Student Trips

Utah Day 3

Today’s post was written by students on the Utah Missions Trip

Kids Camp

Josh: Hello Naperville. Today was a great first day of activities in Salt Lake. In the morning we started a week long summer camp for kids. Usually I’m not the greatest with kids and as Saturday and Sunday went by I prayed to God that I could relate to the kids and be the light of Christ to them. As the kids camp started I had small conversations with the kids in my group. But as the morning went on and a few more kids came along into my group I started to relate to them. As snack time came along and we had to ask small group questions to the kids I was able to have great conversations with them about the story of Moses which was the story of today. I asked them the questions and we were able to have good conversations about Moses and Jesus. As the day ended I was happy that I was able to connect with my kids. I can’t wait to hang with them tomorrow and spread the love of Christ to them even more!

Kayt: Yesterday when we were assigned age groups, I had a strong urge to switch from 8-10 year olds to 3-4 year olds. Despite my urge, I had a weird feeling that God wanted me there so I stayed. However, when I arrived today, it seemed like I was doomed. One of my girls switched out of my group then a little girl, ushered in by her mother, was holding back tears looking furious. She sat down and I saw her mouth some not-so-nice words as she crossed her arms and huffed angrily. Oh no, I thought, one of my kids switched out of my group and another one hates that she’s here. I focused my attention on her and attempted to sympathize. “Your mom forced you to come?” I said and I sat nodding as she explained her mom dropping her off to countless different camps throughout the summer. Thankful she didn’t have something specifically against this camp, I told her she can just hang out with me and doesn’t have to participate if she didn’t want to. At first, she stubbornly refused to engage in game time but thankfully, my fears only lasted until snack time. As we chowed down on our frosted graham crackers, she was fully engaged in conversation, laughing, and telling me about her life. Later at craft time, she turned to me and said, “Kayt, we have to be the best group.” On the outside I smiled and agreed, but on the inside I was praising God for keeping me in this age group. In addition to her remarkable switch in attitude, I received a goodbye hug by the one boy in my group, and the other girl bragged to her friend that I was the most amazing leader. Please pray as we continue this week that I will be able to pour myself into these three kids to help make a difference in their lives.

Jorah: Utah is beautiful. It’s even filled with beautiful people. Everywhere you turn creation punches you in the gut, knocks the wind out of you, leaves you breathless. But honestly, this trip has exceeded my expectations many ways other than the natural beauty. This morning after watching the sun rise over the mountains, a couple of our team members and I went to the local park in South Jordan to set up for our first day of Kid’s Camp. I find it interesting and frankly kind of rad that no matter where you go on earth, kids never change. The culturally distinguishing factors that brand us as we grow older, are virtually nonexistent to children. I have found this to be the case no matter where I have traveled. Kids have a way at looking past the cultural blinders. They just care about you and who you are and why you are here and what your favorite ice cream flavor is. This blew me away as I asked questions to the eight-year-old girl who was more stunning than any Hollywood celebrity, yet completely unaware of her blinding beauty. Because of her unawareness she was friends with everyone, not taking a second glance at how they looked. I was struck again with their “abilities” as the boy with the baseball cap and shy eyes was smiling and playing with his peers in a matter of just three hours. He didn’t care if they were girls or boys or older or younger or had different beliefs than him. He was where he was. Why wouldn’t he embrace it? I am not a super astounding kid person. Typically, kids run from me because I ask the wrong question or don’t necessarily enjoy cuddles and hand holding. But today, by the power of God, I connected with my kids in my group. We talked openly about Bible stories. We talked about what those stories told us about God. We asked how these stories can affect the way we interact with our friends, parents, and siblings. Tomorrow, I will head back to that community playground at the crack of dawn, and invest in the precious six kids I get to hang out with all week. I just pray God will use me ways I couldn’t even dream of if I tried. Please be praying for our team as a whole. Pray that God would open doors, that conversations will be had, that we would become increasingly and exceedingly sure in our faith so that we might defend it well and true. Your prayers so far have meant the world to us. I can speak for all of our team and assure you we would not be seeing the success and growth we have so far without your support. Thank you.

Moses Selfie

Utah Day 2

Day 2 started like a normal Sunday for most of us but instead of going to The Compass Church, we got to attend The Mission Church! The Mission Church is the church that Ritch and Laura Sandford planted. It’s been amazing to see the growth and how God is using the Sandfords to advance His kingdom. Our team loved meeting and spending time with the people of The Mission Church.

After church and a quick lunch, we started to prepare for the kids camp we will be helping with. After dinner, we heard the testimony of a husband and wife who grew up in polygamous households. They left that environment to join the mainstream Mormon church. Being a part of the Mormon church did little to satisfy that longing in their heart that only Jesus could satisfy. A little over a year ago, they both surrendered their lives to Christ and soon started attending The Mission Church. And just last week they were baptized! Praise God!

