Hey everyone! This is Austin, Camey and Brother G's eldest son, coming to give you a hint of the Mission: Philadelphia trip!
So every now and then something comes along that just seems to make you say 'Wow'. That 'Wow' was Philadelphia. To quote my good mentor Lincoln, 'there's something about [Philadelphia] that brings me to my knees.' Amen, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!
I must get the first two days out of the way. Let me rack my brain to see if there is an appropriate adjective that describes the first two days of the trip... other than the fragment 'Never Again'... I can't think of anything else to say about it. 48 hours, 4 of them asleep. Everyone. By air, land, train, and sea...all in one day. I never want to go back to NYC again...aaahhh!!! 3 minutes to catch trains....lost subway rides....3 hours in a train station...yeah...I could go on.
Before we finally got to our hotel, which was actually in New Jersey, we had experienced an incredible worship service at Open Door Baptist Church. That was my first time in an African-American church, and I gotta say, how they worship makes us white boys look bored. Dancing, Clapping, Shouting...man, it was contagious! We all caught 'Praise the Lord!' syndrome, and Pastor Mark, who was only gonna preach 20 minutes he said at first, turned into an hour of pure Word-reading. Amen, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!
3 Churches, 2 Vacation Bible Schools, 1 Mission: To bring the love of Jesus to a community thirsting for one. The street I was on happened to be Cocaine Alley, where the most cocaine is dealt in the United States. I saw quite a few drug deals go down...thankfully we weren't approached by any dealers. My street was one of the most dangerous of all Philadelphia, but I never felt intimidated. We received quite a few death threats (one of them I will tell later in this post), but God defiantly put a hedge of protection around us this week. Our Vacation Bible School was interesting. The first day, only 2 kids showed up. We know why though : when we were starting, kids were getting out of bed. So we pushed it back an hour later, and guess what? The next day, we saw like 14-15 kids, and they kept coming every day later in the week. We saw 2 of the kids accept Christ, a major blessing. This all happened in the morning.
The afternoon dawned pretty fast every day that week. We each had our own project to help. Several rebuilt a basement, picked up trash in a neighborhood, painted rooms...I had me and 3 other guys working on computers. I was going to wait until the end to talk about what God taught me, but in order to continue with this story, I must say now: God will reward you for saying 'Yes' to wherever He puts you. I now have a very keen concept of the term 'Flexibility' now. Our "plan" wasn't what God had in mind for us. I was so excited about working on rebuilding the basement, but God had a different plan for me. I got the chance to try to get some computers set up. The pastor of the church gives me 4 computers to work with, and he wants Office 2007 Professional installed on each of them. At first I was okay with that, but It wasn't until I plugged one in and turned it on did I realize the true scope of the situation. These computers were 20 years old. Each of them were different in specifications. Each had a different hard drive. One of them had Windows XP installed already - on a 2 gig hard drive. Yes, I said 2 gig. And it was an internal hard drive. We didn't get to use much CD-ROM; we got to see countless Floppy disks - including all 28 floppies for Windows 95'. I can't tell you how horribly messed up these poor computers were. One other thing that I learned is this: Whenever you can do a project, when it comes to computers, never, ever say 'I can do it, no problem' without looking under the hood. We worked with MS-DOS pretty much the whole week, and thank God Ryan S. knew his server commands, because none of us had a clue what to do. By the end of the week, we had officially deemed one of the computers 'Dead', and even though we couldn't get a single computer working enough, we got the one with Windows XP cleaned up...and it had easily the worse disk defragmentation report I've ever seen. I can't describe the frustration and annoyance the 4 of us had working with these old pieces of technological archeology (Seriously, we saw a HP Vectra!), but at the same time, the rewards I got for getting several days of hands-on training with old computers was definitely invaluable. So when you say "Yes" to God, He will reward you. I firmly believe that now, as it has happened to me. On a side note: One of the funniest things we saw was when we were driving down the road one day, in front of us was a van that said : Cyberhood: Bringing the Cyber to the Hood. Priceless.
Now for the story of a death threat. We were passing out fliers for Vacation Bible School, and this guy walks up to me and asks for a flier. I hand him one, and he starts asking about why we're here, what we're doing, when my friend Caidon comes and joins the conversation. We couldn't tell what his mood was at first, but we thought he was interested. Ah...no. This guy then starts yelling and cussing at Caidon, who is 5 feet away from me, and I seriously thought something bad was going to happen. I thought he was going to hurt her, when he just shoves the flier back at her. He starts walking away, and in the corner of my eye, I saw these 3 big guys coming our way, thinking 'Not good...This could get bad'. Before I could say a prayer , these 3 guys start shouting at this guy "Hey fool, leave the girl alone. What she do to you?" Then they start shouting back in forth, between us, and we thought a fight was going to break out. Then the amazing John comes and peacefully breaks the fight up. Me and Caidon were shaken, but we then thought, 'We must be doing something right for Satan to attack us like this". That experience also taught me to rely on God in times of trouble and not human strength. My backpack weighed probably 25 lbs, and was the pretty big. When I saw the guy getting aggressive to Caidon, I un-slung one of the straps, with the full intention of using it to protect, a sign of my pride saying 'I can handle this', when my response should have been, 'God, protect her'. I have yet to learn the difference from being brave to protect someone and being an idiot. I was the latter.
I must tell you about a lady named Mrs. Yates. She worked at the church we did Vacation Bible School at. She has the incredible ability to call people out of their sins when they walk down the street. It was incredible. She got that way by studying the word. When she was telling us this, after we had saw in action, God slapped me and said "You pour your time into these other books, but not into my Word". For the trip I brought my Bible, a 400 page book I was about halfway finished with, another 400 page book I hadn't even started yet, and on top of all that, the massive Lord of the Rings. A little overkill, huh? As a result, I am going though the devotional A Call to Die for the second time this year, fasting from all books except the Bible and books for school. I've found that if you say something on a spiritual high, when you get to the trenches, if you don't do it right away, chances are you wont do it. So I did it right away. For me, what will make this trip a success or not is found months afterwards, how we are doing applying the things God taught us in our spiritual high. We can remember the trip for the great memories, but I'd rather remember the trip knowing it was the trip that led me on the start of a greater relationship with God in my everyday life. That is my hope and prayer for my fellow students who went on this trip, that we don't grow out of the way we lived that week, we grow into it.
Several of us told in front of others what God was teaching us, so now is the test. This was round one.
I could talk all day long about the trip, but I would probably kill the bandwidth of blogger. In all this, God really worked in our lives, and in the lives of others this week, both in our church and in the community. I would go back there in a heartbeat. I hope we go back next year, because the construction project couldn't finish the whole basement, and I would come up with a credit card and get whatever we need for those computers. By the way, I want to organize a fundraiser for the church I worked for, money where we could purchase computers and supplies they would need to have a computer lab. If any of you are interested in donating, please contact us. I want to leave you with an exert from my journal.
"I hope that [the trip] is the chapter that begins a story that doesn't end, one that continues for our lives...Like from camp, we are on a mountaintop, and on the mountain things do not grow. They grow at the bottom, in the trenches of life...We took the fight to Satan - but in the fog of war we can't see the damage done to his dominion. We may not in this life. I am about to get off the plane and head from Atlanta for DFW - and for home. You're the God of that city, you're the King of those people..."
2 days ago