Saturday, March 16, 2011 4.45 AM
The journey begins. After a night of no sleeping we load up the vans and we are off. The drive was a mixture of conversation and silence. Lots of us unsuccessfully attempting to catch up on some of the sleep that we had avoided the night before. Once we had been driving for a while and most of us had given up on the idea of sleeping. Once we hit the random cities in northern California we were braced with the not so pleasant surprise of snow. Our drivers and a few students braced for the cold and wetness to put on chains. Luckily for our van, the automatic door would not close, so we all got a taste of the cold and wet that was outside as well. We eventually moved on, only to find that we didn’t need the chains afterall. Adventure #1 of the car ride!
We continued driving, having lots of funny interesting conversations and comments that can only come from lack of sleep and being stuck in a car. In-n-out for lunch/dinner, waiting in line for what seemed like forever!
Adventure #2: At somewhere between 10-midnight, we got stuck in what might as well have been a parking lot due to an accident.
2.30 AM March 20, 2011: We arrive in Gardena at Church of the Servant King, which is where we would be staying. We were greeted very openly and excitedly by the members. We were all ready for much needed sleep.
7:30 AM March 20, 2011: Wake up to get ready for church. We were split up into two groups, mine went to New Mt. Christian Church. It was an experience I will never forget, me and 5 other students walked in…in the middle of the service, after time of worship they introduced the visitors. We were asked to stand up and introduce ourselves since we had missed the chance to turn in visitor cards. The welcomeness was amazing and so encouraging, everyone came over and embraced us like they had known us since the beginning. We were given a teaching that opened by eyes again to something that I had been struggling with and holding on to for quite some time. It was a good start to an awesome week! The rest of the day was filled with good conversations, laughs and sleep.
Monday: March 21, 2011
We depart from breakfast to make our way over to Faith in Christ Ministries. It is run by two amazing people, Gwen and Joe. It is there because of their desire and heart to serve people and show God’s love in as many ways This is a place and resource open for people and kids who need some extra help. Whether it be with food, school, work. One of the things that Gwen said was that they don’t do things because they know what to do…they do what God calls them to do. Sometimes this comes with resources and others it doesn’t…they turn to God in both of these situations for strength and guidance on what to do. This was such an encouragement to me as well as opened by eyes to a new level of faith that I had never seen before. People truly living their lives to serve God and their community. True dependence on the Lord.
The task I was given was definetily one that put me outside of my comfort zone…computers. But it was through this task that I was humbled and able to actually get some stuff done through the help that it required me to ask for. It gave me the opportunity to have a conversation with someone who I never had before…it was filled with Q&A about majors, classes and interests.
The day ended with adventures of climbing trees, yes I climbed a tree for the first time ever! and what seemed like hours of playing ninja! 🙂
Tuesday: March 22, 2011
We were split up into two groups, one was to stay at the house and work on some of the repairs that were needed around and the other went on our way to an organization called House of Yaweh. From the moment we met Sister Michelle we were welcomed and I could see through stories that she was telling how much faith she has and how much of her strength comes from God. She told us stories as we walked around the property that made up House of Yaweh, stories of donations and explaining to us how each of the different areas worked and what they were for. Hearing story after story of moments in which they weren’t sure of how something was going to come through and be possible…but God provided. It was amazing to see the reliance and hope that she place in God, and how He had always been there to provide what she needed to serve.
Once we were put to work, there was a group of three of us who were given the task of categorizing, sorting and organizing a room of stuff…stuff to be sold in the store that was part of the organization. This included everything from clothes, to stuffed animals, to a creepy looking Betholven doll, and so many other things!
Another group of us were presented with boxes of cloth napkins that needed to be folded. I came in partially through this napkin folding party…but quickly understood the trend in which things were going. Emily even made up a song! 🙂
“I am Iron Hands
look at how I fold these napkins!
