Today I Saw God

Philadelphia Mission Trip Day Four

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We started off the day today by going to Harold O. Davis summer camp to help with the kids. It was very fun because we actually took them to the local pool. After that we went to the West Philadelphia branch of the Salvation Army. It was almost 100 degrees today so luckily they let us stay inside. We helped to organize a food pantry and bag rice for distribution. We also visited the West Philadelphia high school and I have to say, it impacted me. It is an inner city school, so the rate of violence is high. I found it very humbling to hear the statistics as they compared to Fairfax County schools.

At the food pantry we separated the various foods into groups and stacked them accordingly. That pantry is now immaculate and, quite frankly, a site to see.

day-4-pic-11-300x169My favorite part of the day was definitely playing with the kids in the pool. It was so hot out, everyone was very excited to get in. I played with a little boy named Najee. He didn't know how to swim so I had to keep a close watch on him. The whole experience was really fun.

We finished off the day by getting lunch at a West African food establishment. It was different. It is a bittersweet feeling to go back home tomorrow. On one hand, I am happy to head home, but I will definitely miss this trip. My group was so much fun and we worked extremely well together. This was also a very eye-opening experience. Coming from where I do, it was very humbling to see how people live. But overall, this trip was so fun and I hope to come on one again.
-Matt Broadus

day-4-blog-pic1-300x300Today, we started out by learning what it really meant to be hot, sweaty, and thirsty. We walked up three blocks just picking up trash in the scorching Philadelphia heat. I don't think I've ever sweat so much in my life before. Luckily we were done by 12 and able to get back in the air conditioned cars and eat lunch. After we ate lunch, we went back to the fellowship house to bag food again. We were done early and, once we got home, we had some free time to just relax after we showered. The free time was nice, especially since today we had three different service projects. After we ate dinner at an amazing Thai restaurant, we took some bagged meals that we had prepared before dinner to homeless people in Philadelphia. At first I was nervous, but after giving the first few out I felt much better. The meals went fast and afterwards I had time to have a discussion with a man about fantasy stories. We didn't even know each others names, but we were still able to have a conversation about so many different things.

This week has been a great experience for me and, even though I'm excited to get home, I am going to miss all of the fun things and great people I met on this trip.
-Sarah Wilkowske

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Philadelphia Mission Trip Day Three

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day-3-blog-pic-3-300x225We had a great day today. Today we switched up the groups. Group 1 became group 2, and group 2 became group 1, but just for today. My group went to the summer camp today with Ashley. We got to spend a great amount of time with kids from Philadelphia. They are very lovable kids and they are great to work with. As soon as we got there all of the kids started interacting with us. The age range was very drastic from 6 to 12-year-olds. They are a very energetic group and fun to work with. I was very happy that my group got to spend time with the kids.It was so awesome to see these children so happy playing with teenagers like us. I could feel God working in their little hearts and I hope and pray that they will give their lives to God soon. We also got to eat lunch with them and they were sad to see us leave. The second thing we did was go to an organization called MANNA. They provide food for people with many different diseases. We got to package the food. We made two types of meals; one was a hot food including chicken, applesauce, and vegetables. The second was a chicken sandwich. I am looking forward to our missions planned for the rest of the week.Bye for now.
-Mercy Wadhwa

day-3-blog-pic-6-300x300My day started out at 7:30 this morning. As always, I was woken by the girls chattering away. I can never understand how they're so happy and can function so well that early in the morning. Personally, I'm not able to put together a coherent sentence for the first hour after I wake up. After breakfast and making our lunches we all piled into the van and drove off to our work site. We found ourselves at Manna, a nonprofit organization that gives nutritious meals to those battling life-threatening illnesses. At the work site we were given a joyful greeting along with cookies and coffee. We were put into an assembly line and packaging meals. I thought the food looked amazing and was unsure how they were able to make such a large quantity of quality food. Altogether we packaged 26 trays of food each holding twenty meals (you do the math, it's summer).

