Monday, July 6, 2015

Final Thoughts by Teresa Staton

I am finally getting around to posting my final thoughts on the trip to San Francisco after some much needed rest.  It was an amazing experience to be able to use our gifts of service in surroundings that took some out of their comfort zones.  As Steve mentioned, his group worked at a food bank and with Korean children at All Missions.  Meanwhile, my group which consisted of Adam, Jake, Ryan, Vinny, Skyler and Mary were assigned to the Boys & Girls Club for the week.  I think we were all initially disappointed not to have additional experiences such as a food bank or delivering meals, but this quickly faded as we were drawn closer to some terrific children.

The Boys & Girls Club is located in the Tenderloin District which is a combination of cultures, homeless suffering from addiction and mental health disorders and very low income households.  This Boys & Girls Club is run unlike any other Boys & Girls Club I have seen.  During the summer, they have an attendance of 140 children ranging in age from 6 through middle school.  Their facilities are small, and it is astounding what they are doing in such cramped quarters.

The "clubhouse" is located in between two low income housing buildings.  On the bottom floor of one of the buildings, there is a community room, play room and art room for children in elementary school.  There is a courtyard where Power Play (lunch recess) takes place.  There is a jungle gym, a little room for a game of tag, a cone-type tower that spins and room for jump roping.  On the bottom floor of the adjoining building, there are rooms for the middle school children, a lunch room and staff offices.  There is also a park nearby for afternoon outdoor games.

We were assigned to the elementary students.  Their schedule is very structured.  They are encouraged to join one of their clubs, such as art club and the photography club.  The vast majority of the children hold a job at the Club ranging from bankers (for their funny money) and ambassadors who are the leaders to make volunteers and new children feel comfortable.  The staff are strict and expect a great deal from these children but are so very loving.  These staff members are doing a fabulous job and are often the only chance these children have for a positive future.

Our teenagers played more games of pool, foosball, bumper pool and board games then they can likely remember.  We worked in the art room and spent time helping with reading time and summer book reports.  We helped with homework and colored more pictures than I can recall.  We played with the kids at recess and at the park.  These children crave positive attention and just wanted someone to spend time with them engaging in fun activities.

We could not take pictures at the Boys & Girls Club, but if you are on Facebook, check out their page.  It is Tenderloin Clubhouse.  You will see some pictures of our activities that have been posted.  I was told many times by the staff how appreciative they were of our teens.  They cannot handle 140 children without volunteers.  We made an impact in ways that can be seen but also in ways that could not be seen. 

Our days began around 6:00 a.m. and ended around 11:00 p.m.  There was not a single moment of down time.  I know Steve posted our schedule on Facebook, and it was our schedule every day.  Our evening activities were so fun as we were able to see Shoreline Regional Park, the Goldengate Bridge, Inpiration Point and feeding the community with a BBQ.  I simply cannot pick a favorite activity or event because they all hold special memories.

I think each of us can identify one time in our week that especially spiritual or emotional.  Anyone who truly knows me recognizes that I am a "crier", and my time was on Wednesday evening when we went to Inspiration Point.  Normally, it is cloudy and cold.  On that night, it was warm and completely clear with a sunset God must have painted just for us.  I realized how hard it was going to be to say goodbye to the children the next day.  I was wondering what will happen with these children who now hold a special place in my heart.  For many, it is the Boys & Girls Club who will give them their only chance.  I shed a few tears, but completely broke down during the "Yea God" time of our impromptu church service on the hilltop with the sun setting on the horizon.  (Normally, our church time is at the location we were staying.)  For me, it was the most emotional and spiritual experience of the week as I thought about the children from the Boys & Girls Club, watched our teenagers engage and ask some very thought provoking questions and sharing God's beauty in nature with worship.

I could go on and on with stories and experiences from the trip.  There are just too many to share in this blog.  It was a honor and pleasure to share this experience with nine fabulous teenagers from Community Lutheran Church.  This experience was very personal for each and every one of us, but I firmly believe each teen was impacted more then they thought possible.  The gift of service was truly abundant and alive through these teens.  I hope each of you have an opportunity to speak with them so they can share their experiences.    

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Update from Steve Staton

Hello everyone.  We are sitting on the plane, exhausted, waiting to come home.  It has been an amazing week filled with so much it may be hard to remember everything I want to say, but I will try.  The daily schedule was up at 5:30 am and in bed around 11:00 pm.  It was literally non-stop from morning to night with no down time. 

We were divided into two groups.  Teresa had six of our kids.  I had three of our kids and two kids from Bend, Oregon.  Teresa’s group spent the week at the Tenderloin Boy’s and Girl’s Club.  All I can say is picture the poorest of the poor areas and you will get an idea where it is located.  They did amazing work with the kids teaching and playing with them.  I will let Teresa cover more of their work. 

My group spent three days at the All Nations Youth Ministry further south in SF.  We helped a church with a large group of primarily Korean children.  We had to help them with math, music, English and art classes.  I helped James with the 4th and 5th graders.  In math class they asked, “Can you help me with that question?”  I would look at it and usually respond, “That’s math?”  I would try to Google help with the question and usually the kid finished the problem in their head before I could figure it out.  I felt like a contestant on “Our You Smarter than a Fifth Grader.”  We also played with the kids all three days and I had to captain one of the teams for capture the flag every day.  

On our last day there, our teenagers organized the morning worship.  The subject was on the Ten Commandments.  Our kids worked for two days picking songs, choreographing moves for the kids and preparing a short Bible study.  The kids loved it, and I was very proud of our teenagers.  At the end, we had to say good-bye to the kids which was very difficult.  I feel more blessed than ever having been with them.

