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.
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.
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!