I went on my second mission trip with our church youth in June. We went to East Garfield Park Chicago as part of the DOOR program. On a recent Sunday, the youth led the service and I shared a little about my experience. This is what I shared.
The DOOR staff shared the same message with the adults – that if we were not uncomfortable at least three times that week they hadn’t done their job. I am pleased to report, they excelled! I spent much of the week outside of my comfort zone. A big part of that was just being responsible for 6 Johnson County teens in Chicago. They are good kids, they just aren’t used to having to watch their surroundings they way we did there.
I was uncomfortable when I was told I would be navigating public transportation on my own with my group first thing Monday morning. Baptism by fire! I haven’t used public transportation since I was a teen – and that was a few years ago. I like my car and I like traveling on my schedule. I’m not used to having to hurry to catch a train to get where I need to be on time. Or having to leave an hour, or even two, before I need to be somewhere since that’s how long it will take by train and bus. And making sure all 7 of us were on the same train was a bit stressful.
I was uncomfortable with how much of an issue race became throughout the week. It was obvious that my reality is very different from residents of East Garfield Park, Chicago. My view of the world and how it works is very different because of the life I have been given. That’s challenging stuff.
But I was most moved by Mama Brenda. On Tuesday night, Mama Brenda, a member of the Board of DOOR, spoke to our group. She was a dynamic black woman who could easily hold the attention of a room full of teens and brought most of the adult to tears…in a good way. I couldn’t tell you all she said, but I can tell you what I felt. I felt like I was experiencing what it must have been like to listen to Jesus preach. To hear him implore us not to be complacent. Hear him telling us, “this is not ok! It’s not ok that children don’t have food to eat. It’s not ok that young people are being killed by each other. It’s not ok to see stories of murders on TV and think, “glad I don’t live there.” It’s not ok for us to come back to our comfortable homes, our nice cars, our safe place and do nothing. As Christians and as human beings we need to be outraged at what is happening in our city and do something about it. God didn’t call us to a week of mission so that we could go back home, check that off our list and continue life as usual. God calls us to Greatness through Service.
God calls us to learn the names of those in need. To look people in the eyes and show them genuine love. And when we do that, our eyes can be opened to see the face of God in them. We didn’t go to Chicago to take God into the City; we went to open our eyes to the face of God in others.
And as I was thinking about this last night, I got uncomfortable again. It’s been a month since the mission trip. I’ve been swamped at work, busy planning for the vacation we are leaving on in a couple hours and I’ve been complacent. Change is not easy, but thank goodness our God is patient.
So I am adding to my To Do list. Find a way to make a difference in my community. It will be a challenge to figure out how to fit this in with everything else our family has chosen to do, but we will figure it out. It may take a while, but its something we have to do!