One of our days we went to a mission that fed elderly people in the neighborhood.  We helped in the kitchen, handed out food and visited with the residents.  We were forced by the staff to go into the Zumba class the elderly women were taking.  This was like no Zumba I have ever seen.  It was Hispanic and Asian women doing line dancing to Mariachi music.  The women dragged myself and Josh on the floor and we had to dance several songs with them.  We finished with everyone in the group doing the longest, most energetic line dance I have ever been in.  My legs were sore for days.  After the mission, we went to a food bank larger than any Costco and helped sort plums for distribution to local groups.

Our last day of service we had food left over from our group.  We took the food, and Adam and James stood on the street and gave it away to the homeless and needy.  The last person to get food was an elderly Jewish woman who asked the kids to pray with her.  As James started the prayer, she stopped him and said, “Remember, I’m Jewish.”

This has been one of those experiences that I will carry with me and talk about forever.  There was good and bad.  Sitting in traffic, taking two hours to go 16 miles was not good.  But listening to the kids connecting with the Youth Works leaders and randomly naming people in passing cars was awesome.   Having a sunset service on a mountain was amazing.  Sleeping in a room with 12 boys on air mattresses was, let’s say, an experience.  Any conflicts the kids had were completely worked out between them with no interference from us.  That shows a tremendous amount of maturity on their behalf.  I am very proud of all of the kids and what they did this week.

As I close this, we are thirty minutes into our flight and the our kids are not sleeping.  It was a flight with only 70 people, and although there were rows and rows of open seats, they all sat together.  They are spending every last second together.  Thank you to Community Lutheran Church of Escondido, for giving Teresa and I, the opportunity to spend a week with these teenagers in serving the community of San Francisco.  We are truly grateful.


Update from Josh Curley

As we prepare to leave and await the plane I feel much closer to the people sitting here than the people I arrived with. We got to walk on the wharf, help little kids, dance with old folks and pass out food.  All of this, making us much more appreciative of what we have.  At the All Nations VBS we got to work with many amazing kids. Most of them were smart enough to teach us how to do our math. We also were entrusted with the job of making a children’s service. It went pretty well when we finally did it, but as we set up to do it we drove Steve insane in the car just like the other group’s female leader. Along with this we got to hang out with cool old people who taught us to dance.

Update from James Schwab-Segoria

As the trip comes to a close, the group seems far closer that we did at the start. This trip was definitely a great learning experience for not only our youth group but me as well. The team I was on with Lauren and Josh, along with Steve and 3 people from another church, was the only combined group. We grew close over the week working together at the All Nations Church helping run a VBS program for Korean children. We helped them with various subjects and were even blessed enough to lead a service of our own. This was an exceptional experience that won’t soon be forgotten. We dragged along one of our Youth Works leaders who helped with the service, playing the guitar and singing. We stayed up late the night before rehearsing our bits and songs, and then got up early to get there in time to set everything up. The girls choreographed 4 dances so the kids could dance along to our songs. Steve ran our presentation. During our service we all saw Steve dancing and singing along to our service. We all got a good laugh out of that. After the songs were over, we sat them down and I delivered the children’s message telling the story of Moses and the 10 Commandments. The children seemed truly fascinated by the story and were able to answer all of my questions about the story. This was all a truly moving experience and I can’t wait to see what comes next for this amazing group of kids.

Update from Skyler Johnson

When I was driving to the San Diego Airport, my expectations for this trip were very low. I thought the trip would be like any other trip with no meaning - just something to do to.  I thought it was just this one word, “Serve.”  This one word just had one meaning to me which was working for nothing. During the week I was trying to figure out what was the purpose of the trip.  When we were on the top of Inspiration Point I was talking to James and one of the youth works leaders, Austin, about faith and when were you really truly saved.  Not when you get baptized, not when you get confirmed, but when you truly know you are saved. The cool part about this is that everyone has their own story of when they were saved. Another time I was talking to another youth works leader, Sydney, and we were talking about the same topic and I figured out all about what special meaning this trip had for me and it was building on God’s purpose for me.  You really find your purpose when you can be comfortable doing that through Christ, and with serving that’s a building block to build your purpose up.  That one word, serve, is what can help you get past that mountain; that can build you for a better future to show you how much you are blessed. But the only way to realize the meaning of that word is to use your God given purpose to find it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Update by Mary Andersen

From walking the Golden State Bridge and having an emotional worship service last night to working with the Boys and Girls Club today, it has been a trying time.  It was amazing walking up to Inspiration Point to see God's astounding handy work and being able to worship up there at sunset was something else. This week had been a complete blessing, and I am so glad that I was able to come.  It has been exactly what I needed at this time in my relationship with God and my faith. Thank you to everyone that helped to get me here.  Tomorrow is our last day, and even though I am excited to get home, I am sad to leave.  I have made some amazing new friends and grown closer to some people.  It will be bitter sweet to leave tomorrow.

Update by Vincent Capito

Hello. Greetings. This is Vinny Capito Coming to you on Wednesday the 1st through the power of the internet. Normally, the Bay area is a foggy place with lots of overcast, but today was a very beautiful day. The sun was shining, and it never really got cold. I went through the routine of going to the Boys and Girls Club to play and help out with the kids there, but after we ate dinner, we went on a trip to Inspiration Point. The view was great, and there was a clear sky. We even could see the Golden Gate Bridge. It was great, and we stayed there for a while. ,Normally, we would come back to the church and do the "nightime service"(CLUB) but instead stayed there and talked up on the hill. It was a great day and probably the best day of the trip.  Vinny Capito