A team of youth from The Compass Church spent a week serving in Pittsburgh this summer. They partnered with a local church to do outreach and run a VBS in the community, and they took prayer walks through the city. The team also partnered with two other local service agencies, a homeless shelter and a soup kitchen. Emma, one of the students on the trip, shares her reflections on what she learned.
Hello people of the Compass Church! Today (or whenever you’re reading this), I am here to tell you a little bit about my recent mission trip to the beautiful (and hilly) city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. First detail to note, I was completely unfamiliar with literally every single one of my teammates prior to the trip, which honestly ended up very well. I had such a great time getting to know the amazing other students and leaders on the trip, and I am happy to say that I walked away with sixteen new friends. Serving with these amazing people made everything ten times easier, and at least ten times more fun. Second thing to note, despite my previous involvement with junior high work camps, this week was my first long-term mission trip, and boy I had little idea what I was walking into. Now, this is not to say that I couldn’t handle it, because I did, I’m just saying that there were definitely some unexpected, crazy cool, God-inspired moments.
If you were to ask me which one of these moments stood out to me the most, or what the highlight of my trip was, I would probably tell you, “Eating the mile high sandwich with french fries on it, or that really good piece of almond cake,” (two delicacies Pittsburgh happens to be known for.) But if I were to tell you that, I would probably tell you after that I was kidding, and that my big moment was on the morning of June 29th, our second to last day in such an incredible city.
That morning we were going to be serving at a ministry that serves meals to impoverished families and individuals on the north side of the city, a task I was not especially excited about in all honesty. Growing up in an affluent neighborhood of the western suburbs of Chicago, there’s always been some kind of stigma that follows the homeless. That you should turn your cheek because they are just looking for money to feed dangerous habits, that you should ignore every sign or request for help and just keep walking.
I got to prepare a Chicago classic, Portillo’s Italian beef with salad and all kinds of good stuff. But the coolest part was getting the chance to sit down with some of the men and women there that day. What really hit me deep down though, was how plainly human they all were. I got to make connections with two little girls, and have some really great conversations with my teammates and some of the men we were serving. Was it a little nerve wracking? For sure. But by the end of our time, it was like talking to a good friend about sports, and different neighborhoods, and school, and responsibility, and all kinds of things. It was truly awesome to be able to hear about them and about their lives and see my peers talking with them, laughing with them, and even praying with them.
What often happens, I’ve noticed, is that those who are homeless are often dehumanized by those who have the means to help them. But in reality, they’re people too, they have their own stories, lives, families. So what I think I took away was that what I personally need to do better, and what I think a lot of people could improve upon, is not turning our noses up to the hurt in this world, but embracing it and treating it with love. The lesson Elsa and I taught for the VBS kids that week was all about going out into the world and loving people the way Jesus loves. And in our experience that morning, we were living that out, and it was incredible to be a part of.