As our team listened to this couple share their story and pour out their hearts, I kept thinking, “How can someone grow up in an environment like this?” The couple said that from an early age, it’s all they know. You can’t help but go along with it because you don’t know any different. As they shared this, a verse came to mind. It’s 2 Corinthians 4:4. Paul writes, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” The Good News is so clear to us as Jesus followers, but the rest of the world literally can’t see it. They’ve been blinded. They can’t see the amazing gift Jesus holds out to them. They can’t see that there is another way. And this should break our hearts. Not because we feel sorry for them or that we are better than them – it could just as easily be us. Our hearts break because they are missing out on someone who loves them so incredibly much. So as we start kids camp tomorrow, pray for the people we will interact with. Pray that God opens up their eyes to His love and grace and the amazing life He offers as His child!

Scott

Utah Day 1: The Compass Church Arrives

Today’s post was written by students on the Utah Missions Trip

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We made it! It was a tiring but great day! We met at 3:30am to head to the airport. After landing in Salt Lake City, we grabbed lunch at Café Rio – an awesome Mexican restaurant that needs to make its way to Naperville! The rest of our day was filled with a hike and getting settled at the church we are staying at.

After being up for almost 20 hours, we are headed to bed! We have an awesome day planned and it starts with attending The Mission Church – the church planted by Ritch and Laura Sandford. Stay tuned for more updates from our time in Utah…

Holly: Today was a great way to start off the Utah trip, although it was a long, tiring day there were many things that we did that I really enjoyed such as taking a one mile hike. It did take me awhile to get up to the lake but when we did it was awesomely beautiful.

Kyle: Today started off kind of tiring, yeah you know with the whole waking up at two in the morning for a 3 hour plane ride. But after we landed it was great. We went to a pretty sweet Mexican restaurant for lunch. Then went on a long hike up a mountain to look at a lake and that was pretty awesome. After that we got settled into the church (which has the greatest shower of all time) and I got to help paint the time machine. I think today was a great way to start off a trip.

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Day 6 In the Steel City

Today’s post was written by students on the Pittsburgh Missions Trip

Wake up! Wake up! It’s 4:30 a.m.! “It’s a happy day”, but really we were all struggling to get out of bed without biting each others heads off. We were on a mission to watch the sunrise and pray over the city of Pittsburgh at the highest hill looking over the city. On our way up the incline riding the trolley, waking up a little bit more, the beautiful scenery took our breath away. We spent time alone with Jesus as the sun rose to pray for Pittsburgh and our last day of ministry. After a moving time in prayer and a breakfast of cold Pop-tarts we took a sleepy drive back to home base to take some naps.

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Good morning, finally being able to communicate with one another, Dave challenged us to devote at least half an hour of our unusually abundant free time to God. It was a time to reflect over this week and realize how God used us all to change the lives of complete strangers. Now we know we can take back this spiritual realization to our own city.

Big internal changes lead to big appetites, especially in a group of sleep-deprived teenagers. We drove to Primanti Brothers to eat sandwiches that were bigger than our faces. They come with coleslaw, tomatoes, and French fries in the actual sandwich.

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We went into our last leg of ministry to pick up garbage on the north side of town and pray over Light of Life, a homeless ministry in the area. We walked around a couple blocks picking up some trash. The goal was to spread the love that we have for this city. After a hot afternoon, we got treated to some old-fashioned snow cones. We just sat in the shade enjoying our snow cones and the strong fellowship that we all share.

After returning home and cleaning out the entire church, not just the areas we stayed in, we went into our final team meeting. We shared the highlights of the day and of the week, and then we did something different. We went around in a circle sharing our love for each other, making our relationships even stronger than they already were. Our love for God and the people around us has grown an outstanding amount, and we hope to continue this mission into our lives every day. We’re excited to come home to our families, but we are sad to leave the city that has taught us to love.

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In other news, hi mom, my finger isn’t dead, but it is a considerable shade of purple. –kenzie

Exhausted from my three mile run today with the family, can’t wait to share my experience with you guys! –Kathia

Day 5 Ministry (Pittsburgh)

Today’s post was written by students on the Pittsburgh Missions Trip

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We’re now on day five of ministry and you would think that we would be getting in the swing of things, which we are. The weird thing is that every day the Lord shows His mercy and how much the people of Pittsburgh long to know Him and draw close to Him. For most of us, yesterday’s prayer walk was a first, but it certainly won’t be the last. The last day of park ministry was bittersweet. It came down to seeing kids that you spent the whole week sharing meals with and really connected with. Before today I personally thought we were just another youth group in Pittsburg but at the end a girl started to cry about leaving us and I heard from her sister that all she could talk about was coming to see us every day and how much she enjoyed how we loved her. How Jesus Loved her, and honestly that’s all that really matters in life; to love God, and Love your Neighbor.

As we drove away from the park, we felt sad that we probably wouldn’t see our sweet friends for quite a while. But at the same time, we were happy that we even got to know each of these special kids. After praying for them, we felt more hope in their lives because it was evident that God was working in their lives to bring them closer to The Way, The Truth, and The Light .

