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The Word   Luke 4:14-21

Guiding Question

        How do you hope to use your hands and feet to work for justice?

Reflection   Becky Marshall

        Some ways we were being God’s hand and feet at the Broad Street Ministry.

Becky Marshall’s Reflection on the Broad Street Ministry Service Trip

        During our trip to Philadelphia, we did a lot of group discussion and reflection as well as individual meditation. Although these things were very important in the process of digesting all we saw and did, our experiences were the reason we had so much to talk about.

        One of our first service activities was volunteering at an organization called MANNA. They prepare and package three meals a day, seven days a week for disabled people or people who are on a special diet and don’t have enough money or aren’t well enough to make healthy meals for themselves. They cook 11 different diets and it is 100% free to clients. This experience was my favorite, not only because of the huge industrial kitchen and full walk-in freezer, but because of how rewarding and fun it was to talk with those in my group and assemble meals. Just our Broad Street Mission group made hundreds of meals that day.

        On Tuesday we helped out at Broad Street Ministry’s own soup kitchen called Breaking Bread. Food is prepared in the kitchen downstairs by very talented cooks and served to guests at tables of six who come into the dining room from the intense heat outside. This was some people’s favorite part of the week because we got to have one-on-one interactions with the guests. Here we really got to see radical hospitality because of all the things Broad Street made sure to do differently to make the guests more comfortable, such as having volunteers pour water.

        On Wednesday we took the subway to a neighborhood called Kensington. The first part of our time in Kensington was at a business called the Kensington Storefront. It provides free services like art and yoga classes and also offers help with addiction and education. They make it very clear that they don’t force anyone or even suggest that anyone change anything about their health or lifestyle. Instead they have those resources available if someone chooses to take advantage of them. It is a safe place for anyone to visit, talk, learn, and express themselves. While we were here one of our BSM leaders, Leah, taught us about how difficult it is to be a homeless, transgender person, especially a black, transgender women. For the rest of our time at the storefront we wrote letters, with construction paper and sharpies, to incarcerated, transgender, female prisoners.

        For the second part of our stay in Kensington we walked 20 minutes to West Kensington Ministry. West Kensington Ministry is a Presbyterian church that is a very active part of the community. They are always encouraging new members to join. The pastor, Adan Mairena, explained a tradition they have. Friday night karaoke in a park called Norris Square, across the street from the church. It has become a very popular and loved event. After arriving and getting an introduction, we split into groups and moved among the places we were needed. Some worked in the kitchen helping to make dinner, some made Broad Street Ministry t-shirts on their silk screen that would support both West Kensington Ministry and Broad Street, some recorded reflections in their very high-tech sound booth for a song. A large group helped out with gardening and fixing a sign at the front of the park. Soon it was time for dinner. The pastor’s wife and the kitchen helpers had made an absolutely delicious meal of hot dogs, pasta, beans, and more. Someone got the speakers out and we had our own karaoke party. We spent the evening playing in the park, bonding, throwing a frisbee, and just having fun with our new and old friends. This was definitely a highlight of our trip.

        These are just four of the ways that we used God’s hands and feet during our amazing week, and all of them inspired us to continue to help those who need it and to change the world one day at a time.

The Word   Matthew 25:31-40

Guiding Question

        In what ways might you overlook people in your midst? What can you do to open your eyes and heart to them?

Reflection   Wesley Killough-Hill and Monet Williams

        Some ways we saw people who had been invisible to us and how we began to understand their lives a little bit.

Wesley Killough-Hill’s Reflection on the Broad Street Ministry Service Trip

        When we went on our trip to Philly, there were a lot of expectations I had for what or who I was going to see there. So many times I had seen articles in the news about how bad the drug problem was or how violent a place it is. 

        Everywhere I looked there seemed to be warnings. Even the group leaders told us to stick together at all points when we were walking through Kensington, a place filled with violent crimes and people suffering from drug addiction. They told us to take extra precautions and make sure everyone in our group was safe. 

        So you can imagine I was a little nervous to travel to Kensington for our trip. Almost immediately after we got off the train we were hit by the realness of the situation. We were up on a little bridge and as we look down to the left, we see a man lying unmoving on the concrete with two police officers beside him.  

        We never learned what happened to that man, whether he had overdosed and was getting help or if he was a victim of police brutality. Whichever the case, it sent a very clear first message, one that I had seen before in the news; this place is not a joke. This was a vast contrast to when later we walked over to Norris Square Park, which completely changed my view of Philly. It had a history of being called “Needle Park” because of the intensive drug usage that happened there, but now it has been cleaned up and transformed into joyous place called Squirrel Park. Instead of a harsh and hostile environment, it was fun and everyone there was very nice.

         When we first got there, I was still a little uneasy. This was a new place to me and all the chaperones were still on lookout. I looked around at the surrounding park, a beautiful place with green grass and a small play structure in the middle. 

