James 2:18-20 “18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?…”
Something that stood out for me this weekend is when one of our leaders on site quoted, “It takes more to be a follower of God, there is a difference between following and believing because even demons believe in God, it takes more to be a follower.”
That is something that I will not forget about this weekend and it seriously is making me think everything through and think about my life and how I am living it.
This weekend I had the opportunity to serve along side 31 other individuals and do some amazing work in the St. Louis area. Urban Plunge is an event that is held once every semester at Greenville College and it takes a group of students who go into the St. Louis community and learn about other cultures and problems in the area (such as homelessness, poverty, fair trade, windows, children, battered women, and many other situations and cases) and we get to help serve these communities in anyway we can. It is a great way to step out our Greenville “bubble” and experience for a little bit what is out there and how broken areas in St. Louis and just our world we live in are.
I wish this weekend was longer because even though we do a lot of work, it feels like we could do so much more and I know what we did matters so in a way it is still good. But there will always be this piece of me and all of us that just wishes we could do more. I am so thankful for being a part of an event like this, which makes me so thankful for being at Greenville College. Being a Christian it is important, at least to me and how I believe that we don’t just sit, but we go out and do something that makes a difference and shows God’s love while doing it in the process.
Psalm 127:3-5 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
The first thing that we were able to do this weekend was be a part of the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis. The CAC missions statement is “Our Mission: To prepare youth in East St. Louis for successful futures spiritually, academically and physically.” A short description of what they do is, children and youth 5-18 (grades K-12th) pour through CAC’s doors every weekday at 3:30pm (10am in the summer) and stay in our care until 8pm (6pm in the summer). Each child is offered a hot dinner meal, reading and math classes, homework help, computer training, fine arts (yoga, karate, dance), recreation, medical care, college access, workforce training, and mentoring (Bible study, devotions, Sisterhood, Power Hour, etc.) In addition, CAC sends children to summer camps and on mission trips (Belize, Canada, New York, Florida, Louisiana). I believe that the work they do there is super important and I am happy that a place like that is available and the work they do I can see it affects the children and it is such a blessing to witness. I have been there once before and it was an amazing experience so being able to go back was such a joy. A twist from what we were suppose to originally do there was that the children received a roller skating party so we got to be a part of that and it was a lot of fun. Getting to interact with the children was a blast and roller skating with them was a challenge, I have not been roller skating since 6th grade year, which was 9 years ago, NINE YEARS! WOWZA! But it was just so much fun getting to be with the kids and the joy on their faces was so great and it was amazing. If you want to learn more about the CAC, here is their website to get a feel for what they do and ways to get involved. http://www.cacesl.org/
Matthew 25:35-40 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
Once we were done at the Christian Activity Center we headed to another location called New City Fellowship where we eat dinner and stayed for the evening. When we arrived we were introduced to the organization CityLights, which we also learned a lot about the following morning. But CityLights is an amazing organization, “CityLights is a ministry aimed at drawing collegiansand grads towards a lifetime of doing justice and preaching grace – reconnecting hearts with hands, using one’s careers, gifts and resources to live out the Gospel in the homes and neighborhoods of urban St. Louis – and the myriad of places they return to when they leave.” They have a lot of different projects that draw students from all over to stay for a week or longer and they do amazing work within the city. The founder of the organization talked about an amazing Spring Break opportunity that struck interest in a lot of us and we hope it will work out when the time comes because it would be amazing to go back.
During this time we got to know one another better (those who were along on this trip), I feel like bonding with a team you are serving with is really important and the people who went on this trip were absolutely incredible.I am so happy that we literally doubled in size from last semester. Getting to reconnect with people from last semester’s Urban Plunge who I don’t get to see on a regular basis was like a mini reunion and then welcoming the newcomers was even better because we added members to our “family”. It wouldn’t be Urban Plunge without multiple rounds of Sardines (a game where teams try to find a team who hides and then once they are found, the other teams hide with them until the last team finds them all) and the place where we were all staying was an old school for the deaf so it was BIG and somewhat creepy in places. Which made this game even more fun. Also, it would not have been Urban Plunge without us all getting stuffed into a closet, we fit about 9 people into this tiny tiny closet and it was a tight squeeze, and it is only all fun n’ games til someone starts a tickle fight lol
When we woke up the next morning we were welcomed with breakfast and devotional which was led by the founder of CityLights. It was there when he made the comment of, “It takes more to be a follower of God, there is a difference between following and believing because even demons believe in God, it takes more to be a follower.” That stood out for me and made me just think a lot. We discussed a lot about racism especially everything with Ferguson, Missouri going on right now, it is like people need hope more than ever and if we want things to change, we have to be that change. It was just a lot to take in for it being 8 in the morning, but I am so glad to have been there because it was so important that we heard that because it is seriously something that has gotten better, but at the same time it has not. Some of the stories that he told us during our group work time just brought both sadness and also this anger inside me. Made me just really want to do something. Something that one of our own, I think it was Dylan and he asked, “Is there hope?” and as simple the question sounds, it was powerful and the response that this guy gave was just so on point that I think we just need more people like that around.
There were different job opportunities for us on Saturday and for the group I was in, were were in charge of putting dirt down at this man’s house who had terrible flooding problems and so not only did we lay dirt down we landscaped pretty much. On top of that we had to load dirt up into trucks and we dug this dirt up at the nearby cemetery. It was an experience, I think a lot of us had the theme song to the movie Holes in our heads at the time. But being able to help this man brought us as a group closer because we were serving together and that is one of the best ways I think we can really put use to the Greenville College term of, community. Those trips to fill up the trucks brought really great conversations and stories that the founder of CityLights and another man who was working with us told us and I will remember for quite some time, I really want to go back and spend the Spring Break with CityLights because it was something that does a whole lot of difference and they even told us that we got a small taste of what a usual WEEK looks like.
“If there is anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns, open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need.” Deuteronomy 15:7-8
To end our weekend we ended up going to The Loop in St. Louis where we visited Plowsharing Crafts, which is a all fair trades store and it is just an amazing place to learn about fair trade and what it is. Something that I found via the world wide web was this about Fair Trade and how it can relate to biblical scripture.
There is a biblical mandate for Fair Trade. We see this in Proverbs 13:23, “The field of
the poor may yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice,” and in Micah
6:8, “What does the Lord require of you? To do justice…” Fair Trade is a way of doing
justice. It allows artisans to receive up to 50% of the selling price of their work. In
conventional trade, they can receive as little as 1% of the final price. By buying Fair
Trade, you are giving these artisans a chance to make a living wage so that they can
have access to food, shelter, health care, and education.
I feel like going here was a great way to end our trip because we continued to learn more and trips like these it is important to take away from all the experiences we get and this was another way of learning about how we can do our part.
This weekend was a blessing, a true blessing. Getting to serve and getting to do it with people who share the same beliefs and have an incredible heart for serving was such a blessing that I am truly thankful for. Opportunities and experiences like these teach me so much about life and just make me think about what is really important. When we get caught up in our everyday life it always seems like we only care about ourselves and what we can get to pull out ahead of the rest. So to get a chance to step away from that and just serving others is so humbling and an eye opener to how much this world needs hope, and it needs God. Urban Plunge is a small taste of what is really out there and I just believe that we as Christians are called to do something great and just to show others that God is love. We have the opportunity to show people that, to show them God’s love and I cannot wait for Urban Plunge next semester. But I don’t want to just sit here and do nothing til that time, so with that what is out there? It is my job to research.
Ps, a lot of the photo credits go to Shelby Riddle, who is not only AMAZING, but also a friend!