Lessons From Chicago (Bella Vavra)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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

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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 (Michelle Nord)

2 Kinds of People

I was once in a Beth Moore Bible study where Beth talked about two kinds of people.  She said some of you are not getting involved in serving your church and you need to step up and get involved.  Then, she said others of you need to step back because you are in the way of allowing someone else to step up.  Her comment for the second type of person really struck me because I am the kind of person who always steps in and gets involved.  I never thought about my over-involvement as preventing someone else from serving.  This lesson was lived out during the missions trip to Chicago.

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Although the youth had not been very involved in any pre-arrival preparations for the VBS program, the plan was to assign them all to specific roles and have them prepare their own areas.  My goal was to entrust the work to the youth, rather than do it myself.  Sometimes there was only one way to complete a task and I just had to provide the instructions.  Sometimes, there was an end goal, with no specific plan of how to accomplish it.  I would talk through ideas with the youth and have them come back to me once they came up with a plan.  There were many times when I had to force myself to walk away and allow the youth to take the lead, even if it might mean failure on their part.  I had to step back so that I wasn’t preventing the youth from becoming the responsible, mature young people that they are capable of being.  This was not an easy thing for me to do!

In some ways, my other challenge was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to step back in many ways.  Being 8 months pregnant, there were many times when my physical condition required that I sit down and rest.  DSC_0075Not only did I have to step back to allow the youth to step up, but I had to sit down and put my feet up.  I couldn’t micromanage them, to make sure they were doing their tasks the way I wanted them done.  I had to trust that they were getting the job done.  Fortunately, the One who called them to serve on this team is FAITHFUL and it is He who equipped and sustained them through a busy, challenging, and exhausting week!

Unlike many VBS programs I have been apart of, where the youth were merely junior helpers or assistants, in many ways, the youth were running the program.  Sometimes there was an adult helping out, but other times it was solely on the youth to make sure their part of the program ran smoothly.  I was so proud to watch them rise to the challenge and become leaders along the way.  I am so glad that God enabled me to step back and get out of the way, to allow another generation of His followers to learn how to become leaders in His church.

I want to share two examples of how the youth grew in maturity during the trip.  Every day after the VBS program was done, we would gather together for lunch and spend some time debriefing how the morning had gone.  This gave the adults an opportunity to guide the youth as they were taking on the responsibilities of running the program.  It also gave the youth an opportunity to both affirm and critique one another.  Instead of being frustrated or complaining/gossiping about things that didn’t go well, we had a forum where frustrations could be voiced in a constructive way, with the goal of improving the VBS program, not tearing one another down.  On top of that, the youth and adults also affirmed one another in what was done well.  This was probably one of my favorite times of the day, listening to the youth build each other up with encouragement and praise.  You could see in the faces of the youth how much the peer affirmation meant to them.

DSC_0232The second example was one evening while we were debriefing in the van about the day and decided to stop and pray together for some specific requests.  I know many of the youth are not comfortable to pray out loud in front of others, but the majority of them not only courageously prayed aloud, but their prayers were a reflection of their maturity and spiritual growth.  I was blessed to be apart of that corporate prayer time.

This missions trip to Chicago was a blessing to so many – our team, Christ Our Savior Church, and the children who attended the VBS. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us financially and through prayers!

~Michelle Nord

Lessons From Chicago (Josey Clark)

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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.

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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! 🙂

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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 (Nathan Kaus)

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I had thought the cost was too much for us to be able to pay and that trying was going to be the worst part, but then Pastor Tony shared many ways in which we could pay down its cost.  So we took him up on his suggestions.  Later, in one of our final meetings, he passed out updates.  When I read my little slip of paper, I was shocked with what came in!  That is when I thought about what I have learned about God: He can provide!

