Thursday, June 25, 2015

Live It--Baltimore

I've been waiting on this post because I haven't felt like I had adequate words....and at other times, I've felt I have too many words.

Our trip to Baltimore was fantastic, yet challenging; beautiful, yet dirty. It was a contrast of emotions at all times. God worked through so many challenges to bring everything and everyone together.

I'll start from the beginning.

Last Saturday, we loaded up several vans and cars with way too much luggage and said a quick sunrise prayer. Then, we were on our way!

We stopped several (ha) times for food and potty breaks. We ate some cultural food (again, ha) at Roy Rogers before making our way into MD.

Upon arrival, we had a team meeting and discussed our plans-ish for the week.

The week was full of Bible School and construction, which I will share about in a moment. But our first day there was Sunday. The church at which we would be working was in the eastern part of the city, just blocks away from where rioting, many murders, burning, and looting had taken place over the past few months. Signs of destruction were everywhere--memory gardens, bullet holes, boarded up buildings. It was heartbreaking to ride through these areas, yet encouraging to see this church still meeting and attempting to reach the areas that are seen from the outside as scary, sketchy, or worthless. Beauty through Ashes. 

Sunday morning church was quite different from what I am used to. No structured service....and very little planning. It was Spirit-led. I'm not going to say which is better, because I truly believe our staff pray over our plans and structure and those are also Spirit-led. There are just different styles that work in different communities and bodies of believers. This style worked well for Charm City Church because the community of believers (or attenders) is different each week. There is a lot of congregational participation--with testimonies, songs, prayer, and just showing off what Jesus had done in their lives recently. Several of our group members got to pray in the service and Micah and Julia got a chance to sing. Bless them, they had to follow a very boisterous gospel singer...different as night and day, but both still so good and so God-honoring!

 Charm City Church, an old converted furniture store that serves a wonderful purpose on 5 points there in Downtown (ish) Baltimore. 
 A special prayer time with the people of Charm City and some of our mission team.
 Micah and Julia sang several worship songs for the service. 
 Another time of prayer. Please note the brick "wall" covering behind Pastor Mike. That is there because there was a multiple-piece of sheetrock hole in the wall from where the roof had leaked between the brick and the sheetrock. We were able to fix that hole--more to come on that.

On Sunday night we had a planning meeting to split up our teams and discuss projects that were needed. On this night, we found out that we had planned a VBS with crafts, games, etc and that the Kids director there, Nicole, had also chosen a VBS theme that was a little different from ours. It worked out, though, because the concept of the armor of God and standing strong in His Kingdom actually resonated from both VBS curriculums and she will be able to use her lessons over the next few Wednesday nights in their kids program, while we were able to use our coordinating lessons/games/crafts during VBS week. I assure you God was working through my type-A and her type-A and was able to coordinate our spirits to work together this week. 

VBS was a wonderful time of just ministering to the kids through sports-themed games, crafts, and Bible lessons that centered on our "equipment" for standing strong. We used soccer, softball, cycling, field hockey, and mountain climbing as our theme days to talk about specific pieces of the armor. I was thrilled and amazed to see our workers spend time with the sweet kids. We only had a few children on Monday because it was the last day of school in the city (county kids were out), but the numbers grew each day. We saw several children come to know Christ and many of the kids received some much needed lovin' and listenin'. I was so proud of our sweet workers stepping out of their (our) comfort zones to share Jesus with some sweet babies who have very different and unique backgrounds. 

While our team was doing VBS, several construction/cleaning/working teams were hard at work. We joined them after lunchtime when the kids were gone. Y'all. I saw 32 people work their tails off to accomplish more than humanly possible that week. We patched a roof leak (or two) from the outside and the inside, patched several holes in the walls, re-sided the wooden portion of the building, painted two bathrooms and the outside siding, put up backer board in the kitchen, sheetrocked in the sanctuary, and did several small electrical projects. We cleaned and organized several Sunday school rooms, their church kitchen, the fellowship hall, a counseling/music room, the foyer, and a clothes closet. A group hung basketball goals, created a basketball court, outdoor table area, and a future snowball (snow cone) stand. It was a busy, yet rewarding week! It was such a blessing to be able to do these things for Pastor Mike and Charm City Church. 

We did get to have some fun outside of fun-on-the-job. On Tuesday night, we went to the harbor and enjoyed supper there, as well as an Orioles game. Y'all. There were 8 home runs by the O's in this game. It ended up like 19-4. Several of our group were disappointed because there wasn't a lot of back-and-forth, but at least it wasn't boring :)

On Wednesday night, we did a ministry outreach called Hallelujah in the Hood (I'm not making this up). We played games with the kids, Micah/Skylar sang, we sang as a group, Mrs. Anna shared her testimony, Pastor Joe preached, we ate hot was a great time. I saw some older teen guys who were thoroughly engrossed in the basketball and then in what Mrs. Anna had to say. It was a special time because I know God was moving during that evening, even though we didn't see many people "officially" respond. 

My prayer is that our ministry will touch lives much farther and longer than the one week we were there. I know I was encouraged by our men as they worked, our women as they cleaned/organized, our whole team as they interacted with the sweet kids and workers there, and my dear friends and family for how they grew individually. I saw God at work in my highly scheduled, OCD life as I practiced a balance between a plan and being flexible. I also saw God work through some friendships and relationships. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to minister in the city of Baltimore.

I hope to add a link to a recap video that will be shown at Calvary this Sunday evening. If you are local, PLEASE join Calvary Sunday evening to hear testimonies, see videos, and experience second-hand many different perspectives of this special week.

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