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Mission Trip Reflections 2017

6 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" 8He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

(Micah 6:6-8, NRSV)

We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord, we are one in the spirit we are one in the Lord, and we pray that all unity may one day be restored; and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love. After hours of traveling, seemingly endless bathroom breaks and navigating a very tricky parking situation with four 12 passenger vans, we finally arrived. We unpacked our bags and claimed our floor space amidst Sunday school classrooms in the historic First Baptist Church of Washington, DC. In this sacred space, we met new friends. In this sacred space, we gathered together to share our stories. In this sacred space, we gathered together to hear other’s stories of heartbreak and redemption. In this space, we lit candles and stood in the darkened center aisle of the sanctuary, reminding us that we are bearers of light in a world that is broken. In this space, we sang together every night at the close of vespers, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord. And we pray that all unity may one day be restored. This week, 35 youth and 5 adults came together with a united purpose to love and serve others. For this week we were no longer bound by our age, our respective schools, or our religious upbringing. We were united. We were united as we shared space with strangers who later became friends. We were united as we read scripture for each other and prayed heartfelt prayers aloud for our team. We were united as we stood for hours chopping carrots and onions, knowing that our labor of love would meet a real and immediate need later that day. We were united as we listened to a former homeless friend named James share his touching story of being lost and then found. We were united as we discovered a Krispy Kreme Donut store within walking distance from the church. And we were united in our decision that another visit was mandatory before leaving DC! In a world where division seems more prevalent than ever, our youth proved time and again that unity is possible and that love is stronger than fear.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand and together we’ll spread that news that God is in our land. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love. This week, our youth learned the meaning of walking together – both spiritually and physically. Our youth walked countless miles throughout Washington, DC, learning about life-changing work that exists to improve lives. We walked countless city blocks as we heard the compelling story of one church’s history and journey. We heard the story of how one financially struggling church sold their property and used the funds to start ministries and not-for-profits to help thousands of people. The former church is now one of the largest service agencies in DC with over 20 different start-up ministries, including a fulltime housing initiative for homeless families and an array of educational programs for people trying to regain their footing in life. Our youth heard the stories of innovation and vision as they stopped along each site for a moment of information and reflection.

We walked together down the historic timeline of our nation’s birth and progress. We walked to the Capitol building and sat in on a live discussion in the House of Representatives. We witnessed our government in action and asked questions one to another about how we are responding to the world’s needs through the lens of love. We sat on the front steps of the Capitol and met with our representative, Tom Suozzi. We asked him hard questions and we smiled for our photo op, making our hometown district proud. We walked through the historic corridors of the Supreme Court building and listened with absolute attention regarding how decisions and rulings are made in our country. We walked together and we were inspired all along the way.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side, we will work with each other, we will work side by side, and we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save human’s pride; and they’ll know we are Christians by our love. This week, our youth worked together as a team. They worked side by side chopping vegetables and shaping tuna patties at DC Central Kitchen, an organization whose mission is to use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities. Our youth worked together as they prepared meals at “Food and Friends”; an organization that prepares, packs and delivers balanced, delicious meals to food insecure individuals throughout DC. Our students worked side by side for hours in the non-air-conditioned warehouse at “Capital Area Food Bank.” They worked together tirelessly sorting canned foods, baby supplies and household items that would be donated to those most in need. Our teenagers worked together in the high rise building conference room at “Bread for the World”, an organization that urges our nation’s decisions makers to end hunger. Our youth worked side by side as they wrote compelling letters to their representatives asking them to put hunger prevention to the top of their political agenda. Our youth worked together this week not only with their hands, but with their heads and their hearts as we took a glimpse into the struggles of others.

All praise to the Spirit, who makes us one; and they’ll know we are Christians by our love. This week, our students became one. They became one as they witnessed the real struggle of hunger. They became one as they asked difficult questions about the interconnectedness between poverty and injustice. Our scripture verse for the mission trip week says this, “And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” Our students are learning what it means to be just in a world that celebrates greed. They are learning what it means to walk in loving kindness in a world that reflects hostility and indifference. They are learning to walk with humility in a world that honors ego and pretention. The work we are doing with our young people will no doubt change the world for better one day. As our youth inspire us, so let it be that we challenge and inspire them in return. Let it be that in this place, they shall see us as people of unity, as a people walking together, and working side by side to bring light to a broken world. For at the last, when all else is said and done, they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they will know we are Christians by our love. Let it be so. AMEN.

Pastoral Prayer

God Love,

We are thankful for this family of faith and the ways we bless one another.

We are grateful for opportunities to learn and grow in our faith. We give you thanks for the young people in our church who gave up a week of their summer to learn to help serve others in our world. Might we hear wisdom through the words of our youth as they challenge us and remind us that our faith is living and active.

We are grateful for ministry and for all the forms that it takes in our community of faith ̶ in teaching and preaching; in care for children and care for our seniors and care for our building; in leadership tasks both large and small. Continue to equip us as we set to make a difference in this community and beyond.

We pray for the condition of our world this morning. We pray for all of those who experience violence in our country due to the color of their skin. We pray for wisdom as we move into more peaceful days to come. We pray for the thousands of refugees worldwide who are seeking safety for their families. Bless these O God that they might find refuge. We pray for all of those who are hungry, those who live in war torn communities and those who just want a better life for their children. We pray that we might begin to think we can be a part of the solution to so many issues in our world. Give us wisdom O God.

We pray for our church family.

Direct our hearts and minds during this time. Inspire us to new levels of faith. Draw us closer to you. In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.

(Adapted from Gathered by Love: Worship Resources for Year C. Lavon Baylor) (Adapted from a prayer by Wayne Arnason, UUA)

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