Service Trip 2015

A number of adults and youth spent a week in Newark, NJ to assist World Impact in a renovation project and in serving their school. You can learn about the trip through the updates below; these updates were sent to the congregation by Don Willeman over the course of the service trip to Newark last week, February 15th through February 19th.

Sunday, February 15th

We arrived safely in Newark (roads were totally clear) and have settled in at the World Impact facility at the corner of Sussex Avenue and First Street. The facility is a huge old vo-tech high school that had been abandoned and is not being repurposed as a inner city ministry center that presently houses a school and three churches.

For our program tonight we began by singing some songs and hearing from Jessie Whitman on how the gospel has impacted her life.  I wrapped up the evening with a short introductory talk on the subject of “worldliness”. The rest of the week we will investigate this subject further, considering what it is, why it is so dangerous and how we can avoid it.

During the workday, we will have teams doing improvements on the building (there’s a ton that needs fixing) as well as volunteering with the kids in the classroom.

Please pray that our work will be fruitful and that we ourselves will be impacted by the gospel.

Monday, February 16th

Thanks for your support and prayers for the service trip. Everyone is having a great time and learning much, not only about the gospel but also about the work of the church in Newark.

In the morning we heard from Chris, one of the missionaries (see photo below). He explained the history of World Impact’s ministry here in Newark—a history of surprising provision, tremendous courage, and deep compassion. On the provision part, the city sold the present facility (over 100,000sf) to World Impact for $54,000. The original asking price was $14,000,000!!!  Unbelievable!
We had four different work crews operating today—three doing painting, cleaning and construction while another helped in the kitchen with food prep (Thank you, Kerry Roberts, for your excellent leadership in keeping us all well feed!).

Tonight I spoke on what worldliness is from 1 John 2:15-17. Tomorrow night we will hear from Kevin Schwartz from Luke 12:13-34 on the dangers of a worldly mindset.

Thanks for your prayers!

Tuesday, February 17th

For our second work day, half our group helped with the children in the school, while the other half continued with the construction projects (see photos below). Much of the school work involved individual tutoring, while the construction work was mudding, sanding, painting, and some electrical.

We had a real treat tonight for dinner, as we were joined by a group of neighborhood kids that normally meet at the school for a Tuesday youth program. Our kids had a good time hanging out with them. Afterwards, the neighborhood kids continued with their regular Bible learning program, and we with our normal group time. For the teaching tonight we heard from Kevin Schwartz, who did a great job challenging everyone to consider where there are putting their treasure.

Pray that God continues to bless our time together and our work!

Thursday, February 19th

Wow! The week has flown by! It’s hard to believe that this is our last day. Probably, the reason it seemed so short is that it was so productive and fun. Besides helping out in the elementary and junior high classrooms, we made significant progress on a new section of the building that will be utilized for the expanding junior high.

We’ve learned a lot about Newark this week. Newark is a place of tremendous need. Crime is a significant problem. By some accounts it is considered to be the sixth most dangerous major city in the U.S. per its “crime index” (weighted average of six crime categories murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft). It is only beat out by Detroit, St. Louis, Oakland, Cleveland and New Orleans. By comparison Detroit’s crime index is 4.71 and murder rate is 48.2 (per 100,000), while Newark’s is 2.82 and 33.8 respectively. The“crime index” national average is marked at 1, which means that in Newark serious crime is almost three times the national average.

Likewise, the unemployment rate is very high, especially among young males. Likewise, the median household income is half and the poverty rate triple that of the rest of the state. I am told by the workers here that this contributes to a risk environment that makes hope of escaping the pervasive reality of “gang life” seem impossible.

Yet, World Impact sees hope in the midst of these challenges—not merely in a helping hand here and there but in the gospel of Jesus Christ embodied in a new transformative community (i.e. the church). It is to this end that they have started (or helped start) a number of churches, as well as a K – 8 school and urban ministry institute. The synergy between the work of the school and the work of the churches is significant, as many of the parents of the school children have begun to attend at the church.

By the grace of God, World Impact has developed a very secure and transformative oasis in the midst of a troubled community. It is from this oasis that they are both ministering to the community and able to welcome outside groups (like us) to come and join them.

Moreover, our group has been challenged by the evening messages on “worldliness”. Last night we considered the story of the rich, young ruler from Luke 18. In addition, we heard a number of personal testimonies this week (Jessie Whitman, Dave Smith, Emilie Marshall & Diane Fleck), as different people from our team challenged us with how God has worked in their lives.
Thanks for your prayers!

Service Trip Reflections

On Sunday February 22nd, a few of those who attended the service trip shared about it with the congregation. Click here to listen to the reflections of Kevin Schwartz, Jacob Roberts, Walker Tuttle, & Becca Wistrom.