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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Long overdue...

My parents came on April 10th to stay until the following Monday. While it was technically a "long" Monday, the time with them flew!! I was SO excited to be able to show them MY New York. We saw "Rent" on Broadway on Thursday. It was amazing! Maybe a little much for my rather conservative parents ("bumping and grinding," haha! love you both! ;), but I think we all definitely enjoyed the show, dinner from Cosi in Bryant Park, and the discovery of the new Mint Crisp M&M's that have come out for Indy's new movie...

Friday we loosely followed the CSM prayer tour, and it was great to be able to show my parents the city how I've learned to see it - through God's eyes and His heart.

Saturday was probably my favorite day. I brought my parents to Father's Heart Ministries to serve at the Saturday morning soup kitchen. It was so neat to be able to serve alongside my parents in an atmosphere I love. They got to share with my in my favorite ministry site, and it was so neat to see my parents take jobs and settle right in! My dad even mastered the anchor position on the Maitre'd team! Which means he made Pastor Marion's cut when she sized people up for jobs. ;) The rest of Saturday we spent wandering the Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, and SOHO. We ate ice cream at Alphabet Scoop, bought an underground cd from an AWESOME acapella group performing on Prince Street, wandering through Washington Square, snacked on deliciously fresh guacamole, and meandered the streets in downtown Manhattan.

Sunday we explored Brooklyn... went to Coney Island for Nathan's Hot Dogs, rode the Cyclone with my dad on a whim (we survived!), worshipped at Brooklyn Tabernacle, and ate sheer yumminess at Junior's before taking world famous cheesecake back to the hotel for dessert!

Before the left on Monday, we even managed to sneak in a ferry trip out to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Such a great weekend!! I loved the opportunity to share with my parents the city I have grown to love.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

After having steady (and often overlapping!) groups for a month and a half, CSM New York has hit a bit of a hosting lull. We'll have a couple more groups pass through before my time here is up in about another month, but until then, we're running errands, working around the office and housing site, and spending some time at our regular ministry sites to maintain contact and support there.

Yesterday morning, Emily and I (and Breanna - her best friend from home) set out to meet up with our directors in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. We were meeting one of the director's close friends, who is the volunteer coordinator for an organization called the Hudson Guild. In addition to running a community center for local senior citizens, the Hudson Guild also runs a meals on wheels service. Currently, CSM NYC doesn't partner with any ministies or agencies that specifically serve the elderly, so we will be working with the Hudson Guild starting this summer.

I partnered up with a regular Meals on Wheels worker named Sjade (pronounced saw-day), and spent the morning walking through Chelsea delivering meals to individuals and couples in various public housing units, low-income apartments, and even a center for the blind. **Actually, before all that, I almost DIED. Not really... but it was the first time I rode in a car with a native New York driver... I've avoided taxis because they are expensive, but also because I want to avoid being on the roads PERIOD. The guy driving was flying down streets, darting through taxis and pedestrians, and honking at anything that moved... and so was everyone else. But hey... another new experience, right? Haha.** After my horribly "exciting" ride, Sjade and I basically walked, delivered, and chatted our way from 34th street back to 17th street. In addition to having a blast getting to know Sjade, we knocked on doors, talked with some people who hungrily awaited our deliveries, and even helped an elderly woman in the blind housing off the floor who had fallen shortly before we arrived. During our orientation, we had been told that the Hudson Guild deliverers are often the only contact that some of their clients have with ANYONE all day. That rubbed me the wrong way, but it wasn't until seeing this poor blind woman trying to muster her strength to pull herself off the floor, that I realized how heartbreaking it really was. What if we hadn't come? How long would it have taken for someone to notice? Just another thing I am trying to learn to not take for granted...

