Monday, June 13, 2011

Chicago Mission Trip 2004

Front Row:  Ross Hurt, Zach Wehr,  Ria Gonzalez, Brian Willeke
Second Row:  Alex Smith, Sarah Crudele, Nina Mock, Lexi Woods, Christine Gastler
Back Row:  Stephanie Greife, Cory Vetter, Carl Jones, Justin Overstreet, Sean Bell
In June of 2004 we headed out from Wesley Memorial UMC in Tampa with a 10 youth, 4 adult mission team (pictured above at the Sears Tower) bound for Chicago.  For the third time in 6 years my group would be partnering with the Center for Student Missions (CSM).  I was especially excited about this adventure as it would be my first trip to Chicagoland since having moved from there in 2001.  

One of the many great things about working with CSM is that the trip is much more that just work projects.  They provide you with authentic ethnic meals from the communities you serve.  Our first meal of this trip was at a Greek deli, and we were served gyros.  I remember Alexis Woods being horrified to discover she was eating lamb.  They also provide you with perspective.  At one point they broke us into small groups, gave us a very small amount of cash, assigned us a neighborhood to visit ( we had to take the bus) and told us we all had to eat dinner on that same tiny budget.  It gave us a real feel for what it was like to live below the poverty line in Chicago.

Another amazing activity CSM provides is what they call the Prayer Tour.  I had enjoyed the tour in both DC and Nashville, but the Chicago experience was something special.  Our CSM guide narrated our van ride, telling us (and playing audio recordings from people involved) stories about the plight of the homeless and the impoverished.  After each story we would stop at a location that was significant to our mission of service in the name of Jesus and pray.  It was truly moving.  Then before heading back to the campus of North Point University where we were being housed, we took a ride down Michigan Avenue, famous for its high priced stores.  We were barely removed from unthinkable poverty and were now surrounded by great wealth.  As we rode along, our guide played the great Caedmon's Call classic This World on our CD player.  It was overwhelming.  "This world has nothing for me, and this world has everything."  When it reached the lyric that says, "and the least of these look like criminals to me, so I leave Christ on the street..." - there were tears.  The CSM experience would be worth every penny if all you did was the Prayer Tour.

As with every CSM adventure, the actual work was varied.  We played with children and served meals at an after-school care center, discovering much to our surprise that these extreme latch-key children could whip us at video Jeopardy!  We also served and ate a creamed corn dish made with an enormous of mayo, which was surprisingly awesome!  We served meals to the homeless at a variety of locations, including the Good News Soup Kitchen where my Hinsdale group had servred monthly several years earlier.  But our primary task was helping to tear apart a synagogue.  A community that had for years been primarily Jewish had suffered "white flight" and been deserted.  A large number of African-American families had moved in, and a pastor had decided to use the abandoned synagogue for his place of worship.  There was an incredible amount of work to be done, and I was so proud of the way our team responded.  Working in terrible heat, we tore out some no longer needed fixtures from the worship space. We moved 600 pound trophy cases down flights of stairs.  We painted.  We cleaned. It was several days of brutal work, and in the end we accomplished much more that our host had hoped for.  I only have one complaint about that work site- our host took hundreds of pictures and was going to e-mail copies to me.  He never did.  So I can't prove we worked that hard...

But this trip was about much more than work.  It was about discovering the Jesus Revolution in each of us.  Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you how a little sing-a-along turned into one of the most powerful worship moments I have ever been a part of- before or since.  Be blessed, my friends!

Because of Jesus,


  1. Sounds like a great trip! I'm sure all of you learned and grew a ton!

  2. We did, Matt. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Anonymous6/14/2011

    I remember. It was awesome.


Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!