Not What I Expected

Another YouthWorks summer completed. And it was a strange one. I went into the summer as utility staff, knowing that this summer was going to be full of the unexpected.

I never expected to be back in Michigan for the summer.

I definitely never expected to be placed as Work Projects staff.

I certainly never expected to whip and nae nae on a regular basis, because until I got to Benton Harbor, I had never heard of the whip and nae nae song.

I didn’t expect to be driving an diesel F250 truck all summer.

I expected to wash feet every Thursday night, but I didn’t think I would be scooping the water out of Lake Michigan to do it.

I expected I would see God move, but I didn’t know it was going to be by providing things like trash pickers and lumber.

I expected teenagers to encounter God, but I didn’t expect that some of them would encounter Him for the first time.

I expected to see God at work in the communities that I would visit, but I didn’t expect that He would open my eyes to my own community. Nor did I expect that I would see Him at work in a community, not through the service of our YouthWorks volunteers, but through the people we were serving. Every week, Shawn told the teens that Jesus did not come to Benton Harbor in their suitcase or their sleeping bag. God has always been in Benton Harbor. And I got to see that every week when participants would go and serve in the community garden with Ms. Emma or work on renovating a women’s ministry house with Jessica.

I never expected to learn about being a good leader from a 17-year-old boy.

I never expected to learn so much from a few I’m Saving Myself kids who told their stories through their dancing.

There are so very many stories to tell about this summer. Stories about God always being on time – never early, never late, but always on time. Stories about community members welcoming crews, working alongside them, feeding them, talking with them, blessing them. Stories about crews showing up and making things happen that seemed impossible and overwhelming for community members. Stories about God perfectly aligning events and supplies to get done what needed to happen. Stories about crews having the most tedious, discouraging days and at the end of the day, the kids come back telling me what a great day they had. Stories about days when NOTHING went the way it was supposed to, and the crews were gracious and had fun serving anyway. Stories about days when I literally pulled the truck over, got out, and ordered the sky to stop raining in the name of Jesus, because ain’t nobody got time for that. Stories about walking into people’s homes and seeing the relief on their faces when I tell them, yes, we can help with this project.

And God was faithful through all of the good days and the bad days, the tears and the laughter, the paint messes, the emergencies, the redirections, and the relationships.

What did I learn about God this summer? God is always prepared. Nothing surprises him. Things may not happen the way I expect, but for God, there is no unexpected. He saves that for us, because blowing our expectations out of the water is one of God’s favorite hobbies.

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Under Construction

This summer  I’ve struggled to find words to talk about what I’ve seen God doing in Benton Harbor. I think, in many ways, this mural that we pass every week when we tour downtown Benton Harbor as part of an evening activity says so much.DSCN2342

Every week, youth come and spend 4 days working in community gardens,

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scraping and painting homes,

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give their time to do neighborhood cleanups,

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do a lot of yardwork,

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work alongside community members

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help a community partner renovate a house to be used for the women’s ministry portion of their street ministry, which for the last 2 weeks has meant sanding the stairwell,

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form relationships with each other, the community people they are serving, and with the staff,

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