        People were sitting on the benches chatting and watching their kids play on the swings. It looked just like every park back home, but I couldn’t forget the stories I had heard, like the one I was told where a man was shot just on the other side of the street from this park. I tried to forget about that and looked around and saw some people playing basketball, three men probably in their 20’s. I got it in my mind I wanted to go play with them, but I didn’t know how to approach them. 

        I was still pretty nervous. Even back home I wouldn’t think I could go up to a group of random people and try to play basketball with them. I finally stopped thinking and just went up and asked them if I could join them. They immediately said yes and welcomed me in. We introduced ourselves and then we were off. 

        It was like any other game of basketball I had played. It was a little physical and everyone was trying to show off, teasing and yelling whenever anyone got burned. They didn’t seem like a distant, scary community anymore. They were just three other normal people living life and having fun. 

        This showed to me how often misrepresented communities are. News stories only tell specific stories, and rarely ever are able to tell the full story of the people that live there, leaving those people almost invisible.

Monet Williams’ Reflection on the Broad Street Ministry Service Trip

        The triplets of evil are not my brothers and I, if anyone is thinking that way. The first mention of triplets of evil was by Martin Luther King on May 10, 1967. The triplets of evil that he mentioned were, racism, poverty, and militarism. Martin Luther’s idea was that these evils were holding back and endangering black Americans. Although Martin Luther King is long gone, this idea still exists today. 

        When we went to Broad Street Ministry for their Summer Initiative Program, the focus of the week was the triplets of evil, but slightly changed. The small change was the last evil mentioned by Martin Luther King. The militarism, which he talked about during 1967 due to the Vietnam War, was changed to mass incarceration. Every day, we focused on one aspect of the triplets of evil. Most days we would watch a movie to show one of the effects of the triplets of evil, then discuss what we watched the following day. 

        Before we watched each movie, the group discussed the related triplet of evil. The first one we focused on was poverty. The group watched Pursuit of Happiness. Watching that movie, the group slowly gained an understanding of what it’s like to be homeless and food insecure. The next triplet that we talked about was racism. The Hate U Give deals with racism and the idea of black lives in America, even dealing with this to this day. After watching the movie, as a group we talked about both sides of the story and whatever side you believe in regarding Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.

        Racism is something that America is still experiencing today, something I have personally dealt with. As an African American teenage girl, I have heard derogatory slurs thrown my way, for something I have no control over. The last triplet of evil was mass incarceration. The group watched 13th, which talked about how the government wants to put people, especially black people, in prison to use for labor, as a legal form of slavery.

        To show us what mass incarceration is like, we met an ex-convict whose name was Luis Gonzales. Louie was on trial for a homicide that he didn’t do. He was found guilty even though he wasn’t the one that pulled the trigger. He took the blame for what other people had done and tried to fight it in court, ending with a life sentence without parole at just 17 years old. While he was in jail, one of the few people he could count, his mom, died.

        He had lost himself and his identity while in Graterford State Prison, becoming a number, another person lost to the system. While he was talking to us about what his experience was like, he stressed that he had lost everything once he went to jail, and he wasn’t the only one who had this same experience. According to a 2019 study, 2.3 million people are in jail for various crimes. They are the unseen, hidden from mainstream society for crimes that have changed their lives forever.

        Luis’s story is one of million that I fortunately got the opportunity to hear. After Luis’s sentenced was reduced and he got out of prison, he enrolled in school and got his GED and a bachelor’s degree. People who are in mass incarceration are overlooked and never seen, unless a documentary is made about a jail, or something happens in the prison that is put in media news.

        Some ways that we can open our minds and hearts to prisoners could be to write letters to them in jail. This will show the prisoners that people in the world care about them and want to show that, even though this population of people is overlooked, they still matter. 40.2% of the male population is black men. Some of their offences could have been for minor crimes; others could have been more severe.

        Overall, the prison system holds people that become unseen the minute they step foot into prison. I never understood how that feels until meeting Luis Gonzales and listening to his story. We need to turn to the people we overlook and help them anyway possible. I know I want to try.

The Word   Genesis 1:26-27 | Mark 12:28-31 | John 2:11

Guiding Question

        How might God be calling you to love people who are different from you? What do you need in order to love these brothers and sisters?

Reflection   Max Williams and Xavier Williams

        Some ways we were transformed by Broad Street Ministry and were empowered to work for change.

Max Williams’ Reflection on the Broad Street Ministry Service Trip

        When we first arrived, we were all tired, at least I know I was. Knowing that this was a religious service mission as well, the last thing I wanted to do was go to a worship service. We were here to do stuff! To help people! We didn’t have time for a sermon and communion! We needed to go into action! Yeah apparently that isn’t how things worked around there. Apparently, they had different plans. So you’ll be surprised to hear that we went to a service. Man, that was something. There was a specific group that would sing songs, not hymns, songs. That was really cool. Not to mention the communion bread was great! For once it didn’t taste like cardboard! It was all these nice colors as well. I miss that bread. Anyway, that wasn’t the special part.