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Afterwards, we began our last day of our VBS. It has been so awesome to see the work of God and how everything moved so fluidly throughout each day of the camp. From singing happy days to preaching The Gospel through the skit, God was there every step of the way. Watching fellow students being led and used to further the Kingdom of God has been a beautiful experience. Although the end of our last park visit and vbs lesson was today, we are steadfast in the knowledge the Lord has provided. We have had the great privilege of planting the seeds, but now its up to the Lord to make them flourish.

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Written by Anna and Juan

Day 4 Ministry in the Steel City!

Today’s post was written by students on the Pittsburgh Missions Trip

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Today was our first day doing a prayer walk on this trip. Each group had loads of success passing out flyers and striking up conversations that sometimes even led to prayer with them! We analyzed each house for clues as of what we could pray for, such as kids’ toys out front (so we knew to pray for the kids’ futures and safety). It was a new, delightful experience for all of us, and we hope that it will stay in the memories of those whom we met.

For lunch, we brought pizza to the park. We were able to play with the kiddos from yesterday, and met some new faces as well. Many of us shared Jesus with them, displaying Christ’s love to them. Some of them were sad that tomorrow would be our last day with them, which means that we made a difference in their lives! Since we had a lot of leftover pizza, we were able share with more than just the kids, too!

We continued on with our skit and stories during VBS, which were a huge success! Mckenzie also shared her testimony, which was a special treat! Once again, the kids are definitely excited to come tomorrow, including the new ones to the group! We were also able to share our superfluous food supply with a few of the kids that came early. Tomorrow’s water day, and they’re in for a blast…of H20!

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Written by
Ben: Shout-outs to Mom, Dad, Jess, Mallory, Wesley, and Josiah! Also, Ginger and Gavin-can’t wait to see your furry faces again!
& Mandy: Shout-outs to my family, dog and specifically my grandparents for supporting this trip!

Day 3 Mission Pittsburgh

Today’s post was written by one of our students on the Pittsburgh Missions Trip

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Today was our first full day of ministry with the children! To start our day, our Praying Pelican mission leader Jess lead us through conversation and testimony training in order to prep us for our day in the field. Conversation training consisted of a memorization exercise that would give us a common ground to talk about with any person. Testimony training was a huge growing experience. In seven short minutes we learned that each and every one of us has a story of what Christ has done in our lives that is a powerful witness to those who will listen. After these lessons we paired off to practice our new skills with someone we don’t know very well. Despite a little nervousness, we were able to form deeper and more Christ centered bonds.
Before noon, we headed over to Emmanuel United Methodist Church to assist them in serving the surrounding community. Emmanuel UMC serves lunch to the families of area who fall below the poverty line. Lunch was a great opportunity to build relationships with the people and invite them to play with us at the park. We had a lot of fun spending time with them and letting them know that they are loved. One of the most remarkable parts of today was when one of the women told us that she was so happy we were here because normally there was no one to play with her granddaughter.

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Later on, after dinner, we had our first day of VBS hosted by Grandview. There was tons of energy throughout the night and it was super exciting to see God working through us and making a big impact, knowing that the kids are coming back tomorrow.

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All in all, God is moving powerfully and visibly.

C Payne
K Pankonin
(Hi Mom! Tell the boys and Alicia I said Hi!)

Day 1 and 2 Mission “City of Steel” Pittsburgh

Today’s post was written by one of our students on the Pittsburgh Missions Trip

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Hello everyone! We have been in Pittsburgh for two days and can already see the work of God within our team! The people we continue to meet everyday continue to inspire us to follow the word of God and do what is best. We have learned so much already on this trip and are excited to share it with our family when we get back home.

The drive to Pittsburgh was wonderful, being able to get to know people from the other campuses and hearing each other stories. For a lot of us not being able to have our phones was really odd. However, I am so thankful for that rule because I felt as though everyone was able to live in the present and not be caught up with what others on social media are doing. After 10 wonderful hours of driving in the bus and getting to know everyone we arrived at The Grand View Church of God. We met our awesome Praying Pelican Members who explained to us more about the mission trip, which only made us more excited to worship God and share his word. We also learned that this was a first mission trip for a lot of us. After the team meeting we took turns talking really cold showers and snoozed to bed.

The second day was a more relaxed day. We woke up and went to Sunday service. We put on our best church clothes and were happily welcomed by the church members. After service we were able to talk to the members and create great relationships. After service we went to the Strip District (the cultural hub of the city) and shopped for souvenirs and ate wonderful Pittsburgh food. When we got back some people had the opportunity to go to a Portuguese service while others had devotion time. During our team meeting we made a decision to spend alone time for 30 minutes outside with God before diner. Having the 30 minutes to truly connect with God and pray for things that where on our mind created way less stress for the future. For dinner we had pizza in a local style…the cheese was not melted. It still tasted delicious. After that we got everything together and practiced our VBS for Monday. Then went to bed excited for our VBS and to see what God has in store for us.

M Fonseca
(To my family- Your princess is safe, Love you)