Chicago Vision Trip: Days 8-10


We made it back home!  Praise God for a wonderful time together with some wonderful people during the 2016 Chicago Vision Trip!  Allow me to update those who have been following our trip on what took place during the final days of the trip.  On Friday we served again at Pacific Garden Mission sorting laundry, making 100’s of beds in the dorms and serving lunch to the homeless.  We were all very tired and I am proud of our team for their willingness to serve the less fortunate in this way when most of us would have probably rather spent our time doing other things, such as napping.  Friday evening was the final VBS program night and we finished strong.  I was moved during the final time of worship hearing the children, youth, and adults all pour their hearts out to God in worship.  Then, the cleaning and un-decorating commenced.  It was a very late night by the time we finished and we were all exhausted.

Saturday, we debriefed after breakfast and then our half of the group (the Wisconsinites and our token Texan) went to the Museum of Science and Industry.  Wow!  What a cool place!  We split up and visited various different exhibits.  My personal favorite was the German U-505 Submarine we got to tour and learn about it’s capture during WWII.  The mirror maze was pretty cool as well.  Saturday evening we spent several hours sharing constructive criticism and affirmations with each other in the group.  This has often been one of my favorite moments on the trip and again I was blessed to see the youth growing in their ability and to share loving criticism with each other and to build each other up.

Sunday, we attended church one last time with our friends at Christ Our Saviour Church and then packed up and traveled home.  I thank God for 5-hour energy drinks and a good audio book.  We all safely arrived back in the church parking lot by 11:15pm.

Thank you to all who supported us and prayed for us throughout the trip. God worked in mighty ways.  To God be the glory!




Chicago Vision Trip 2016: Day 3

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 3 has ended and the team is tired – at least the leaders are tired.  We worshipped together with Christ Our Saviour Church and then broke bread together sharing a meal in the lower level of their church building after the service.

One of the priorities of this Vision Trip has been to intentionally engage with God and His Word.  We have provided the youth and leaders with a tool to help us all through this process.  The tool is a devotional book written specifically for people on a mission trop.  Michelle found this book a couple months ago in her researching online and we ordered a case of the books.  Each morning we have 30 minutes carved out for the team to engage with God through His Word and through the guidance of this devotional book.  Some mornings we plan to have a group discussion as well, but so far we have focused on having some personal devotional time each morning.

Buy It Here:
Buy It Here:

One of our team members was sick today and others on the team worked together to help care for her.  We appreciate prayers that she will be back to 100% tomorrow and have the energy to love on the children.  You can also pray for our little one, baby Jada, who came down with a fever tonight.  Michelle oversees the vast majority of the logistics for this trip, so pray for her as she cares for Jada.

Pray that we would boldly love on the children who join us Monday evening for the kickoff of our VBS program.

Chicago Vision Trip 2016: Days 1 & 2

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And so it begins, once again!  It is a very neat thing to be back in Chicago for the 3rd summer in a row partnering with Christ Our Savior Church to run an outreach-focused Vacation Bible School program.  The partnership between the two youth groups continues to grow.

Thank you to all the people who have committed to support us and pray for God to be glorified through this trip.  The focus of the Go Fish Guys VBS we are using this summer is all about becoming “glory-givers” not “glory-getters”.  This means learning to seek God’s glory in everything rather than seeking to gain glory for ourselves.

We have chosen to call this summer’s trip a “vision” trip instead of a mission trip for the simple reason that we want to remind ourselves that as Christ-followers we are called to be “on mission” for God at all times in our lives, not just for a week in the summer when we go on a mission trip.  The goal of this trip is for us to better catch God’s vision for loving and rescuing the lost.