        The special part was the sermon. The pastor speaking was a student straight out of college. For a while she talked about the story of her learning that she was bisexual. (It was a Pride service after all.) But that’s not what this is about. This is about when she brought it back to the scripture. Talking about finding god in the silence. She said that in our reality god doesn’t send messages through bolts of lightning and storms, but rather silence and gentle breezes. For those who don’t get the analogy, it basically means that god doesn’t scream from heaven, “You should get a friend!” Or magically has a brick smack you in the head with it inscribed, “You should get a friend.” No. How god works is he puts you in a situation where you find a person and you say to yourself. “Man, this person is really great.”

        Once the service was said and done, I shoved that in the back of mind. Let’s be honest; the message was great, but when would that happen anytime soon? That was the second time I was wrong. You see the message came up not once, but twice! In the same day! As Melanie told us, Kensington was the ground zero for the opioid crisis. It was not an ideal place to live, at all. In the beginning it seemed like a really bleak place. Honestly, with drugs rampant through the community and a lack of funding, it wasn’t an ideal place to live.

        I began to think of the people that lived there as victims. You know what it took to change that perspective? Minecraft. You know that game that kids used to place involving those blocks? Maybe you don’t know, but it should be noted that, for most of us my age, Minecraft was a monumental symbol of our childhood and it still is. We were being shown around the area and the last stop was the library. I was currently a tad upset with the conditions that people would be in by living in this town. I didn’t really want to visit the library because I doubted it would’ve been of any use, since it probably lacked funding. When I stepped inside it was quiet. There was the silence. As I went to investigate the library, there they were. In a small little office. A group of two kids, a teen, and an adult were playing Minecraft. I was amazed. They could’ve been anywhere . . . fighting, doing drugs, drinking, but no, there they were . . . playing Minecraft. And for a minute there was just silence as I watched them play. They were no longer victims, just kids playing Minecraft. After some time, a few of us joined them inside the room and together we explored their little Minecraft world.

        After the nice trip in the library we went back to the park where we were working on bringing it up to good shape. That was the second time I heard god in the silence. The next thing that had to be done was changing the lettering of the sign in the park. Except the letters were locked behind the glass. No one had any clue what to do about the lock. The key was long gone, and so the only option was to break the lock. We tried and tried to break the lock, but it came to no avail. That was until a stranger came along with a truck full of power tools. No one knew him, but he decided to help anyway. Soon enough, I was watching two men break a lock with a power saw, borrowing power from a nearby house, and amidst all the noise there was silence. Instead of seeing these people as victims, I now saw a community.

Xavier Williams’ Reflection on the Broad Street Ministry Service Trip

        After BSM, I can definitely say I was out to do good in the world, jump straight into protest and unleash my immense love among the world with the help of Jesus and God. After all, how hard could it be? But when I got back home and woke up the next day, I knew that this whole motivation thing would be a lot harder. I found it very ironic that, after all that I had seen, MANNA and the church service, my motivation had seemed just to vanish within a day!

        But even with my motivation temporarily gone, when I was about to be stuck, Vicki was there with a sermon. I can recall a few weeks ago what Pastor Viki said in her sermon about change. I can’t remember exactly what she said, but to me it was summed up that Jesus can inspire change but can’t provide it. From that sermon I realized two things. One, that I had to be consistent with my change, and two, that I needed to stop being lazy.

        Another resource I remember was near the end of the week at Broad Street. We sat in what seemed to be a sort of meeting room at a college. We chose roles such as helper or advocate. For me, I chose to be a rebel. I like protesting or “getting chained to a pillar,” as they put as an example for a rebel. To use some of my newfound rebel skills, a good place to start change for me was my local Social Justice Club at my school. If anyone didn’t not know, I had the privilege of becoming leader of a local Social Justice Club at my school. Thankfully, me being a leader gave me quick motivation.

        Being a leader means I have a platform to talk about these problems, such as incarceration or police brutality. “But what about us?” some of you may ask. “What can we do?” Well, I will not lie when saying loving your neighbor and sharing love is hard. Sometimes it takes works and it requires you to give that little ounce of strength you have left. It’s even harder when we try to love all time and it can tire us. But maybe there is a small way to show your love that may not take much at all. I can tell you that the power of words are something to behold. Talking doesn’t require much and it’s easy to be consistent. Just a mere conversation with someone next to you or a friend about an issue can do wonders. If you have children or grandchildren, talk to them about this when they are young.

        I have to admit, my generation is getting good with changing the world around them. All over the news, people my age are leading protests. Can’t get any crazier than that, I say. I can guarantee you that if you tell others and encourage them to join the cause, they will heed the call. So what can we do? Well, let’s talk.