Thursday morning was a day very similar to Tuesday. We did work projects, a prayer walk and then helped out with the kids afterschool program at the church. Since there were 8 of us, and only about 10 kids, it was very one on one, beneficial to both the children and to us. It was fun seeing my team interact with young kids, helping them out. I think that kids say the funniest things sometimes, and watching an adult keep a straight face is also one of the funniest things. I guess its just the little things in life that make me laugh!
In the evening, we were going to go to the Rocky Steps to do homeless ministry, but it ended up raining all day. We decided that we would move the homeless ministry to Friday, and just not do the scheduled touristy stuff. So Thursday night we went out for Cheesesteaks! It was a great time, although it felt very weird to go somewhere and not have ‘evangelizing’ or ‘witnessing’ on our schedule. After we got back from Cheesesteaks, we realized that we had not talked to a single person about the gospel. All week we were learning the importance of sharing the gospel because it might be the last or only time that the person hears of Christ. All week were ‘on fire’ and listenin’ to our gospel rap, but when we didn’t have evangelizing on our schedule, it didn’t even cross our minds! How broken are we??? It was a huge reality check and wake-up call. As Kim (a team member) put it, “We dropped the ball”.
By this time, we were all exhausted, just praying that we could make it through our last day in Philly. But never too exhausted for some team sports bonding, so we played wallball (which everyone in America calls gaga…) and some basketball.
Friday morning we packed lunches for the homeless, had a final debrief meeting and then went to the Rocky steps to hang out with some homeless people. As we drove by, we did not see any, so we decided to go to Love park instead. According to Shane Clairborne, handing out food in Love park is illegal, so I felt pretty awesome doing something illegal for the gospel. We split into groups and just went to find homeless people to give lunches to and to talk to. My group found a man named Bill, and he talked to us for 3 1/2 hours. About everything. He told us his life story- how he has no reason to be homeless, how it is his own fault. He told us about what it is like being high- compared it to riding on a roller coaster. He told us several times that he likes ‘wild woman’. Kelly and I really didn’t know what to say to that one! He told us that he believes that everyone is born bad- everyone is bad, but that some people do good, and it balances out society. He kept calling us the ones who do good. But he didn’t seem to understand no matter how many times we explained to him that we weren’t trying to do good. We were loving him like Christ would have. I still don’t think he got it. We talked this past week about how homeless people always seem to talk and talk and talk once you get started in a conversation. I guess it makes perfect sense. If you went months without talking, wouldn’t you talk and talk and talk at the first chance that you got??? Bill knew the entire gospel…but he didn’t know it was personal, a decision, something that drives the passion of our lives. And how can we tell him that in one conversation?
I also talked to another homeless man- Richard. Richard had a stroke 3 years ago and is now in a wheelchair, attempting to do physical therapy on his own. He kept trying to fit his whole sack lunch on his lap, but a piece of it always fell on the ground. So I walked over and picked his sandwhich up off the ground, put it on his lap. Then his water bottle would fall. So I would pick that up and put it on his lap. Then his chips would fall. Etc, etc, etc. I finally took it all, put it on my lap, and told him I would sit next to him and hold his lunch so he could eat one part at a time. We talked, but it was hard to understand what he was saying and I don’t know if he heard anything I was saying. Randomly, he said, ‘my brother was murdered’. I didn’t really know what to do, so I just asked him a few more general questions about it…like how old he was, etc. Then I asked him if he went to church and what he believes in God (its my attempt at witnessing). He also was able to recite the gospel, but I can tell that it just wasn’t personal to him. He also told me that there is no way murderers can go to heaven. How do you explain to a man whose brother was murdered that the murderers can go to heaven? I had no clue where to begin.
Friday night we returned to Urban Hope, ate our dinner, and decided to clean up the kitchen/dining area that we had used all week. You may think that this story is going nowhere, that it is very insignificant to this whole trip. Trust me, its a good story. There were three fridges at Urban Hope for teams to use and store their food in. A lot of teams come, buy their groceries, finish up most things, but leave things like mayonnaise, mustard, peanut butter, jelly, etc. So we decided to combine all the jelly’s (of the same type, of course), mayo, peanut butter, etc. It was not a hard job, and we just worked quickly, throwing the empty jars out as we went along.
Friday night Rock was at 7, and we went upstairs and to the youth center to help with that. There were at least 70 young kids there. The kids are required to go to the short devotional before they are allowed to hang out in the youth center. It was humbling to see how powerful the ministry of Urban Hope is. To get the kids off the streets on a Friday night? Wow! All those kids wanted to do was hang out and play basketball- they are kids after all! During Rock, we realized that Philly applies a fine for not recycling. Each one of us realized that we had just thrown out TONS of recyclables- and Urban Hope would not be happy with a fine that big. Soooooo, after Rock, we decided that we had to go through ALL the trash and find the recyclables. Not only did we have to separate the recyclables, we also had to wash them out. This was a DISGUSTING job. It had all our hands dirty, and every team member almost vowing to never eat mayo again. It was a great team bonding experience, though! The rest of Friday night we spent cleaning, and then packed up to leave early in the morning.
Saturday we drove back all day. The coolest thing happened when we stopped for dinner. Do you remember our fail at the Cheesesteak place? Yeah, we didn’t forget it, either. So we decided that we would do our best to talk to the man that worked at the counter. It turned out to be an amazing conversation, and we were even able to pray with him- right there at the counter of his restaurant! It was so sweet! And he is a recording artist, so we got his contact information, and were able to do a follow- up, telling him that we had listened to his music! Praise God!
I was reading Collosians the other night, and I came across this verse. I thought that it summed up almost everything that I learned in my time at Urban Hope:
Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders, make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.