I’m sitting here looking at the sun set over Houston. I really wanted to post this message sooner, but we have had non-stopped 14+ hour days here serving with the Center for Student Missions (csm.org).
In all honesty, the days leading up to the trip were filled with both excitement and weariness. Summers are busy for youth ministers, and mentally, I was ready for my family vacation. I’m glad that God chooses to work both within us and despite us.
Let me tell you a bit about CSM. CSM is an urban-mission organization. There are many CSM locations throughout the United States. They spend time in the cities helping staff various ministry efforts. Their main goal is to immerse you in an experience that is often unfamiliar to us. You spend time ministering to the marginalized while experiencing the diversity of the city.
Each group that comes to CSM is assigned a host (or a tour/mission guide). Every host is with their small groups of students from sunrise to sunset. They have a schedule, and you just carry out their schedule for you. From a minister point of view, there’s nothing to plan or prepare except our hearts.
Each morning we have served at a different site. Monday, we were supposed to work in a kitchen in a mens rehab facility, but got rerouted to do emergency fill in working to make sandwiches and pack lunches for a meals on wheels program, packing 1800 lunches!
Tuesday, we worked at another meals on wheels location actually delivering sack lunches to children and families. At many stops, we heard children yelling, “yay! LUNCH!” It was really gratifying.
This morning, we were given a list of things to do/see/talk to in the downtown area of houston. We were assigned things like, “Find a homeless person and ask them: 1)what is the best/worst thing about Houston? 2) What is the biggest problem in Houston? 3) What do you think is the biggest cause of homelessness?” After this phase, we traveled (by light-train) to the clean nice part of downtown to ask business men and police officers the same questions. We only had a map and 20 or so different questions and activities to do/ask. It was a great way to get to see (first hand) the great successes and tremendous hurts and needs of the city.
Every afternoon, we have worked in a grant-funded educational program for children living in government housing. It is very similar to the work we do with Mission Arlington. Tyler, our host, goes there every day of the week…so we get to enjoy and aid in the summer-long relationship building and ministering he enjoys with the children. Its been very awesome.
I’m really proud of our group. They have really stepped up. Houston is the 4th largest city in the nation and has the largest homeless population in the nation. We’ve really got to serve both the homeless and the marginalized. This year, Houston was named the most diverse city in the nation. Much of Houston is very much like Marshall (socio-economically), but culturally worlds apart.
Along the way, we’ve experienced an Asian marketplace, Authentic Mexican Marketplace, Holocaust Museum, and a whole host of new things.
Each night, we’ve also been able to experience very different foods than I’ve ever eaten. We’ve had Vietnamese, Thai, Jamaican, and authentic Mexican tacos. We’ve also spent much time in conversation with our guide about our different experiences.
There’s a LOT more that I wish we could share with you, but you can only convey so much information on facebook… This is the first night we returned to the mission site before dark, and we are all exhausted. Fulfilled, but exhausted.
What started out as another event on the calendar has become something that will impact our students (and myself) for years to come. Our students have served with compassion, sensitivity, and passion, I’m blessed to be leading them.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out our pictures, check out our instagram feed at: http://instagrid.me/refuelyouthgroup/