Youth from the Union Presbyterian Church traveled to Chicago last week on a mission trip to help two small struggling urban churches. Led by UPC’s pastor, Larry Turpin, and his wife, Julie Woestehoff, four young people – Benjamin and Breila Fuller and Sam and Jess Richins – drove to Chicago for five days of mission work, meeting with diverse groups and exploring some of Chicago’s cultural treasures.
The young people spent a day painting and doing yard work for the Good News Community Church and another half day helping out with a day camp field trip sponsored by the Rogers Park Presbyterian Church. Helping these churches with projects they could not have done on their own was very rewarding, and had the added benefit of giving our youth a chance to spend time with people from a very different environment. The Chicago churches serve mostly African Americans in areas of poverty. In spite of the differences, our young people were warmly welcomed and offered generous hospitality.
The trip included other opportunities for our youth to meet with diverse groups. One evening was spent at the Muslim Community Center of Chicago for a very enlightening introduction to the practice of Islam. On their last evening, our group met up with young people from the Rogers Park neighborhood for a soccer match (our Evanstonians made a very strong showing!).
The group also visited the Field Museum of Natural History and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, with its renowned collection of artifacts from ancient Biblical times. A walking tour included outdoor sculptures by Picasso and Calder, and Millennium Park’s famous “Bean.” The beautiful summer weather made a couple of trips to the beach on Lake Michigan a special treat.
The youth raised money for this trip by cleaning their church building every week for the last six months. Members of the church also generously supported the trip through individual donations and a special offering.
On Sunday, August 9 – the day after they returned – the youth shared some reflections on their experiences during the worship service. They gave thanks for the many experiences and opportunities the trip provided. They expressed their gratitude for the love which they felt surrounding and protecting them during the long drive and in so many unfamiliar places. They found joy in working side-by-side with the people in Chicago, and in the warm welcome they received. They found meaning and felt the presence of God with them as they carried out this mission. The congregation was filled with emotion hearing such heartfelt expressions from these impressive young people.