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: Day 6 & 7

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Praise God for two more great days in Chicago loving on children and their families at VBS.  We spent an extended time Wednesday morning doing devotions and wrestling through a passage of Scripture together and praying together.  I’m sure that for some of the students, this was a stretching experience since it was over 2 hours long altogether.


During the afternoon we worked on a service project together filling backpacks with school supplies which we plan to deliver on Thursday to a local elementary school that is located a couple blocks away in the Portage Park neighborhood.  We split into teams and one team wrote cards to go into the backpacks, another team prayed over the backpacks and the children and families that would be receiving them, and the third team assembled the backpacks with their school supplies.  Please pray that the relationship between Christ Our Saviour Church and William P. Gray Elementary School that just began will continue to grow and that God will provide open doors for the Gospel and additional opportunities for the church to be a blessing to the local public school in the name of Christ.

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Our third night of VBS went well.  We have debriefed each morning and it is neat to see the team working together to improve each night.  The water games were a big hit since it was very hot and humid.  Kids love the Funky Beats Room where they get to play on bucket drums and learn different beats each night. The skit team has been doing an amazing job acting out the story and engaging the children showing the contrast between the Glory-Giver and the Glory-Getter.  The worship song leaders are also doing a wonderful job leading us all from stage.  As always, the kids really enjoy making the crafts.  We had over 30 children attend Wednesday night and a number of adults stayed to watch the videos we have offered for them while the children go through the various stations.  The first two nights we played a couple Louie Giglio videos and starting Wednesday night we began a video series by Francis Chan on the basics of Christianity.  Pray that the parents would grow through these videos as well.

Thursday was “Sleep-In Thursday”.  This provided some much needed rest for the team.  We had brunch at the church provided by the COSC youth group with a few Filipino components. Then we went to the park to do our devotions and did some swimming and played ultimate frisbee before heading back to the church in the afternoon to prep for the Thursday evening VBS.  It went well again. We just finished visiting with our host family and watching some of the Olympics together.



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.


Chicago Vision Trip 2016: Days 1 & 2

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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.


Brunch & Bible: Week 3

Image Source:
Image Source:

Since we are having a great adventure with Wisconsin Johnson for Maranatha’s Vacation Bible School this week in the mornings, we are changing our Breakfast & Bible to a Brunch & Bible just for this week: Wednesday, July 27th.  We will meet from noon-2:00pm.

All youth going into 7th grade through just graduated are invited.  We will be looking into chapter 3 of Jonah.

Pulled pork sandwiches are on the menu for this week.

Hope to see you there!

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.

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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 (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.


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 (A.J. Kuhrt)


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.


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.
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.
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