Chicago Vision Trip 2016: Day 4 & 5

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It is the end of the night on Tuesday, August 9th and we have now reached the half point in our trip.  We praise God for what he has been doing in and through us.  Here is a recap of what we have done over the past two days.

Monday morning we traveled from our various host homes to Christ Our Savior Church in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago.  We ate breakfast and then spent some time doing individual devotions using our “On Mission” devotional book.  Following that we traveled to the south side of Chicago to Pacific Garden Mission where we served from 10am-2pm.

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We mostly helped sort bedding and prepare beds for the several hundred homeless men that stay there overnight.  We ate lunch in their cafeteria and following lunch, half of our group helped serve lunch to the homeless people that came there for a meal while the rest of us finished making beds in Dorm A, B, and C.  At the end of our time there we were given a tour of the facility by Darius (who works in Hospitality and found himself homeless only about 6 months earlier). Afterwards, we returned to the church to finish prepping for our first evening of VBS.  Preparations were all going quite well….until the power went out in the building around 5:30pm.  We checked the breakers thinking that we were simply using too much power with all the components and lights we had drawing power.  We were wrong.  The breakers were not tripped.  I called the local power company and learned that 4,089 customers in the area were experiencing a power outage due to an unknown issue.  The estimated restoration time was 7:45pm.  Our VBS was supposed to start at 6:00pm.  In the busyness of us depending largely on our own plans and abilities to make the VBS happen, God taught us to to come to Him in full dependance.  We spent some time in prayer seeking God and leaning on Him.  We prayed that the gospel would still be made known regardless of what happened with the power that night.  Fortunately, we already had planned to serve the meal outside and everything was set up for that when the power went out.  So the meal went on without any problems.  We made a plan B to at least start the VBS outside.  We finished our remaining preparations and then praised God when the power came back on around 6:25, which was about 15 minutes before we planned to have the program start.  The rest of the evening went quite well and everyone had a great time.  Just under 30 children participated including some families from the neighborhood.

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Tuesday, we had scheduled a longer time in the morning for breakfast, individual devotions, group discussion on what God was teaching us so far through the devotional book, prayer, and debriefing from Day 1 of the VBS.  It was neat to see the youth sharing some from their hearts about what God was teaching them all.  After lunch we went to the park called Portage Park where there is an olympic sized swimming pool and some nice grassy areas.  Some swam while others played ultimate frisbee and others relaxed in the shade.  Day 2 of the VBS went quite smoothly and the team did a great job.

Thanks to all who are praying for us.  Please pray that the children understand the gospel.  Pray that more neighbors from the local community would join us in the remaining days so even more may hear the gospel truth.

 

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 (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 (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! 🙂

Lessons from Chicago

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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

Chicago Mission Trip Day 7

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Wheaton College Tour

It’s late Friday night/Saturday morning, but the following is the post I was unable to finish from Thursday night due to a dead laptop and power cord left at the church.  

Thursday, July 16th

Another day and some more great ministry and relationship building. After VBS this morning, we had Pastor Josh (youth pastor at COSC) and Erikka (youth leader at COSC) share about their experience at Moody Bible Institute.  We had a great conversation tonight in the van as we were driving back from Wheaton where we did a college visit and met up with our friends who recently returned from Israel.  Our friends shared about their experience teaching at a Christian school in Jerusalem where the students are predominantly Muslims.  The conversation in the van touched on the topic of becoming a more united and more close-knit youth group.  There were a number of the youth that vocalized a strong desire to see the Soul Garage youth ministry become more united and loving and inclusive.  We talked about how we can work together to make this happen.  I am excited to see where this goes.

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Moody Bible Institute Presentation by Pastor Josh & Erikka

 

Chicago Mission Trip Day 2

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Saturday was a long hard day of getting things ready for the VBS program.  The day began before 6:00am.  We ate breakfast at Shilas Restaurant in the Portage Park neighborhood where the church is located.  The food was great as was the service.  But more importantly than how they treated us was how our team is learning to live intensely local (meaning, learning to be intentional about connecting with people in our relational sphere of influence for the intent of building a relationship, having spiritual conversations, sharing the good news about Christ and spending time together).  Our hope is to eat most mornings at Shilas and build a relationship with the owner and employees and start to see opportunities for having spiritual conversations.

Following breakfast we began unloading and setting up.  Some of our group walked around the neighborhood handing out fliers letting families know about the VBS.  Going door to door to talk to strangers was a stretch for some in our group, but they did it with a positive attitude.  The church was cooking food for the neighborhood and had rented a bounce house.  Several of us had the opportunity to greet and visit new people from the neighborhood and hclp COSC build local relationships.

After a long day of setting up and prepping, the church building is getting closer to being ready for the arrival of the children.

We had some great time together as a team and connecting with the youth and adults at Christ Our Savior Church (COSC) today.  It is a joy for me to see the youth connecting with others in our group and others from COSC.

We ended the day with a great Middle Eastern meal at Naf Naf Grill in Skokie and ice cream from a Filipino ice cream shop called Village Creamery.  It was a sweet ending to a sweet day.  Tired, but filled with joy at the opportunity to spend time with these amazing young men and women and see them serving the Lord together as a team.  Praise God!

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