After parting from Sjade shortly before her last delivery, I booked it for the closest subway and made my train and bus transfers to Maspeth Bible Church in Queens. This church (our first and only ministry site in Queens) opens their doors to local kids every Friday for an open gym program afterschool. The woman who runs the program, said that just last month they averaged between 30 and 40 kids per week. Just a few short weeks later, they expect close to 90 kids every Friday!! Dorothy was a little understaffed yesterday, so CSM sent me to help them keep things running. I spent the little bit of time I had before kids arrived coming up with a sample craft, and got the art room ready for a couple dozen little girls that would come hang out with me later, and I had a blast.

If you know anything about me, you know my heart has always been with kids. If I wasn't working at the Boys and Girls Club during college, I was somehow tutoring, coaching basketball, babysitting, or camp counseling. Which is funny, because since coming up to the city, our ministry sites with children have been the ones where I have felt the most disconnected. Maybe its because those tend to be the sites where I have to float and supervise my groups more instead of actively engaging in the activity, or maybe it was because God was slowly opening my eyes to other things... Maybe it was a little of both. But I think God has defintiely succeeded in showing me that I am happy as long as I am serving and investing in people - it doesn't really matter where I am or who I am doing it with. Awesome gift, huh?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Have you ever just woken up in a total funk? Yesterday I opened my eyes around 8:00 feeling frustrated, agitated, and for some reason, overwhelmed. Great way to begin the day, huh? I meant what I said a few weeks ago about feeling so at peace about the uncertaintly of my future, even though this I've never felt this in the dark about what to expect before, but all of the sudden, everything caught up to me yesterday and I hit a brick wall.

I have so many things I am excited and passionate about, and I know God has big things in store for me (after all, how many of you have told me "God is grooming you for something big someday, Katie!), but my patience and peace seems to be running a little thin these last couple of days.

For the last 2 or 3 years, there hasn't been a doubt in my mind about the Peace Corps, and my summer plans have always fallen nicely into place. This summer, though, I may or may not be leaving the country for 27+ months sometime in June, July, August, or September (seriously? yup), I may or may not have a job with CSM this summer (don't even know if thats what God or I want should the position become available, I may or may not have any number of internships, job offers, and training opportunities along the mid atlantic coast line. So much of my future right now hinges on so much that I have absolutely zero control over. I can't seriously pursue Peace Corps (or anythingelse for that matter!) until Peace Corps makes up their mind about my LASIK surgery, I can't make summer plans until staffing here gets worked out (only should I decide this is where I need to stay), and yadda yadda yadda. Thats pretty much the way things are going right now.

All of the sudden I just feel so overwhelmed and out of control, and I can't do anything about it.

Alright God. This one's yours....

My parents asked me a little while ago where they could find me after graduation. Your guess is as good as mine!!

A bleeding heart on a tattered sleeve - she's got the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The worst part of the job...

Despite all the things about my job that thrill and excite me, there is definitely one part of my job that frustrates me to no end. Its inevitable - groups ALWAYS leave. Honestly? I hate that. Especially with the college teams; because since they are my age, I always seem to connect as almost more of a member of their group than as a leader. But trust me, there is no better position to be in than to see groups arrive at our housing site as strangers or simply team members, and to leave as great friends. The groups that come through CSM often literally shed blood, sweat, and tears alongside each other, and even though I hate watching them go at the end of a week of working in the city right there with them, I love knowing that they go home with such a strong support system to continue to process the week. Just yesterday I was logged into my Facebook account (ha) and found myself browsing pictures of one of my past groups as they were eating dinner and hanging out together a month after their trip. Not that we as CSM can take credit for the fact that they started the trip as little more than group members from a campus ministry back home, and got back on the church van resembling family members, but its definitely the nature of the week. CSM New York is not a flashy touristing trip. Rather, its a unique view of the city that allows you to literally see the dirt and grime of the Big Apple, and directly have a hang impacting what I like to call "the hope factor." We see a lot of pain, hurting, and community at the street level and while walking through the more upscale areas, and its unavoidable that you will leave a changed person. And the only people who truly understand what you saw and are continuing to process, are the people who were standing right alongside you the entire time.

Friday, April 4, 2008

And reality hits...

