Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reflecting on San Francisco

     Wow, what a great trip!  It is always difficult to take a week of experiences and communicate them in an effective way to those who have not seen the things you have seen, heard the things you have heard, or showered as little as you have showered (most of us only had two showers during the week).

    I can't tell you how many times I was asked why we were going to San Francisco.  Parents, students, and a lot of others would ask me this question.  It seemed as if they wondered what we could do in San Francisco that we could not do in Denver.  Actually it is a fair question.  Even though most of the people who are there speak English the few hours we drove around when we got there and prayed over the city we quickly realized we were not in Kansas (CO) anymore.  This was a different world with different problems, different people, and most certainly a different attitude when it came to driving.  In a lot of ways it was like being in a completely different country.

     Ten thousand homeless (a very conservative number, it may be double that at times) make San Francisco their home and most of them live in an area called the Tenderloin.  We spent some time their during the week doing things like helping serve 2,500 meals and delivering hot meals to those suffering with HIV and AIDS who were not able to leave the SRO (Single Room Occupancy) they lived in which is smaller than the bedroom i live in at home.  Many of those SRO's are bug infested and dirty.  Most of us would argue that they are unfit for human occupancy, yet they range in price from $600 to $1500 per month.

    Whether it was serving meals, meeting someone's need who was living on the street, or helping out with a VBS the Salvation Army was putting on the need was great, our eyes were opened, and God worked.  The importance of serving on a mission trip both for our group and the one whom we served is unparalleled.  The word of God was spread, His name was lifted up, and our hearts and minds have been changed.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 7 in the Books

One last group picture (minus April, who had to fly home because she was not feeling nice) with our amazing hosts Michael and Allison.

We had a good day walking by Fisherman's Warf, China Town, and chillin at Starbucks.  Some of us sat and watched the Sea Lions fight.

John had his first Oyster today:

Tonight we are staying at Kieth and Steph's house just outside Sacramento.  Big thanks to them.  Tomorrow and the next day we will be on the road trying to get home.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 7 in the books

Today we had our last day of ministry.  We had a great time with the kids at the VBS.  It was a field trip day to the Kroc center (as in Ray Kroc the founder of McDonalds).  We played basketball, air hockey, fuseball, volleyball and a lot  more just hanging with the kids.

Since the Salvation Army has church on Sunday we also cleaned things up a little.

After a full day with the kids we went out to eat at a Thai Restaurant, the food was again great!!  After wards we walked out to see an older lady going through the garbage for food.  We quickly asked for a box and packed up the food that was left our table which had been untouched (it was served to us family style) and gave that to her, plus we gave her a couple of sandwiches we had left over from lunch.  All of this was the students idea.

We didn't go to another country, but we found so much need in San Francisco that our students began to realize we don't have to go across some line on a map in order to find people who are in need.  We don't even have to go to San Francisco, we can go to Denver or even Littleton.  The needs might change, but in meeting people physical needs we often have opportunity to meet there spiritual ones as well.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 5 and 6 in the Books

I wasn't able to blog yesterday, so I will try to cover two days.  yesterday we had our first day at Salvation Army Harbor be honest I was a little disappointed.  They didn't seem to know how to use us, but I was able to talk to Captain Nance about how we could help make things better and today we went back and had a plan.  We were able to use our gifts and talents to help the VBS go well.  It was really a good day.

Last night we had a free night and I had reserved two Zodiac boats for our group to go out on the bay and see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island (The Ellis Island of the West), and a bunch of other stuff.  It was truly amazing as you can see by the pictures, both Robin and I were able to drive one boat and Captain Paul drove the other.  It was a ton of fun.

After a great day today and some Greek food for supper we decided to give the group some time to rest as it seems everyone is pretty tired.  No worship time tonight, instead everyone is going to take some time to do their devotions since we didn't get a chance this morning, and then hopefully a good night of sleep before we finish up the trip strong tomorrow.

It has been great so far, but I think the trip is going to end at just the right time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 4 in the books

This post was written by Robin and Tony:

It’s 9:00 pm and this morning seems like it was a very long time ago. Our alarms when off at 6:00am and we had an hour to drive over to the Salvation army and take one of the two showers we will get this week. We ate breakfast and headed over to St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room which was across the bridge in Oakland.  

The St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room was a large, clean and very well organized dining room that serves 1000 meals per day to people who cannot afford to buy food. During our second half of the day we served with an organization called Project Open Hand.  

