At the conclusion of our 2004 mission trip we had scheduled in a day of sight-seeing and fun in Chicagoland before starting our trip back to Tampa. I had several purposes in mind when I did this. First, I wanted the youth to see a little of downtown Chicago. Secondly, one of our adults, Ross Hurt, was tacking a family vacation on to our trip. His parents lived in Illinois and his wife (Kena, part of our Youth Ministry Team) and daughter were flying up to meet him. In addition, Ed and Robin Smith (more of our YMT) and their twin girls were also in the area visiting Ed's famous sister. So we would head downtown for the day, then drive out to my former stomping grounds in the western suburbs and spend the night in a motel. One with actual beds...
We took a train downtown to Union Station and walked around a bit until we arrived at the Sears Tower. We did the tourist thing and went to the top, soaking up the observation deck and the history of that amazing city. Afterwards we all ate stuffed pizza for lunch at Giordano's. Some of the girls knew of an H & M store on Michigan Ave, and so we began to search for it. It turned into a death march. We walked MILES before finding that silly store- but we did find it. Then we headed back to the CSM site, picked up our van, and headed out to the suburbs for a night of relaxation before our long drive back to Tampa.
Ohana Means Family
We checked into our motel in Lombard, IL and immediately hit the pool. We had a great time cooling off, harassing each other and just generally having fun together. Then we headed across the highway to the Yorktown Mall (former home of the Veggietales studio) and a Chicago institution called Portillos. Famous for Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef, it was an old favorite of mine. It was also where we met up with the Hurts and the Smiths. We had an amazing meal and a great time of fellowship. It occurred to me as we were sitting there that this was what the family of God was all about. We had adults, youth and babies sharing a meal together. All of us had worked together in the name of Jesus. We had given praise to Him and given ourselves to Him in worship. We had played, prayed and broken bread together. And the best part was we had done it all TOGETHER. We were living Acts 2:42. I can look at this group photo taken outside of the restaurant and KNOW that we loved each other in God's name- and that is amazing love indeed.
Ross and Bree
We almost ruined the whole thing by going to see the newly released Spiderman 2 that night- I fell asleep- but we eventually made it home. I still have an orange t-shirt from the trip that was "customized" for me by Lexi and Christine (with messages of love) using paint from the synagogue work site. Each time I wear it I am reminded of the best mission trip I ever led. It may not be my favorite trip- but it was the best.