Saturday, June 28, 2014

Home again, home again!

In case you haven't heard, we made it back to NC safe and soundly.  Yesterday morning was an early one, as we had to be packing our cars by 6:30 AM!  After breakfast and a thorough cleaning of the space we occupied during the week, we hit the road around 9 AM.  The drive went smoothly, though it was long, with traffic outside of Washington, D.C. that delayed us several hours.  We rolled into the St. Mark's parking lot around 8:15 PM.

Our morning and evening devotions this week were about how we can "demonstrate like Jesus"--how we can reach out like Jesus, step in like Jesus, let go like Jesus, and demonstrate like Jesus.  I've said it once, but I'll say it again:  be proud of our youth.  They represented St. Mark's well.  They are hard workers and eager to demonstrate Jesus' love to those around them.

When you see them, ask them about their week.  Ask them where they saw Jesus in the people of Philadelphia and in the city itself.  Ask them what they learned.  Ask them how they changed.  Ask them about what surprised them.   Then, listen carefully to their answers.

We cannot thank you enough for supporting our youth at St. Mark's.  Thank you to those of you who contributed financially to make this mission trip to Philadelphia possible.  Thank you to those of you who mentor our youth.  Thank you for the prayers you offered for us this week.  Mission trips are important, formative events for our youth.  They change the communities in which we work for the better.  They help create youth who are devoted to the church and to living like Jesus.

Thank you for joining us on our journey this week via this blog.  It's been great having you along.

See you in church!
Pastor Emily

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Best Birthday Ever

Today was Avery's 14th birthday. He spent most of it working in a thrift shop that gives its proceeds to a number of different organizations in Philadelphia.

Another group worked at a thrift shop that is part of the Whosoever Gospel Mission, a shelter for up to 55 men who are going through job training and/or rehabilitation programs.  "Whosoever" treated us to lunch, which was provided through both community gardens and Philabundance (our other sites this week).

Here are some of out thrift shop finds:

I tried on this lovely jacket, after which they said, "Take a selfie!", so I did:

We had to say goodbye to Will this morning, who had to head back to Charlotte a little early, and we missed him at our community cookout tonight. After the cookout, we had a foot washing, where we practiced Jesus' own service to others, followed by a birthday celebration for Avery. The only cake without flowers on it featured Godzilla.

We are tired and ready for our own beds, but in reflecting on the day, Avery's comment was, "This was the best birthday ever."

Back in Charlotte tomorrow. See you then!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Food, glorious food!

Today we continued our exploration of the issue of food sustainability. Alex's group, including Tyler, Dominic, and Avery went back to a community garden, while Brandi's and Pastor Emily's groups (including the rest of our youth from St. Mark's) went to Philabundance, Philadelphia's food bank.

The garden group worked on some composting and weeding. The food bank group worked on a conveyer belt, sorting and packaging food for distribution across the city. Philabundance feeds enough people per day to fill the Philadelphia Phillies stadium!

Here's what our group has to say about the week so far:

"I have learned what the term 'food insecurity' means."

"I have seen God in the volunteers who work so hard to feed people."

"This mission trip is different because it's about serving a larger community rather than individuals."

"We've gotten to see a progression of food in the city--from the farmers who grow it, to food distribution centers, to the people who receive it."

"We're having fun!"

Oh--and in case you were wondering if we were eating TOO much healthy food, have no fear! We stopped by Pat's King of Steaks this afternoon for cheesesteaks  and fries--our greasy food fix.

We have one more day of service before heading back to Charlotte.

We will see you in a couple of days!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Yay farming!

Today was a work day for us. We split into groups and worked at several different community gardens and farms. When we stopped at a grocery store on the way to our garden, one of our youth wisely noted the difference in cost between the produce and a candy bar (the produce was three times as expensive as the candy). Community gardens help people in so-called food deserts gain access to nutritious food at a reasonable cost (or sometimes even for free). Our work in the gardens was a way we could contribute to meeting the needs of hungry people in Philadelphia. 

