This past weekend was a BLAST! One of the annual trips for years with the student ministry here at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church has been the MAD Man trip (MAD = Make A Difference), which has always happened on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. In the past we’ve gone with an organization, but the costs were inching up and making it difficult to do – it was a trip that we used to be able to let kids go on for about $50, but would have cost around $200 this year because of the organization’s rising costs and our church’s budget constraints (reducing our ability to offset the cost as had been done before). So this year we did something new; instead of going to Washington D.C. or Philadelphia, we went to down town Wilmington! We planned the trip ourselves, scheduling volunteer work projects for the whole weekend with local homeless and inner city missions. By organizing it ourselves, staying at a local ministry, and handling the bulk of the food ourselves, we were able to get the cost back down to $50.
I have to admit, I was a little worried. Would local ministry be less glamorous? Would kids resist giving up their holiday weekend to work? Would we embark on this experiment and regret it? This had all the potential of being a one shot.
Turns out, I was worried for nothing! God is amazing! Signups were great! We had as many kids sign up as we had in the past, and great leader turnout! By Saturday night, kids started asking me if we were going to do this again – they loved it! When I said yes, next year, they all said they couldn’t wait that long! We had amazing times of spiritual discussion, built (hopefully) lasting relationships with teens and ministries in downtown Wilmington, learned about gang violence, racial injustice, homeless needs, spent hours in prayer, grew as a group, and were incredibly aware of God’s hand in what we experienced! We served Urban Promise, the Mary Campbell Center, Sunday Breakfast Mission, Sojourners and the Friendship House. We also worshiped with Central Baptist Church on Sunday morning, a cultural experience in itself! It was so great to spend the morning and afternoon with them, first in the worship service and then together over the lunch they surprised us with!
One of the great experiences in the weekend was staying at the Youth For Christ building! They generously let us crowd into their facility, enabling us to unplug from our church, community and homes for the weekend and focus on the tasks and service at hand. Several of their teen leaders participated with us, playing the games, sharing their testimonies, and in many ways communicating more about the realities of down town Wilmington than anything else we did over the weekend. It’s strange to think that only a handful of miles separate our communities, but it really is a different world in so many ways.
Another highlight from the weekend was our Saturday night foot washing ceremony. We spent some time studying the passage in John where Jesus washed the disciples feet. In many ways, it was one of His last leadership lessons with the disciples before releasing them to begin their ministry planting and building the New Testament church. It’s a powerful lesson in humility, the role of a leader as servant, and the danger of pride. Jeanne and Chris, the small group leaders for our seniors, had the honor of washing the feet of the 12th grade students that had come on the trip, passing on this lesson of servant leadership to our seniors who will be soon moving on to college, work and other opportunities. They were each given a towel as a reminder of this lesson.
At the end of the day, I look back and all I can think is that God did so much more than we could have hoped. The lessons learned, the stories shared, the deep fellowship, and the bridges built – it was a powerful time. It was so much more than we dreamed! The experiment was a success!