MY TRIP JOURNAL: COAST TO COAST NEW YORK,
DATES 5/1/16 – 5/14/16 THANK YOU!
Before I begin, I just want to thank you for your donation! I believe God has a special blessing in store because you had a willing heart to give. (acts 20:35) Your giving helped create an opportunity for me to give and I am grateful to God for you. This travel journal is just a small token of my appreciation, Thank you!
MAY 1ST – MAY 7TH...
May 1st through the 7th was spent in the great city of New York. My birth place is Poughkeepsie (NY) so this trip felt slightly nostalgic, especially since the route we took to get into the city I knew by heart. When we arrived we met our tour guide for the week named Kumar. After getting settled in Kumar gave us an overview of what the rest of week would be like. At first it seemed really intense, I analyzed the faces in the room and I could tell most of them were nervous. I made eye contact with a few of my teammates and gave a small head nod of encouragement, in that moment I could feel my role as a big brother start to develop. Kumar watched over us diligently earning our trust over time but I believe we also gained confidence in ourselves and the mission throughout the week. Serving in soup kitchens seemed like a very mundane task at times, but the appreciation was real. The status of homelessness did not cancel out gratitude for most of the people we served.
Shortly after the orientation by Kumar we all received metro passes. The subway was a very lively and energetic place to be but the lingering odors always encouraged urgency to get wherever it was you were going. The importance of these passes became real when we saw how much walking we would be doing. At times the subway was a haven, a place to take a load off after walking all day. Other times it was equivalent to a hot box or a makeshift sauna or maybe even a sardine can all depending on the time of day. One gets to know people rather quickly while rushing around trying to find a seat or sharing a subway pole.
One of the main highlights of the first week was the two days we spent serving at a local elementary school. The school was located in Spanish Harlem, our objective was to offer homework help and if the opportunity presented itself, talk to the kids about Christ. This was not the only place in Spanish Harlem that we served and I could tell over time that we all felt a little bit of guilt for not taking high school Spanish more seriously. On the second day it was hard to leave, it was clear I was attached to these kids. Joan and Mario are their names, these guys are smart and funny as well as creative. I had the privilege of helping Joan and Mario with their homework and read with them for 45 minutes each day. There was an instant connection between us and on the second day they showed a genuine excitement to see me. I helped Mario with his science homework that day which took slightly longer than Joan’s math homework the day before. Joan seemed to get annoyed and would intervene at time to give answers hoping it would speed up the process. I took a moment to reassure him that there would be time for him and I made sure that there was. After their homework the kids usually do a short bible study activity. Today’s activity was drawing a picture of what one of our rooms would look like in the mansion Jesus went away to prepare for us in his father’s house (john 14: 2). As the kids filled their rooms with earthy treasures my heart became burdened. They were all filling their rooms with things that they really couldn’t take with them. I took a moment to pray and asked God to give me something to draw that would speak to the kids in a real way. I ended up drawing a movie theater, but the movie would be a behind the scene view of my life from God’s perspective. When Joan asked me what I had drawn I explained and he thought it was pretty cool. I said, “Joan, imagine seeing every moment God was there for you” he just looked at me as he thought about what I said but didn’t really have a response, it was almost as if he didn’t need one. After the drawing activity the kids went to gym and we played volunteers (us) V.S. kids dodge ball, we won of course. Dodge ball was the last activity we did with the kids. As we were leaving Mario stopped me and told me that I forgot my picture. My heart ached a little bit knowing that other than the time spent that picture would be the only thing I could leave with him, so I told him he could keep it.
MAY 7TH – MAY 14TH
They call it the city of angels, they say this is where dreamers go to become stars and the dispossessed and the disillusioned can rebuild their lives. May 7th through the 14th was spent in the well known city of Los Angeles California. The last time I was in California I was working for a company called Camfel Inc. but that was almost 3 years ago. Los Angeles is about 30 minutes from the city Irwindale which is where the company Camfel Inc. is located. I always felt that God would lead me back to California eventually and I am grateful that the opportunity presented itself in this way. I reveled in the fact that God had expanded me to the point that I feel at home in both New York and California. I also believe it helped with each and every interaction with people who were at their lowest points in life and in desperate need of genuine concern for their well being.
