This time last week, we were in NYC on a missions trip with the Dream Center. There were ten of us that went and we had a fabulous time! I’ve attempted to write this post several times, but it almost feels too big to write out. All of the memories and emotions are raw. I’ve decided that I’m going to write three posts about this trip- this one discussing the missions trip, a post about sightseeing and a post about traveling by train. That way the pressure to cover it all doesn’t get the best of me!
Our team has been on stateside mission trips before, but never with the DC and never in NY. In fact, only one of the students had ever even been to NY. This trip was a huge deal to all of us. We had over a year into the planning and worked hard to raise the funds for us to go. I can clearly remember sitting in the first chapel on the first day and praying over each student and where they were in their lives. I wanted this trip to be meaningful and life changing…. and God was faithful and did so much in the midst of our students!
We took part in several areas of ministry during our time with the Dream Center. One of the very first things we did was a prayer walk. We walked through these neighborhoods that we would be ministering in and prayed in various areas- by a homeless shelter, at a playground, near a spot that is being taken over by gangs, at low income housing, and at a public park where so many homeless sleep at night. We prayed for the community, we prayed for the outreaches, and we prayed for doors to continue to be opened for the NYCDC after we left.
We participated in numerous adopt a blocks while we were there. The NYCDC has been so faithful with these events- the people in the community know when they are coming and they are lined up waiting. We were able to minister in the Chelsea and Harlem areas. At an adopt a block, once the initial set up is complete, there are several ways to minister. Some of us helped with the passing out of groceries and hygiene items, some of us passed out hotdogs/cookies/water/lemonade, some of us engaged the waiting adults in conversation, some of us played with the children and some of us prayed with people once they had come through the line. The experience overall differed so much depending on where we were that day. At one spot, people just wanted the free food and then to be left alone. Another day, our students were able to pray with almost everyone that came through the line. Not much could make me more proud then when I looked over from my station and saw my kids praying over strangers in the streets of NY!
The kids in these neighborhoods soaked up every ounce of attention that we could pour on them! A couple of the places, we visited twice while we were there. At the second visit, the kids would remember our names from the first time. They wanted to run and play and laugh.
Another way that we were able to impact the community was through a ministry called visits. People in the area that don’t have family or could use help around their house or someone to talk to are in this program. The students of the dream center go visit these people twice a week for a couple of hours at a time. They can help with cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc…. or they may just have conversation with the people. This really builds community among people that might otherwise feel very isolated. We were able to split up and accompany them on these visits. Each experience was different. Some people simply wanted someone to talk to. Some of our students dealt with hoarders and spent the entire time cleaning. I personally helped change bed sheets and bag up dirty laundry. I swept her apartment and then spent the rest of the time listening to fascinating stories about her life. Even though it was my first time meeting this woman, I could see how much she looked forward to this time each week and the relationships that were built from it.
We were also able to bless the Dream Center team while we were there. We spent a few hours working at their storage unit. We organized, counted, priced, and checked pallets and pallets of donated goods.
We also helped them set up for church on Sunday. They don’t have their own building and hold church in a school, so they set up and break down everything each and every week.
I hope that in some small way we were able to bless them the way that they blessed us.
This trip in general was phenomenal. I watched students that I loved be used of God. I saw them stretched out of their comfort zones and I saw them grow in faith. We witnessed things together that we aren’t normally face to face with here at home- we saw people sleeping in boxes in the street, people digging through trash cans for food, we saw filth and the desperation that must come from being homeless. Not to say that those same things aren’t happening here in Charleston, but we aren’t up close and personal with them like we were there.
We were all inspired, we came back with fresh ideas of things to do here at home and ways to help those around us. It doesn’t always have to be perfect or the exact same- what’s important is that you are doing what you can with what you have.
One of the biggest blessings from this trip came on our ride home. We boarded the train to head home at 6am one morning. A couple from New York boarded the same time as us. It’s a 13 hour train ride. These people were going to visit family near Charleston and were on the train with us the entire time. We didn’t talk a whole lot with them until the last hour and a half of our trip. Otis and some of the boys had gone to the lounge car to play uno. That left me sitting on my row alone. The couple asked me what kind of group we were and what we were doing. They told me that they had been watching us the entire trip. The were amazed at how the students respected us. The commented on the way we all spoke to one another and took care of each other. The gentleman was even surprised that we knew all of the names! That might seem silly to me, but it impacted them! They were so impressed! Otis and the boys came back and we had conversation with them the rest of the time. We talked about church and they connected with our church and Youth group on social media. They wanted to be able to watch our services online! While we are having this conversation with them, the lady in the row behind me asks if she can get the social media page information as well! That was a great moment for me to share with our students that yes they were used all week long on our missions trip. AND yes, God can also use you just by the way you carry yourself. God can open doors anywhere!!
If you are looking for somewhere to serve, check out the New York City Dream Center! They are making a real impact all around them and can use all the help they can get!
I will be forever thankful to the amazing church family that rallied behind our group and helped make this trip possible! We were supported with offerings, sponsor letters, and fundraisers! We could not have done this without you all! ❤️