This year, the senior class will travel to Chicago, Illinois for their annual Mission Trip. The school is partnering with Envision Chicago, a ministry with a focus on changing the world through relationships. Students will serve with Envision Chicago in the following ways:
- Assisting in an after school program
- Experiencing cross cultural immersion
- Working with a homeless ministry
Envision Chicago is a diverse, incarnational ministry strategically located in the inner city of Chicago. Within the community, 1 in 5 families live below the poverty line, and more than 80% of students in the public school system come from low-income households. There are more than 40 primary languages spoken in the community. Some of these languages represent people groups who are considered “unreached” by the gospel of Christ. The diversity of the community presents us with the unique opportunity to share the gospel of Christ with people who were born in creative access countries. The Mission Trip will take place from Saturday, March 2, - Saturday, March 9, 2019.
Our seniors and chaperones arrived and are hard at work the frozen city of Chicago! The group has become familiar with neighborhood of those they are serving, cleaned up around the church and prepped walls for painting. Students also visited an area homeless shelter and are assisting with an after school program. Stay warm, Crusaders!
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This week so far has exceeded my expectations. I came into this trip thinking we would be doing service projects all day long every day. While that would’ve been a great experience, some of the best and most enlightening experiences for me have been during our training each morning. During training, we do devotionals, open up about various life experiences and how the Lord has worked in and through those experiences, and spend time walking around Rogers Park. On Tuesday, we took a prayer walk around Rogers Park. We asked the Holy Spirit to lead us as we prayed about the people, places, and situations that stood out to us. In the beginning of our walk, I was distracted by the cold and was wondering how things to pray for would stand out to me. I was amazed at how quickly I forgot about the cold and felt the constant desire to be praying for the people in Rogers Park. I don’t think I will ever forget that experience.
During the day on Monday, my team stayed at the Envision Center and helped with an after school program. We spent the first part playing with the kids in the gym or doing crafts. Afterwards, we split into teams: tutoring, academics, and life skills. I was on the academic team, so I worked with kids on their homework. I loved interacting with the kids and hearing about their likes and dislikes and what made them unique.
On Monday night, my team had the opportunity to visit a men’s homeless shelter. We spent half of the time there talking to the man in charge of the shelter and asking him questions about how the shelter functions and homelessness in Chicago. After we talked to him, we had the opportunity to go talk to some of the men. The purpose of our visit was not to serve them, but to listen to their stories. I talked to two men. Both were extremely open and eager to share their stories. They told about the hardships that had led them to homelessness. While they were blunt, they remained respectful to us in the sharing of their stories, which was something I really admired. I loved being able to talk with these men because it really gave me perspective on what homeless people are like. Believe it or not, homeless people are no different than us. I think we have a tendency to believe that they are.
Tuesday night, we served, cooked for, and visited with English as a Second Language (ESL) students and their families. The students were able to use the time to practice their English by ordering what they wanted to eat. I was on the cooking team, so I got to prepare and plate the food and then clean up afterwards. I liked being able to interact with the ESL students and watch how intentional Envision was about teaching the students and their families English.
Wednesday during training was one of my favorite moments on this trip. First, we took another prayer walk, but this time we were without our shoes in order to have more perspective on the hardships the homeless endure. When we returned to the center, we took turns washing each other’s feet and praying for each other. I was very skeptical about washing people’s feet, but everyone opened up a lot and was very vulnerable with each other. By the end, everyone was hugging and crying. It was cool to see my classmates and I share our struggles and support each other.
- Madeline Makowski
Saturday - March 2, 2019
We made it to the Windy City! The first few moments were definitely not what I was imaging. God does things for a reason and I strongly believe that! At first, I thought I would hate the trip. As soon as the Envision team picked us up, I was in love with Chicago! All the architecture of the buildings was so amazing and different! Upon meeting the team, something clicked and I found out that one of the drivers, Eric, is a PROFESSIONAL OPERA SINGER! Right after they broke that news to me we passed by a cemetery and it was beautiful!!! It’s not a small, beat up cemetery, it’s big like out of a movie! Something else clicked inside my head and it reminded me of “The Phantom of the Opera”! What a great coincidence! Music began to fill the air and I couldn’t resist it! I sang all the way to the hotel and to the center!
Sunday - March 3, 2019
It’s too cold! It’s okay though because we’re going to church! I haven’t been to church due to work so I’m so grateful! I met a lot of different people! As I walked in, my favorite song, “This Is Amazing Grace”, was playing. Not only was it playing, but this guy was singing and what can I say, I fell in love. (With the center of course.) I just was so warm and my heart filled with so much joy! Before the service even started, I got some amazing news that not only are we singing some of my favorite songs in English, but we’re also singing them IN SPANISH! I loved every single part of it! I didn’t think it could get any better.
