Today was a pretty hard day. We started with more training, mostly discussing relating to the poor more, as well as going over ideas for having spiritual conversations, which should be very helpful. This lasted the whole morning; then we set out for a "scavenger hunt" around Milwaukee.
The scavenger hunt had us driving around the city, stopping at various destinations and gathering facts about them. First we went to the south side, a predominantly hispanic neighborhood. Our first destination was a hispanic grocery store, which was really amazing. It was colorful and packed with fascinating foods and welcoming people. They didn't speak much English, but they really made us feel welcome despite how much we stuck out. We got a churro (bread dipped in cinnamon sugar and filled with deliciousness), learned how to wire money to another country, and discovered fascinating dishes like octopus, chicken claws, and pig's ears. At my recommendation, we got bottles of Mexican Coke for cheap (made with cane sugar!). It was delightful! We also stopped at a discount goods store, which had an extremely random assortment of stuff, and a small but nice restaurant with suffering-Jesus decorations.
After this we went 6 miles on I-43 to Whitefish Bay, an upscale suburb of Milwaukee where we visited the Bay View mall. We visited the fancy grocery store Trader Joe's, a fancy restaurant that gave us a menu (about to be replaced), and an extremely expensive women's clothing store. (Bryan and I refused to enter, but apparently they were selling $128 skirts) We ate giant pretzels for lunch at a food court, along with our Mexican Coke.
We were supposed to visit Midtown (the area around the ministry center), but due to ridiculous amounts of road construction we got very lost. I thought contruction was bad in the Twin Cities, but it was much worse here: in some neighborhoods, it seemed like almost every single block was under construction. Then on the way back it started POURING. the weather had been fairly dreary ever since the first day, but this was by far the most rain we'd had. This led to heavy traffic on the freeway and due to time we had to skip Midtown altogether. We had some great spiritual conversation in the car on the way back and just in general; it was amazing fellowship.
We had a bit of free time afterward, before being briefed on dinner. We were going to eat at St. Ben's, a local church that served daily meals to anyone who came in. This was to help us better empathize with the poor, a common theme of our training, and to have conversations with them. A rather forceful guy was keeping order in the dining hall and seated me and my "buddy"--Aaron the staffer--at the end of one of the tables. We met with a guy named Duran (half of Duran Duran) who was pretty nice and talkative, but he was apparently only there to scoop all his hamburger soup into a container and leave, ignoring the rest of his food. The only other guy who was seated near us was Jeff, a machine worker who had been laid off about a month ago and was looking for work. Aaron and I (mostly Aaron) tried to converse with him, but he was really quiet; I got the feeling he was really unhappy to have to be there.
So not much came of that. it was pretty discouraging, but I think God was just saying "not now" to us. Upstairs in the Catholic sanctuary we held hands in a circle and prayed a "good things" prayer where we each thanked God for one good thing that happened that day. That prayer was pretty life-changing, but not because of that. My faith has become quite strong, but ultimately I haven't been happy with how self-focused it tends to be--praying that God would fill me with love to Him, draw me to him--good prayers, but my heart should be for others as well! So I'd been praying that God would break my heart over my disobedience and the plight of the poor and lost. As we were praying, He did so--but combined with my seeming inability to help them or share the gospel on my own, it was pretty depressing.
But I know that all things are possible through God, even if it's hard to truly believe. I ask for prayer that God would keep this burden for the poor and lost on me and the rest of the team, but also that He would give us faith in His power to mend broken lives and love people in life-changing ways through us. Going from eating lunch in a food court to dinner in a soup kitchen was pretty jarring, and I hope that experience stays with me the whole summer. (But not in a depressing way)
Composed ~9:15 PM, Tuesday, June 15th