GOD’S SHINING LIGHT ON THE WEST SIDE
By Michael Martens – Timothy Christian High School
I thought these were going to be the worst two weeks of my life.
Juan and Victor were the first two men we met on our trip. They lived on the West Side of Chicago, in one of the worst neighborhoods. On the first day, my Renew group met up with Juan and Victor at the YMEN Center (young men’s educational network), where they worked. That’s where our Renew journey began.
When I close my eyes I can still picture Juan waving his hands around, inside work gloves completely covered in dirt, saying loudly and firmly: “Get ready to work today. It’s not going to be easy, and you are going to encounter difficult people and difficult situations. Take a look at yourself, you are difficult. But you are loved. Today, we will be helping out in the community, which God has placed Victor and me. But the most important thing I want you to remember is: In this life it is not about the work that you’ll face but it is all about the relationships that you’ll make on your journey.”
With those wise words, we were off on our first day of serving. We walked across the street where these two men kindly showed us the apartments they lived in. When my hand gripped the cold metal stair railing, I could feel it was coming loose, and the stairs felt as if they were going to fall through underneath me. But nothing could prepare me for what I would face seeing upstairs.
All I could think is, how do people so close to our homes live like this?
This place did not even come close to acceptable living conditions. The floor was missing in some areas, there was no plumbing or running water, no electricity or heat. We were not even allowed to walk in some of the rooms because of the mold build-up — it was too dangerous to enter.
But instead of fixing the place where these two men lived, we went down to Christ’s Vineyard CRC where these two men’s faith was built. Our group spent our afternoon painting, cleaning, and organizing this church. There’s no other way to describe it than strenuous, hard work.
After our work at the church, all I wanted to do was go home. But our work was not even close to done.
Next we went to a Chicago Public School to help out there. This school was nothing close to Timothy. There was no technology in the building and there were staff teaching multiple grades. They desperately needed help fixing and cleaning the school. Walking through the hallways peering into the classrooms, I would make eye contact with the kids; and in that moment I knew they were our brothers and sisters in Christ and I was called to help them.
Throughout the week, we continued to work with Juan and Victor serving around the West Side of Chicago. I truly believe meeting them was my God moment.
What I thought were going to be the worst two weeks of my life turned out to be some of the best. Without Renew, I would have never had the opportunity to meet these two men. Juan and Victor live their lives and serve in the image of God. Through them we were able to spread the message of Christ, not only through words, but through our actions. My take-away from this Renew course is that God has shown us incredible and indescribable love and it is our job to spread and show that love to others.
WORKING AT MY BROTHERS KITCHEN
By Jason Lollar
There’s nothing more inspiring and heartwarming to help you gain perspective than a group of homeless people wearing smiles. Sure, the meals and donations helped, but many of them walked through that door with that joy already written on their faces, grateful for whatever reasons they have. It makes you think.
Around 8:30 in the morning a group of myself and 15 volunteers arrived at YMEN (Young Men’s Educational Network) on 1240 S. Pulaski to meet with Juan and Tim from Lampstand Ministries. These two guys couldn’t have been cooler. The energy and work they’ve put into helping people from the community over the years is nothing short of heroic. They had some insightful words to share and gave us instructions, as this is the first time we’ve worked with them. Over the next few hours we unloaded the truck, set up the donations, prepared lunch and had a good time doing it! People started arriving between 11:00 and 1:00. In total, I’d say around 100 people showed up. We were expecting 300. I’m not sure if this is a good thing, or a bad thing, but what’s most important is that we were able to help the people who were there. Juan told us about a family whose home recently burned down. They had been relocated, and, I believe, have six children. We were able to put certain items aside for them for Juan to bring to them personally.
We gave away around 100 winter coats, tons and tons of clothes, food for the road, bottled water, backpacks, blankets, personal care packages, tampons and pads, etc. Everyone was able to take a bunch of stuff with them and no one was left behind. What’s even cooler is that we have enough donations left over for another drive. They had stuff left over at YMEN, and so much came in on Thursday and Friday that we weren’t able go through, sort and wash everything. My basement is still a mess. Needless to say, this is something we will be doing again. It was a learning experience, for sure.
INNER CITY SERVANTS
By Michael Harloff – Trinity Western University in British Columbia
This trip was a blast, and I believe that this trip will gain more and more momentum with every year that it happens. This is evident through the success we had this year. We have been taught what it means to be a servant, not through our work but through witnessing the work of the servants already there. We went into this trip knowing God’s work would be done, but we didn’t know exactly how. Our host was a principal for a Christian school, and 5 teachers were sick the first day we were there. So for the entire week we had half the team filling in for spots at the school.
I also saw how our host Juan dealt with his job, consisting of many parts within CV and other ministries. We worked in various places doing repairs and cleanup. Even though our work sometimes seemed petty, he was grateful because it gave him a chance to get much more accomplished. Through working with these people who were always serving, I learned just how much the inner city ministries need our help and that the work they do is phenomenal. God definitely is working through these people, and it is highly evident through their uplifting spirits and sterling faith. Try Christ’s Vineyard in Chicago if you are looking to be a part of something bigger.
Groups We Have Worked With
Belmont Assembly of God, Chicago IL
Breakthrough Urban Ministries, Chicago IL
Central Michigan University, Mt Pleasant MI
Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti MI
Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Berwyn IL
James Madison University, Harrisonburg VA
Messiah Christian Reformed Church, Hudsonville MI
Springhill Camps, Granger IN
Trinity Western University, British Columbia Canada
UCLA, Los Angeles CA
Zutphen Christian Reformed Church, Hudsonville MI