Monday, March 2, 2009

It may have been “Stupid” but it was still good!

So I took my confirmation class on a Youthworks "Revamp" in Minneapolis this weekend. I've never done this but I did take a high school group on a mission trip to Houma Louisiana with Youthworks. I was very impressed with how they were organized and their trips are reasonably priced.
This was a junior high event. I brought my confirmation class. My first mistake was bringing 9th graders because our confirmation is 8th & 9th graders. So right off the bat the 9th graders felt put upon that they were surrounded by "little kids". So of course anything "little kids" would be happy to do, they as mature high school students must , by logic, NOT enjoy. The first night was a Christian Hip Hop concert at Elim Baptist. I don't like Hip Hop but I've been doing stuff with kids long enough to just go with the I'm getting into the beat, starting to move...and my kids are just standing there motionless. "This music is horrible." "This is just noise" "I'm getting a headache" I told them they sounded like a bunch of old people. Then a very energetic youth pastor, good message. We are in the territory of evangelicals who have caught onto the Gospel imperative to reach out to the poor.

The next day we went to Seward church in a very diverse neighborhood - I think they said there are 117 languages spoken "And we are just here to let people know we love them" was how the church was described. It's an old church building and our service was to clean up the mouse droppings in the upstairs so it could be clean enough to have an after school program. I tell you one thing my kids can do is work. Iowa children can work. Not one word of complaint from them.

Then we were dropped off in a neighborhood with $1 per person ($7) to figure out how to eat. We found an Aldi's and bought a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of white bread, some chips and some cookies. They had some cheap apples but i could not talk them into it. The worse part of this was not the food - but the fact that we had to sit and eat outside when it was like 10 degrees.

Then it was "neighborhood stories" where we visit someone who is doing ministry in the city. We went to this beautiful old house and were welcomed by a young man with hip length dreadlocks and earrings. And his Australian wife and baby. They are part of an intentional christian community that decided they would live together with other Christians and pretty much live like they did in Acts. There are several houses of them and there's always a guestroom and anybody can live with them. And they understand that "lives are not turned around in an instant and sometimes it can get pretty messy but you don't give up on people" They don't go to church. Their lives are the church. I could not do that to save my soul...but it was interesting.

Then we had a tour of all these ministries all over the city but the kids got bored and I got very tired. One of the stops was the Midtown Global Market and we decided to just hang out there and be done. Most of the kids enjoyed that stop. Although one girl was bored.

Back to church for ice breaker games which were "stupid" and the bean game - also dubbed stupid but I made them do it. And the dinner was deemed "terrible".
Next we saw "30 Days Minimum Wage", the documentary where Morgan Spurlock and his girlfriend Alex try to survive a month on minimum wage.

Then more Christian contemporary music that my kids liked a little better. Which I think is pretty horrid and self centered because it's all about how I can't live without Jesus' arms around me -( I think I'm supposed to be singing to Jesus anyway...)
I was a little concerned about the message of the speaker because he spoke about what faith was to him - and faith to him was his friend who just wasn't really sure if he had "real" faith because he was just going through the motions, but he didn't really really know if his faith was real so he just quit his job and went and lived among the homeless for a year so he could find out if his faith was real.
Yea at one of our last class sessions, we went over the third article of the creed and how faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit and you DON'T have to agonize and try to muster up good enough faith. Or go and live among the homeless to prove your faith is "real". So I might have to do some debriefing on that.
So as the weekend is going on and my kids are complaining and saying "Do we HAVE to do this..." I'm beginning to fear this weekend is a bust. Because you know, usually I take kids to fun stuff and entertain them and make them happy.
Then it dons on me. These kids have gone to the same school system their whole lives. They haven't had opportunities to socialize with different kinds of this is uncomfortable for them. Many of them have never been in a big city, and have barely been out of the small town in which they live. They are WAY WAY out of their comfort zone. This is not a bad thing.
One of the discussions we had was about how they felt when everyone was jumping around and yelling "Yea Jesus" and they just didn't want to do that. They felt others were staring at them and judging them. So we had a good talk about what's that like when you feel like you are judged for being different.
And on the way home I asked them, "So assuming I don't make YOU go on this again--do you think this is a worthwhile experience for other confirmation kids? Do you think it's good to do this at least once"
All of them said, yes, but only for the junior high kids. So I may do it next year. I just hope I don't have to miss my favorite figure skating competition again like I did this year!

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