“*** to the theme song of Iron Man
We all were given an amazing lunch, which provided us with some time to get to just hang out with eachother and take a break from the work we had been doing. It allowed us time to talk about what we had been doing, and so many other RANDOM things that I’m not even sure where they came from. This for sure made for multiple moments of laughing so hard that your stomach hurt.
Wednesday: March 23, 2011
We made our way back over to New Mt. again to help them clean up some stuff for a celebration they were having that weekend. It involved making bulletin boards, cutting out paper letters, cleaning bathrooms and pews. Me, Chelsea and Karen were on bathroom duty…not the most glamorous, but definetily some of the most meaningful and encouraging conversations of my week!
I tend to get myself down on the fact that I didn’t realize this all earlier…I didn’t understand what it meant to really have a relationship with Christ, I didn’t get what the deal was…I had never experienced it for myself until the past few months. I often am plagued with thoughts of “what would have happened when…”or “how would I be different if I had made an effort to pursue Christ earlier in my life?”But through this time in LA and the weeks that have followed I have been reminded that it’s ok that I’m starting where I am. I know plenty of people who are living their lives with the purpose of wanting to mirror Christ who didn’t realize it until college or later. There isn’t a standard of when you should commit your life to God, it is different for every person and will happen at a different time, in a different way. Yes, it has taken me a little longer than some people I have known, but now I am on the path and that is where I shall stay.
We finished our workday by returning to House of Yaweh to finish up a project that a group of people had been working on the day before. We organized and and re-organized the baby/kid/teen clothing section.
As our last days were so close, I began to look back on the week. The new relationships I had made, the already made ones that were solidified even further and the growth that I could see happening. I had been struggling with feeling connected to this group as a whole prior to our journey to LA, yes there are good relationships and connections made with a few of the girls in our group…but it didn’t extend much beyond that. But this week defied those feelings. We did everything as a group, we worked, ate, had free time and learned together. The amazing work atmosphere, energy and support that our group together created was inspiring and encouraging. Even on the days when we had been up since 7 AM and it was afternoon…if there was something that needed to be done, if there were tasks that could be completed…our group energy and desire to serve carried us through the moments that could have brough us down, exhausted and broken. It has been so amazing getting to bring that group back here to campus and not only see those relationships continue to grow and strengthen, but also to be extending out to others.
Thursday: March 24, 2011
We started the day with a walk around downtown Gardena, it included 11 college students, one friend, a basketball and an abundance of laughs and quotable quotes! We took jumping pictures in front of a mural, went into soccer stores, a random super market etc. We made our way back to the house to prepare our lunch for the day. We were headed off to the Museum of Tolerance, there were saw exhibits about the Holocaust, terrorism, refugees and countless other things. But there were two parts of this day that have stuck in my mind since that day. One of them was one of the first activities that we did, we were all seated divided into groups and seated at tables that reminded me of something from Pizza Planet in Toy Story! 🙂 Our topic that was chosen was terrorism….sounds fun right??…to be completey honest, this was a hard exhibit for me to get through. After the events of my second week of senior year, an attempted bombing of my high school, the idea of someone attacking my country terrifies me. I am not old enough to realy remember how 9/11 affected me, how it made me feel. But I can give you a vivid description of how I felt that day when were were bombed. I remember the fear I felt when I found out that my brother had been so close to where it had happened, and that I had to wait, not knowing what was going on or if he was ok. The video almost brought me back to that day, and those feelings. But one of the things that I took away from this experience was realizing that without God, our country, our world, will never be able to be at peace. We cannot get past the issues that are causing so many of these attacks on our own, we need the forgiveness that only God can give us. We need His love.
The other part of this day that had a definite impact on me was listening to a Holocaust survivor speak. It was definitely an experience that I had never had before, and may not ever have again. I have learned about this tragic event from textbooks and movies for years, but to have someone who was there…who went through it…to be able to tell me what it was like is something different. We heard real stories of events that happened to a real person, like you and me. But the thing that most struck me about this man was the fact that he still identified that God is there. Yes, he admits that his faith was lost and has never been the same as it was. But it made me question myself, what would it be like for me if I went through something as tragic as the Holocaust? Would I turn to God for strength and protection in the midst of it, or would I turn away? If I survived something like this, would I be able to acknowledge that God is good, that He loves me?…despite what I had been through?? These questions puzzled me for days, and still do. I cannot answer them, I know what I would like my responses to be, but cannot say for sure what anything would be if I have not experienced it for myself.
