By Nykhala Coston, Staff Writer. Published April 1, 2011
Early on a Saturday morning, fourteen students from McKendree University were up and ready to embark on a trip to Chicago Illinois with the Campus Ministries. Although some students had an idea of what would take place on this five hour train ride, some only had a general idea that some sort of community service would be involved.
The trip would be for one-week during there spring break and the anticipation of what sort of adventure would take place in this urban city was much to be expected. The group consisted of a combination of people who have been on mission trips in the past and those who were relatively new to it all. The team of college students consisted of Jared Winters, Brad Gebben, Adam Schwind, Courtney Motl, Erica Blair, Erin Totten, Tricia Straub, Ben Pollard, Ashish Bhandari, Blessing Tupiri, Chanel Trammel-Taylor, Chelsea Lehr, Jake Smith, and Nykhala Coston (me); who would be led by Chaplin Tim Harrison.
Upon arriving to Chicago, the group teamed up with an organization called Jesus People USA or JPUSA (Ja-POO-za). As a brief history, the organization started as small group of young adults who wanted to change their outlandish lifestyle and devote it completely to becoming disciples for Jesus Christ. After traveling to many different areas from Milwaukee to Wisconsin to Florida, they eventually arrive at Chicago Illinois. The community consists of about 500 residents from the Chicago area as well as other places across the United States. They operated four homeless shelters; Cornerstone Community Outreach, Epworth Men’s Shelter, Chelsea Hotel, and Friendly Towers.
Each day there were new activities for the group to participate in. Split into two groups; one group spent much of there time at the surrounding homeless shelter, while the other group went to visit some of the area’s daycares. Those who went to the daycare were Erica Blair, Tricia Straub, Adam Schwind, Chelsea Lehr, and Erin Totten. They went to three different daycares under the organization of Marcy-Newberry Association; the Marcy Center, Newberry Center, and the Fosco Center. They were able to work with kids ranging form two months to 5 years of age. Their activities rang from supervision the kids to remodeling an office space for a library. Chelsea Lehr states “After washing the walls and making a craft supply run, we turned the boring, unwelcoming former office into an ocean-themed library.” Despite the children poor living situations, the students were able to use their creativity to liven up their limited resources.
Throughout the week, the students were required to write journals and do devotions. The devotions were held twice a day, one in the morning and one at night. Some of them include scripture readings, reflection on the day, songs, and poems. Through the experience each students had a chance of sharing their personal beliefs and faiths.
At the four homeless shelters, the group really gotten to interact with the residents and gain more hands on experience of what it felt like to live in poverty. They help prepare, unload, and distribute food. Plus gain work at a thrift store called the Free Store where they collaborated with another group of students from South Dakota in separating and hanging clothes as well as organizing shoes.
In the evenings their walk to the Epworth Men’s homeless shelter was also very inspiring. The students had gone twice, which was a little out of the norm for many of the college groups that stop by shelter, which heightened the atmosphere of gratitude felt by the men. Courtney Motl remembers her conversation with one of residents named Wallace “It was me, Jared, and Ben. We sat there and he told us his view on life like food parties and making sure you have closeness with family. He told us when we got home to hug our family and by the end I was crying and Jared was crying”
More up-close and personal experience included a night devotion with one of the tenors Glenn Kaiser who was also a member of a Christian band called the Resurrection and one of founders of their record company called GRRR records. After a night filled with blue s played on the guitar and reflections on life, Ashish Bhandari looks back on the moment as he remembers one of his quotes “If it’s not from heart, and it’s not with love, than it’s not from God.” This quote goes to show that if one lives life, he or she should live it with compassion and with feeling as well as having a divine connection.
When asking some of the students on whether they learn something from the trip and if it change them in some way, Chanel Trammel-Taylor states “It help me to do more than what I was doing and the fact that you saw them and help me out was something they would greatly appreciate.” Courtney Motl reflects that it helped her to grow more mature and not to take life for granted.
Much of the trip consists of learning about others on a more personal level. This type of service really required students to get out of their comfort zones as with Tricia Straub who states “At first, I was somewhat apprehensive since we wouldn’t be assigned a construction project… instead, we would be working with homeless and impoverish children in an attempt to develop relationships for them.” From day-to-day the groups where able to form relationship given the week that they were their which help to change their perspectives, gives some more appreciation of life, and a heightened sense of gratitude as well as empathy. When planning the trip, Rev.Tim Harrison, Chaplin and Director of Church relations, thought the urban city life compare to previous trips overseas would be a good experience for the students. He expressed that working in Chicago wouldn’t be vastly different because homelessness is everywhere and what the students gain from the trip, they could apply when they return to campus.