It is hard to believe that our students have finished their finals, completing their first semester, and are now packing their bags to head home. So much has happened over the last 3 ½ months; we’ve already traveled 1,957 miles, with our last trip for the semester taking place in Chicago and Milwaukee.
From November 4-13, we packed our bags for Chicago and Milwaukee. This trip was filled with “firsts” for many of us. The first time being in an inner city, or being in a city over 100,000 people, the first time seeing so many in poverty and homelessness, the first time working in a soup kitchen, and so on. Each city, each experience was different and we made a lot of friends on the way. What was so special was while we were working with and for people of various backgrounds, very different from any of our own, we were able to see just how big the Kingdom of God is. We experienced ministry in a predominantly Latin neighborhood in Hermosa, and a contextualized Hindu service in “Little India” while in Chicago. From there we served alongside an organization called City on a Hill that works with youth and families that are in poverty in Milwaukee. It was such a blessing to see so many different people, of different culture, background, and even race work together to bring people closer to the Kingdom, and to our King.
Here are some of the team's personal experiences...
While helping with Grace and Peace Community Church in the community of Hermosa in Chicago, we were able to go out and minister on the streets. "In the period of walking just a couple blocks, we came into contact with many people. I noticed my mindset changed when I saw someone walking within the general vicinity. I wanted to run up to every individual and have a conversation with them. My eyes were opened to more of the world, and my heart was burning inside to know how so many people were living without purpose. A few people refused prayer, but as I came to learn throughout the week, I can’t let that get me down, but try to focus on the good soil." - Arianna
"While in Chicago, we were given the opportunity to pass out our blessing bags and pray for those on the streets. It was an awesome experience that gave each of us boldness and allowed us to pray blessings over those struggling in hard times. Walking the “Magnificent Mile” was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed talking to people and getting a little bit of their backstory. Many of them poured a lot into my life and had some really wise words, so I enjoyed learning a little something from every person we talked to." - Olivia
We had the amazing opportunity to visit "Little India" and experience a Hindu contextualized service. "I never knew that Hindus had so many different rituals for worship and learning about God. Learning about their culture really confirmed in my life that I am supposed to work specifically within that culture of people. I have never felt God’s confirmation more in my spirit than I did during that time at the South Asian Friendship Center. What the South Asian Friendship Center did was take a Hindu worship service and use it for worshipping God, rather than the Hindu gods. They put Christ in the context of a Hindu service. I believe that contextualization is biblical if there is a lot of thought put into how it is developed and accomplished. Western Christianity is not “right” Christianity. I think that the South Asian Friendship Center did a great job of staying within biblical context and boundaries and they made it very clear that these people were worshipping God and serving Jesus." - Michelle
"I learned so many things about poverty while I was at City on a Hill. A common phrase was that “a statistic can't be felt”. But for me, that wasn't true, I absolutely felt the statistics and I didn't realize I had so many misconceptions about poverty. Had no idea how many people actually lived in poverty, how many people were unemployed and how many children’s realities existed in this. I also had no idea how many times poverty and justice issues were mentioned in the Bible. This is always something that my heart has really gone after and I honestly had no idea that it was something that was so Biblically based. Though I definitely felt the statistics very strongly, the poverty simulation absolutely helped me to feel this in a way I could have never felt before." - Lyvia
"Our last full day in Milwaukee was spent helping with the Health Clinic. I was in the group that helped the eye doctors. We spent our time helping find paper work and helping others fill out paper work. The eye doctors were able to give out around seventy five pairs of glasses during the hours the clinic was open. I felt like the City on a Hill group was really doing what they can to improve their community. This health clinic was something that they would do every month. They were not only focused on fixing short term problems but they were more focused on fixing the long term problems." - Marcus
"Overall the trip was an amazing experience to be a part of and one that I will remember for the rest of my life. The team grew closer together through our trials in the poverty simulation, working together to pull down tents, and many other experiences we had. The trip challenged me spiritually by forcing me to trust in God when I stepped out of my comfort zone and trusting that he provides freedom everywhere and in every situation." - Colten
"Our inner-city experience was great and I am very glad I chose to be a part of Pack Your Bags this year. All the people I have met and memories I have made are just the beginning. God has grown me so much even in my own personal life and my life outside of Ellendale, and I know He only wants to do more. After Christmas break, we still have another semester with two weeks in Israel and six weeks in South Africa. Pack Your Bags is not over — in fact we are just getting started." - Becca