Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You Can't Put a Title On This (But I Just Did), By Chachi

Expectations... sometimes it feels like they are meant to be broken. Sometimes it feels like God just breaks our expectations for no reason. It's not so He can point and laugh at us as we try to pick up the pieces of our broken expectations-- it's probably more because He wants us to lean on Him, not what we hope will happen.

A few of my expectations leading up to the actual trip were:

1. Our NWC group would have fun working together, cleaning out houses or something. We would get to know each other (due mainly to proximity) and maybe make a couple of friends.
I am going to go ahead and say... I was wrong. In fact, all of my expectations were broken. It is safe to say that on the two-day road trip down, I got to truly meet and have fun with people that I never thought I would come to love so much. Arriving in Castle Rock, I was surprised to see so many people (ranging from upper middle school/high school to people in their 70s!) praying together. There was a high school team, a team from Wheaton College, and a team from Bellevue, Pennsylvania. Wow, and this was just the beginning!
Monday, our team was split into 2.5 teams. Two groups were all NWC students, then they would need three of us to work ALL WEEK with some of the Pennsylvania (hereafter referred to as PA team) team. Unfortunately, at the time, I felt God telling me: CHARISSA, THAT'S YOU--VOLUNTEER! Imagine my the feeling in my chest when they needed just 1 more volunteer and NO ONE was piping up. Stacy, Kameron, and I worked with Bud, Duane, Shari, Mary Ann, and Chris (for a day) all week under the leader, Ben (who liked to eat ice cream and make us drink a whole bottle of water in one break). We were so blessed to get to meet these people-- although they were old enough to be our parents and grandparents, we connected with them on a personal level because we all have one thing in common: JESUS. (:
Besides bonding to the max w/ NWC-ers & the PA team, I also got to meet some pretty sweet people (locals, people associated with Castle Rock/Yellow House, and other volunteers). First off, I feel like we were all put in NOLA at that time by God. The organizers of everything we did: amazing! Pastor John knew how to speak to every person, not just one demographic, his assistant, Miss Helen, is such a happy follower of Christ, Julie (our cook) could not have been more perfect, Katie from Haiti was organized and always seemed to have a solution. There are many more, some I didn't get to know as much as I wanted, but I did get Bill Richards & Buzz to jump in puddles like children. (: The other people in the House, Wheaton and PA, are so great! Getting to know them and keep in touch with them is such a blessing in my life.
The "locals." Most of them are so open to God, prayer, and random conversation that I was really taken aback. For instance, while we were working and talking to two men, one of them insisted on giving us Zulu/Mardis Gras beads to show his gratification to us. Kameron, Stacy, and I did a prayer walk with Bill, Buzz, and some of the Wheaton crew and we prayed with people who are more spiritual than I would have dreamed of (read Kameron's blog below). If any of you ever go to Nawlins, don't just stay in the tourist spots, get to know some of the locals (but only God-willing, because it is dangerous!) because then you will have really been to New Orleans.

2. We would not "be forced" to work with the locals and actually proclaim the Word. We would just do our "good deed" and leave.
What was I thinking?! Working with the people of New Orleans was one of the best parts! As we were cleaning lots, people would start a conversation, and most of the time, they just needed to be heard. Then a prayer. Sometimes that's all that is needed to show God's love. The kids, on the other hand, were like the big pack of fireworks-- you never know what you're getting. Tuesday: Kaiser, Jordan, Luke (Wheaton), and I worked at SLAM, Castle Rock's middle school youth group. They were loud and obnoxious, and the girls scared me some of the time! But while it seemed like nobody was getting a lick of good from the message and games, you could tell they loved it. Half of them didn't want to leave at the end, some of them asked if we were coming back the next week. I can't really explain how it was. Wednesday: Challenge Circle! We may have outnumbered the kids present, but getting a hug from them or seeing a genuine smile on their faces is so amazing. Who knows what these kids' lives are like? A couple of boys I had on my team (GO RED!) had scars covering their faces, but when they were playing or showing me their sweet dance moves, you could tell they felt safe. Sometimes, like Erin mentions below, they threw punches or were a bit violent, but they received love and attention that was inspired by Christ. How sweet!