Friday: March 25, 2011
This was our free day, our day to have fun and relax before we made our way back to FG and the dreaded restarting of classes on Monday. We first headed out to Hollywood to walk along the stars, again this adventure was full of video taping, pictures, laughs and quotes!! Followed by a drive through Beverly Hills in an attempt to look at the houses and how ridiculously huge and decorated they are, and a drive down Rodeo Drive. One of the things that pointed out by one of the girls in my van was how incredible it is that there can be such wealth so closely along side such poverty. We had spent our week working in places that where the purpose was to serve those who did not have everything that they needed. It was definitely eye opening to have that pointed out and to see it so up and close.
From there we made our way down to Santa Monica peer while having an awesome dance party in our car…as always! 🙂 Our adventures at the peer included, funnel cakes, photo shoots in a random building of blue that matched our shirts, watching beautiful waves crash on the rocks, many attempts at a pyramid, and a TOTALLY awesome ride on a dragon! Yes, we rode on the rocking dragon ride that I was absolutely terrified when I was a little kid! Back in the car we are, and drove to the beach! There were defininitely some of us(RYAN) who were more excited about getting to go swimming at the beach than others. But this day would be full of surprises that some people never even saw coming 🙂 At first I had no intention of getting in the water, I didn’t want to be wet and sandy…but once I was there and saw so many people having fun…I caved and went. It was still as cold as I remember it being, and there was just as much seaweed as well….which terrifies me. Unfortunately, I told some of my friends a story of a trip to LA in middle school in which one of my friends chased me through the water with a giant peice of seaweed because I was so scared of it…so what did she do…but reinact it.
It was eventually time to play mafia. So we all sat in a circle in the sand, we were told to close our eyes so that the different players of the game could be chosen. Within a few seconds I felt something sticky and gooey in my hands. 1…2…3…that squishiness ended up in the hair of the guys sitting in the circle with us. This was a retaliation to a prank that had been pulled on some of the girls earlier in the week(having their shoes relaced backwards and then tied so that it would look like nothing was wrong). Needless to say, once the guys realized what had happened…they took revenge. I don’t think that there was a girl…or guy…who left that beach without being covered in some way by this gooey-mess. It made for an intersting ride home, as seeing that we had to split up the “Man-van” so that they wouldn’t be able to plot a retaliation against us. The rest of the night was spent reliving our prank through the constant retelilng of it to the members of CoSK.
The night ended with a midnight donut run, because that is when they are the freshest apparently, haircutting in the kitchen, and a sleepover that lasted 2 hours…yep 2 hours of sleep.
Saturday: 3:30 AM
Wake up to the sound of Kirstin trying to wake me up….because we were sleeping through her alarm. Good-byes to those members of CoSK who were still awake, or had woken up to say good-bye to us. We loaded our vans and were off. The 17 hour car ride included many stops for coffee, food, gas, etc. Many good conversations occured in these car rides, there, back and in between. Dance parties are always a way to make the long car rides go by faster. And of course, lots of sleeping.
This was most definitely one of the best weeks of my life!! I would not change this experience, with these people for anything in the world! From this week we developed an even stronger sense of friendship and support within our small group. I wish that we could have had even more time to stay there….to get to know the members of CoSK more, and to have more opportunities to serve in the same places we were, as well as other places that needed help. God humbled, comforted, strengthened, weakened, protected and loved me through this amazing week in LA. I want to go back. I want to bring the work that we did there back with me, it may not look the same…but I don’t want the serving and the growing to stop now that we have been back here.
There will be pictures to come soon! 🙂