After the great week at Eastbrook, I've had a wild but fulfilling weekend. (Which continues into today!) Saturday was a big outreach at the lakefront as around 100,000 people turned out for a July 3rd fireworks show. It was pretty crazy; people would arrive early in the morning and claim a plot of land for the day with stakes and ropes. Veterans' Park was pretty much completely full. We sent some guys at 6 AM just to get a not-too-good spot; it's quite a hectic land grab.
Today we were mostly using Soularium, an open-ended picture survey that is supposed to start spiritual conversations. People are given 50 pictures and asked to choose ones that represent their life, God, and their spiritual experience. I partnered up with Tim this time, figuring that I needed to go with someone a good deal more talkative tham I am.
We walked around through the mass of tents and folding chairs for a while, looking for people to talk to. Finally we found Mike and Dan, two twenty-somethings who seemed pretty interesting, though not really spiritual. Sadly, they had to go get some more supplies and our conversation was cut short. After a lot more walking (and gaping at the sailboat-like art museum), we met Roger, a deep-thinking 13-year-old who was pretty keen to take the survey and reflect on it. We were cut slightly short again as his family came to get him, but we made it through Soularium and gave him a booklet on the basic themes and story of the gospel; Tim figured that he would definitely read it and take it in.
We then talked to Phil, who it turned out had been a born-again Christian for 30 years; we had a very interesting, meandering conversation with him on the Christian life that was pretty encouraging. There were a few other conversations, but we never really got past the survey again. Soularium is pretty extensive, as is the booklet that was to come after it; it really seemed like a lot for a random person to take in all at once, even someone as pensieve as Roger. Once again I didn't see any dramatic on-the-spot conversions, driving home the point that we need to trust God completely to bring people back to Him.
After this we basically got to eat dinner and hang out in the park for several hours until the fireworks. Great food and fellowship were had, along with games. (I played a ridiculous game of Hearts in which Tim 'shot the moon' twice, in a row. Unbelievable.) The fireworks were pretty cool, being launched from two barges out in the lake, but sadly both sets of fireworks were obscured by trees. It was pretty cool, but I wish we'd had a better few. (And that they'd shot off the top of the U.S. Bank building as they apparently have in previous years) After the show ended, we had to be shuttled back due to the parking mess, which for us meant walking literally halfway back to City on a Hill before being picked up. We were pretty exhausted.
On Sunday the 4th we went to Jeremiah Missionary Baptist Church. It reminded me of Berean, in its layout, style, and welcoming atmosphere. One of my main problems with African American churches, though, is the lack of hymnals or projected lyrics! The worship was bursting with energy and praise for God, and it was frustrating not being able to participate beyond clapping along. (Especially since they had reserved seats and I was literally front and center, three or so meters from the pulpit) The sermon, on 2 Kings 6, was on seeing things as God sees them and was quite Biblical and good. The only problem was that during the course of the service we learned (for the first time) that their VBS, which our other ministry team was supposed to help run the next day, had been canceled. Plenty of time to find another ministry partner!
After church I eventually managed to get lunch, after which we headed to the house of one of the staff's parents for more fireworks! (I cannot overstate the generosity of all the families who have opened up their homes to us on this project) Upon getting there we had several hours to kill; luckily the fact that the house had ROCK BAND 2 made this pretty easy. I'd been dying to break out my drumming skillz since soon after leaving home; much fun was had. They also had a competitive cup stacking set, foosball, and darts; it was a fun, fellowship-filled evening.
We walked a mile or so to a nearby park to watch the fireworks. There were a few hundred people there; much less crowded and busy than yesterday, and our view of the fireworks was unobstructed by trees. It was a good 4th of July.
Today we get the day off as our next ministry site, a Christian youth center called New Beginnings Are Possible, is closed. We're meeting at 12:30 to plan the VBS. (luckily we don't have to worry about mornings, as we'll be doing a golf camp!)
One other big thing this week is that on Friday morning, the staff are leaving and turning the rest of the project over to us. They're meeting with us this week to pass on various responsibilities to people. I'm not supposed to discuss my job yet, but suffice it to say that I think it will be an eye-opening experience for me and a lesson in humility. Pray that God would prepare us to take over the project, and that He would work through us to build up the kids at New Beginnings and build relationships in the two weeks we'll have with them. Also that He would bring another opportunity for the other team, soon!
Composed ~10 AM, Monday, July 5th
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