3. I would be so happy to come back to N-dub and see all my friends. Coming back would be nice-- I'll be ready for a routine again and the end of the school year. Acutally, I was very anxious to come back to Northwestern. I still am. God changed me during that quick week, and I don't even know exactly how. I fell in love with Jesus and NOLA, I can feel God testing me and helping me grow, I feel in my heart that I'm right where God wants me (which is the safest place for me to be, right?). I have found that the structure of college is restraining-- who wants a schedule and to have to worry about grades and staying in the lines? Each new day brings its own responsibilities and worries, but that's what God is there for.

And this is supposed to be a blog entry, not a book, so I'm going to wrap this up. If you want to know the details or just one of the many fun(ny) times, just let me know. Philippians 1:20-21; 2:3-4 God bless you! -Charissa (Chachi)-

Monday, March 15, 2010

Satisfied and uneasy.....

The Urban Impact experience has left me both satisfied yet uneasy. I'm pleased with the amount of work put into the community through shaping up lots, talking with the kids, or just bringing a hearty smile. I'm gratefully for the Lord's blessing to New Orleans in Castle Rock Community Church. He has really provided excellent staff with a clear vision of what needs to be accomplished in order to best serve the community and God. However, the city of New Orleans is in need. The city's need has me torn and a bit guilty of the things I possess. Although there has been much improvement since the storm, I feel that the people may never fully recover from the disaster; that touches my heart. I'll keep the people in my prayers and keep trust in the Lord that He will restore. Not necessarily the physical things, but priceless things like hope, love, or a relationship with Him.

Pastor John dropped a quote that struck me as profound. Something I will hold on to. "You can't fill your life with stuff that always runs out."

Brett Amiotte

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thoughts and stories.....

Insights from a Prayer Walk by Kameron Toews
Yesterday was prayer walking day. I went with Cha Chi and Stacy and some Wheaton students. We stopped to talk with 2 people on their porch. In their 60s, they gave us some neat insights and stories. Miss Scott was such an exciting lady. I couldn’t help but smile as she told us about her life and how God fit in the story of her life. I’ll take away the excitement that Miss Scott had for the Lord. Then we heard from her neighbor Jerold. Although he had some health problems through his life, he appreciated each day and was open to help who ever needed it. His humble, loving attitude was inspiring. The southern culture in centered around community as seen by every house having a front porch and people playing cards on the sidewalks. I think this is how a Christian community should look, living in community and openly sharing what God has done in their lives.

Hope for Hector by Brittni Donahue
On Monday, a Hispanic man who spoke very little English approached one of the groups and asked if he could work with them because he needed to do community service. He came the next day to work and was placed in our group. Morgan and I are both Spanish minors, so we decided to try to talk to him in Spanish. We found out that his name is Hector, he’s from Honduras, and he’s been in the United States for 5 years. He could understand English a lot of the time, but was unable to speak it. We asked him if he attended church and he said that he didn’t know of any. We told him about Castle Rock Community Church and about their services, one of which was an adult bible study that was meeting that night. We were able to connect him to people in the church who could provide transportation for him to the next town, as he didn’t have a car that he was able to drive. He worked very hard, and at the end of the day we asked if we could all pray with him, which he consented to. After that he asked again about the Bible study and said he would come. Tre, the worship leader at Castle Rock, got his phone number in order to stay in contact. Hector did come to Bible study that night, and Morgan and I were able to talk to him and give him a Gideon’s New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs in Spanish that Charissa had brought along. At the end of Bible study, we asked Hector if he knew Jesus, I said that Jesus was my best friend and loved us very much, and Morgan said that Jesus was her life. We don’t know how all of the events of the day and our words affected his heart, but we could tell he was appreciative of what we had done for him. We could definitely see God orchestrating the events, putting us in the right place at the right time, providing the Spanish Bible and Bible study that night, and working through our limited Spanish skills. We’re so thankful that we were able to minister to him and that he made the connections to Castle Rock. It was so amazing to see God work, and all the glory goes to Him.