So, if I was to follow through with this whole Peace Corps thing (you know, my dream of the last few years that has only recently wavered...), I will be leaving the country for a 27 month period... get this... two months from TODAY.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

As a CSM City Host, we frame each ministry site before we arrive so that our group members can be prepared and have a relatively good idea what to expect:

* At Father's Heart Saturday morning soup kitchen, groups help prepare the meal, then take different tasks all involved with serving the meal before doing their part to clean up.
* At the Food Bank for NYC, we unpack, sort, and repack whatever shipment is waiting to be dealt with.
* With the Green Team, we work on landscaping tasks alongside former inmates that are trying to develop job skills to reenter society.
* With Operation Exodus and KidZone, students can expect to love on kids while investing in them with homework attention, play time, and time in general.
* At the NYC Relief Bus, we serve soup while engaging people in conversation, offering them resources for job/housing assistance, or enveloping them with prayer, love, and support.
* At Furnish a Future or World Vision, we work out in the warehouse sorting shipments of clothes, household items, and furniture to put out on the show floor or for later distribution.
* When working with God's Love We Deliver, we tell students to wear good shoes and comfortable shoes, because we will spend the afternoon walking around NYC delivering well-balanced prepared meals to people with terminal illnesses who can't otherwise afford physically or financially to put a HEALTHY meal on the table.

So, for the most part, its easy to tell students what to expect at our various service/ministry sites - we pretty much complete the same tasks whenever we go, because we bring the organizations man power to help them complete the jobs that need the most help.

At some of our sites, however, we tell our students to be prepared for ANYTHING.

At Hanson Place Campaign Against Hunger, its not uncommon to not assist at all in the actual food pantry... CSM groups have been known to clean the church alter (with careful instructions to please avoid beheading any 100 year old wood saints...), make hundreds of Easter cards with developmentally disabled high school students, and completely dismantle an entire photo copier before navigating original construction NYC stair cases with a huge/heavy oak desk.

At Salt and Sea Mission, we always assist with the morning worship service before handing out food for the food pantry. Then students need to be prepared to hand out clothes, visit with the dozens of regular attenders, clean the kitchen, sort and repack food, or whatever else the mission's pastor needs.

The other day at Salt and Sea, however, really challenged me to continually ensure that my "servant's heart" is in check: I stood in front of Pastor Debbe (trying desperately not to laugh) as she demonstrated how to scrub two HUGE marble staircases and the landings/doorways that accompanied them with.... get this.... BRILLO PADS. Like, those little two inch square metal scrubbers with the pink soap in the middle. I mean, when I asked if there was anything we could do to help in the next 20-30 minutes before we left, I certainly didn't mean crawl on our hands and knees on an old grimy staircase in Coney Island and scrub every little crevice with a tool barely bigger than a toothbrush!!

Again, trying not to laugh, I organized my "troops" (a hard-working, loving group of high school upperclassman from Morweena, Canada) and explained the task that we had been given. They all kind of stared at me blankly before glancing over at the staircase and doorways behind them, before looking back at me like I was absolutely insane. Then we all laughed together and got to work.

Barely half an hour later, we had swept, scrubbed (ahem - remember? Brillo Pads?), rinsed, and mopped 2 marble staircases and their related doorways and landings, before calling it quits. We pretty much laughed about it all day, but felt good about our job well done.

It wasn't until the next night at debrief (after the second half of our group had volunteered there the following morning), that I truly began to realize that it wasn't about cleaning stairs with Brillo Pads. It was about a group of Canadian teenagers willing to humble themselves down to the point of selfless service, and truly showing the owner/patrons of Salt and See Mission TRUE acts of servant-hood by being more than willing to kneel down into the grimy stairs of a beach ministry - AND with a smile on their face, nonetheless. Cause you know what? If Pastor Debbe had asked Christ to lather up a Brillo Pad and join us on those grubby stairs caked with the dirt and grime of the world, I have no doubt he would sweated, scrubbed, and laughed right alongside us.