Today was our first mission day in DC, the first out of two planned for the summer. The DC movement was meant to be much larger than it is turning out, but thats okay. We had a great group of kids go today. A few of them are meant to be leaders among their peers.
We worked at SOME from about noon to 1.30pm, helping them serve a meal to the homeless. This included setup, serving and cleaning up. They actually serve two meals every single day. Getting there via Metro and walking was interesting. Probably not the safest part of the city.
Afterwards, we made our way down to the National Mall and went into the Air and Space museum. Get it - SPACE?!? We had some ice cream and went over some basics with the students about how to share their faith. How to start conversations, what is the CORE of the Gospel, how to end a conversation. Two other college age leaders (who are also on the Brazil lead team) helped out with pieces of those. We actually ended up doing a round robin small group thing in the food court of the museum because it was really loud in there. We spent about 45 minutes in there between cooling off, having a snack and talking about cultivating conversations.
Afterwards, we went back out and broke into groups and did the culture and religion survey. Two goals with the survey.  to learn about other cultures.  to get used to being a learner of other cultures. We [ all the leaders for today ] had a problem with trying to do cold evangelism [ one of my goals all summer is to NOT use this word ] with people on the street. So instead, we turned it around so that they would be learning from other cultures, asking questions, actively listening, etc. The students really got into it, it was really great. They meant people from so many parts of the world, other world religions, etc. Six questions were on the survey:
1 - What country are you from?
2 - What region/city/people group?
3 - Are you religious?
4 - If so, what religion?
5 - How does it affect you day by day?
6 - Did you religion originate from your cultural upbringing?
NCC sent me some great contact cards to give out too, to people that we might have gotten into conversations with. So great.
The original plan after the survey was to go to an ethnic restaurant in the Adams Morgan neighbohoood for dinner. Some of the leaders, my wife included, felt like maybe that wasn't the best idea, since none of us had really been to that neighborhood. Some of them were also feeling like we walked through a pretty seedy part of the city on the way to SOME already once on this excursion and another experience like that might not be such a great idea. I could totally understand. Instead, we left the city, and had dinner at a sandwich place in College Park, near where we had parked to get on the Metro.
I think we impacted the kids in two ways. First, they got to serve the homeless. They went out of their way, devoted and invested some time on a weekend to be intentional with serving someone less fortunate than them. We may oversensitize our students a little bit to the homeless, but if that means they serve more than average, I would be okay with that. Secondly, I think they 'saw' culture a lot more than they are used to. Most of them never imagined all the different cultures and how they could learn from them. If we are building students to be Jesus followers that keep in mind the perspective of culture, I think it's a great start. And if we don't keep culture in mind, we are probably making a big mistake.
The one other thing that hit me today more than ever, probably because my wife went with us [ my wife - who is so _much_ more level headed and realistic than me ], was the notion of risk. How much do you risk with students? Is feeding the homeless too risky [ I know some would balk at this question, but just understand my progression. ] Is walking through a bad section of the city too much or too little? How many drug deals on the street have you seen while on a missions excursion with your students? How big of a group can you take and actively lead safely into the inner city? How much can you really ensure?
Please don't get me wrong. Parents have every right to know their children are safe with you. As a parent of two kids, 7 and 4, I will demand the right things be planned for safety and logistically with regard to my kids. Every parent has that right. And they have the absolute right to ask you as a youthworker about it. And they have the right to be told the truth, honestly and forthright.
I know we can't know all the possible risks that we take when we invite kids to come with us on mission. But there is a balance between taking the risk, making the sacrifice and serving versus keeping kids totally safe in the all consuming suburban world. Keeping them safe and thereby squandering the future of the Church Jesus wants to use to meet the nations. I guess I'm still thinking about the balance. And it's a really good thing to be thinking about.