plates were cleared and they could stay and talk or leave. While serving, we shared the Gospel with them and invited them to our local church plant. This experience was so humbling. It was amazing how kindly the homeless men and women were treated and how much thought was put into serving them.
I also enjoyed an immersion activity we did. Each group was given $3; we then roamed through a chosen neighborhood, talking to people about its culture. With our $3 we bought something to represent the culture we visited. My group of four went to a Middle Eastern town and had a conversation with a 16 year-old Muslim girl and a local shop owner. The store owner showed us his handmade caps, hijabs, and burkas. Once we finished we bought bracelets with our $3. Later we compared and contrasted the similarities and differences of our beliefs.
I learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed the trip. It was such a humbling experience and changed the way I thought about Chicago, Christ, and the less fortunate.

William's Story:

After the Provincial Assembly, we travelled to Chicago for our missions trip. We were in Chicago for a little over three days. Saturday, we helped out at a food dispensary in the morning and then drove back to Albany Park. Albany Park is an extremely diverse neighborhood. Just walking down the street, we saw signs in Spanish, Arabic, Korean, Farsi, Portuguese and Turkish. We went into ethnic stores and stopped at food trucks to talk to locals and learn about their cultures. I could tell that locals were so blessed by us just wanting to learn about their culture from them. After returning for this activity, we went to two different retirement homes to play bingo with their residents. Although most of them didn’t speak English, we could tell that the adorable elderly residents were quite happy to have us there (although, they were very competitive about their bingo and a few of them were definitely making fun of us in Korean).
On Sunday, we went to Lawndale Community Church, a mostly African American church. I really enjoyed this experience and was shocked when, during the sermon, the pastor said that both of her sons had been shot in some gang-related violence. I will definitely be keeping the brave people of Lawndale in my prayers. At the same time, I think I learned that, for all the violence the news shows in the South and West Sides, these are very human communities with normal people inhabiting them (which to me, makes the violence all the more terrible).
From there, we went on an immersion activity. We were each given $2 to find dinner and directions to a neighborhood. The goal was to experience what homelessness and extreme poverty is like in different areas of Chicago. My group took the train to Lakeview. We ended up pooling our money to buy a pizza, which we ate with a homeless man named Ken. Then, we got our dessert in the form of free cherry pie samples from Trader Joe’s. That night, we visited a homeless shelter and talked to its residents. A friend and I talked with a man named Ishmael about books, superhero movies, and the city. This experience was so humanizing, and broke all of my stereotypes about the homeless. I was so blessed to speak with and learn from these people.


To see more photos from the trip, follow us on instagram at churchrezyouth!

How to Celebrate Advent as a Family

December 02, 2016

advent

ˈadˌvent/

noun
1. the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.
synonyms: arrival, appearance, emergence, materialization, occurrence, dawn, birth, rise

Advent comes upon me suddenly every year, and I feel unprepared to provide a soulful Christmas preparation that is not solely baking and hunting for the best Christmas gifts. We end up doing some meaningful things, but I always feel a little harried.

This year I prepared in advance....maybe because it is the first year in many that I am not pregnant or caring for an infant. I thought I would offer some Advent suggestions for all who may read so that you might be jump started to get ready for this amazing season. Now is the time to make a plan and be ready for that first Sunday of Advent, right after Thanksgiving.

Advent is worth celebrating. Advent is considered the start of the liturgical year, as we prepare our hearts for Christ's coming--both in the end of time and in to our hearts more fully in the same way that he broke into this sinful world. A celebration of Advent saves the season from degenerating into a panicked commercialized circus. It reminds us for four weeks that we are not waiting on Santa, but on Jesus.

First, I would ask the Lord, "What do you want to do in me and in our family this Advent?" Then ask him to lead you to resources that will help make your Advent celebration intentional.

—The Advent wreath is a great tradition, partly because nothing quiets children and adults like darkness and a couple of burning candles. The symbolism of Christ bringing light into the darkness is right there before us. You do not need a specific Advent wreath to do this. I just bought a wreath of greens, wrapped a beautiful purple and gold ribbon around it, put four candle holders in the center of it with three purple candles and one pink one. (The pink one is for Mary, but you don't have to have a pink one). You will need a center candle of white for Christmas Day. We have a special table for the wreath, and on it we put a purple cloth we found at an ethnic resale shop. Along with the wreath, we usually put some nativity scene and an icon of John the Baptist, as the one who called us to prepare the way for Jesus. We let different children light candles, blow out the candles, and lead the prayers.

—This year I am going to use this small booklet you can find on Amazon for $1, O Radiant Dawn. It is a FIVE minute daily guide to lighting the candle, has beautiful selections of individual verses for each day and then asks a discussion question (one for older children or adults, one for younger children). It is good to have a short liturgy to do so that all can enter in. This book recommends learning the hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel by singing a verse everyday. You could choose any hymn. We will plan to do this everyday, and if we get in four days, that will be sixteen times around the wreath as a family. I may choose to do this in the morning starting the day, as it is dark where we live when we get up.

—In the evening, we will read a chapter in the storybook, Bartholomew's Passage: A Family Story for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide. The first one in his series is Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent, which we read for a couple of Advents. I will offer that whoever is reading may have to edit some violent scenes of Essenes defending themselves against marauders and such. This is a fiction series but helps place the nativity story in historical context, and we all learned through the story. Children are usually begging for the next chapter every night.

—Another chapter book that brings me to tears and my father has read to all of his grandchildren, as it is his favorite book, A Tree for Peter, by Kate Seredy. Though it is not directly about the nativity, it is all about opening our hearts to love and transformation, and this is catalyzed in the story by a Christ figure. You could also simply choose a different picture book every night. I will provide a list on another post, if you need suggestions.

—I will also be asking my children to choose one person or family who is in need for them to serve in some way over Advent. This could be making a meal, shoveling snow, free babysitting, writing someone who is lonely. I hope this will help pull them away from a self-focused expectation of Christmas.

—I am still praying about my own personal devotional time during Advent, specifically about what book God would have me read for the deeper stirring in my soul as I wait on him.

—A dear friend of ours brings Advent calendars every year for each child. The anticipation of opening each window is an exciting moment every day. Before we had the generosity of this friend, we all shared one calendar and took turns opening windows. This is a great way to build anticipation.

—Advent will also include beautiful music, and I have to admit that we are not liturgically correct and do listen to Christmas music during Advent. But here is a beautiful Advent collection: Birth of Jesus: A Celebration of Christmas by John Michael Talbot.

—And Advent will include baking, making Welsh Cakes for some friends. This happens throughout Advent with different children helping me on different days as they learn the family recipe and method. Then we all have fun packaging and distributing them.

—Try Joni Eareckson Tada's book of hymns that comes with a C.D. and a story about each hymn: O Come All Ye Faithful: Hymns of Adoration and Joy to Celebrate His Birth. This is a great book to work through over Advent, especially if your family is musical.

Many people use the Jesse Tree figures which you can google and download. These are figures that tell the story of the Scriptures over the whole of Advent and are a great way to review God's work in history leading up to his coming. You can find paper downloads and have children color them. I have a dream of felting these figures someday to hang on a tree, but that would mean getting ready for Advent in January, and I haven't yet gotten that good.

I hope that as you wait on God as to how you should live into Advent you will be able to see it not as a heavy burden, but as a tool through which to open your hearts and your homes to God's light. Remember, do not let perfection rob you of what God could bring. It will rarely be perfect or rarely what you imagined. But it will be full of life and laced with the presence of God himself.