And so it began...
We all went to church together on Sunday morning and left right after church to head to St. Louis, Missouri.
Three vans --> One adult and three students in each van. Lots of memories and fun on the way down talking to each other on the Walkie Talkies and playing the Alphabet game.
When we got to St. Louis, we headed to the Arch. Some had been to the Arch and some had not. I personally had been to St. Louis several times but never had been to the Arch. So I was pretty excited to go. If you have never been in the Arch, let me tell you how it works. First, you go in and buy your tickets for your group. You wait in line to get in the cars/pods that take you to the top. There is not much room in the pods but you can fit 5 people in each pod.
|Views OF the Gateway Arch and views FROM the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri|
|Waiting in line and then inside our pod!|
After we finished our tour of the Arch, we headed to dinner at Fitz's Restaurant. A place known for their root-beer. I am not a big root beer drinker but everyone was quite impressed, so I am going to say that you should probably stop there if you like root beer!
Next we headed to the church that we would call "home" for the whole week. Once we got there and unloaded. The girls took one side of the basement and the boys took the other side. The girls, being girls quickly rearranged the beds into a circle (including Danielle (another adult leader) and myself in the circle. This was so that we all could lay in bed in chat. Little did they know, that they would be too exhausted each night to sit in bed and chat :)
As the kids settled in, the adult leaders got together and talked about plans for the week. We would be slitting our group of 12 into 2 groups. These would be the groups that we would work in for the whole week. We went over the schedule of places that we would be working throughout the week. Then off to bed we all went!
Though I can't talk about everything due to privacy contracts that were signed, I will tell you about some of the things we did throughout the week. We went to a Day shelter that allows homeless individuals to stay for the day. It was here where we heard a man's story of how he became homeless in St. Louis. His story was so shocking yet full of strength and hope. Then he took us for a walk through the streets to show us what it would be like in the life of a homeless individual in the city. He showed us where we might go to get put on a list for possible housing, where to get a meal, how to get help for children, and where to stay away from.
When we returned back from our walk, we went to eat lunch in shelter. We conversed with the people in the shelter during lunch. I sat next to a mom of 2 young children and the table was specifically for people with children. The children talked to us freely, the adults were a little more reserved, as most of us probably would be. Then after lunch we took a tour of the shelter to see where clients were able to shower, relax, use computers to try to find jobs and better their life and of course where they eat lunch.
We also visited a family day shelter. This shelter was for families. Meaning a mom with her child/children, and dad with his child/children or a husband and wife with their child/children. They had a capacity of 20 individuals, therefore there was a long waiting list. At this shelter as well as one of the other shelters we visited, clients must give the shelter 60% of their income. This is money that is put away and given back to the clients when they are ready to leave the shelter and live out on their own again.
A few of the other places we visited were:
Night Shelter: we set up a night shelter by laying out mattresses and bedding, setting the table and serving the clients staying in the shelter. Then we clean up afterward.
Crisis Nursery - This is a place where people can take their children when their is an emergency in the family and there is no family around to take the children, when a parent is homicidal or suicidal, or when their is another approved emergency.
Salvation Army - A shelter for homeless men and homeless veteran's.
The Covenant House: the Covenant House provides services to homeless, runaway and at-risk youth ages 16-21. To learn more about them you can visit www.covenanthousemo.org. This shelter was the most impacting to me. The people who work at the shelter have a very strong belief in God (but not any specific religion) and they are so focused on giving these children a future. They are a family, a community they give children a place to call home! There was a woman who worked there named Ms. Eileen. She brought me to tears several times with her passion for these youth and for her love and kindness that she has shown. She reminded us that we are all human, we all are viable to the world and we each serve a purpose in this life.She also took pictures of all of the youth living there, blew them up to 8X10's or 16X20's and hung them up all over the Covenant House. This helped in making this "house" a HOME to the youth and to anyone who walked through the doors. Here is that wonderful woman that I speak of.
|Ms. Eileen and myself at the Covenant House.|
Many of the shelter's we visited, put us to work in some way. We cleaned up van's used to take clients back and forth, cleaned out and fancied up playgrounds and properties, cleaned windows, trimmed bushes, stocked a pantry, and served dinners. BUT...we also got to have fun with the children in the shelters by playing games, playing on the playgrounds, doing fun art activities, playing a game of kickball and just sit and chat with them. Here are some pictures to show some of our experiences.
|Flag Day Art projects that we did with some of the younger kiddos in one of the shelters.|
One of the teaching moments for all of us was when one of the liaison's asked our youth what they thought of when they thought of homeless people. No one wanted to answer at first but then they started naming off some things such as, dirty, raggedy clothes, scruffy face, etc. The liason told us that we were exactly right in the way that MOST people describe the homeless. Then she went on to explain that those are stereotypes. Just because someone is homeless doesn't mean that they do not take care of themselves. The cashier at the store, the person you sit next to at work, the most well-behaved, well-dressed student in your class, the cute boy who sits next to you in your high school English class...any one of these people can be homeless. There is no face of homelessness. So remember to treat everyone how you want to be treated and don't stereotype anyone.
I must say that if you ever have a chance to go on a mission trip, you should take the opportunity! It is not only humbling but it is an experience that will change your whole outlook on life and you will want to be a part of it year after year!
With all of that said, we did a lot of hard work and had a long week BUT we also made time for some fun as a whole group. To see pictures from our fun times...check in next week (when I am back from vacation) and I will share with you some pictures from our free time!