This past weekend, 6 students and myself went to Omaha Nebraska to work with Christ for the City International. The trip itself was for students that have been involved in our d-group program on Sunday nights. While the trip has been planned since the end of 2008, the students began reading the book My 30 Days Under the Overpass a few weeks ago, and most of the students who went with us to Omaha also participated in this year's 30 Hour Famine. For pictures of the trip, click on the link on the right marked, "Urban Plunge 2009".
Here's what we did:
We left Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 8th around 10am. We stopped in Des Moines at Old Chicago for lunch, and even got to spend a little bit of time with one of our elders over the noon hour. We arrived on the campus of Turning Point Ministries about 4pm. Turning Point Ministries is on the campus of the former Omaha School for the Deaf. We unpacked our gear, and met one of our two our facilitators for the weekend, a college student named Blake. It turns out that Blake was a student at Nebraska Christian college, and we know many of the same people. From turning Point, we went to the Hope Center in Omaha. The Hope Center is located in an old Boys & Girls Club. Hope Center ministers to children by providing various after-school activities and programs. They also have a skating rink on site. Our kids loved to skate! They got to spend time with one another and with some of the kids there in the program. It was a great start for the weekend. After a meal of pizza, we headed off to the Siena Francis House, also in Omaha. siena Francis House provides clothing, food and shelter to families and individuals in need. There was another group there who stayed and help hand our food, so our group went with Angels on Wheels. Our ministry here was to pray with various people, mothers in particular who lived in Johnson Tower, a housing project in Omaha. Our kids did a great job. We returned "home" to Turning Point around 10 pm that night for our evening debrief and shenanigans. The group had a good time of fellowship, and turned in around midnight for a good, but short, night's sleep.
Saturday morning, we awoke for group devotions at 7am. We ate a light breakfast of donuts and cereal and then headed out by 8:30 am to the Mission For All Nations. Mission for All Nations is a food and clothing pantry, located in a Hispanic neighborhood. They have recently experienced a 92% (NINETY-TWO) increase in need requests! Here, our students loaded food for a satellite location in Council Bluffs, unloaded a truckload of boxes filled with clothing, and sorted food to be handed out. Following a deliciousl meal of chicken, we headed to Maple Crest Nursing Home to worj with Desert Ministries. Desert Ministries ministers to thos in nursing homes, assisted liveing and long-term care facilities. We met some great older folks, and sang some rock-and-roll oldies to them. The only disappointment was the lack of Johnny Cash songs to sing! Around 2:30pm, we left and headed to the Open Door Mission. This was yet another ministry; they had food, clothing and shelter for families and individuals. We sorted food donations, washed dishes, carried out cardboard boxes...whatever they needed our kids did! We ate our evening meal there around 4:30, soup, sandwiches, and grapes. Speaking of grapes...Nathan Mulholland got 19 into his mouth, Nicole Smith got 19, and Dillon Bisig brought up the rear with 9. Way to go, kids! From there, we headed to ABIDE, a ministry that seeks to raise up leaders for service. We got back to Turning Point for evening debrief and group time. Again, we called it a night about midnight.
We woke up (late) at 7:20am, spent some time cleaning, packing, and had breakfast. We headed down to Empty Tomb, a church the ministers specifically to the homeless and needy. We even met Dillon's great-uncle, who was the pastor there. Following that service, we went to Salem Baptist Church, a "black" church in Omaha. There were about 500 people there, and the serice was amazing. The singing was great and the sermon was also cool. The service time was about 1 hour and 45 minutes long and was exciting. We left Omaha by 1:45pm, and after a stop at McDonalds, on 80, we arrived in Cedar Rapids at 6:45pm.
What else happpend?
The trip was great. The kids who went worked hard and represented Jesus well. They served without complaint, and were a joy to be around. Personally, I was shocked at the size of the need in Omaha. At every shelter we went to, there were at least 80-100 people. We saw all ages, from young children and familes to older people. It makes me wonder what I'm missing here in Cedar Rapids. What size is the need here in CR? I was also amazed by the number of volunteers that served. One of then, a man named Ken told me that a few years ago he walked away from a sucessful career because he felt God calling him to develope a job training center for needy people. Because of his choice, his obedience to God's leading, his wife left him. He seemed calm and confident. Wow.
This was a "hands-on" trip. With the exception of ABIDE, we ministered at each place in a tangible way. Each of the students left challenged and wondering how they could serve locally. As we evaluate next year's schedule, I think that this trip will be back on the books.
Here's the list of kids who went: Beth Frederick, Brianna Scott, Dillon Bisig, Nathan Mulholland,Nicole Smith, Samantha Holley, and myself.
We thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers this past weekend. God showed up, and we met him.