Some of us weeded flower/vegetable beds. Others of us transplanted seedlings into larger pots for planting in the fall (they'll go into a greenhouse until then. It's been fun getting our hands dirty and caring for God's creation.

Here's a picture of one of the beautiful gardens:

And here is Pastor Emily's crew hard at work:

After our work, we took the subway to Old City and walked around Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell. We were asked to think about what our country's founders would have done about the issue of food insecurity. What can we do about it back home in Charlotte?

After dinner and showers (yay!), we ran up the steps of the art museum and posed for a picture with "Rocky."

Since the theme of this week is food sustainability and healthy eating, we have been eating well! YouthWorks has partnered with a local co-op, so all of our food is local, organic, or both. Never before have we eaten so much kale! The kids are craving a good, greasy Philly cheesesteak, to say the least. We'll see what we can do...

God is good. Like the gardens in which we worked today, our faith is growing, and the light of Christ overflows from the hearts of our youth. Be proud of them!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Urban Farming

Today was an educational day for us. We learned about urban farming from the staff at Philadelphia Horticultural Society (PHS). PHS has partnered with various companies, including PECO (energy company) to create "green rooftops" on their buildings. We took a tour of the PECO building and those of us 18 and over (Clayton was the only youth eligible) got to walk on the roof. The plants on their roof improve the city's water supply and storm water system, which is sub-par. 

Here is a picture of Clayton and Alex on the rooftop:

From the PECO building, we traveled to Bartram's Gardens, a botanical garden in West Philadelphia (yes, we sang the song from "Fresh Prince"). Included on the property is a large urban farm that grows organic produce for soup kitchens and food banks in neighborhoods where fresh produce is a rarity.  Tomorrow, we'll be working in one of PHS' many community gardens.

Oh--and we got showers today! Here's what a bunch of CLEAN high schoolers look like:

We are learning a lot, enjoying the city and each other's company. God is good--working in our lives and in the world!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

We made it!

We made it to Philadelphia! It took a little longer than anticipated due to traffic, but we are here, and we are here safely.

We worshiped this morning with St. Luke's in Culpeper, then joined them for a lunch provided by the Hispanic Seventh Day Adventist Church that shares their space--a wonderful, authentic, delicious Mexican meal! 

We rolled in to Philladelphia around 5:30 PM. We join a group from Michigan and a group from Tennessee, for a total of about 60 people.

One of our surprises so far has involved the inability to take showers (don't you wish you were stuck in our vans with us?). We thought we would be able to shower in Culpeper, but that was not the case (except for a super secret shower for the adults--whew!). Then, we thought there would be showers available in Philadelphia, but the showers are a 10-minute drive from where we are staying and are only available at certain times during the day. Poor Avery met us yesterday directly following a baseball game and won't be able to shower until tomorrow night! The kids are being great sports about it, though.

As indicated in an earlier post, our work this week will focus on good sustainability. Tomorrow is mostly an educational day--we will learn about urban farming.

Our devotions this evening were about Jesus being a demonstration for the ways we would like to live and serve. It is clear that Jesus has already taught our youth how to serve and that they are open to God's life changing mercy and grace!

Deflating an air mattress takes a team:

Our stellar St. Mark's group:

Avery REALLY wants a shower!:

Look at those smiling faces!:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Halfway! (well, a little more than halfway)

We made it to Culpeper!  Our 6.5-hour drive went as smoothly as possible.  The youth from St. Luke's Lutheran Church gave us a warm welcome and Pastor Kate Costa made us a delicious lasagne dinner. Pastor Kate led us in some games after dinner and we are hanging out until we turn in for the night.  

After day 1, one thing is for certain--we have the best youth ever!!

We look forward to getting to Philadelphia tomorrow!

Here are a few pictures of us learning "group juggling" with Pastor Kate.