This morning Peter led our team in devotions during breakfast, then we headed out and caught the train over to The Legacy Center in Brooklyn. We helped sweep and clean the sidewalks around the building then worked in the warehouse sorting and organizing donations of school supplies. When we finished working, Diana, one of the LC staff members asked the students about their hopes and dreams, then shared about how the LC works to help people and how our contributions were helping them to be able to minister to their friends in the community. We then gathered around the LC staff and the students prayed over their ministry. We left at 2pm and took the train back to Living Waters. We had lunch, prepared 75 bag lunches, had a little downtime, then the team went to Manhattan and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn where they had pizza at the famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. While the team had dinner I went to Manhattan where I had the joy of reuniting with my youth pastors from when I was growing up. They were in town from Florida, and we were able to have dinner together. It was the first time we had seen each other in some 23-24 years! What a privilege! They were a major influence on my life as a teenager, and a big reason why I went into youth ministry. It was so great being able to have dinner with them while two of my former students, Rebekah and Peter, now on staff with me, were leading my current students. They are an extension of the legacy that was passed on to me by Bill and Carla Clark. After dinner we all met back up at Living Waters. At 9pm we prayed over the 75 bag lunches we had prepared, and for the people who would be receiving them, then we headed down to the park and gave them out to people. Within about 30 minutes we had given them all away with a smile and in the name of Jesus. We came back to the church and had a good time of debriefing and sharing.
This morning after breakfast Jordan led us in team devotions. We then had a time for personal devotions. Today we focussed on doing some discipleship and leadership training. Peter did a teaching on Colossians 3 then the team did some team-building activities. After lunch we learned about prayer walking and did a prayer walk around the neighborhood. We came back and shared what we heard, saw, and learned from God as we were praying. We then got ready and headed to Times Square where we had a bite to eat then attended the Hillsong Young and Free worship concert. It was really awesome! We got to see several of our SRC friends including the Pauluses and the Kendzierskis. Afterward we hung out in Times Square and did a little shopping and got some food. Got back to Living Waters at midnight.
This morning our team left Shelter Rock Church and drove to The Legacy Center in Brooklyn where we helped prepare food, then we drove to Maria Hernandez Park where we served lunch to folks, some of them homeless, some working poor, and others were just passing by and accepted the gift of a free meal. We then unloaded the shuttle and got settled in at our host church, Living Waters Fellowship, which was just a couple of blocks from the park. After lunch and a brief chat we took the subway over to Manhattan and went to the New York City Rescue Mission, the oldest rescue mission in the country, and the second oldest in the world. It opened in 1872! We helped serve dinner to 308 guests. The team did an awesome job in each of their roles! After cleaning up we walked over to Little Italy and enjoyed dinner and some gelato. We then took the train back to Brooklyn. The team is now in orientation and taking some time to debrief the day together.
On Saturday we were planning on going to the Red Sea, but there was a hiccup getting our passport information to the police department in time. Rather than trying to push it through, we decided to just take the day and relax at the hotel with some of the Wellspring staff. It was Lydia’s 14th birthday, and she was treated to “Happy Birthday” in Arabic by the hotel staff. Turning 14 in Egypt … what a cool memory! After a time of debriefing with our team, the students went to the pool to swim, and the leaders had a time of sharing with the Wellspring staff, sharing our feedback and learnings with one another. After a few hours of fun in the pool we went to the mall then out for dinner. You would think that is a simple thing to do, but we sat in our vans for an hour waiting. Our security detail had gone home for the day, and the hotel security did not want to release us to go unaccompanied. Eventually our hosts were able to work it out and we were able to leave. All day Sam had been asking what we wanted to eat for dinner. “What are we going to eat for dinner?” he asked. He then asked, “Fish?” But we realized through his repetition that it wasn’t an invitation for other ideas. He wanted fish! LOL! We went to a nice seafood restaurant and had a wonderful last dinner with our hosts. There were lots of hugs and tears and pictures as we said farewell to our new friends. We really did have a heart connection with one another that was so special. The beginning of new friendships! We went back to our hotel and turned in by midnight. We got up, packed, had breakfast at 6:30am, then headed to the airport. We had to go through 3-4 security screenings before we were able to board the plane. It was very thorough! The flight home was fine. We shared our Care Cards with one another. After landing we went through Immigration and Customs, got all of our luggage, and emerged from baggage claim into the welcoming arms of our very happy family members. This was an amazing trip! One of my all-time favorites! Thanks to Wellspring for such a wonderful experience, our leadership team which was made up of a perfect mix of people for the task and challenges that we faced, and our students, who were unified, upbeat, and served so well. I am proud of all of you!