Bring It Messiah by Erin Doyle
On Wednesday we went to the Projects to do Challenge Circle with the local kids. Two kids there really touched my heart. The first touched my heart and it made me happy, she was a little girl named Leah. At first Leah was pretty quiet and would only answer my questions with one word answers, but by the end of out time, she was wild, excited, and very talkative. Before we took off to go back to the Yellow House, she and I raced from here to there and back. She won the first race, the second time was my win, third we tied, and 4th she won. Before the 4th race she said “Let’s go one more time for the prize! The prize is… the prize is a HUG!” (so cute!). She won and said “Okay! I’m ready for my hug now!” We embraced and I swung her around & around, and she felt love and expressed such joy, and I felt it too! How much love gets shown to her? Does she have a good family? Is she this happy at home? Does she live in a family that loves the Lord? Please keep Leah in your prayers. The second kid was a boy named Coreo. He was a different story. I am sad for him. I am worried for him. To be honest… I am frightened for him and of him. He is 7 years old. He would swing his fists at me they guys, and even at the other kids. The way he talked to us was extremely rude and hostile. When a guy in a yellow shirt walked by across the stree, Coreo looked at me and said, “You see that guy? He’s my… he’s my friend.” In a weird way… like this guy was a gang leader that Coreo was a member of. AT SEVEN YEARS OLD! Some people encouraged his actions saying, “Oh! He’s so cute!” NO!! That is not cute. That is the crazy ending to a movie about gangs. I have this vision that Coreo gets shot at his young age in a drive-by. But… it’s not a movie. It’s real life. Real life. Please pray for him that God would work in his life and show him love and joy. Pray that God will give him a male figure that he can look up to as a role model. Pray that God will transform his life! Pray that love will shower down on Coreo and Leah. Bring it Messiah.

Through our service project this week I have developed a greater meaning about mission trips. Our work this week included raking leaves, picking up garbage, and mowing lawns. While these improvements did bring a temporary face lift to the street that is what they are: temporary. In a few short months more leaves will fall, more garbage will be left behind, and the grass will grow and grow…and grow. Years from now people from this New Orleans neighborhood won’t be looking at our “projects” and saying ‘Look at what Northwestern did, they were super.’ However, these work projects have allowed us to talk to many people and show others that we, and most importantly God, cares about them and their situation. Through us being there and serving the community it will hopefully inspire the residents in these communities to take some pride and initiative in their communities. Our rakes and shovels have now evolved from landscaping tools to tools of discipleship. Corrine Muyskens

Prayer Walk Take 2
By Sarah Lichter

Like Kameron, I went on a prayer walk yesterday as well. We walked around the neighborhood and prayed for a little while. It was amazing to see the neighborhood in different parts of reconstruction. On one block there was a house that had windows broken out and was completely run down. Right next to this house there was a new house frame being built that is sure to become a beautiful home. Right across the street from these houses is a ball park that has been kept up nicely as well. It was really encouraging for me to see just how God was rebuilding this neighborhood despite everything it has been through. We also walked past a place where volunteers can come in and garden and make the neighborhood look a little nicer. We got to talk and pray with Ronald who had a large section of his own garden in this center where he grew things like blackberries, pomegranates and grapes. Ronald told us about how the section where his garden is now, was completely filled with trash in January. Ronald was so grateful that we had come and talked to him and that we cared about the community in which he lived and worked. Moral of this story: God has a way of giving you encouragement when you need it and gives you people to talk to who can be built up and will build you up.

Too busy to post

Wow! It has been a busy few days with little time to post. Sorry to whomever reads this.

So here is a quick run through of what we have been up to:

Wednesday -
We went back to our worksites to work all day until 3pm. It was quite a nice day, weather wise and we got a lot done! In one group, a guy named Hector from Honduras joined us to work because he needed community service hours. A couple of the girls, Morgan and Brittany, know some Spanish, so they teamed up with him and had some good conversations together.
After the work day, we went to a different part of town a few blocks away to do Challenge Circle - our first and only time because of the rain on previous days. It was so much fun! Kids came and played racing games against each other around a circle in the middle of a field. Although there were kids who were a little rough and rude to us, there were many more kids who loved and enjoyed having us there. This time was different than any other time we had this week because we were able to interact with the kids in the community instead of cleaning up the neighborhood. It was a lot of fun.
After Challenge Circle a small group of us went to a Bible study with some members of the community to talk about Good and Evil. It was intersting to hear everyone's different perspectives. Mant types of people were present at the Bible study: young, old, black, white, rich, poor. What a diverse group! Hector even came to Bible study. He seemed very excited to learn about God and spend time with Christians. Please be praying for him that God will work in his life and show him love.
Before bed, Laura Ferguson, an NWC alumn came to talk to us about her testimony and what God was doing in her life. We were all encouraged by her story.
After our first full day of work, we were all exhausted - I know I was!!! My bed never looked so good!

