Our Trip to Chicago
The B.L.U. (Bethlehem Leadership Unit) students recently visited Chicago to take part in the Bridge Builders program run by Sunshine Gospel Ministries. Our students served in community projects through local churches, schools, and non-profits. Local instructors also gave lessons in the evening on poverty, community development, the theological concept of shalom, and inner-city issues like police relations and gang violence. The Beth has taken students on more traditional short term mission trips before, but a program like this was new to our kids. It took a little getting used to.
While our kids loved helping a local church renovate some living space in their building and were happy to interact with the local teens and pastor, going to class in the evening was a struggle. Whether they had headphones in their ears or sunglasses on indoors, it seemed they were determined to appear uninterested. But on Wednesday evening, our last night with the Bridge Builders program, something wild happened right after dinner! Three of our students walked up to Mr. Reggie and said, “We’re gonna try something new. Would you hold our phones for us until we’re done with this class tonight?” About fifteen minutes later three more students handed their phones over.
When the last student lightly protested, the kids started teasing him that it’s required if you’re in B.L.U. Mr. Reggie asked the boy to state his case for keeping the phone, and before we knew it we had an impromptu court set up! With the participation of some Bridge Builders interns as the jury, our Beth kids set up a defendant, attorneys, and witnesses. All the kids laughed and argued in a mock court. Eventually, because of the precedent set by other B.L.U. kids, the court ruled that phones must indeed be forfeited during class. With a reluctant smile the young man slid over his phone in a bright yellow, pineapple case.
I saw a distinct change from the sullen teens who had come into the week thinking it was cool to complain about class. I was proud to see how thoughtfully our students engaged by cleaning up after dinner without prompting, embracing the Bridge Builders interns as their own, and discussing with grace and sincerity the complex issues that face inner-city neighborhoods. I hope this trip to Chicago will become an annual event for our B.L.U. students for years to come.
Aubrianna Pennington is the Development and Projects assistant at the Beth. She graduated from Covenant College with an English Literature degree. She enjoys Zumba, reading, appreciates sitcoms, and is a sunshine enthusiast.