My experience in Chicago and Milwaukee has been nothing short of incredible.
We often sing songs and pray prayers asking God to open the eyes of our heart, but to really SEE His heart we must step out of our comfort zones so that we can see beyond what simply lies right in front of us. As soon as the Chicago skyline came into view we knew we were entering new territory. The majority of our team live in towns of less than 5,000 people and those people don’t tend to be very ethnically diverse. Even after being crammed in a van with all our belongings for twelve hours the excitement of entering the city was palpable.
We know that God is no respecter of persons and that he loves the small farm town as much as he loves the big city. However, we also know that His heart is with the broken, the lost, the widow the orphan, the poor, basically with people and it goes without saying that there are a lot of those in the metropolises of Chicago and Milwaukee.
We were excited to see the sights, but God showed us so much more than the Sears Tower, Soldier’s Field, and the Bean. Not sure if it was the prayer and fasting we did to prepare for the trip or just inspiration from the great ministries that we got to be a part of, but collectively our senses seemed to be heightened. We know nothing about the lay out of these two cities and our maps apps failed us multiple times, but God seemed to be leading us every step of the way. We collided with people who were in need, not just physical need, but emotional and spiritual needs. Rarely did anyone turn us down when we asked if we could pray for them and each time God gave us the words to pray, tears fell from both our eyes and their eyes on more than one occasion. The Holy Spirit was guiding us, He had opened up the eyes of our hearts just as we had asked Him to do, and He was using us and it was even more exhilarating than the skyline itself!
While in this incredible city we had amazing opportunities to work with various ministries. Whether that was handing out bags full of essential items to those living on the street with Seeds of Compassion or leading children’s services at an International Church, we experienced the beauty of diversity and God’s heart for ALL people (no matter their status or race).
Here are some of our students insights:
From the skyline of Chicago to the streets of Milwaukee, this past week was a life changing experience. For myself personally, the trip to Chicago was absolutely incredible because I got a glimpse into my future. One of the things I am called to do is homeless ministry/rehabilitation in the city of Chicago. That is just what we did. We were able to give backpacks we filled with toiletry items, food, warm clothes, and the word of God. A few other teammates and myself had the idea to write encouraging notes in a notebook to put in one of the bags. I prayed over what to write then wrote several messages about how when we run away, God relentlessly pursues us with love. I wrote about how no matter what we ever do, God’s grip is much tighter on us than our’s could ever be on him. While we were handing out our bags, I met a homeless man who could no longer work due to a physical disability. While talking to him I immediately realized that this is the man whom the notes were written for. I knew with absolute certainty that God guided me to write the things in the notebook so that this man could see them. It is truly incredible how much God loves his people, even when they are lost and wandering. - Zach
At the start of the Chicago-Milwaukee trip I was praying that God would put a person on my heart to give my blessing bag to. The guy that God put on my heart had just gotten out of the hospital and found out that he had a blood clot in his arm, he was dealing with many more medical issues, and on top of that he was homeless. After I gave my blessing bag to him I went back to the van and I was just overcome by the Holy Spirit. God moved in my heart and allowed me to feel His presence. - Aaron
The Church services in Chicago:
The inner cities of Chicago and Milwaukee showed me a lot. Coming from small town USA you don’t see a lot of diversity and the past 12 days has been a great experience. I was able to see and participate in the way multiple cultures worship and honor God as well as minister to them. I have grown a much greater love for those around me and consistently had my eyes opened. I’ve always prayed to see people the way God sees them and that came to fruition throughout this trip. My heart has been broken for these people groups and I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to love on these people and learn from them as well! - Maegan
While partnering with the ministry “City on a Hill”, we took a break from our phones and our social media platforms and just said, “Use us! Show us Your way!” and He did just that. We learned so much about the inner city, about the different nuances of ministry and needs in urban areas versus our familiar rural areas, we got a glimpse of what’s it’s like to live in poverty, and how much we all really need each other.
The City on a Hill experience was unique to other trips I’ve been on because we took classes and learned more about those we were ministering to, instead of coming to them with false assumptions. We were able to walk a mile in their shoes and better relate to them. We didn’t just focus on reaching them but understanding them. - Kandice
City on a Hill was amazing! The lessons that they taught to us changed my perspective. Everyone has a backstory, but I realized that I haven't taken the time to understand and encourage others. This trip was so meaningful to me, and I can't wait to use the things I've learned to help others understand. - Michaela
In Milwaukee we helped at a gathering for the homeless. I helped take their trays and left over food; some of them were surprised at how kind I was and it made me realize that a lot of them don’t have any one in their lives that care or show them compassion. God showed me the importance of being a light to the world and loving others.The whole time we were learning about and experiencing poverty, my heart was heavy with grief and God really opened my eyes to reaching out to others. I learned that there is always a story and a reason why someone is in poverty. No one wants to be in poverty but they get stuck in it and it’s hard to get out of it unless someone helps them out. - Abby
The gathering was my favorite! Seeing how important it was to them that we restore dignity to those people. And how eye contact was so important. - Lynne
My overall biggest takeaway was that those in poverty that we see on the streets are approachable, not only that but they like having someone that will talk to them. The stereotype that was broken on this trip is that homeless people are not always angry and dangerous. The words of the leader of a meals to impoverished people organization called “the gathering” we served with described “those that we will meet today are the politest and most resilient people in today's society.” - Zach
We were created to live and function in community, when we do this, everyone benefits. PYB is allowing us experiences and opportunities to live as Jesus has called us to live and we are so very grateful. We got to experience a little bit of heaven in the diversity of the cities, the cultures, the foods, the colors, and the languages. We did not return to TBC as the same team that left, God has opened up both our physical and spiritual eyes a bit wider and we will see and respond differently as a result. May we always be willing to step out of comfort zones, pack our bags, and GO to the people that He came and died to save.