Today was our last full day in Saint Louis, and we made the most of it. We started by working all morning at the Saint Louis Food Bank — a huge warehouse that receives, sorts, stores, and distributes food donations to food pantries and other organizations all over Eastern Missouri and Western Illinois (much like Harvesters in Kansas City). Working with other other volunteers, over the course of three hours we packed and labeled 5600 pounds of frozen black bean patties that were donated by Morningstar Farms! That translates to 4571 meals for people who are hungry and/or food insecure.
After our work was done, we went on a tour of the food bank, including their huge freezer area. Then we ate lunch in their break room and debriefed the week’s work with Sue, our work coordinator. Everyone agreed that it has been a truly great trip filled with very meaningful service and education.
After lunch, we hung out at the Saint Louis Zoo. Our time there included train rides, a sea lion show, the brand new penguin habitat, and the opportunity to pet stingrays! Then we ate dinner and root beer floats at Fitz’s to celebrate a wonderful week. Tomorrow we’ll clean and load up, spend some time at the Gateway Arch, and then drive home to Smithville. We’ll see you then!
Today we got to help with TWIGS, a summer lunch program that provides meals and books to kids/families every weekday during the summer months. As we prepped snack bags and loaded the van with books, Pastor Carol told us about the needs here in Cahokia, IL. In this town, 100% of the school children qualify for free or reduced price school lunches. That means that during the summer (they have no summer school), children often eat only one meal a day. TWIGS helps to address this need.
After prepping and loading, we headed over to the school parking lot where the meals are handed out. Kids rode up on bicycles or walked, and families showed up in cars. We handed out meal bags, helped children to pick out books, and presented parents with fresh tomatoes from the church’s straw bale garden. Then we came back to the church and unloaded the van.
When our work with TWIGS was over, we spent the rest of the afternoon sorting and tagging book donations. These books will eventually end up in the TWIGS van where children can pick out new stories to take home and read.
This evening we’ve played games, eaten breakfast for dinner (pancakes, bacon and eggs!), done showers, and spent time processing and praying about the day and the people we’ve met. Now we’re off to bed, because tomorrow is an early morning. We’ll check in again tomorrow night!
Today was our first day of work here in Saint Louis, and we spent our time serving with the good people at Lydia’s House, a local organization that provides up to two years of safe transitional housing for women and children who are survivors of domestic abuse. Our work time was spent cleaning the community/administrative building and organizing donations in their warehouse area, but the most important part of the workday was spent learning about the signs and realities of domestic abuse. Hearing personal stories of survival helped us to understand how to help ourselves, our friends, and our family members — and gave us a deeper understanding of how hard it can be for someone to leave their abuser. We learned how to be compassionate.
After work we headed back to the church and took a good nap! Then we took showers at a local campground (it’s a great facility) and returned to the church in time to share in a wonderful meal provided by members of the congregation. Pasta, salad, bread, brownies…it was truly a communion feast.
After dinner, the church members led us in a game that helped us to begin thinking about the various circumstances, struggles and privileges that either help someone to advance in life or make it difficult, if not impossible, to succeed. It was uncomfortable to realize how much privilege many of us experience, and we had a very helpful conversation in which we started to parse out the factors that can make it so difficult to break out of poverty. While some of us get ahead, every day others fall behind. This conversation and game will help to frame the rest of our week, as well as our work as church when we return home.
Tonight we are spending some time hanging out and playing games before we hit the sack and rest up for another day of work, play, learning, and relationship. We’ll check in again tomorrow!
Today we kicked off our middle school mission trip by driving to St. Louis, Missouri and then continuing on across the mighty Mississippi River to Cahokia, Illinois. This is our home base for the week; we are living, playing and resting in a local church during the hours that we aren’t working, and working at a variety of service agencies in Saint Louis.
This is a wonderful little church, and they are already showing us fabulous hospitality! We hope to thank them for their extravagant welcome by participating in their local outreach program. Every year they collect #2 pencils for the schoolchildren in Cahokia — many students come from families that cannot afford to provide more than 2-3 pencils for the entire year, and this program fills the gaps. We’ll purchase some pencils to add to the donation table this week, and you are welcome to join us in that endeavor. If you’d like to help us, you can comment on this blog and we will email you the mailing address!
Tonight we are turning in early after a tasty quesadilla dinner. We get up early for our first day of work tomorrow, as well as a dinner cooked by our church hosts. It will be a full day, and we’re looking forward to it!