Last week a group of 6 youth and 2 leaders from Good Shepherd spent the week learning in Chicago. We set out ready to serve, learn, and share with the people we met in the south side of Chicago. As a group of small town kids (all of us, even those who went as adults), it was challenging, eye opening, and wonderful to experience the diversity of Chicago.
We played with children at R-City. We served a meal at A Just Harvest. We learned from the residence at Epworth Men’s Shelter. And we enjoyed BINGO with a wild and fun group of seniors at Elizabeth Wood apartments. We tried and enjoyed Mexican, Chinese, El Salvadoran, and Mediterranean foods. Who knew that rock candy from the Middle Eastern market would be so wonderful!
It was a joy to watch the youth grew in their ability to initiate conversations. They stepped out of their comfort zones in so many ways. Most of all they willingly served in whatever ways were needed with positive attitudes. I was so proud to call them “my kids”.
If I had to choose one word to describe my experience this past week, it would be abundance. Often people have negative view of the south side of Chicago—violence, poverty, crime. While that may exist, our experiences did not reflect that. For example the children’s program at R-City has an abundance of love and patience. Children are welcomed here who are kicked out of every other organization. We learned that not all children are able to follow directions right away because of trauma in their lives. It was amazing to watch the leaders modeling God’s love and grace. We learned to see all the children that way too—even when they challenged our patience.
In four short days, these kids wound their way into our hearts. Anden, with his arms around Larissa’s neck said, “It doesn’t matter what color skin you have, they’re all pretty.” DJ sharing the candy from his lunch with children around his table. As we drove away from the last time, they were blowing kisses and sharing hearts with us. The children shared with us an abundance of energy, creativity, and love!
Tune in next week for more stories of abundance.