Today we were led in devotions by Nitha, Gabe, and Adriana before heading out and going to the pyramids and sphinx of Giza. We went on a camel ride and went inside one of the pyramids and saw one of the tombs. It was simply amazing! Afterward we went for lunch at a beautiful restaurant with a panoramic view of a part of Cairo. Several of our team members were hit by the heat at the pyramids, despite going in the morning to avoid the intensity of the afternoon sun, so sitting in the shade was a very welcome experience. We then returned to the hotel and cleaned up for church. We attended Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church, the largest in the arab world, where I had the honor of preaching to over 1,000 young people. It was amazing to be in the presence of God’s people as they worshipped together. Our team was impacted powerfully by their passion for the Lord and their resilience in the faith. After church we went to a restaurant for a nice dinner. We arrived back at our hotel at midnight. What an incredible week it has been! Thank you for your prayers and support.
This morning we were led in devotions by Lucas, Natalia and Rachel, then we headed to the final day of the Wellspring camp. It was a great day, and it was neat to see how different things felt today compared to the first day. Lydia said it well this evening, “I really love and am going to miss my kids.” There has been a relational connection between our team and the kids as well as the staff of Wellspring, and coming to the last day was actually a bit sad. Throughout the day I was in the office with Sam, Tom, and a few of the Wellspring staff and we were inflating and making balloon animals. It was fun teaching Sam and Tom how to make these simple little things that are such an amazing way to make kids happy. The parents arrived at 1:30pm for the finale of camp and were able to see some of what their kids experienced this week. After farewells and cleaning up we returned to the hotel for an hour then we headed out again. We were able to go eat earlier today, and we went out for an Egyptian favorite meal, koshary. We then drove back to Garbage City and visited an orphanage. We were only able to be there for an hour, but we made balloon animals, did face painting, and enjoyed playing with the kids. We sought to bring a little joy to the children but our team was really heavy-hit emotionally. God really gave us a glimpse of His heart, and there was a lot of tears and deep thinking and conversations happening during our ride back to the hotel.
On Wednesday we had a very long and full day. Same morning routine and day at camp. We had a lot of fun with the kids. One quite powerful thing did happen today. One of the camp counselors had an allergic reaction to something and Santhosh was able to help get her stabilized and took her to the hospital. It was a pretty serious situation, and his expertise was invaluable! After the camp we returned to the hotel for just one hour, then we loaded up and headed to the bazaar for some souvenir shopping. It was quite an experience and gave us a chance to see life downtown. Our bodies are still adjusting and we were all quite tired. They eat dinner between 8-11pm here, so the adjustment in daily rhythm has been interesting as well. We went out for a great dinner together about 10pm. Another change for me is not having coffee all throughout the day, and I was personally was so exhausted that I was falling asleep at the table. We got back to our hotel at 1am. Talk about a long day. I have been so impressed with our team. We are working hard, it is hot out, and we are maintaining a pretty rigorous schedule as our awesome hosts really want us to experience Egyptian culture, but everyone is remaining very positive. I am so proud of everyone and the unity they are exemplifying. Those who were experiencing some stomach issues yesterday were mostly doing better, but a few others were hit today. From experience this is just a normal occurrence when traveling internationally as the bacterias are different than our bodies are used to, and from what the folks at camp say this happens to all of the Americans who come. We have been very blessed to have Dr. Santhosh on our team, and we are embracing the joy of the Lord as our strength and the truth that His grace is sufficient for us. I would love for us to all be able to enjoy our time without “the revenge of the Pharos,” so please pray that we could all experience a healing touch and be rid of these stomach aches.