Saturday morning we loaded up a charter bus and hit the rainy streets of Lynchburg headed for New York. 23 youth, 4 college students, and 11 adults mixed with tiredness and excitement for the adventure that was before them.
My adventure started the day before. Friday afternoon I got sick. Gross sick. I blame it on bad Mexican food. Or on eating Mexican food in a small town far, far away from Mexico. I spent the afternoon and evening asleep trying to will the pain away. I woke up Saturday morning not feeling 100%, but better than the day before. Megan took me up to church and was a huge help with helping get ready. After a bumping bus ride to New York, I stayed in a hotel in Brooklyn, about five minutes from the group. I took some serious medications and got food in me. . . . .and slept!
Sunday I was back! The meds and the rest helped me get my strength back. I missed not being with the group that one day, but grateful that it was the first night and not the last day. Been there, done that.
The group is staying at the Brooklyn Chinese Baptist Church in the heart of Brooklyn’s Chinatown. It has given the group lots of opportunities to experience the rich diversity that this Brooklyn. Some experienced chinatown’s bubble tea, and we all got a taste of Chinese and Hispanic foods from the area. Sunday afternoon/evening we split up into two groups and did a prayer walk in the area. We prayed for the people, the city, local businesses, and individuals. We learned from natives of Brooklyn about common addictions and homelessness in the area. We visited a park, where many homeless will sneak into at night to sleep because it is safer than the shelters.
Sunday the group worshipped at Christ Community Church in Breezy Point. Breezy Point is about a 45-minute bus drive from Brooklyn, one way. This island/beach community was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Homes were destroyed, including rows of houses that burned to the ground as a result of Sandy. The group got to tour the area and see some of the destruction. They also started moving out trash from the church. The church has not held worship since Sandy, until Memorial Day weekend, which have been outside. The focus for our group this week will be Christ Community Church.
On Monday the group rolled through the rainy streets of Brooklyn for Breezy Point. Despite the rain, the group of 38 left the bus ready to work. And, boy, did they work! The group was divided into six small groups before we left, and tasks for the day were assigned by these small groups. But, of course, there was inner-group help.
The church is a small church, with a traditional sanctuary (the winter chapel) and a room to the side (the summer chapel). Forgive me if I got those backwards. Two groups worked side by side with Habitat for Humanity workers on installing Sheetrock and taking down the frame of a no longer needed wall. One group started working on cleaning the hard wood floors in the winter chapel, while another group worked on cleaning and moving pews. In addition there was weeding and helping with cleaning out and throwing away.
One group faithfully folded 1500 flyers and stuffed them into a clear bag that would hang on a doorknob. The flyer was inviting people – residents, construction workers, store clerks – to a community cook-out we will be hosting and serving on Friday night at Christ Community Church.
On Tuesday, three groups set out to divide and conquer the Breezy Point community by handing out and leaving flyers. The youth who did so came back with a lot of great stories! They met a lot of interesting people and heard some great stories, some I hope to share here before the end of the week. Some of the kids also got to talk with one of the church’s board members who shared that the water was so high the the hymnal and the prayer book that sat on the altar were floating around. But the Bible remained in its place.
On this day, groups worked on the flooring in the summer chapel and installing insulation. And a group of four middle school girls started removing the floor boards of the chancel area, which we hope to replace this week. The girls were gracious to let the guys help them finish when some of the guys ran out of things to do.
A lot of the group have already learned new work skills. And they have conquered some fears they had prior to the trip. We seek continued prayers as the week continues and we strive to do as St. Francis of Assisi is famous for saying , “preach the gospel always, and use words if you have to.”
And we give thanks for the gift of wi-fi.