Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hello from Milwaukee! (2011 edition)

This weekend has been amazing. I'm back in Milwaukee visiting the Summer in the City project and my second family there! I don't know how to describe how joyful it's been to be back in this city with old and new friends. Last summer I got to have deeper fellowship than I ever have before and after being reunited we picked up again like we'd never left. I took Friday off from work, so instead of driving out to Seagate I got dropped off at the Amtrak station and boarded a train for Milwaukee. Let me tell you, I am never flying again because the train is a hundred times better. The train station was tiny, with no long waits or security checkpoints. I just showed up, got my ticket, and boarded. The car had tons of legroom and outlets so I got a lot of programming on the game done.

Once I got to Milwaukee, Bryan and Meg (a St. Thomas student I've seen at a lot of conferences) and and picked me up. I've been really reliant on the people on the project for transportation and a place to stay, and I wanted to emphasize that for any of them you are reading this. Thank you so much, all of you; God has given me a blessed weekend through you. Anyway, soon we arrived back at City on a Hill. It was pretty unreal being back there; we'd stopped outside on the way to drop my sister off at college, but I hadn't been inside it since our tearful farewell last August. I was ecstatic to finally be back! Bryan's ministry team had gotten done at Liberty and Truth fairly early, which was how they'd been able to come pick me up so promptly. They were crazy organized and were planning their VBS for the next few weeks, and I got to sit in on their meeting. I love vocational ministry and it was so great to see them getting really into it.

Pretty soon other people were coming back, and soon I saw Erin and Dave! We had dinner at Taco Bell, where I got to see Ariel, Anna Z (a fellow junior at the U of M in Campus Crusade with me), and most of the rest of the students on summer project this year. There are 17 this year; six men (the same as last summer) and eleven women. It turned out they were switching up the schedule this weekend, so a park outreach was happening that night. I went along and helped make gospel bracelets with kids in Tiefenthaler Park. I was expecting to have to round kids up and ask if they wanted bracelets and be kind of creepy, but that only happened the first time. After that we pretty much got mobbed by kids; some wanted bracelets (or five of them), others wanted necklaces. Even after a year I remembered what all the beads meant and got pretty good at explaining it to them; the girls I was working with seemed to know when to throw in some helpful questions or slow me down if I was going through the message too fast. It reminded me of the sermons I'd heard on the different parts of the body of Christ working together. The fact that I was able to jump right back into outreach after so long just went to show that I did it not on my own ability, but by God's enabling.

After we got back to COAH, Kiera, Kriesten, and Emily Sear showed up and we had a big reunion in the student lounge! We were all deliriously happy to see each other again. While many of the current SP students went to hang out at another park, we went to good old Leon's for some custard. We stopped at COAH briefly before I went to Tim and Andrea Urban's house, where I would be staying the next three nights. I was exhausted from all the excitement (especially my face, from smiling so much) and pretty much went straight to bed.

Saturday was epic. Everyone from the 2010 project went to a great place called Ruby G's for breakfast. Heidi drove to Milwaukee to meet us for the day! We had a good long time of catching up on each other's lives. It sounds really repetitive, but I was so happy to see them all again. My Milwaukee friends really are my second family and having their picture next to my work computer only made me miss them more. Saturday was the day of the weekly social event. The men were apparently shooting guns, but it was mostly for people on the project so I just ung out with the returners all day. I'd never really had a day in high school when we all just drove around and adventured, but I was missing out. We went to the Reservoir (the hill where we prayed over the city during our last week), a park near Bradford Beach, and the pier, just talking about all that had happened since last summer. We stopped at Open Pantry for snacks, where we ran into Sherman, one of the men the other ministry team worked with at Liberty and Truth last summer! I'm probably forgetting at least one place we went to; it was just a blur of excitement.

For dinner Kiera, Heidi and I went to good old Buffalo Wild Wings; I felt kind of bad as I knew there was probably a better place, but no one could think of anything so we just went there. I ordered a cider there and didn't get carded, which was pretty shocking as I'm still only 21. We waited for the men's and women's groups to finish up at COAH and went back to the Riverwalk, where the men had done our impromptu women's appreciation event last year. The whole day was just a tour of all our favorite places from Milwaukee and it was probably the high point of summer so far.

Back at the Urbans' house it hit me that I only had one full day left with everyone. I thought about the promise of the Resurrection and the eternal life we'll have in God, when there will be no more farewells or pain or loneliness. Every single day we'll experience more fellowship and love than I did that day or anytime on summer project. This really helped for reasons I understood better this morning. I got up early and had more time to read my Bible and think before church. I realized how much of the things I struggled with and mistakes I made were a result of my God-given need for love and community that will never be satisfied in this lifetime. On summer project last year I had better and closer relationships than I had before or since and I was afraid of leaving all that behind. But if it really is a need, I have to trust that God will provide for me. Part of how He wants to do this is through each other; I realized how many times I'd prayed for God to love on people through me and forgotten that it could work the other way, too.

Church this morning was at Liberty and Truth, where we'd been a few times last year. I forgot how differet (and yet amazing) African-American churches were. A few women came up to give the call to worship, and I felt like they could have just kept proclaiming God's greatness and love all day. Heaven will probably be a perfect fit for them. The sermon was on overcoming unforgiveness, and after it was over pastor Darryl Seay called people up to let go of anyone they hadn't forgiven. About 20 people came up and he made sure they all had time and support to work through what was eating at them. God often seems to work on me in church in a completely different way than He seems to be working in general, and today was like that. Besides praying for the people standing up front working through old hurts and grudges, I prayed to entrust my needs to God's care and proclaiming that He had all the love I'll ever need.

The service lasted until 12:45 or so and it was lunchtime. After that came the usual Sunday afternoon lull I'm still in, so I've had time to write this. I never imagined I'd be writing another Summer Project post, but here it is! Once again, pray for the students here, the ministry God has put them in, and the city He loves so much.

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