Chi Rho Mission Trip, Work Day #2

Today we spent the morning doing two special tours. First we toured First Christian Church of Des Moines, a Disciples congregation that sits on the edge of Drake University. Rev. Ryan Arnold was our guide, and he shared the history of the congregation and the building. Because of its size and location, the sanctuary has welcomed many major speakers through the years, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was awesome to be in that space with its historic pulpit and Tiffany stained glass!

After the church tour, Ryan handed us off to his friend Tony — the Director of Inclusion at Drake University. He took us on a tour of campus that helped everyone see what it’s like to live and study here in Des Moines.  The campus is beautiful, and it was interesting to see all the organizations that students have created for themselves. Plus, this was a great way to introduce our students to one of our historically Disciples-related universities!

We ate lunch at a cool pizza place where everyone could get their own specialty personal sized pizzas, and followed lunch up with frozen yogurt.  Delicious!  Then we went back to WDMCC to rest, cool off, and hang out before heading out to work.

This evening we went to St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church to work in their community garden. We dug potatoes until it started raining. Then we helped bag the potatoes and onions that had been harvested throughout the afternoon/evening. All the produce from this garden goes directly to organizations like DMARC so that hungry families can have fresh and healthy (organic) produce.  What a great way for a church to use their space and labor for the sake of the community! 

After our work, we picked up dinner and brought it back to WDMCC. Now we’re showering and getting ready for bed so we can be fresh for another day!

Chi Rho Mission Trip, Work Day #1

Today we got up, ate breakfast, made sack lunches, and then headed out to the Central Iowa Shelter. Along with providing beds and other services, this homeless shelter serves hot meals to a large number of people daily, and we were the serving crew for lunch. 

After donning gloves and hair nets, we were giving various jobs on the serving line: drinks, desserts, salads, corn, macaroni & cheese, and ham/chicken. When it was time to begin serving, we started dishing out the food and worked steadily for over an hour. As people came through the line, we were able to greet and talk with the guests. Our kids felt everything from nervousness to joy to sadness as they worked, and they did an excellent job of embodying hospitality as they served the meal.

After lunch was over, we ate our lunches and did a bit of debrief. Then we moved across the street to DMARC – the Des Moines Area Religious Council, which is a good bank that serves/operates 13 food pantries and 3 mobile food pantries in the Des Moines metro area.

DMARC brings people from all religions and faiths together for the sake of helping people in need. They serve 16,000 to 19,000 people each month, providing healthy food to people who need assistance (for any reason). 

We started the afternoon by sorting three huge bins of food donations. Expired food had to be set aside, and good food was sorted into labeled boxes so that it could later be delivered to pantries. After we finished sorting the bins, we sorted donations for a special food program for elderly Des Moines residents.

The kids worked hard and we finished both projects. After we were done, we returned to the church to play and/or rest. Then we had a delightful dinner at a local Mexican restaurant that was recommended by our new friends at DMARC. Now we are showering, doing devotions/debrief, and then heading to bed. Tomorrow will be another full day!

Chi Rho Mission 2017 – The Road to Des Moines

Today our band of five middle school students and three adults loaded up the rental van and headed to Des Moines, Iowa for our Chi Rho Mission Trip. It was an easy drive made even smoother because the van is comfy and everyone is in good spirits.

We arrived at our home for the week (West Des Moines Christian Church), got a tour, and found our spot in their awesome downstairs youth area. Then we unloaded the van and made ourselves at home.

For dinner we headed into downtown Des Moines for a bite at Zombie Burger.  The food was wonderful, the milkshakes to die for, and the decor fit the name perfectly. Definitely a fun spot! 

After dinner we came back to the church, took showers, hung out, and headed to bed early. It’s time for rest before our first day of work! More pictures and stories will come tomorrow. Good night!

Almost Home…

This morning we started the day at Garden of the Gods. First we took a gorgeous hike among the rock formations. Then we spent some time in the visitor center looking at exhibits, buying souvenirs, and celebrating Luke’s 15th birthday.

