So, I’m in Philadelphia right now helping lead a high school mission trip. We’re with an organization called P2 Missions who sets groups like us up with a local church planter. Ours is this guy named Justin who started Express Church, which meets in Phoenixevlle, PA (a suburb of Philly).
Above is the basic information, like what I would tell you if I had to send a little informational report or something. But, here I would like to just write some thoughts and insights gathered along our week-long journey. I’m guessing my writing won’t be the best, it’s pretty late (everyone is trying to sleep right now) and we’re at the end of our second day here. I’m with all the guys in the gym of this school and the people here said the emergency lights for the gym never turn off, so we sleep in the light. It was weird getting used to that last night, so us guys were a bit tired today.
Anyway, I’ll give you a short rundown of what has went down so far. Last night around 5 we all got to our “home base” at the school. Well, a lot of people were late because of the weather. But, once most of us were here and settled in, we went to what they call the “P2 Show,” which I guess the best way to describe is just a time to pray, get into the Word a little, and “worship” (sing songs). That part has been interesting for us from Xenos, since we aren’t used to it. Most of our people have done a good job of going with the flow, though. After that, they had a dedicated time of prayer. I liked that a lot, though (again) it was a bit more manufactured than I’m used to. Regardless, it got us all talking to the Lord and that’s never a bad thing. Then, we had a little break and then were able to gather with just our people. Laura and I thought it’d be good to have small teachings each day during the “group devotional time” they set out for us, so we’re doing a series on witnessing. I did the first one last night and it was really sweet to hear everyone’s convictions and excitement about the week. Then it was bedtime and “lights out” that doesn’t mean lights out and all that so, yeah, ha.
Today (Sunday, June 28th, 2015 to be exact), was our first full day. After breakfast we had devotional time. We’re having our guys and girls split up for that. Today we talked about prayer from a passage in Luke 18. The rest of the days the high school guys are going to pair up and lead those. Then, after some more sing-song stuff I won’t belabour you with, we finally got to go out and meet our church planter. We got there just in time for their Sunday meeting to start, which was awesome. They meet right in the lobby of a local YMCA, since the church does not have a building (something we’re all about). Right when we came in one of their leaders asked us if we had some people who would want to share testimonies (we had told them we did previously, but didn’t know the timing of it or anything). So, that was exciting. Jaret did a good job of being the first one to share his, which got the ball rolling and then Maggie, Mistie, and Trey did as well. They all did really well and the pastor (Justin) even referenced a few of their stories in his teaching. He taught over Jesus healing the paralytic man by the water. I liked his message and style of teaching. He also has a crazy mustache, plenty of tattoos, had a shirt that said “Jesus Freak” on it, and said he used to be an alcoholic. After the meeting, they actually gave us lunch and stayed and talked to us for a while. It was sweet hearing all the stories of how the church has gotten on its feet. When him and I were talking afterward, Justin kept pointing around the room and explaining how a different person received Christ. For example, the dude who now plays the keyboard for them is a fitness instructor at the Y and just checked out their meeting one day and now knows Jesus.
After that the people at Express Church had some things to do so we took our people down a free streets to see what kind of area we’re working with. We ended up at in a baseball dugout and did some praying for the people there and for the week in general. During our prayer the Lord must’ve been answering because I briefly mentioned how I am trying to put together a little documentary of the trip together (with Ian’s help, for the film fest we’re having next month) and then Laura came and asked me if I thought it’d be a good idea to go and interview people in Phonexville right then and there. We happened to have an extra two hours on our hands, so we gave each car an “assignment” to interview two people on camera in regards to something spiritual. Then, we were off.
At first, our car had some trouble finding people. Sean and Jaret asked some people at that park, but were rejected. Then, we went to another park and played some basketball hoping that could be a lead in, but no luck. Finally, we stumbled upon one final park and got out. Nick, Jaret and Sean went off and got an interview with a Christian girl, which was cool. Mat and I, since we were just kind of standing around, reluctantly went up to this group of three people. At first, one lady kept saying that she thought we were messing with her (she used harsher language, actually) and said we didn’t look like Jesus people but more like we should be in an emo band together. We laughed and kept going. That person never let us inteview her on camera, but did keep coming back wanting to talk about things. The real story was her friend, though. She said she doesn’t know what she believes, but that her real hang up is that her husband passed away less than a year ago and she also lost a child a few years back. It was heartbreaking to hear this poor woman talk, but nice to be able to tell her some of the words of the only one who can actually offer her rest. What was so crazy about the whole thing is that when I asked her if she goes to the Y she said she does and that some guy with a mustache keeps trying to get her to come to his church! She already knows Justin! After our talk, she said she is going to think about checking it out now. I don’t know if she will or not, but I hope so and really think God put us in that situation for some reason.
The (spontaneously planned) interview session really sparked some excitement in our people. It was so sweet hearing all the other cars’ stories. Afterward we had some training on church planting and evangelism, which I won’t get into because I’m already going way too long here. But, it was good. During that, though, it was sad because two of our people have to leave tomorrow morning because a family member is about to pass away. I won’t get much into that either, but we’re going to keep praying for them and theirs.
Lastly, after dinner, they took us down to downtown Philly for a prayer walk around the city. I had never done such a thing, but we just went around some different areas and prayed for the people there. I liked it, and we also got to see some of the sights around there. I actually had my good old friend Terique, who only lives half an hour away, come by and join us for that. It was really sweet catching up with him for sure (and nice to have him there to be our unofficial tour guide, ha).
I should end it here, it’s getting pretty late. But, I do want to relay one conversation we had that stuck out to me. Today, when we were at the dugout praying, a worker (I’m assuming) came up to Paul and starting asking questions. I was curious so went over, and she said she just wants to know “Who are you and why are you here?” I thought that was a fairly blunt question, and she just replied and said she had never seen anyone doing what we’re doing. We told her we were praying and she seemed surprised but let us be and left. What stuck out to me was that question of hers, though.
“Who are you and why are you here?”
I’m not sure if there are many more important questions than that right there.
“Who are you and why are you here?”
If we are going to have any significant impact, I know all of us will need to continually remember the answer to both of those questions.