Now, I was apprehensive on going because I had no idea what the host families would be like. Would they be nice? Would their kids be disrespectful to us? But, I learned that they were VERY generous and their kids were VERY unique and interesting… in a good way… especially the “tablet kid.” 😉 They listened to their parents and respected them. They loved sharing their ice cream and food with us! They were good examples for me because I myself struggle at that point: in not listening when I have been told to do something right away by my parents and teachers.

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When I was in Chicago, one thing that I really had trouble with, and not just while there, is patience. Some example include: when we driving to Chicago in a cramped truck, when we had arguments in the truck, in traffic, etc. But the biggest trial, that really frustrated me, was during game time with my first rotation of kids; for they would get so crazy. They would run all over the place and not follow the instructions. They wouldn’t even play the game, but just go and do their own thing or ruin the course for the other groups who would be doing it after them. It was really hard to calm them them down or get them to listen.

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I also learned that prayer is real.  I prayed to God during game time and when I went to bed to give me patience for when the kids were acting crazy. Sometimes, in the crazy days, I would always ask God to help me with the kids in how to deal with them and to also give me ideas for filler games because I was the one in charge of leading them all week.  As the week went by and as I was doing this, I became more aware that I wasn’t getting as frustrated with them and had begun to have more fun with them.  I also see that since I have been home, I have had more patience.

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When I got home from the trip, after all the excitement and fun, I realized that none of this would have been possible without everyone’s prayers and financial support for me and my mom. Thank you so much!IMG_2233

Nathan Kaus

Lessons From Chicago (A.J. Kuhrt)

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This being my first missions trip and also my first time in Chicago it was a blast!  Without the support of family and friends, my participation on this trip would not have been possible.

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I believe God called me on this trip to use my technology knowledge and make Backstage With The Bible a ton of fun for the kids and leaders.  My patience was also tested!  Everyone knows that with technology nothing goes as planned.  I was in charge of setting up and giving people tasks to do. Me being quiet, I am used to being told what to do not telling others what to do.  This was a challenge!  Starting out the week with only three and a half hours of sleep made the first day of VBS a challenge for everyone.  We were able to push through and get some more sleep throughout the week.
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Every night after the girls got dropped off we (the guys) had reflected on the day.  The first couple of nights it took some getting used to.  As the week progressed for me I was able to share some deeper thoughts with the group and Tony about where the youth group is going and things I could do to make youth group more exciting!  God really opened my eyes to guide me to be more involved in the youth.
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The thing that really opened my eyes is Tony and I were talking when we went to down town Chicago and he brought up that we pass hundreds of people everyday that are not Christians and we don’t do a thing about it!  We are not sharing the Gospel to our brothers and sisters and at least give them the chance to hear the word.  We live in a world that revolves around ourselves.  We need to stop thinking about what people will think of us and start living out what we believe in.
Thank you for everyone who supported us on the trip!  This VBS would not have been easy without all of your support.
A.J. Kuhrt

Lessons From Chicago (Julie Kaus)

Long Days?  Late Nights?  Early Mornings?........No Problem :)
Long Days? Late Nights? Early Mornings?……..No Problem 🙂

“I’ve never been on a missions trip.” “It’s too much money; I cannot afford it.” “Who would want to give money for me to go?” “I don’t want to disappoint them!” So many doubts raged against my desire once I heard and felt God’s call/nudge for me to join the group going to Chicago. But then came the reassurances from friends, my family, and God’s still, small voice, saying “If God has called you to go, He will provide…” and He did… in abundance! He taught me that truth: if it is His will, He will bring it to pass in my (your) life. (Proverbs 3:5)

