It was windy indeed as we walked through downtown Chicago on our first day. We marveled at some of America’s tallest skyscrapers, bustling traffic, and city lights. Much different from the warm breeze of South Africa and even less like the frigid gusts of North Dakota! We’ve seen and eaten some of Chicago’s best from the famous deep-dish pizza to authentic Indian cuisines (very spicy). We are staying at Urban Holiday Lofts. It is a very nice hostel in the urban city center. We’re staying with about 100 other people from different universities, countries, and walks of life. We met a band from Argentina performing at a local venue and we even experienced a bacon grease fire from one of the other teams!
“Wait – are we still in America?” This is a question that keeps popping into our mind. This week we have been working with South Asian Friendship Center in a community called Little India. The people, attire, restaurants, shops, and language made us feel like foreigners. The people here come from India, Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq, Nepal, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern countries. They are mostly Muslims and Hindus, but also some Sikhs, Christians, and Jewish people. South Asian Friendship Center has served the community since 1997 as a Christian bookstore and a place to use computers, make copies, use the printer and fax machine, and have a free cup of chai.
Every morning they host a contextualized Hindu Christian service. Incense filled the room, pillows were arranged on the floor, our shoes were left outside, and we were worshipping Jesus in another language. There is something special about experiencing the presence of God in a culture so far from our own. It was awesome to see Jesus introduced in the lives of nonbelieving Hindus in their context.
We spend our afternoons working with children from these cultures helping them with their homework. There were about 16-20 children that come to the center. After finishing their homework, we play games, read Bible stories, and get to know them. This seems like ordinary activities for everyday people, but what you don’t see is that these children come from mostly Muslim households. Most of the girls wear a hijab and the older boys must be in a separate room because they cannot be in the same room as the girls. Sometimes it takes simple things like helping with homework to show the love of Christ. The children are full of love and life. It is truly a privilege to spend our days with them.
Prayer Request: A couple team members have been a little under the weather. Pray for healing and strength. Divine encounters with the people we are working with.