Here we are on the last night of our Philly trip. It’s getting pretty late and we’re all getting ready for bed since we have to be out of here early tomorrow. I wanted to make sure to write this now while it’s all so fresh, though.
I just want to start and simply say that the last two days have been awesome. Probably the best we’ve had.
Yesterday (Wednesday) we did the normal morning routine (Henry and Trey led the guys’ morning devotional, Jeri and Georgia led the group teaching), then we went back out to Express Church. This time around there were no tornado scares or rainstorms, so we got a full day’s work in. We were a little bit dispersed this time since we had a few different things going on. Most of the people kept working on the skate park, but two teams went out and passed out flyers for our “block party” and a few of us spent a good portion of the day filling in gravel roads in the camp portion of the Y. I did that with two of the pastor’s sons and Shawn and Theo. It was a lot of work but it was really fun relating with his sons (Stephen and Josiah). One thing our whole group has been praying for continuously is that we could encourage those two, since they don’t have many other people their age following the Lord around them (and we are a big group of just that). We really hope that maybe they could get a group going in their school someday. Oh yeah, just as an aside, those two are seriously some of the hardest working high schoolers I’ve been around (and so much fun, too). Another cool part of the day was getting to talk with Justin some. I asked him what his views on the importance of seminary and he said he thinks it’s an awesome thing but not necessary to be a solid worker. He’s over halfway done with his M.Div but said he probably won’t finish unless it’s holding him back in ministry. I like that attitude. He also got his four year degree in something related to the Bible after he was in the Navy.
Anyway, after that we went to the park for the block party. Laura, Jess and some of the girls went and picked up a bunch of pretzels (they’re famous around here) to give out at the party and ended up having a sweet talk with the cashier. You’ll have to ask them more, but he straight up asked them why they were here and also how someone gets to heaven. Crazy. At the party, we had probably ten to fifteen people show up throughout. Most lived in the neighborhood, but one family came from seeing the flyer hanging up at the Y which is pretty cool. It was awesome seeing a lot of our people being so willing to initiate with random people there and show them love. Two people (that I know of) from the party ended up saying they are going to check out Express Church, which is awesome. We obviously wished we’d been able to be a bridge for more people but it was still so sweet having a fun time with Justin’s family and all the people that stopped by. He told us all a bunch of stories and encouragement, too. He even said that our group has been the most mature/helpful he’s had, which honestly surprised me. But, in the same breath, our people really have been so serving.
Today (Thursday), we decided to skip the morning portion of the P2 schedule so we could get to Express Church as early as possible and get the work done we needed to. So, we left after breakfast and the morning devotional (Mat and Nate did ours- it was nice because they shared, we prayed, then we wrote down convictions from the week) and got to Phoenixville between 9 and 10. We went right back at the skatepark again as well as finished up some gravel work. It was pretty amazing because by noon or so we were all done (except for putting all the wood in dumpsters, since we didn’t have a new one yet). So, we were able to go swimming and then had some pizza for lunch. It was really nice of Justin and them because they straight up bought it for us. It was also cool because a lot of our people donated some to give back, too. Anyway, after that we went on down to the bleachers and did our last “group devotional” aka teaching/discussion. Laura seriously did an awesome job with that and it was sweet having Justin and his family (as well as another lady in the church) sit in with us and share as well. Our people shared and participated well as always, too. Then, as Laura was still wrapping up her teaching, a big truck came and replaced the full dumpster with a new, empty one. It was pretty funny with her and everyone who was sharing having to essentially yell to be heard over the noise. It all worked out, though, and then we went back to work and finished the job. That probably took us a little over an hour (you should’ve seen our dumpster work, by the way… it was like a Tetris player’s dream). I was so happy it came in time so we didn’t have to leave them with any extra work to do. Afterward, since Justin was already telling some stories (he likes to talk/encourage/share- which I love), we asked if we could interview him on camera so our people back home can get an idea of what his vision and church is like as well as so we can pray for him. He was down and it was sweet hearing what he had to share. Then, he reached into his pocket and gave all of us a piece of a chain in order to symbolize how we all are a link for people to Christ. The way he shared about that left us all inspired, seriously.
Lastly, we went and had communion in the park before we had to say our goodbyes. I felt it was a fitting end since our group overall as well as with Express Church has become so unified in thsi trip- and that’s all because of Jesus. I did a mini-teaching before we did it as well as explained the purpose and reason for doing communion. It was so sweet hearing everyone’s prayers of thanks but maybe even sweeter afterward. It felt like some sort of family reunion hanging out with them and saying bye. None of us wanted to leave but are excited to pray for these guys as we head out.
Tonight has also been fun since then, with everyone from the different churches staying at the school hanging out and fellowshipping. I keep hearing most of our people saying how they don’t want to leave but at the same time can’t wait to see everyone back home. I feel that. This trip has been a blast but I hope we can all take some real convictions back from it and move forward with them back in our day to day lives. We had a lot of scary and hard times here, but the hardest may be reflecting what He has shown us back home. It’s awesome thinking of what the ripple effects could be if each of us end up doing so, though.
So, some final thoughts:
- Pray for workers for Express Church. We asked Justin a million times what to pray for and that was his number one answer every time. Oh yeah, I also loved how we said he’s not a church planter but a disciple maker. Very cool.
- Some of the convictions I have so far
- The crazy amount of life-changing ability one small conversation can have
- God is really big, Satan is active- stay alert
- You can’t plan everything. Sometimes tornado warnings happen and you can either stress or roll with it
- Jesus really does unify people… we have felt literally at home being with Express Church (as well as being in a different city but at home because we all are together), and that’s all because of Him
- How sad it is that so many people out in the world don’t have that. See, our group here is awesome and beautiful and all of that, but most people are “without hope in the world.” That’s what convicted me during communion. I went over Acts 2 and how close-knit in love the early church was during it, which I see in both our and their groups. But, at the same time, most people are so far from that and hardly getting by. We have the ability to present them with such a “living hope”
- The importance of prayer. We have prayed a LOT on this trip, which I’m sure led to some of the sweet things that happened. I don’t do that enough back home
- This may be the biggest one… how the number one thing God is looking for is availability. Express Church is happening because a few people were willing to go all out for it. These high schoolers who did so much good did so because they love Him and presented themselves as available. A guy like Nick, who has only been a believer for half a year, helped us lead this group and did an amazing job. It really isn’t about head-knowledge, it’s about if you want to trust Him to use you or not.
- Going out of your comfort zone for God is worth it every time (and a complete joy). I don’t regret talking to that one lady at all. I do regret not talking to this group of teenagers who were kind of trying to talk to Shawn and I at Mcdonald’s. You get the idea).
Well, I think that’s all I have. I’m so glad I got to be a part of this trip and can’t wait to see what’ll happen because of it.
I’ll have to leave you with probably the most foundational verse of the week:
“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and even o the remotest part of the earth.”
Here’s us in front of our kill (what used to be a skate park).