Another full day of work.
My group took a break to go visit St. Monica's Catholic Church, a place that is no longer in use after Katrina. Castle Rock Church and Urban Impact are looking into buying the place in order to make room for a growing congregation and a growing need for housing the teams that come down here to serve. The place is a wreck! It will take a lot of work to fix it up into something that could be beneficial to the community. Please pray for that church. Pray that God will show the leaders of Castle Rock what to do. Should they go forth and buy the church? Pray that sufficient funds will come in to buy the church and to fix it up.
After another full day of work, we split up and went prayer walking around the community. We stopped and talked to people and prayed with them. Everybody down here is so open to having us in the comminity and they all want us to pray with them. There is such a different feel down here in N.O. than there is in Orange City and the Midwest. Very open. I love it!
There was a block party in the evening where Hot Dogs were served to anybody who stopped by. We played baseball with the kids, talked with the adults, and had a quality time of encouragement and fun with the people in the community. I could see God in the fellowship we had that day.

To end the day we had NWC group time where we ate crawfish and went for a drive. Some of the group never had crawfish and were quite fearful to touch them, let alone eat them. But others ate crawfish after crawfish - not matter how spicy they were! Then we climbed into the vans and drove around St. Charles Street to see the old fancy houses. They were really pretty! White pillars. Balconies. Fancy Gardens. Wouldn't it be fun to have lived in a time when those houses were in their prime? I would love to go back in time and live in 1850. How nice! =)

Well it is time to out to work for the last day before we head back to Orange City tomorrow. --- maybe tonight I will add pictures from the week.

Please pray for Hector.
and for St. Monica's Church.
and for energy for our last day.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow! (hopefully:)

So the torch has been passed onto me: Ashley Buse, a NWC student & one of the 2 student leaders for this service project.

Today started with another great breakfast with the wonderful cook that's here working with Urban Impact for a while- eggs benedict, which was a challenge for a few to try, but otherwise really good for the rest of us:)

We started work around 9:30am this morning & were hoping for a productive day cleaning up each of our team's assigned blocks within New Orleans. The group of 8 I am working with was able to fill quite a few more 55gallon heavy duty trash bags with random trash found in the grass & sidewalk along with more leaves, which were clogging the street drains. However, with only like an hour or two into our work day it started downpouring accompanied by powerful strikes of lightening and thunder. Our Walmart 88cent ponchos came in handy, but were no match for this Louisiana rain. All of the groups were told to pack up & head back to the yellow house we're staying at. The rest of the work day was called off even though the rain stopped & the sun came out a little later.

Friday afternoon was originally going to be our free day, but on accounts of the rain, today became our free day. Our team spent the afteroon in New Orleans' French Quarter, which is like the downtown tourist shopping place. We went from basically being minorities (since majority of New Orleans' population is black) to being surrounded by other whites shopping and taking pictures in Cafe Du Monde & with background sceneries of a large beautiful church & famous street signs. Many of us bought Marti Gras masks, which is shown below.

We're really praying for non-rainy weather & that tomorrow will be a full work day. This is definitely a big prayer request of ours this week. We'd love to be able to have each group of 8 pick up the trash, mow down the weeds & clear the path of each sidewalk for each of our 4 blocks. Thank you all so much for your prayers & support & God Bless:)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Raking in March?!?!?!

Hello! Erin again! --- everyone else was too tuckered out to want to type anything.

It is the end of our first full day in New Orleans. What a long day! Breakfast was at the unruly hour of 7am (I am SO not a morning person). Julie is our cook and she made us HUGE portions of baked oatmeal with blueberries. Now, I am not big into oatmeal or blueberries, but that was one good breakfast! Most of the morning was training and orientation into urban missions. We learned about a ministry they do called Challenge Circle for kids in the community. They play games around a circle with different colors- sort of like AWANAS. Each color - green, blue, red, and yellow - mean different things about salvation. So they kids play racing games around the circle and get points an build self-esteem. It sounds like a really awesome and fun ministry that goes on for the kids everyday after school, so they can have somewhere safe and fun to hang out. It was raining by the time it was supposed to start today, so unfortunately it was cancel. Hopefully we will get to play with the kids tomorrow.

