March 6th 2009
It’s a bit of an unlikely recipe: take 19 college students from southern California and have them shovel snow in Camden, NJ. But believe it or not, that’s what we did and we enjoyed it! Our first day of work was a good one spent working in the snow, a new experience for many of us. We are a group of students from Pepperdine University, all connected by a college ministry group at Malibu Presbyterian Church. For a group of college kids far from home, snow shoveling can be a quality bonding experience.
So while we weren’t able to work with the kids on Monday as many of us had planned, it presented an opportunity to watch the documentary Ordinary Radicals about Shane Claiborne and the Jesus for President book tour. To say the least, it sparked some lively discussion about vocation, calling, and the will of God in our lives. It’s pretty hard to come from suburbia to UrbanPromise without being challenged regarding the will of God for us as Christians.
Tuesday was a bit more of a “normal” day. We went on a tour of Camden with Jim Cummings, which was both incredibly challenging and informative. Later, we sorted books, put seats in the bus, worked in the school, and participated in the after school programs in the afternoon. It truly is a joy to work with the kids and see the joy and hope instilled in them by Christ through UrbanPromise. In the evening we had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion with some of the program directors and interns. There’s light in darkness, joy in struggling, and a fearless refusal to allow these children to succumb to the odds of their surroundings. Indeed, all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us.
The rest of the week consisted of more of the same amazing things: working with kids, building relationships, learning about and praying for this broken city, and helping with the many work projects around the UrbanPromise campus. We’ve bonded as a team, done some work, and also hopefully have done some good.
The week has been Spirit-led, and a late night brainstorming session has led to us executing the first few steps of a potential new program at UrbanPromise. We’re looking into foreclosed properties and using workgroup labor to make them places of life once again. This is the first step in a much more ambitious idea, but we’ve spoken with Bruce Main and will just have to wait and see where it goes.
We leave tomorrow; it’s a bit crazy to think about. We’ve heard so many stories, and seen so much joy that the skeptics would say is impossible. We’ve seen the transforming power of Christ that is possible when His children just go and do His will. We’ve been greatly and profoundly impacted by this trip, both by UrbanPromise and the city of Camden. I have a feeling that several of us will be back very, very soon.