41.0 Miles South and East of Wheaton

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear "Englewood?" Most likely, you  immediately think of violence and gangs. That's true enough but our high school Justice & Compassion team also is discovering that it's a neighborhood full of children and families who need to hear that Jesus came to "proclaim good news to the poor . . . and to set at liberty those who are oppressed" through his death and resurrection.

The Justice & Compassion team, with Daniel Bair (far left, yellow T-shirt)

The Justice & Compassion team, with Daniel Bair (far left, yellow T-shirt)

Follow the team's posts through its week in Englewood at Urban Youth Outreach, working alongside Daniel Bair.

Day 1
Emma and Heather

On the morning of our first full day in Englewood our service projects consisted of cleaning and organizing. After lunch, we had our first prayer walk, something we will do every day. In a prayer walk, the team splits into three groups and walk around a different area of the neighborhood praying for or with people we meet, or for other aspects of the neighborhood. One of the discoveries we made was the surprising openness and friendliness of the people we met. Almost everyone we walked by would greet us and ask how we were doing, something that doesn’t often happen in Wheaton. Many were open to the idea of us praying for them and some even prayed for us. Soon after we returned from our prayer walks, we opened the gate to let in the youth and spent the afternoon playing with them. “Playing with them” can be defined as pushing them on the tire swing, pushing them on the regular swing and giving them piggy back rides (but you HAVE to run or else you’re not good enough.) However, their favorite activity, and our favorite to watch, is the shoulder rides. The kids love to ride the boys’ shoulders and have them race from one end of the yard to the other which is terrible for our boys but great for a chiropractor!

Today, we put on a skit about the creation of the world for the younger kids. As a follow-up craft, we made flowers out of tissue paper and pipe cleaners. We were tickled by the fact that boys were so enthusiastic about this seemingly girly craft. When the yard is open, our team members rotate and go upstairs to the prayer room for 20-30 minutes at a time.  Unfortunately, one of our most cherished team members may or may not have fallen asleep during his prayer time, because he was up there for over an hour…

We are looking forward to a fantastic, eye-opening week of service and learning here in Englewood. Please pray that we will stay strong and energetic throughout our whole time here, and that God would work through us so that we may show love to these kids the way Jesus loved us

Day 2
Sam O. and Eric

After breakfast and our morning devotions, we started working on our daily work projects. Some of the things we did were painting, putting in railings and fixing the fences (We will probably do the same work tomorrow).  After finishing our work, we had lunch and then headed out into the neighborhood for our prayer walk. One group walked the route to the middle school, another went through the downtown area, and the third team went to another part of the neighborhood with a different school.  Some of the teams met up with kids who went with us on our routes and, after helping us pray, came back to the ministry with us.

The afternoon is when the real fun starts. After returning from our prayer walks with many kids we started by creating bags and making our own paper airplanes. Around 3:30, we did a very interactive message which the younger kids were very much involved in. The story from today was about Jesus calming the storm which also correlated with the craft and snack. For the rest of the day we played basketball, made more bags and paper airplanes, a slip-n-slide and friendship bracelets. To wrap the day up we ate dinner as a group and learned more about the neighborhood from Keith and Daniel.

Throughout the day we learned about many people and situations that we could pray about/for. One person that needs prayer is C.J. who is currently on medication and is going through tough times with his family. Also, for the young kids who are going through all this violence. Finally, the community as a whole that they could turn towards you to fight their problems.

Day 3

Allie and Betty

Waking up today was more difficult than previous mornings. With a busy day before us, we groggily made our way to breakfast and in hope of caffeine. Eventually we made it to team devotions from Acts and a hilarious (to Heather) voice crack coming from Jaimeson. After refreshment from the word, we continued working on the porch railings, something we started yesterday. During the work project, we were joined by Keith and Shaun from “the hood“ who wanted to hang out and spend more time with the team.

Moving into the afternoon, we went on our daily prayer walk. We stopped to pray next to a “safe passage” sign—part of a program meant to provide safe ways for children to walk to school through gang territory—for the school and the passage. Jackheim and Shaun, the two elementary-aged kids who were walking with us both admitted that they do not like school, but were shy about that statement once Sam Vanheast told them that he’s a teacher.

After the prayer walk we returned to the outreach center where the gates were already open for business. We enjoyed spending more time with the kids and created fun memories through the tire swing, nail polish, makeup, bead bracelets, play-set, and more. Sam and Sam starred in our Noah skit which received many laughs and smiles from our crowd. I then got the opportunity to sit down with a few pre-tween girls to read through parts of the Big Picture Bible. The girls took turns reading through the pages, and I had an ironically encouraging experience when I realized that one of them couldn't read.  She was enthusiastic about sitting in my lap and getting her turn to read a page, but she just did not know what it said. For a moment I was worried but then her friends stepped in. As she ran her finger under the words, all her friends joined in to read with her. They continued to read the entire page together without a single comment that would bring her down or make fun of her.