This past weekend, I spent about 24 hours in Philadelphia with some 10th grade boys and their leaders from a local church youth ministry. Long time readers might remember that Ember has used Philadelphia as a context for a few of our cultural and leadership immersions and this weekend was a similar experience. I loved our time together with this group, I've known one of their leaders for a long time and their leader team has been with these boys for almost five years straight. Every leader here was humble, sacrificial and fun. Every student loved learning about what we were doing and was totally engaged. Dream job.
Here are some of the elements of the weekend - feel free to steal with attribution.
+ Friday night - Chinatown immersion.
I love Chinatown Philadelphia for this kind of thing. You actually see lots of Chinese people there and it feels like being immersed in a totally different culture for a short period of time.
Dinner at Chinese restaurant with peking duck and frog.
Cultural observation - what are the icons, what is the narrative of the neighborhood and what is similar and different from where you live?
Urbanization, global urban migration, gentrification, demographics.
Dinner and discussion with Ember guide Tess and her roommate from Eastern.
+ Saturday - Salvation Army West Philadelphia
We had another Ember experience with Salvation Army West Philadelphia in 2011 so I knew a little bit about what to expect. It is part community center and part church, and the local envoys there, Tony and LaVerna Lewis are a joy to work with and really are there as pastors to the community. They have a fantastic facility that has been there since 1980 right next to a senior citizens apartment complex. The projects included weeding their community garden and sorting through toy and clothing donations.
The nonprofit dillemma of not having enough resources.
Missional imagination [like using this property.]
The requirement of missional imagination for leadership for the future.
Incarnation - when someone moves in to the neighborhood. Jesus being the ultimate example of incarnation.
The tension of bringing suburban kids into an urban environment for a few hours.
+ Saturday - Rocky Stairs
You cannot talk about the context of Philadelphia effectively without referencing Rocky.
+ Saturday - Tony Lukes.
Cheesesteaks - another significant icon of Philly.
Here is hoping that this weekend was catalytic for the potential in some of these students. More pictures here.
UPDATE: One item of feedback and I'm updating it here so I don't forget: we didn't walk around the neighborhood at Sal Army with the team like we should have.