POH was founded to serve those who are trapped in their own homes due to a terminal illness (HIV/AIDS, etc), disabilities, or just the elderly. We were given a set of 15 meals and a map, and sent on our way. While delivering the meals, we were able to gain a glimpse of their lives. Most of these people lived in SROs (Single Room Occupancies) which are smaller than dorm rooms which cost $1000-$1500 a month to live in. It was heartbreaking to see these people who are trapped in their own homes, some constantly in pain, with no one to look out for them. Some were barely able to come to the door and open in on their own. It makes me wonder, what has happened in this person’s life so that they now have no one? Who watches out for them, making sure they get to eat each day, get their medication, or even take their trash out when they can’t even leave the room? If they were to die in their little rooms, which most of them probably will, who will bury them? Or will anyone even know that they died until rent was due? Before we came on this mission trip people asked us what we could possibly do in a beautiful city like San Francisco where rich people live? We are now beginning to see that the question should probably be “how will you ever find time to sleep in a city with so much need ?”

Day 3 in the Books

Today's blog post is written by April Lang one of our College/Career types who is on the trip.  Tomorrow Robin Reuter will be posting a blog.

Today we served at the St. Anthony’s Foundation in which we served food and bussed tables at their Dining Room.  It was not exclusive to the homeless because there were many other people there. Whether they were on the verge of being homeless or since it is the end of the month their Social Security checks are now gone and need a good meal.  Each one of us had a good experience there because we got a new perspective on the needy people of San Francisco. Many of us had preconceptions that these people were dirty and weird…far different from us…yet we were proved wrong when many of them were happy and very easy to talk to and get along with.
We also ate lunch at the Dining Room and were challenged to sit separate from our group so that we could interact with the other guests at the Dining room. Some of us had good conversations with the people eating lunch near us, while unfortunately others did not get the chance to talk to them.  But God did open the opportunity for one student, in particular, to learn about some of the people’s lives and actually pray with them for their faith, well-being, and futures. That was definitely a God moment and will be long remembered by the student as well as the individuals she prayed with.  It was a privilege for us leaders and students to serve those people and learn more about their lives.
Later in the day we spent a couple hours on Haight & Ashbury with the goal to “meet a need” for someone we encountered on the streets.  We broke into two groups and were each given $10 to buy someone something we found necessary as well as interact in conversation with them with the goal to share Jesus’ love.  One group reached out to three 18 year-old guys and got them guitar strings and an egg-shaker and had great conversation until a drunken girl rudely interrupted.  The other group reached out to a girl, probably 19-20, who was playing a home-made Bohemian drum with her dog Pepper nearby.  They bought her some coffee, banana bread, a banana, and a Sobe drink for later. They too had a good conversation with her and she was a sweet girl who had a positive outlook on life. The topic of creation and God surely came up and though the gospel wasn’t shared, Jesus’ love was definitely shown.
For dinner we had Indian food which was delicious and the restaurant was very nice and peaceful. Afterward our group had a debriefing session where we shared our thoughts, feelings, and experiences from the day. The intimacy of the group is growing and our faith is being stretched and God is definitely moving through the team.  A time of prayer and singing (worship) also took place and we got to bow down before God and the cross and spend time just focusing on Him and what He is doing through and to us. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 2 In the Books

We arrived safe, but a little late...some of the ladies had a little bit of a tough time getting going this morning and the traffic wasn't great either.

When we parked the van there were three homeless guys catching some zzzz's on the sidewalk outside the church where we are staying, I think that is when the culture shock began with most of our group.  You can talk about the more than 10,000 homeless that live in San Francisco, but when you begin to see them with your own eyes the number becomes real.

After we threw our luggage in our rooms they took us out to a Vietnamese restaurant.  The food was amazing...they served family style, so we were able to try a lot of different things.  Some people had a little trouble with the chop sticks (normal silverware was not an option).  Tessa tried all of the different types of food in spite of her reluctance to do so...way to go Tessa!!

After dinner we had a prayer tour of the city.  Every city has it's issues, but as we went through the city and saw the extremely wealthy (knob hill) and just a block or two away the extremely poor (sixth street or the Tenderloin District) the need of the people in San Francisco became very real.

Pray our hearts will be right and that we can be God's hands, feet, and mouthpiece this week.  We will certainly be ministering to peoples needs, but God is a lot more concerned with their hearts than their clothes or the place they live.