Most of the day from 11-3 was our big clean up project called "Neighborhood Blitz." The whole big Urban Impact team split up into smaller groups to clean up several street blocks in the community, picking up trash and raking leaves (Yes... raking leaves in March... a novel idea for most of us northern Midwesterners). My group spent most of the time raking and sweeping up leaves and dust from the sidewalks and street curbs. It looked like dirt and sand from the Hurricane was still built up on the sides of the roads - we swept up many seashells as well - caught me by surprise! The purpose is to allow the locals to see that we are here in the community wanting to help and to show them that making the place look better is beneficial and pretty easy to do. Although the project we are doing this week is not what most of us expected, but the end of the day we found meaning and purpose in the task that God has given us. Already the community is looking great! Many of the local people would walk by and say Hi and thank us for helping them out. It was great to get to talk to the people who benefit from our hard work.

After the long day outside in the sun (some of us got sunburns) it started to rain and we headed back to the Yellow House for free time. Some of us napped, showered, or played games. Here is a video of a rhythm game our leader Ashley Buse learned last year on her SSP:

OH! For supper tonight Julie made us Jumbalaya & corn bread. And for dessert: chocolate bread pudding! What a delicious Louisiana meal! Yum yum!

Tomorrow we start early our in the neighborhood at 9am.
Pray that the weather is warm and sunny so we can enjoy our work. Pray that God would give us all good attitudes and a vision for the good work he wants us to do. Pray that we can meet the kids tomorrow and we can build relationships with them. Pray that those who are ill on our trip will be healed. Pray for energy for tomorrow and for the rest of the week.


My team taking a lunch break on the porch - a very southern thing to do.

Hard at work!

The "Yellow House" where we are staying this week.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I heart N.O.!

(Like Luanne said in the first post, someone "more talented" is blogging now. I am Erin Doyle, a student at Northwestern College)

We made it! After two LONG days of travel we are finally here in New Orleans, LA. There are 19 of us on this team from NWC, and we are partnering with a few other groups to do some cleanup prjects in areas affected by Katrina through an organization called Urban Impact. We do not know many details about what this week will entail, but we'll try to keep you updated day by day (no promises).

I can tell about where we are staying. Urban Impact owns a house that we are all staying at. It is painted yellow - therefore named the "Yellow House." It is an old southern home with steep spiral stairs that lead up to bedrooms that are packed full of homemade bunkbeds. The room where most of us NWC girls are staying has 3 sets of bunkbeds with 3 layers of matresses on them... do that math and that is room for 9 girls. Plus those who have blow up mattresses on the floor. PACKED!

After we got settled in the Yellow House, a group went to Walmart to get supplies for sandwhich lunches and the rest of us walked around outside and found a nice pizza shop called Slice and ordered pizza for the gang. They gave us quite the discount, at least $20 off plus a free t-shirt! Perhaps we will go there again! Delicious!

A picture of us eating the delicious pizza! Yum!

On our way to Slice, a homeless man in a wheel chair stopped us and talked to us. It was interesting to hear his thoughts, and we invited him to come grab a slice of pizza with us, but he declined. He did allow us to pray for him and then he was on his way. Living in the dorms at school, we are never really presented the opportunity to talk with and pray with the homeless, but God had us dive right in!

Well, breakfast is at 7am, and Lord knows that I am not a morning person, so I had better get my sleep while I can! -- Perhaps tomorrow night I will pass the computer onto another team member, so many perspectives will be heard from on this blog.

Please be praying for our team. Pray that we will be flexible with our time and with out expectations. Pray that we remain healthy throughout the week. Pray that Satan will not block our hearts from the desire to serve. Pray that we won't be a burden to the people at Urban Impact. Pray that the locals will be open to having us there.

Thank you, and good night!

A picture of the whole team at 6am on Saturday morning before we got in the vans for the long road trip.