I forgot to mention we had to wear long pants to the work site despite the fact that it was 97 degrees out! After changing into shorts we did some site seeing, going to the historic part of the Philly. And of course, I saw the Liberty Bell. After the stroll around Old Town we got the opportunity to play some miniature golf and eat burgers. Tomorrow we will be working with the inner city kids we have been helping daily, Tieff and Josiah are my favorites. Au Revoir!
-Sam Greenfield

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Philadelphia Mission Trip Day Two

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Today we started the day off by doing a devotional about relationships and interactions with other people. As usual our group slept in the van on the way to our first site, so we had no idea how long we were driving and where we were going. We put our lives into the hands of our fearless leader Steve; he always takes charge and gets the job done. When we got out of the van we were each handed a dollar and tasked with feeding ourselves and also feed some homeless people we ran into on the street. After hours of walking around looking for the best bargain, Sean (the young, rookie leader trying to prove his worth to the team) made the executive decision to purchase cheap pretzels that we found. Turned out to be a great decision by Sean, our stomachs were full and we managed to feed a homeless man in the process. We finished the day by putting together bags of food at the fellowship house. We had an exhausting day, but it always feels good to serve.
-John Macdonald

day-2-pic-2-300x225Today we jumped out of our comfort zones, not stepped, jumped. We started the day by splitting in to two groups of five and given five dollars and released onto the streets of Philadelphia with a map and basic instructions and a leader. We were told that we should explore the city and feed ourselves and a homeless person. My group included John, Austin, Dan, Sarah and our leader Sean. We started by going to a free library and checking out 3D art and interesting books. Then we walked around the streets and explored the love fountain park. After exploring the streets some more, we came to the realization we were very hungry. So we started looking at hot dog stands and stores but everything was way out of the budget. We were starting to give up hope until we saw a lady with McDonald's. We quickly ran to the location of the anticipated food but greatly disappointed to find out there was no dollar menu. So we went to the next store to happily find a deal on pretzels so we ended up with 12 pretzels which we scarfed down within 10 minutes. We decided to give one to a homeless person. We found a man sleeping on a bench so we decided to leave him a surprise of lunch waiting for him.

After we finished our exploration of Philly we went to a center for help called Fellowship House. We were given the responsibility of making 75 bags of food for the less fortunate. We did this rapidly fast. We worked like a family and completed it in about an hour to get products, organize, and bag them. Later we came back to church and cleaned the block around the church. Then we got the famous Philly cheese steak, which was really good! I got an American cheese even though my dad previously urged me to get wiz. So over all we had a great day where we worked well together as a team and overcame challenges in our way while getting closer to Jesus. And I have been told that Matt, Sam, and Baylor are pretty chill!
-Katie Martin

Today we first started out meeting at the movie theater to see Coralline with four to seven-year-olds. During the movie, we kept an eye on the children so they would not disturb other people in the theater. After the movie was over we went back to the church to eat lunch and changed into our long pants for the next activity. We went to the senior center to walk and help serve the ice cream. I was chosen to pass out and collect orders for the ice cream with Brady and Sam. I saw God in the smiles of the elderly which was amazing. I've never seen so many people so happy for getting ice cream before. I will not forget this day.
-Michael Manduke

P.S. John Hewer would like me to give a special hello to Michelle and Joel Hewer!

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Philadelphia Mission Trip Day One

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What a busy day. Today, my group and I had almost the full Philly experience, at least according to our guide. We started out helping at a summer camp for underprivileged kids. We were told to make friends with the kids because we are going to be working with them almost every day this week. The kids were excited to see us and we were quickly able to break the ice between us and the kids. After we played with them for about half an hour, we went on a field trip with them to see a ballet performance at a performing arts center similar to Wolf Trap. The kids were disappointed when we didn't follow them after the performance.

We came back to the church to eat lunch. Believe it or not, it was only noon. We had already done so much that it felt a lot later. We had about an hour for eating lunch and then we were off again. Our group went to SHARE to organize and pack school and office supplies because the schools here are really pinched for money. We accomplished a lot in the few hours we were there, clearing one of the sections of supplies. By the end, we were all hot and sweaty and my knees were black with dirt.

