Where we stayed:
Here are some pictures from my worship experience last Sunday. My master’s degree cohort attended a trilingual church in West Philadelphia, and it was a beautiful experience of what the body of Christ can be!
Every Scripture passage, every song lyric, every prayer had to be repeated three times: once in Spanish, once in English, and once in Indonesian. In contrast to most churches I know, which aim to get people out the door in exactly 60 minutes, this service showed us the value of slowing down…even if we only understood 1/3 of what was being said. But it was a beautiful inefficiency, reminding us of our connection to Christians throughout the world and throughout history.
The service was wonderfully inclusive and participatory. Men and women of all different nationalities sang in the band onstage; then, after each reading, three new speakers would move to the podium for the next segment of the service. Probably half of the congregation was involved somehow in leading worship for their church.
There’s just something about stumbling through the Indonesian lyrics of “Shout to the Lord” that makes you appreciate the power of music. Many of the tunes were familiar to me; some were not. I can hardly put into words how amazing it was to know that we were all praising the same God, with the same tunes, in our own languages.
The sermon for the morning was about prayer; but rather than simply challenging us to pray “more” or “better,” the pastors sent us into the neighborhood to pray. So we, the Urban Studies students who had just arrived in the city one day earlier, joined lifelong residents and immigrant families in praying for their community.
We returned to the church to share a meal together…well, two meals really. First, the sacred Communion ritual practiced by Christians worldwide. Then, a home-cooked Indonesian meal prepared and served by the church members.
It was an incredible start to the week. I was challenged throughout the residency to deepen my faith, sharpen my reason, and act upon my sense of justice; this church spoke to me on all three levels. Church members admitted freely that they were far from perfect; they’ve had their share of growing pains and cultural misunderstandings. But in spite of it all, they have remained faithful to their calling: growing, serving, and worshiping together.
(photos by Nathan Corbitt)
Middle Schooler: Hey Ms. Callie, if you’re still the youth director when I graduate from high school, are you going to forget about me after I leave?
Me: No, of course not.
MS: Okay. Well, will you still remember me when I’m 25 and in the NBA?
Me: Definitely. You’re unforgettable.
MS: Okay… when I’m in the NBA, I’ll give you $10,000. And I’ll be sure to thank you in my speech when we when the National Championship.
Last week I created videos about our summer mission trips to share with our congregation. Enjoy!
Back in the swing of school…I just finished my first reading assignment for the new semester: an excerpt from Salome Thomas-El’s book I Choose To Stay. Thomas-El, an education consultant, was a teacher and principal in inner-city Philadelphia for more than 20 years. His website sums up his philosophy: “Every child needs someone to be crazy about them.”
I totally agree. It can completely alter the course of a student’s life to know that someone cares. So when we encounter a kid, no matter who the kid appears to be, we can’t ever just assume that they’ve already found that person…much less that they know who that person is! The responsibility falls on us, then, to make sure that those kids know we’re crazy about them, we believe in them, and we’re rooting for them every step of the way.
I love the way my friend Kenny once described his mentor: “Lorris had a particular way of telling you, ‘I think you’re really neat.’ Even when I broke the rules, and any other camp counselor would have rightly fussed at me, Lorris would come up and put his around me. Instead of a lecture, he’d say something like, ‘Kenny, you know something? I think you’re pretty neat, and so does God.’ And somehow he’d get the point across, too.”
I only got to meet Lorris once, but in the short week I spent with him, he told me several times that he thought I was pretty special. And even though I knew he probably said the same thing to the other 50 campers, his words still left an impression upon my heart.
So who are you crazy about? And have you told them yet?
…because apparently it’s way too much to expect me to post during the summer…
Trip #1. Philadelphia. Grad School! (Hopefully, the BuildaBridge Institute will get its own post soon, with a little more reflection & detail). I spent 12 hours per day in classes and workshops about the arts, spirituality, psychology, international relief, community development, and education. I danced like a hippo, a giraffe, an African warrior, and a three-toed sloth. (That’s saying something, because I generally don’t dance). I drew pictures, painted flowerpots, learned and absorbed a ton of new ideas, met people from all over the world, and studied hard!
One day “off” in between. Youth Sunday! Our students did an amazing job. They led the music, the preaching, the praying, the ushering, the greeting, and the children’s sermon.
Trip #2. Houston. Middle School Mission Trip! We worked with the Center for Student Missions (CSM), and had an amazing time. One change that CSM has made throughout their organization is that each group is assigned to an “anchor site,” where they serve daily, in addition to the other service and educational activities. We had wonderful food and fantastic hosts, and our students learned/experienced a ton of new things.
One week “off.” Vacation Bible School. And grad school. That week was a blur. I think I wrote five papers. And learned some VBS songs. And did laundry. And packed for…
Trip #3. Chicago. High School Mission Trip! Also with the Center for Student Missions, we had the misfortune to be in Chicago during their hottest week since 1946. Without air conditioning. Our students sweated and suffered through the week, but they did an awesome job leading Bible School in a homeless shelter there. Another group worked with a day camp for at-risk youth. And we celebrated the 4th of July on the El, along the Magnificent Mile, at the Navy Pier, and at the Lincoln Park Zoo. And at the end of the day we plopped down next to the refreshingly cold Lake Michigan to watch two sets of magnificent fireworks.
Trip #5. Minden. Camp. Although not technically a week off, Caney provided a chance for me to catch my breath and care for my own soul. And while I was away, Jordan got a job!
3 Days off. Inhale. Exhale. Go to staff meeting. Lead a prayer tour for our high schoolers.
Trip #6. Dallas. Anniversary! Jordan and I celebrated our fourth anniversary!! We headed to Dallas for a quick, wonderful trip. We went rock-climbing at a gym there, saw The Dark Knight Rises and ate lunch at a theater/restaurant combo, and met up with some friends who live in Dallas.
A few days off. Back in town. Final projects. Weekend of the Cross. Hanging with my amazing intern. The Olympics. The end of summer youth group. Good-byes to the new college freshmen. Hellos to the incoming sixth graders. Abundant sunshine and heat. Lots of prayer, lots of planning. Meetings. Making bulletin boards with Jordan. Cleaning. Finding new treasures hidden away in the youth wing closets. And finally…Promotion Sunday!
My new favorite website, Easel.ly, allows you to view, share, and create your own infographics. It’s super easy to use (trust me! I’m not tech-savvy), and the results are a ton of fun. I fully expect to be creating infographics for every occasion…at least, until the novelty wears off.
We did volunteer training last night with all of our counselors for the new school year, and I created an infographic to jumpstart our discussion (using some real statistics about our students, and some from national research studies about teenagers, which I extrapolated onto our directory).
Here it is: