“What are you most excited for?!”
I was asked this question quite frequently during the weeks leading up to Summer Mission and my answer was always the same.
“I’m most excited for what I don’t know.”
Apparently there was (and still is) a lot I don’t know, because just within the first few days my eyes were opened wide to an entirely different world that existed just three hours from my hometown.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin is a city rich with history and culture. If you drive five minutes south you can shop at an authentic Latino grocery store. Drive five minutes north and you’ll be mixed in the gathering of an African American family. If you go too far east you’ll be swimming in Lake Michigan.
We spent two days exploring the nooks and crannies of the city, and did so in two very different ways. The first city tour was on foot and gave us the opportunity to delve into the lives of those who know poverty and homelessness to be their reality.
We were given a list of tasks to complete, and if I’m being honest I wanted to go straight back to bed after glancing at the paper. To share a few: asking a stranger for a quarter and giving it to a homeless person that we then had to interview, asking people where the poor go to get housing assistance, health care, and addiction rehabilitation, and dumpster diving were among the most uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable, because they knocked me off my high horse. They pushed me far outside my comfort zone and required me to interact with people that I never would’ve otherwise. And I want to emphasize the word people. So often, I would drive by a homeless person sitting alongside the road and think nothing but ‘avoid awkward eye contact.’ I wouldn’t acknowledge that they have a story or what they struggle through every single day. In fact, I would actually wonder why they were wasting their time on the side of the road when they could be using those hours to try and find a job.
I’m embarrassed to admit that ugly truth, but humbled because this outing broke my heart and opened my eyes to just how wrong I really was. Along with my friends Scott and Jordan, I was able to spend nearly three hours visiting with two homeless men in a park. One of the first things one of them, Raphael, said to us was something along the lines of, “It’s a beautiful day. God is good. You gotta make the best of each day.”
OKAY what? I was the one who was supposed to be doing the teaching and helping, but here I am learning so much more from Sunny and Raphael than I could ever teach them. I walked away from that conversation filled to the brim with a greater love and longing for Jesus and a desire to truly know and serve His people. And this was only just a tiny look into the lives these people live day in and day out.
One of the most heart wrenching truths I learned while talking to people on the streets was the amount of children getting caught up in gun violence. Already this year, 29 children have been victims of neighborhood shootings. Are you kidding me? I had tears in my eyes when I learned some of the stories behind this number, because of my passion for kids.
Despite this brokenness and danger, not once have I regretted coming to Milwaukee. In fact, these harsh realities have made me want to stay longer and show them the Light of this world. Through learning God’s heart for the poor, I was made aware that there is roughly 2,000 verses in the Bible about the poor and justice. 2,000!!!! It is so evident that this is right where I’m supposed to be.
The second city tour allowed us to take a car- this time exploring the history, architecture, and neighborhoods of Milwaukee. We learned that the first Harley Davidson factory was built in Milwaukee in 1906 and Miller Brewery was opened in 1855. We saw Cathedral Square, the Pabst Mansion and the skyline of Milwaukee.
In addition to the people and obeying God’s commands, I can attribute my willingness and excitement to be in the city to the diversity and history Milwaukee has to offer. If you know me, this is totally unlike me- I’m normally a run around in the mud in the middle of no where type of girl. This is just further proof of God’s ability to change our hearts and minds. 😉
The rest of this week consisted of job hunting, hours upon hours of processing through our experiences, fellowshipping over many meals, and staying up way too late eating way too many snacks. To say it’s been a crazy, busy week would be a slight understatement, and I wouldn’t have been able to survive if it weren’t for the people I now call family.
My mission team consists of 13 students, 6 girls and 7 guys, and 10 staff (plus the most adorable kiddos!). The only explanation I can think of to describe the rate and depth of which we bonded the very first day is Jesus. Our team is evidence that He has a specific plan for each of us and brings certain people into our lives for a reason. In just seven days we’ve laughed like old friends, shared our most embarrassing stories, and opened ourselves to an authentic level of vulnerability. It seems impossible that a week ago I had no idea who these people were, but it’s true- nothing is impossible for our God.
To wrap up orientation week, we had a commissioning dinner on the roof of a condo building. We celebrated all God has done already and all that he has in store for our next two months. We were also given a key as a symbol of the gift we have to heal a city. The gospel has the power to change lives and draw people out of the darkness they once felt trapped in. As a believer, I have faith and hope in this truth. 1 Peter 3:15 says,
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
We have the key to the city- unlocking the hearts of the lost and broken with the undeniable power of the gospel. Praising Jesus for making my lost and broken heart complete, and for His unchanging goodness.
One of the coolest things I’ve been able to experience in the flesh is God’s love being blind to color, race, and ethnicity. The way His love knows no bounds or conditions. We may worship Him in different languages and through different songs and praises, but through it all He is still the One True King- reigning Almighty forever and ever.
I want to invite you to join our team through prayer. Here are a few things you can specifically pray about:
- Making our jobs our ministry site. That God would be preparing the hearts of our coworkers and give us an opportunity to share the hope we have with them.
- For the inner city track. That they would selflessly serve our ministry partners each week.
- For our staff team. Thanking God for their hard work and ability to lead our team so well.
- For the city. That God is at work in the hearts of those we will talk to.
- For our team as a whole. That we would remain rooted in the truth of the gospel, be authentic, and that God would refresh our souls.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read through some of the ways God is at work here in Milwaukee, and for your prayerful support! Stay tuned for more updates. 🙂