Going on the trip… I felt a strong urgency, not only to pray, but that God would preserve and give me a servant’s heart to step out wherever the need or opportunity. I also wanted to have and practice having intentional spiritual conversations and have the courage to reach out to strangers to share with or show God’s love to them. God does answer our prayers and made that continually evident.  “Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15) Saturday morning, when we received our “marching orders”on all that had to be done in preparing, creating, setting up, etc. caused panic and the sense of being overwhelmed and pulled in many directions inside of me. All of a sudden, I felt drawn to ask Emma and Beth, two precious COSC women who happened to be there, to pray with me for this endeavor and I confessed my feelings to them. Not only did God’s peace come over me, but a bond was established between the three of us. Those prayers were later answered that afternoon as Bella and I laboriously discussed groupie assignments with the pre-registrations, check-in procedures, and record-keeping. It felt like a huge mountain that she and I were climbing together, but through the struggle, I learned better how to communicate, share in this task, but even more so: to trust in [Bella’s] ability to take the lead and follow her suggestions. I learned how to empower her in successfully handling these tasks. As a result, I was blessed to get to know this special and dear young lady more than just as one who came regularly to youth group.

Preparing the Registration Table with Bella

God gave me opportunities to talk: with a former homeless man, two women on the subway train to/from downtown Chicago, a mother and a grandmother from the neighborhood while VBS was taking place.  He broke my heart as I saw beyond the exterior of individuals into the inside where their lost, hurting souls were crying out for love and acceptance. A couple conversations were on a deeper level, a few were simply friendly conversations, but all were with individuals I was drawn to; for whom to specifically pray, and I can still see their faces… Through Pastor Lito (Pastor Paul Guimary), their youth pastor (Josh) and Pastor Tony, I learned how easy it is to slide into a spiritual conversation, whether or not it ends with the person acknowledging their need for a Savior and coming under Jesus Christ’s authority as their Lord. I am eager to continue looking for these opportunities. 🙂

Visiting with a mother from the community.
Visiting with a mother from the community.

It’s one thing to talk about God’s power with His strength being given to us and made perfect in our weakness; however, when it happened personally, it took on a much deeper meaning. We were getting pretty tired by Thursday and on Friday afternoon, but we were not done with VBS.  I was close to tears from exhaustion with all that I had been doing and was bunchy (with no one around, thankfully!). It was for both of these times that God spoke to me the night and morning prior, as well as when it hit me: “‘Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6) And,“I can do all things through Christ, Which gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13b). As I cried out to Him softly for help, He turned my focus off myself and onto the team goal of helping others and getting the task done. I love helping others and I have learned earlier this summer that our tests and trials come from within our strengths.  I had been telling the youth to keep pushing through their tiredness and here I was in the same boat! I realized that I could not (cannot) rely on my efforts, strength, and abilities, but on the Holy Spirit.

As a follower of Jesus, having a prayerful and submissive heart to God are vital. I experienced that when I was and am in this position. This posture also brings an awareness to what God is doing (opportunities); responding to His invitation results in realizing that THAT is when life is becomes exciting, rewarding, and has meaning. 🙂

Thank you to everyone who supported us through prayers and your financial gifts. Thank you to the parents who supported allowing their children to be a part of the team for each person was a valuable member of the team, whom I enjoyed getting to know beyond youth group on Wednesdays,  I am eagerly looking forward to the next opportunity, Lord willing. 🙂  May God abundantly bless each of you!

Sincerely in Christ,

Julie Kaus

Youth Leader and Mother

Lessons From Chicago (Kaylin Kargus)

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I learned many things on the missions trip. One of the main ones was respect. Filipinos are very respectful. They obey those who are older them without question, even if the person is a sibling! One of the youth at COSC I looked up to was Pricilla. Whenever she wasn’t doing something she wouldn’t sit around and wait to find something to do, she would get up and ask if she could help with anything. She was very patient (which I have very little of), and caring.

The boys I also found were also very respectful. If I ever need help with the VBS kids during snacks, the boys would help me clean and read the lesson reviews when I had a sore throat.

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Coming back home I realized that the kids here have little or no respect for those who are in authority over them. I feel that after this trip I have lots more respect for my parents, if they tell me to go and do something and get up right away instead of arguing with them.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.”

Kaylin Kargus

Lessons From Chicago (Katie Cox)

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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.

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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?!

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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.

Sincerely,

Katie Cox! 🙂