After work, Jess, one of our leaders, was nice enough to buy us all water ice. As we were driving back to the church, I noticed that there was a fire hydrant that had been opened for us to play in. It was just what we were looking for after a long day of work, and every one in my van got soaked. Our day may have been busy, but it was a lot of fun and I can't wait for tomorrow.
-Colleen Lewis

Today started with an early morning, well for me at least. We woke up at 7:00 a.m. to the girls shouting a song at us. We got out of the bed, showered and made our lunch for the day. We were the first group to leave; we set out in the van over to a summer camp where we would be bonding with some kids who we will spend the rest of the week visiting. We arrived and walked in as an awkward group ready to talk to the kids. The kids were not very shy, one of them just ran right up to Matt and grabbed his bag and started to talk to him. We played around with some balloons and other games. We spent time learning their names and getting to know them until it was time for us to depart with the kids to supervise them on the field trip. We got to the Mann Center (a music hall area very similar to Wolf Trap back at home) and all paired up with a kid. We found our seats after a little wait in the hot sun and we watched the show which consisted of mostly ballet dancing. We left from there and departed from the kids and headed back to the place where we are staying to eat some lunch in the old chapel and were briefed on our next task.

We showed up at the next site which was a warehouse where we loaded donated school supplies into boxes and sorted them. The work we did here was for an organization called SHARE which helps provide individuals with food. There was a lot of heavy lifting involved and we were all pretty tired after this. Our awesome leader Mrs. Servey took us to get some ice cream from a local place.

On our way back to the housing site we stopped to play in a spray of a fire hydrant, a true Philly experience. From here we went to dinner at a Puerto Rican place where we got to know the other serving group over some plantains. From there we visited the famous steps from the Rocky movies, and then headed home. Now we are just spending the night playing some #gnarlyspeedball and getting ready for bed to be ready for another day of bonding and doing some great things for people who need it. Shout out to John H, Emily and my boy Sam.
-Baylor Newson

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CSM Student Mission Trip Reflection by Sarah Heier and Tom Evans (ft. Gavin Hartin & Taylor Manley)

Today, we split into groups to help all across the city. My group along with Jeremy headed into the Bronx to help fix up a women's shelter so they could pass inspection. Although many of the women were out searching for homes while we painted and cleaned, the women there greeted and thanked us graciously. Around 3:00, all of the students met in Grand Central station for free time around the city. This free time consisted of stops at "Dylan's Candy Bar" and "Gray's Papaya Dog" which both provided us with great New York food and experiences. Overall, this week has been a great opportunity to connect with friends as well as God while helping organizations all around one of the greatest cities in the country. Although we are sad to part from our friends and New York, we all look forward to seeing our family today.

– Tom Evans feat. Gavin Hartin & Taylor Manley

Today was our last day here in the Big Apple. It was full of service and excitement. My group went to a soup kitchen at a small church in Brooklyn. As soon as we walked into the doors the ladies working the kitchen rushed to welcome us. They were so excited to see us and so grateful that we were willing to help out. They welcomed us with open arms and huge smiles. And let me tell you, we were so happy to be there helping the local community. The work we had done earlier in the week was very helpful but we couldn't see the results. Today we got to interact with some fascinating people that not only wanted a delicious meal, but to see that someone cared. Many of the clients just wanted us to sit down and have a conversation.

A few of us sat down to talk to one man that has lived in New York much of his life. Although he didn't tell us much of his story, he was very interested in learning about us. He gave us some really good advice about life and told us to follow our hearts. His rule of the "3 Ds"; Devotion, Dedication, and Drive are three simple words that can have so much meaning. His words taught us that no matter what situation you may be in, go for it with all you got. This was my favorite part of the day and maybe even the week because it had so much meaning and a more personal connection. I felt like I was really helping people and enjoyed being able to see the results.

This afternoon we had free time and got to explore New York City. We got to explore Grand Central Station and eat famous New York hotdogs and pizza. Our evening was cut short by a storm but before we headed home for the night we sat in Central Park and gave each other affirmation clips. This gave us the chance to show how much we had grown together and cared for each other. Everyone had so many great things to say from showing leadership, to humbleness, to all around kindness. I believe this really left us on a high note with a warm fuzzy feeling of togetherness. This short trip to New York will be one we can never forget.

Sarah Heier

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