Middle school students serve in Bay Area
|Anna Lopez, center, of Susanville, plays with children at the St. Anthony's Day Home in Oakland. Photos submitted|
|Raquel Williams, Rebekah Benson and Kaila Inman offer a hygiene kit and socks to a homeless man.|
Oct. 23, 2012 — In early October, a team of six middle school students and four adults from Community Church participated in a short-term mission trip, where the group partnered with the Bay Area Center for Student Missions (CSM) for a weekend of serving and learning.
CSM is a ministry that has provided urban missions experiences for students in several cities in the United States for more than 20 years. CSM made all the contacts for ministry sites, urban experiences and unique ethnic dinners.
The mission team, led by Community Church middle school director Walter Kirklin, left Susanville on Thursday, Oct. 4 and drove to Oakland to meet up with CSM city hosts, Rachel Rey and Kat Kendall, who would guide the team around Oakland and San Francisco for the next few days.
After a quick round of introductions the group took a brisk walk through Oakland to the Home of Chicken and Waffles, where they got to taste traditional soul food. After dinner the missionaries headed back to the housing site at Bay Area Christian Connection for a brief orientation and sleep. Friday morning the group assembled for devotions and breakfast, and packed a sack lunch for the full day ahead.
The first stop for the team was the St. Anthony's Day Home in Oakland. Originally started by a priest and nuns in 1911, the day home has provided a safe haven for children of working parents for the past 101 years. The priest and nuns are now gone, but a passionate and dedicated staff continues to teach more than 200 children from ages two through kindergarten.
The Lassen County group was divided up to serve in different classrooms at the day home. Each student and adult played with, read to and helped out with the children in the class. As the children went down for their naps, the team traveled to a local park to eat lunch.
After a break the team embarked on Project Feet and Neat. The project entailed distributing hygiene kits and socks to homeless people in and around the civic center and United Nations Plaza in San Francisco. Students were encouraged to introduce themselves and learn something about the people they met.
The experience was at first scary for some, but stereotypes of homeless people soon gave way to the knowledge that they are simply people in need. Students and leaders talked with and prayed for their new acquaintances.
More than 50 hygiene kits were handed out to men and women living on the streets. The day concluded with dinner at an Indian and Pakistani restaurant. On Saturday the team visited the San Francisco Food Bank, where they helped bag rice for distribution.
With a team of six people at a table, the first two people scooped rice into bags, the second two people added or subtracted rice grains until the package weighed one pound, then the last pair of workers sealed the bag and applied a sticker. In the short time the missionaries served, the five teams of six bagged about 2,400 pounds of rice.
From there the team was off, once again, to United Nations Plaza for an activity called City Search. The group broke into two teams, and each person was given a list of questions and $2 to buy lunch. The challenge was to meet people, learn about the services available to the homeless and find a way to eat with only $2. Over the next three hours, the team met unique people, saw extraordinary sights and never found an adequate way to eat with such little money.
The missionaries then sat down with the city hosts and debriefed in the shadow of San Francisco City Hall. Then the group walked to a Thai restaurant to sample various dishes. Sunday morning everyone was tired and moving slowly, but still with purpose.
The team packed up, cleaned their living area and said goodbye to the city hosts. Before returning home, the missionaries took some time to visit Pier 39 and buy some mementos.
When asked about her favorite activity Raquel Williams said she liked working at the children's home because, “we got to work with lots of little kids and experience their life and happiness.”
Blake Sherman agreed. He said, “It was a good experience for both the kids and us.” Blake also shared that God taught him that Jesus is with us in many forms when a homeless man, bent over from injury, prayed a blessing over the students.
Kat Kendall, one of the CSM city hosts, said, “I can't imagine a better first group than ya'll!”
Rachel Rey, the other city host, added, “Thank you guys for being so willing to go outside of your comfort zones.”
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