Sunday, May 15, 2005

SPACE 2005 - The Black Hole Experience

I have just returned from a weekend experience in New York City with a group of 17 our graduating Seniors, on a weekend focusing on service, mission and culture. There is, of course, lots of details I could write about. Instead, I will try to hit the high points. (all images are clickable)

The three themes of the trip were:
- the city is strategic
- see the present clearly
- create the future

Friday night we arrived, traveled via subway from Queens to Manhattan, checked into the Central Park Hostel and did a culture activity in Times Square. The group was broken into smaller groups and given a pad of paper which had some spaces to write on the front, and a world map on the back. The gist was to find someone from another culture and have them tell you 2 common phrases in their native tongue. After that, they would point to where they were from on the world map. You should have seen the looks on their faces when I gave them the instructions. Classic. In 30 minutes we all met again and they all did really well. Most of them had some great interchanges with other cultures. To close, I stressed the idea of being a learner, that people love to talk about their cultures if they feel that you are really interested in learning. We didn't get to bed until 2am.

Saturday's activities centered around serving with Urban Impact. We arrived at their African Friendship Center and broke into groups. Groups did stuff including passing out soccer clinic and English class flyers, sorting and filling out response cards for English class participants, light cleaning and some painting. It was a little less than I thought we would be involved in, but still pretty meaningful. If nothing else, we had a presence in the neighborhood and helped them get some very tangible things done. The two staffers were both headed back to India in a few weeks. One of them worked with Word Made Flesh mission, working with under age prostitutes.

We broke for lunch and then went and hung out at a local park. If all plans go south, park ministry always seems to be great. We had prepped the kids to bring some toys for kids, so they had bubbles, punching balls, jump ropes, etc. Some of our guys played basketball with some of the locals. Our guys had some guts to play, even though they got stomped 15-0.

After resting at the hostel for a bit, we decided to try to go up the Empire State Building. But the wait was 90 minutes. So instead we got dinner. After that, we went to Ground Zero. I had brought a page of questions about some of the topics from the weekend and wanted the students to do some thinking/journaling about those questions. I don't think that worked out to well. Some of them were very emotional about 9/11. And they all were really tired. We hung out a little more in Times Square and then got back to the hostel by midnight.

Sunday morning, we did breakfast sandwiches from a local deli and ate them in Central Park. Then it was the subway out to Queens and driving home. I had wanted to do some kind of sendoff thing, but 1-the worship leader was totally fried and 2-it would have never worked on its own, and 3-we were already late getting home.

Some interesting observations:
- It was a huge privilege for me to providing this experience for three girls who had never been to NYC (or DC or ridden a subway) before. Seeing the way to responded to a place and culture that they had never been to before, what a great way to spend a weekend. Photo - One of the aforementioned girls, with a subway clown. This was one out of five or six things that made her weekend.

- NYC 7 day metro cards are $23 not $13. This means we were $9 over budget per person right from the start. Yikes. We made up for it Saturday night when all 18 of us ate pizza for dinner for $89.

- We should have prayed more. Not in the sense of praying to pray, but asking God to come and bless our efforts.

- You never know how mission trips are really going to go. Plans with hosts can go awry in a second. Have a backup plan, and park outreach always seems to work, is easy to do and builds a presence for the local ministry.

- This was our first event with our intern, E. She did great. On the ride home, she asked me, "Do you think they got the big picture?" She is an emerging leader that totally gets "it" and will bring the Kingdom - she is one to watch. That is E on the left, with Leslie, who is on the Brazil lead team.

- Did we do some transformation? This weekend was not just about having fun, although it was tons of fun. The ultimate goal was to transform each one of these students into a Christ follower that has just calibrated their worldview and is ready to create the future. I don't know if we really transformed them. We certainly gave them a lot of think about and some great memories to hold on to. Transformation... maybe...

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