As a way of update on the trip so far, here are some things we are praising God for:

  1. Overcoming Vehicle Issue
    • In preparation for this trip, I (Pastor Tony) installed a trailer tow hitch on our minivan so we could haul a trailer of our luggage and supplies down to Chicago.  Shortly into the installation process last Tuesday morning, a rusted bolt broke off and then a few minutes later a second one broke.  A small project turned into a very big project working for several days and utilizing special extraction tools as well as a torch to resolve the issue and finally finish the project Thursday night before our Friday morning departure.  I praise God for the perseverance and for helping me figure out how to resolve the issue so we could safely tow a trailer.
  2. Safe Travels
    • We (and our trailer full of luggage) safely arrived in Chicago at 6:15pm Friday night.  We ate together with some of the youth from Christ Our Savior Church (COSC) began an orientation and spent some time doing a special devotional book we are using during this trip.
  3. Good Progress in Preparation and Promotion
    • Today (Saturday) was a full day of preparation and promotion.  We promoted the VBS in the local community by handing out fliers to several hundred homes having numerous conversations with people we encountered.  The team also accomplished ALOT of preparation in decorating the building and getting the different areas ready (registration, crafts, games, funky beats room, bible teaching, etc.)  After a long, hard, hot day, we treated the team to a local favorite: Mia’s Gelato.  If you are ever in Portage Park in Chicago, we recommend you check it out 😉
    • Praise God for a neat open door last week when my mother-in-law was meeting with a local elementary school assistant principle about a service project providing school backpacks with school supplies for needy children.  In the conversation, my mother-in-law shared about our VBS and the assistant principle asked to make copies of the flier to hand out to families that were coming to the school that very evening.  How cool is it that a local Chicago public school is helping us promote this gospel-centered VBS!

Tomorrow we will be worshipping together with COSC and finalizing our preparation process.



No Breakfast & Bible Aug 10

Empty Plate

There will NOT be a Breakfast & Bible gathering at the Soul Garage on Wednesday, August 10th since we are in Chicago with the youth mission team this week (August 5-14).  Please pray for us as you think about it as we prepare the church for the Outreach VBS we will be starting on Monday, August 8th.

The Breakfast & Bible will resume on Wednesday, August 17th with a new study through the book of Titus.


Lessons From Chicago (Bella Vavra)


In God’s word, we read about all kinds of important things. We learn about fellowship, about discipleship, what it means to be a Christian, and how to show love like one. We learn that through Him we can do anything, and that we cannot depend on ourselves, but on him. On this trip I was lucky enough to see and experience many of these lessons personally, which was not only incredible, but eye opening, and it gave me a deeper understanding of what a Christian life can and should look like.


I got the chance to get to know not only the COSC youth group, but also my own youth group. Going into this trip that was definitely a worry of mine, as none of my friends who I typically talked to at youth group were attending this trip. I was going into this with, for the most part, a group I hardly knew. And yet, this turned out better than I could have ever expected.

Through every struggle we all worked together, critiqued each other when necessary, and held each other up. I believe it brought us together as a youth group, and without it I think I never would’ve gotten to know some amazing people. For example, putting together and running registration turned out to be a much bigger task than I expected, and as a result I was lucky enough to get to know one of our leaders and my partner on this job, Julie, who worked with me and overcame challenge after challenge with me. I found an incredible friend in her, in my roommates Gabby and Josey, and in other members of our team who I had hardly known beyond their names.

1 (1)

Coming together as a youth group also gave me a better understanding of what Christian fellowship looks like, and a huge part of that was the COSC youth group and youth leaders. They were with us every step of the way on this trip, and I can’t thank them enough for everything they did.  They had a youth group that almost seemed like a family, they were all so close. I hadn’t realized a youth group could be like that, but it’s something I would love to have in our own youth group.

1 (3)

Throughout the week we all worked to put together and run this VBS, which often meant early mornings and late nights. It was often very tiring, and I think it’s safe to say quite a few of us found a new appreciation for coffee. However, the whole experience was so beyond worth it.  Working with the kids was so much fun, and getting to be a part of something like this was something I won’t forget. Every bit of work payed off, and gave us all something to be proud of. It helped me to see what we can be capable of through God.

Huge thanks to all my friends and family who supported me on this trip, both financially and in prayer.  And a huge thanks to the leaders who guided us through it all. All in all, it was an amazing trip, and I really hope we get to go back next year 🙂

John 15:12 NIV
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

-Bella Vavra

Lessons From Chicago (Josiah Gander)


The training really helped me with my spiritual growth and how you would share the gospel with nonbelievers and people growing with Christ in the real world.


Leading a kid to Christ was an eye-opening experience because it taught me that there are different stages in becoming a Christian.


And it was an amazing experience watching Christ work in the kids.  Getting to see a youth group love one another was amazing to see also.

