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Chi-town [Chicago Update #1]

We set off from Maple Grove around 9:30am, and started making our way towards the Windy City. Anyone who has ever done the drive knows it’s pretty simple; you get on 94, and before you know it you’re in Wisconsin. Then you’re in Wisconsin. And you drive a little longer and you’re in Wisconsin. Eventually, after nearly 5 hours of driving, you’re in Wisconsin. Then you cross the border into Illinois and you’re practically there. We have an 8-person team in an 8-passenger minivan. It turned out to be less crammed than expected, but it was still tricky to find a place for both elbows… and taking corners meant you got extra cozy with your seat-mates. The drive was full of travel snacks and 80s tunes, with the girls singing along with every word they knew (which turned out to be a lot), and the boys playing Battleship and The Dot Game in the back seat. A quick stop at A & W for lunch, and a couple gas stations along the way, and we made it to Chicago in decent time. When we arrived, we were greeted by Jon (the site director) and shown into the church where we are staying. New Life Community Church has a congregation of about 100, which makes it good sized by city-standards. The building was put up in 1891, which is apparent with the wiring (every boy knows where the circuit breakers are now) and the typical inner-city church size constraints. The girls are camped out in the sanctuary for the week, nestled in the aisles and beneath the pews. The boys are in the nursery, a room not much larger than the entrance to the Maple Grove Community Center. It requires grace and delicate steps to properly navigate the rooms at night, there isn’t much space left for foot traffic once everyone is tucked in for the night. Last night involved orientation and Club. Club is the evening group gathering and worship time. It includes announcements, highlights from the day, worship through music, and a brief message or devotional from one of the YouthWorks staff. The theme this week is “Be Different” and stems from Luke 6:27-28. After that was Church Group Time, a time when just our team from NSL can talk about the day, pray for one another, and share what we’ve been experiencing. After just one night, that’s already becoming our favorite part of the evening. We heard about our group projects last night too. We’ll be split into 2 groups (guys and girls). The guys will spend the week working at Benton House, a community education and recreation center here in the South Side. They’ll be doing painting, repairs, office work, and pretty much anything else we can find to help Benton House continue its mission of enriching the quality of life for the residents and the neighborhood as a whole. The girls will spend the week at Covenant Faith Community Church running a Kid’s club. They will help run classes, back up the teachers, and simply be the hands and feet of God for the children they come in contact with. It will be an exhausting week of playing with the kids, but rewarding as well. There was one more surprise last night, it turns out this is the exact same site Luke stayed at when he was 15. It’s crazy to think that almost a decade and a half ago, a teenage Luke who still wasn’t sure what he thought about this whole Jesus thing sat in these same rooms and got his first taste of what it truly meant to lovingly serve the Lord. Who knows, maybe one of the NSL students will bring their own youth group 15 years from now. Thank you for your prayers, please keep them coming as we begin forming relationships the worksites we’ll be at all week. Also pray for the rain to hold off as we’re heading to Millennium Park in the heart of the city. We’ll try and upload pictures and we’ll be sure to keep the updates coming. Thank you!

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