One of the highlights of the 2nd week was the feeling of being apart of something so much bigger than myself. Through out the week we helped the dream center with what seemed to be their normal daily routine. The people we met are so dedicated to serving that it’s contagious as well as inspiring. New York was intense so we came to the dream center prepared to serve and there was plenty to do. Every morning truck loads of produce is dropped off. The produce is then sorted and repacked into dream center trucks based upon the need of each location. We were blessed enough to not only witness but also be apart of this process. We then followed the trucks to multiple locations and helped with the distribution. There is something about meeting practical needs for someone else that creates a gratitude in oneself. Was it hard work? Yes, but it is worth it to be apart of the process. The dream center also receives donations of other kinds, more specifically clothing, they even have their own thrift store. Hanna, Isabel, Maggie and I volunteered to sort the clothing donations. We had a rather relaxed day compared to the rest of our group who volunteered for kitchen duty, they had to wake up at 5:30 and be there by 6:00. They also helped with sorting produce later that day while we sorted the donated garments. Meanwhile, we got to sleep in until 8:30 and had to be there by 9:00. I had no idea I would be slightly sick that day, but I was doing my best to press on. We worked together and finished early. After my group finished I went to help the rest our group with sorting the produce and apparently it impacted Hannah. By the end of the day I had become Hannah’s hero because I wouldn’t let the silly cold get me down.
SKID ROW (LA CONT.) ...
One of the main highlights of the second week in California was definitely skid Row. Skid Row is one of the biggest homeless population in America. This is not a gated community, do not pass go, do not collect $200, it’s about to go down. We ended our week with a bang. Friday night was the last opportunity for us to go to skid row and we had been anticipating what it was going to be like all week. The preparation for this was a 20- minute speech about the do’s and don’ts of this visit. Pictures were prohibited because even though we were going to be outside skid row is their home. We were given water and snacks to hand out in order to spark a conversation. I remember thinking the food itself wasn’t the ministry it allowed the opportunity for ministry. We were warned to stay in groups of at least 2- 3 or more and never approach the vehicles. I found this rule ironic because the first man I interacted with was crippled from the waste down and lived in his van. I actually insisted at first that he leave the vehicle in order to receive what we had to offer. After he showed us his walker I knew he could not get out of the vehicle and I went to him. He was frustrated but only because he knew I was unenlightened and proceeded to show me his batter bag as well as his war metals as he explained how he found himself in this circumstance. My teammate Michael and I listened, offered him what we had and after we prayed with the man I apologized for my behavior. As I walked away I had a deep introspective thought, and I asked myself two questions. How many times in my life have I been given instruction from man but God wanted to surpass that in order to reach someone? We continued to walk and pray and hand out food. It was hard to shake the shame brought on me by my unawareness of severity this man’s circumstance. Then I heard a voice behind me say, “you did the right thing Tim” I turned to look and it was Hannah. I needed to hear that, and it was enough to shake me from my pity party and continue to serve with a new found sensitivity. The night ended well and in the morning we all knew that the seeds of hope were planted as we left to come home. Now I pray for Joan and Mario and I bring with me that new found sensitivity to the next mans circumstance. Phoenixville may not be skid row but the need is still there, it’s just not as obvious.
HIGH, LOW & HERO...
High, low & hero is something we developed to allow everyone as a group to process the day with another person’s perspective. Basically we each picked a high, a low, and a hero for the day and shared it with the rest of the group. I’d like take the time right now to pick a high, a low, and a hero for my trip. My high for the trip was the entire experience, service is a high for me. As for my low it’s difficult to see any lows through the gratitude for the opportunity. If I had to pick, it would be God challenging me after leaving the school that 2nd day because I really began to worry about Joan and Mario. I started asking questions like “who would read to them after I’m gone?” and “who would check their homework?” I suddenly realized that my worry was really a form of pride, not in the typical sense but I still had an unhealthy view after doing what I believed was God’s will. I realized in the middle of my worry and even tears if I really believed it was God’s will for me to only spend 2 days of my life investing, then I needed to also believe that it was enough. Now that the investment is made I also have to believe that the one who sent me would finish the work that he used me to do. Simply put, it’s still about God and not me even when he choses to use me in such a personal way. My hero for this trip is YOU, because of your heart to give and your obedience I was allowed the opportunity to serve and experience God in a new way.
...And for that I Thank You.