But, God intervened with my thoughts and we got to visit a homeless shelter. This was one of the best nights ever! God lit a light unto my path and brought me to a guy that was a high school dropout, musician, and a very intelligent person! This guy regardless of anything has been so strong and I can truly relate minus the fact that he didn’t have a home! He told me everything I wanted and needed to hear! He told us to stay in school, follow our dreams, and love life while we still had it! I never thought someone less fortunate than I, or anyone else honestly, would give the best advice and be so wise! He told us that if we make mistakes that’s fine because we are human just long as we follow the path God placed for us. He said that God knows we will sin, but he also knows our heart! I’m so thankful for that because it hit my heart and I am just so thankful for this trip and the people around me including the community of Rogers Park and Edge Water, Chicago!
Senior Reflections From Chicago
Saturday we arrived in Chicago, checked into our hotel, and went to the place we would be spending the majority of our time. We were introduced to Envision, the organization that we’re working with, and they treated us to authentic Chicago deep dish pizza! The next morning, we were able to attend Envision’s church service. This service wasn’t quite like a typical Greenville service. We began by singing a song similar to many churches back home, but once the second song started, we began to sing in Spanish. Envision is very much surrounded by different cultures and ethnicities, and singing worship songs in Spanish is just one way that they interact with them. The worship service was very small, probably less than 15 people that weren’t from Shannon Forest, but they truly worshiped and took in every word that pastor, Carlos shared.
Sunday afternoon, we were able to help out Carlos and Envision by cleaning up their facility. After dinner we were all invited to a prayer circle with their church members where we prayed and worshiped for an hour. The people of the church were so genuine with their prayers, and we could tell that they really loved the Lord. Later that evening, Tony, one of the Envision staff members, took half of the group to a homeless shelter. (The other half was able to go Monday night.) We drove a little ways and met Vince, the man in charge of the shelter. The shelter housed men of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and lifestyles. We were given the opportunity to talk to a few of the men who were still awake. I think, as a group, we all agreed that talking to a couple of homeless men for an hour changed how we viewed homeless people. The biggest thing that Vince knew we were going to get out of our visit was that these people were just like us. The man I talked to never gave us his name, but he was so smart and full of wisdom that it was a very informational hour. He was a Christian and told many of us advice for going off to college next year. It was crazy how interesting and knowledgeable these people who lived in a gym with 60 other men were. As a group, we still haven’t stopped talking about how much we loved the experience and how much it impacted us.
Monday was the coldest day yet. We woke up to a -2 degree temperature and an 18- mph wind, making it feel like -20 degrees. Once we warmed up and settled down at the Envision facility, Carlos led us in a devotion time. We split up into pairs, and he gave each pair a country for which to pray. We prayed as a pair, but then we prayed as a group for each of the ten countries. Later in the devotion, we got back into pairs and each read a chapter of Acts and looked for how the Holy Spirit was working in the passage. It was such a cool time where we could sit down and just think about the part of the Trinity that is often overlooked.
We had lunch shortly after, and they served us burgers and Chicago bratwursts. (I would definitely recommend the bratwursts to everyone who visits Chicago.) After lunch, we broke up into two work groups. My work group had the privilege of going to another church and working for two men, Joe and Joe. Working at the church was a ton of fun. The girls in my group all got to help pull up some tile so that someone could come retile it today (Tuesday). After we pulled up as much tile as we could, one of the Joes showed us around the place. The building was very old, but had so many cool rooms. Many of the rooms were very weirdly located, and they would almost be missed unless you were looking for them. After working at the church, we went back to Envision and staffed their children’s after school program. My group worked with kids on their homework and on an activity! We got to know many of the kids, and we all loved the experience!
Tuesday morning we walked to Envision and Tony led us in a devotion. Afterwards, they fed us some authentic Middle Eastern food. It was amazing. Once we finished with lunch, we helped clean up the facility to prepare for the after school program. The kids began to arrive after a little while, and we just hung out and played games with them until the program started. My group helped with homework and an activity again, but about halfway through I was pulled out of the room to prepare for our next service project. That night Envision was hosting a dinner for the English as a Second Language (ESL) families that took classes in the organization. My group’s job was to help prepare dinner. The Envision members who helped us were Eva and Scott, and they guided us through what we needed to prepare for dinner. Once the dinner was made, the families started arriving. The other two groups were working during the dinner, as well as a few of the cooks. We had some of the Shannon group wait tables taking the families’ orders. The other part of the group who weren’t waiters or cooks were sitting at the tables engaging in conversations with the “customers.” Personally, I prepared drinks and desserts for the waiters to carry to the tables. It was a great experience serving others, especially people who barely knew English.
Our trip so far hasn’t all been work, though. In transitioning from one thing to another, there is often some down time. Envision has a basketball goal and many different sports balls. Typically, during the down time, many people will be shooting on the basketball goal or hitting around a volleyball. Not only has it been a great experience to serve others, but we have also had a unique experience to get closer to people in our class. It’s a weird feeling when you talk to people you’ve known for the majority of your life, but something about bonding over the freezing temperatures we walk through provides for great conversations between us. The first half of this trip has been incredible, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has for us!