After all that fun, we hit the road. It’s been smooth sailing most of the day. We’re now past Topeka, but have slowed down some because of the storms rolling through the area. Will be home soon and (at the very least) Rev. Lara will see you all in worship tomorrow morning!

Work Day 5: Fruit Ninja, Goodbyes, and Colorado Springs

Today was our final work day at Tennyson. The day was celebratory in a lot of ways: most kids were having good days, there was a special “Fruit Ninja” activity where the kids got to watch adults slice up fruit with real swords, and many classes took hikes or watched movies.

It was also a hard day because goodbyes are hard. In debrief we processed the different ways the kids received our goodbyes, and also spent a lot of time talking through the ways that our week st Tennyson has changed us. In many ways we are different people for having known and worked with these kids and staff — and we aren’t sure how those differences will play out when we return home.

After debrief we loaded the vans and headed south to Colorado Springs. We’re spending the night at FCC here in town so that we can pop over to Garden of the Gods in the morning. Tonight, after settling in, we went to a Jamaican/Italian fusion restaurant (surprisingly delicious!) and a fabulous ice cream parlor. Now we’re headed to bed early so we can start early tomorrow. We’ll be on the road for home by noon (Mountain Time).

Work Day 4: Classrooms, Field Trips, and the Mountaintop

Today our group hit the classrooms again. For some, the day was broken up by field trips to places like Red Rocks Ampitheater. Others remained on campus all day. The exciting part was that, in the midst of many breakdowns and disturbances, we were able to really begin noticing the many little victories that can happen in a day. It’s those tiny wins that help Tennyson staff to keep from burning out or losing hope, and that help students to begin believing that change is possible.

Debrief was incredibly helpful this afternoon. We focused on the ways we notice the positives more now that we have been in community with these kids. It is so much harder to believe stereotypes when you know someone, and that has certainly been true here this week.  

When asked the question “who would Jesus hang out with,” we answered without hesitation: Tennyson kids. It is an immeasurable privilege to hang out with them too. 

After our post-debrief nap, we went into downtown Denver for dinner at a Mongolian BBQ restaurant. Then we drove out of town to Lookout Mountain. The view was absolutely gorgeous! While on the mountain we hiked and then spent time praying for our Tennyson family. 

Now we’re back at Tennyson getting ready for bed. Tomorrow we work and then head south to Colorado Springs. 

Work Day 3: Classrooms, BBQ, and Water Play

Wednesdays are half days at Tennyson, so when volunteers are here we get to do something special. After a couple of morning hours in our classrooms, we all headed outside to start setting up a barbecue lunch for the kids and staff. 

Umbrellas went up, tables came outside, food was prepared, and the grill was lit to cook burgers and hot dogs. Then the kids arrived, classroom by classroom, and we served them an excellent lunch. When our class was there, we got to eat with them. Then we’d work the serving line so others could eat with their classes. It was noisy, joyful work and the kids (and staff) were pretty happy!

After lunch, all the day students headed home. We then set up for a special treat for the cottage kids (children who live on campus): an afternoon of water play! From slip and slides to kickball (with wading pools for the bases), kids and volunteers got plenty wet — and had a wonderful time.

When everything was cleaned up, we had debrief. During that session, we were asked to think of things in our daily lives that are privileges for kids at Tennyson. From privacy to new clothes, extra curricular activities to stable family life, our list covered lots of ground and helped us to think through what it is like for the kids who live and learn here. We also listed the resources they have that we don’t: things like constant teacher support, endless grace from teachers/staff/peers when they make unsafe choices, and acceptance with no strings attached. Tia reminded us that there is no reason why the grace experienced here can’t exist outside of Tennyson. But for it to exist, we have to choose it and share it.

After debrief we said goodbye to our friends from SCCC, as well as to Jack. SCCC headed south to Colorado Springs (we’ll join them on Friday night) and Jack flew to a family wedding. Everyone else napped for a bit before heading out for a night of pizza, ice cream, and play time at Sloan Lake.

Now we’re showering and heading to bed. We’ll check in again tomorrow!