Chicago Urban Program: Part 2 – initial thoughts

I returned yesterday from the Chicago Urban Program. What a great experience and time of learning and serving. There is still a lot I am processing through, but I will go ahead and write what I am thinking at this time. I will write more at a later date.

First of all, the leadership team of CUP (Sandra Van Opstal, Beth Hedges, Max Kuecker) are all passionate servants of God. It was great to learn from them and to see them in action. I also had a great time working alongside of many great people from various schools around the country. I was considered part of the volunteer staff for the week, but also participated as a student. So I was given the wonderful opportunity to see the leadership’s design for the program, yet experience it as a student. This allowed me to help others process through what they were experiencing.

In one of the morning staff meetings Sandra mentioned that the way we debrief and reflect about what we are experiencing is more important than the actual experience itself. If this is true, and I believe it is, then they did a phenomenal job. Everyday we were guided through and helped with how to understand what we were experiencing. They initiated conversations about race and ethnicity which at first were awkward and uncomfortable, but turned out to be liberating and helpful.

A lot of the time during the week was various groups of students being sent out to locations in the Austin and Humboldt Park area to work with local ministries. This was a highlight for many people. Students were able to work with people who are a part of this community — people who want to help reach out to those who need it most. Through this we were able to make relationships and begin to see things from their perspective. We were not left to sit and process it by ourselves. We were broken into groups often and guided in how to respond and think. This was ultimately what made much of CUP so valuable for people.

As mentioned in my previous post, students are confused about social justice these days. What should be the Christian response? This was dealt with masterfully. Ultimately, they stressed that relationships are key to understanding the issues of social justice. The church is failing in efforts of social justice and reconciliation. They stressed the difference between compassion (a reaction to injustice) and justice (stopping the injustice).

After working through racial and ethnic issues, they summed up what our response should be:

1) Be reconciled with self – know yourself!

2) Admit where you are broken – come to a place of repentance.

3) Decide to be anti-racist – if you do nothing, you are a passive racist.

I am very thankful for all the hard work put into this week by so many people. I was blessed to be a part of it. There is much more to be said, and I probably will write another post which is much more clear. I am still very tired from a week of sleeping on the floor with another 14 guys.

I will end for right now with some of my favorite quotes of the week:

“You need the whole armor of God when you work here.”

“When people see you praying [on the street], they begin to get scared of God.”

“You have to come with the Holy Spirit; you can’t come with your own issues or agenda.”

“What is the end goal of your Bible reading? Is it to feel good about yourself? It’s to equip you for a mission, for a lifestyle.”

“Are you dealing with things more difficult than you can handle? If you are it draws you to him, to prayer, to fasting.”

“The Christian life is a journey to the cross, and there’s no turning back.”

“We are the message of reconciliation to others.”

“Worship is naming what matters to God.”

“Get off your butt, and on your knees.”

“Emotions give voice to the soul.”

“Learn culture – stop assuming!”

“Love them, don’t suck up to them.”

and a poem from Scott Bessenecker called “Frisky Bones”
God, give me frisky bones,
Unafraid to take a little risky bones,
Wanna have brave and fearlisky bones,
Gimme a shot of spiritual whiskey bones,
Oh Lord, give me frisky bones.

God, give me frisky bones,
No more dry and brisky bones,
Too scared of the tsk, tsk, tsky bones,
Might get a boo and a hissky bones,
From unbelieving aethistky bones,
Oh Lord, give me frisky bones.

God, give me frisky bones,
Good, ol’ St. Francis of Assisky bones,
Leper lovin’ hug and kissky bones,
Denying all my materialisky bones,
Embracing a life of simplisky bones,
Oh Lord, give me frisky bones.

God, give me frisky bones,
Faith in you persistky bones,
The Enemy I will resisky bones,
No more fear and cowardisky bones,
Oh Lord, give me frisky bones.

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