~Josiah Gander

Lessons From Chicago (Josey Clark)


I would like to thank you all for your prayers and support throughout this trip. It really meant a lot to have so many people back home praying for us. So, thank you.

While I was in Chicago I learned quite a few things, and grew a lot in my relationship with the Lord. There were many days where I was so tired and worn out. Honestly, the only thing I could do was to lean on the Lord and trust that He would give me strength. And He did.

So whenever a problem came up I would pray about it and try not to worry so much like I usually do. And it really helped my faith grow, along with my prayer time with God.


I loved hanging out with the kids.  Being in charge of photography was a little hard because I would bounce around from group to group.  So, I wasn’t really able to bond with a certain group of kids. But the thing is, by bouncing around I got to see all the kids having such a blast. And that really just made my day, it made my week!

And it made me really proud to see some of the teens step up and help out with the kids and just get things done and it helped me step up and take a lead on something and get it done.

Another thing that impacted me was that Michelle decided to put me in charge of taking orders for everyone in both groups one night, and the cleaning list for a couple of days.  That meant I had to make sure the teens were getting things done. At first it was really hard because I don’t like talking to a bunch of people and especially having to tell them what to do. But after a few days I really got used to it. And I am really thankful that Michelle did push me to go out of my comfort zone because I really needed to grow in that area.  So, thank you, Michelle! 🙂


It was really great to get to meet the people at Christ Our Savior Church and getting to work with the teens of COSC.  It was really amazing having both our youth groups get along so well.

I already miss my COSC family.

I would also like to say how very glad I am to have gone on this trip, and to be able to grow closer with the youth on the team, especially the youth from the Soul Garage.  I have never talked to some of them before and it was great to become so close. I dare say we are all like family now.

– Josephine Clark

Lessons From Chicago (Katie Cox)


The past week at Chicago was so amazing. It was such an eye-opening experience for me, especially since I had never visited Chicago until the mission trip. The first thing we did in Chicago was go to Taste of Chicago. I had never seen so many people in my life. To be completely honest I was freaked out, because there were so many people and so much diversity. It was something that I’m not used to seeing considering that I live in Haugen, WI (population 287). I had to trust that God wouldn’t let anything to happen to me :), and at the end of the night I had a lot of fun. After that, we got ready for VBS and once the week started I thought that I was so prepared for all of the kids and all of their energy. I was wrong. You see, when you get 6hrs of sleep and you are leading 20 kids, you have to trust that God will give you the energy to go crazy for the next 3 hours.I honestly don’t know how I did it. 🙂 It was a lot of fun though.

me and hannah

I was able to have spiritual conversations with some of the kids, and I talked with one of the girls about her baptism. Another girl was Catholic and she shared some of her beliefs with me too. In past Vacation Bible School’s I have never had the opportunity to have those kinds of conversations with the kids. It was so much fun to be a leader and to participate and do all the activities, because who doesn’t wish they were little enough to be in VBS?!


Throughout the week I also got to grow closer with youth from COSC and some of the people from our youth group. A couple of girls that went on the trip with me I didn’t really know, and I am so happy that they went on the trip because I learned that they are amazing people. I felt our youth group grow a lot closer, and I am sooooooo glad that everyone who went to the Chicago trip came. I really got to know people, and I think that that was one of the best parts of the trip. Thank you to everyone who supported us on the trip it was a ton of fun.


Katie Cox! 🙂

Lessons from Chicago


Saturday night at about 10:45pm, we arrived safely (though exhausted) at the Soul Garage.  We praise our mighty God for an AMAZING trip and for what he did in our own group and through us in Chicago!

In the coming weeks, I would like to provide the opportunity for the youth and leaders that participated in the 2015 Chicago Mission Trip to each write their own post about what God taught them through this trip.  So, for those supporters who have been following the blog for the trip, please stick around and stay tuned for this next series of posts.  I think you will be richly blessed to hear what God did and is doing in the lives of our team members.

In the meantime, I will be posting about our Beach & BBQ youth event for tomorrow.  I just wanted to give you a heads up so you don’t disconnect 🙂  Thanks again to all who supported us.  You made an incredible investment in eternity and in shaping the lives of our team members and shaping the culture of our youth group for the future.  Thank YOU!

~ Pastor Tony