If you want to hear all about the trip, hit me up at church or on FaceBook, but I want to share a couple of impacting things that happened while on the trip.
First, on the prayer tour (which was the third day we were there) was long like I said, but parts of it were really neat. At one point, we were told to split up into groups of 3 or 4 and go around Time Square. Our mission was to ask two questions: 1) What's the homeless situation like in NYC? and 2) What can be done to fix it?
The first guy we talked to was living in his own little world because he thought NYC didn't have a homeless problem at all. He said there were maybe 1 to 2 homeless people here and there in NYC, but it's not an issue that needs to be dealt with. This guy was clearly blind to the issues around him, but it was very interesting to talk with him for a minute or two about the non-issue of homelessness. It's not that he was being mean. It's just that he genuinely thought there were no homeless people. It just goes to show that some people can go about life being totally blind to what's going on around them. We, as Christians, need to open up our eyes and see what God sees so we can help those in need. Now, this guy wasn't a Christian so I'm not mad or blaming him, but it is a good lesson to learn for us.
After that, we were able to talk to a couple other women. One specifically was a young comedian selling tickets. She came up to me and two of the students with me (Abby and Rachel) and asked us to buy some tickets for her comedy show and other comedy shows. We said we couldn't, but she kept pushing, so we decided to ask her the questions about the homeless situation, to try to change the subject. I can't remember her answers, but what I do remember is that she was taken aback when she found out what we were there for. Abby told her we were there on a mission trip just trying to help out the homeless. The young comedian quickly apologized for her underage drinking comments to the girls and then to me for the fact that she even mentioned drinking. My response, "Shoot girl. I drink." I don't think she saw that answer coming. Now, I am not in any way, shape, or form advocating for getting drunk or even drinking to get tipsy, but a drink here or there around a bonfire or at a concert or while laying out, I don't see an issue with that. Once I said my comment, she just started asking more questions and then answering the ones we asked about the homeless. It was almost as if I became somewhat normal to her like I'm not some crazy Christian who can't have fun. I'm not saying drinking is the only way to have fun, but to her, it seemed it was. I felt like the rest of the conversation went more smoothly and she was more open to what we had to say. That or she was just tired of talking to us and was just trying to get rid of us. I'd like to think the former is true.
Throughout the next couple days, we served at food pantries and homeless shelters. The students were more than impressive to me. They did everything without grumbling or complaining. I couldn't have been more proud to be with them and say they were a part of our youth group. So, parents, be proud of how you raised your child to become a mature Christian in Christ. They were all amazing!
The second thing I wanted to share about was when we got to serve with Agape Social Services. This place was way smaller then the other two places we served at. Compared to the 478 people we served at POTS (part of the solution), we only served about 25 at Agape, but the difference between the two was more than just the numbers. POTS was a non-Christian based organization. They ran a tight ship and it was very well maintained. At first, it was a little intimidating, but I had a great time serving everyone apple juice and talking with those that came through. But at Agape, it was a whole different atmosphere. There was an emphasis on God and his love (hence agape). People came in and felt loved and wanted instead of just another number like at POTS.
The owner of Agape was more passionate about feeding the homeless and showing them a new way of life that can be lived. The owner of POTS was just trying to get everyone thru the line as quickly and efficiently as possible. Both places are feeding the homeless and helping reduce hunger, but Agape was more relational or more inviting to those that came. To me, it's the difference between showing the Love of Christ and just feeding someone to feed them. Also, Agape had people who were striving to do better and striving for a better life, but POTS was being used by quite a few people as a way to cut their budget in one area so they can spend more in other areas. It seemed that people at POTS had their priorities wrong, in my opinion (which shouldn't count for much, I've never been where they've been--I can eat three times a day or more whenever I want). The people coming into POTS were sometimes dressed to the nines. Designer clothes, this years Nike shoes, nails done, new weave, hair dyed and iPhones in hand. It was baffling. Their priorities were just so out of whack, but someone reminded me that this is the culture they've grown up in. They haven't been taught how to prioritize as they should. These people thought nails and hair came before food. Or clothes and new kicks came before food. Agape was there to help them understand and rearrange their priorities. POTS seemed to be feeding the issue (no pun intended). But, like I said, I was there for maybe 4 hours at each place. My viewpoint could be completely flawed.
So, in all, NYC was an amazing experience and I loved getting to know the homeless and talk with them. I couldn't have asked for better places to serve in the city. Some were a little scary and possibly not the safest, but God protected us.
With all that said though, I will probably never visit NYC on anything other than another mission's trip (unless to a Yankees game for once). It's a dirty city and way too crowded for my likings, but I definitely suggest that everyone go once. The tourist attractions are pretty fun, and