Ignite Youth Church recently returned from a 10-day mission trip to the south side of Chicago.
Posted on 7/19/14
They along with 140 other students and leaders from around the state and St. Cloud, Minn. set out in a 10 15-passanger van caravan for the 15 hour trek. Once there, the team prepared their sleeping quarters for the evening and settled in for the long but fun week ahead.
Sunday morning, June 22 was filled with the sleeping arrangements quickly disassembled so that the building could be used for its regular Sunday morning church service. After church, the teens were then split into their Vacation Bible School (VBS) groups and went door-to-door talking with the locals about the upcoming evening rallies that would be taking place at the church and in the area. After which, the students returned and got with their VBS teams to start planning for the week ahead. Because Pastor Cal Thompson, organizer of the mission trip, understands the intensity of the week, he continually instructs the students with the following mottos, “You can do anything for a short period of time,” and “We will sleep hard, pray hard, worship hard, work hard and have fun hard,” and with that last bit of wisdom all the students grab an L pass, the Chicago subway, and head downtown for an evening of fun.
Students from Ignite Youth Church, along with a few others, spent their Sunday evening enjoying the “rude” service of Ed Debevic’s, a resturant famous for its food and purposeful rude service, then walked throughout downtown looking at a few tourists areas, like the Bean. After meeting back up with the entire group, it was time to head back to Chicago City Church, the headquarters for the week.
Monday and everyday afterwards, the students were up early as they prepared for the day ahead. Each day started with the all important Starbucks run and breakfast, before the entire group came together for Prayer, Worship and the Word presented by either a leader of the trip or a guest preacher brought in for the week. This was an essential part of the day, as the students prepared themselves spiritually for the tasks ahead.
Amanda Winnegge said, “The morning worship brought me even closer to God!”
After this, the students then moved on to work projects, these projects are done throughout the church and community and involve washing windows, sorting items at the church’s Blessing House, a place where donated items are collected and stored until they can be passed out to members of the community, building equipment to be used in the new preschool, painting and much more. These projects help the church and Pastor Charles Moody, pastor at Chicago City Church, said these projects put the church ahead by half a year and the items for the preschool will help them be able to open a preschool that will not only meet the needs of the children of the area but also their parents.
After a hearty lunch, made by the cooks which included Tiffany Retzlaff who has been a student on the trip for the past three years, the students piled into their vans and left with their groups to go to their VBS sites. This is the 24th year, students from North Dakota have been coming to the inner-city of Chicago and most of the occupants of the communities the VBS are located in eagerly await this week. As in the past, the Ignite Youth Church’s students went to the parking lot of the Taste, a strip joint located next to two large high-rises, whose occupants are more than entire population of Cavalier County. Hope Bodnar, who was on this trip last year, along with Pastor Garrett and Amy Freier, were able to reconnect with the kids that they had meet last year.
“It was humbling to visit with Phyllis again this year. Last year, I got to really know her and after seeing her again this year, I told her I would have a gift for her before I left for the week. We then moved on to other topics like what she was reading in school, she told me her favorite books and I said that my students enjoyed reading those as well. Well, when I saw her again and was giving her the double-dutch jump ropes that she hinted she wanted, she told me she had a gift for me as well. I thought it was a bracelet like the one we made each other last year but, no, it was a bag filled with her favorite books so that students in my classroom would be able to have the books she liked to read. I was taken aback by how thoughtful and personal that gift was, it sums up the trip for me, the relationships formed on the VBS sites are not superficial, but personal and the legacies left last far longer than the week,” Amy Freier said.
Bodnar, Winnegge and Brenna Dease all agreed that being able to be with the kids was one of the best parts of the trip.
“The best part was for sure the kids,” Bodnar said.
Winnegge added, “The thing that I loved was you can be yourself around the kids, and they will still love you no matter what! Their smile just made me even more happy!”
“I loved being able to connect with the kids. They don’t all get love and attention at home, and it was an honor to be able to love on them and see them smile as much as they did,” Dease said.
After VBS, it was a quick trip back to the church for supper and then get ready for the evening activities. Monday night the group split into two groups to go to two different locations to feed those in those areas while a few from the group shared their testimony along with some music, spoken work and free style rapping. Tuesday through Friday evening rallies were held. Because of the heightened gang situation in Chicago, the rallies schedule on Thursday and Friday nights had to be moved to different locations. The rallies have a kids and adult section with high energy featuring music and someone from the church giving their testimony about how God changed their life.
From there everyone would get back to the church where they would debrief and share what God had done in their lives. If there was time, groups would walk across the street to eat at JJ Chicken or Al’s Roast Beef, and if time allowed a group would venture to little Italy where they would enjoy some Italian Ice.
“It is an intense week, but the students did a great job. I loved seeing our Ignite Youth Church students worshipping God. This trip isn’t a social project, it is a heart project, and the students showed their hearts as they ministered through the work projects, with the kids at their VBS sites and the night rallies,” Pastor Garrett Freier said.
As Saturday approached everyone started planning their free day downtown, some went to the Magnificant Mile to shop, others kayaked, others visited the zoo, but everyone ended the evening at Navy Pier where they watched the fireworks.
On Sunday, the large group piled back into the vans and made the 15 plus trek home.
The days were long, but the rewards of the week was well worth it for the relationships built during the week will last a lifetime and for some it will last an eternity.
“I am closer to God more than ever before and I couldn’t be happier that I had the chance to go on this trip. It is truly a life changing experience,” Dease said.