On Sunday, May 12, twenty-one Grace College students traveled to Urban Hope Training Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for a week-long cross-cultural ministry trip. Over the course of the week, students participated in various ministry opportunities, including ministry with homeless and addicts. Getting to enjoy some of the more famous locations in Philadelphia, such as the Liberty Bell, Reading Terminal Market, and the Rocky Steps, students also were able to experience many cross-cultural areas of the city. See pictures…
One lesson students learned was that the highest level of ministry life is to do ministry “as you go,” taking advantage of every opportunity to be like Jesus. The trip was designed to allow for practice in doing ministry through tasks and interaction with people both like and unlike the team. Another lesson learned was that there is an array of cultures filled with vastly different people who need Jesus. There is value in understanding the vastness of the world and how to communicate truth to different cultures.
The Philadelphia Art Museum provided some highlights. Noah, a student on the trip, spent most the time at the museum sharing his story with a security guard. Noah was able to share about how God had saved his own life and has given him a purpose for the rest of it. At 30th Street Station, a group of students were able to buy food for a homeless woman and hear her story, offering her hope in Jesus. Another group had the opportunity to buy food for and have conversations with a group of intentionally homeless friends on South Street. The students were able to have an open conversation about the gospel.
Some insights included an eye-opening time spent doing ministry with addicts. Underneath the city’s elevated train system, students spent time feeding and communicating with people on the streets—the majority had heroin addictions. One student found particular difficulty dealing with something he heard one of the women say, “I would rather be raped than experience withdrawal.” This is a remarkably sad but unfortunately common reality for most who feel helplessly addicted.
Chinatown offered insight into a culture that is more conversationally-averse. Students found that striking up conversation within a Chinese culture was more challenging. A third evident cultural insight was that those who have much feel they have little need, while those who have little are more aware of personal need. The wealthy had no interest in the gospel, or rarely a desire to have any conversation. The poor generally have a deeper understanding of brokenness and need.
Lastly, it was seen that there are opportunities for engagement everywhere. Public transportation, convenience stores, restaurants–all these contain opportunities to engage with people. While this is perhaps not an insight about a particular culture, it is true of culture at large. While many do not step into these situations, the opportunities still exist within the natural circumstances of modern culture.
Please pray for the students who arrived home last Saturday, May 18. Pray that they would take what they learned and apply it in their lives at home, school, work, and wherever they would go. Pray for Philadelphia as a city. Pray that there would be a revival among its people for the furthering of the gospel. Pray for the homeless of Philadelphia, and that ministries would step in to meet their spiritual and physical needs. Pray similarly for the addicts of the city. Pray that they would find satisfaction in Jesus and feel freedom from the chains of opioid addiction. Lastly, pray for Urban Hope as it continues its mission of bringing hope to a broken community.
Visit urbanhope.net/philly to find out how you can bring a group to Urban Hope Philadelphia.