Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Windy City

We're in Chicago!
By the way, I just have to make one side note. On both our drives to and from Michigan, we saw these McDonald's called "skyways or expressways." So crazy. The McDonald's is literally in the middle of the interstate. My mom said it gives a whole new meaning to the word drive-thru.

Ok, moving on...

Chicago! Paul and Kristie Monteiro welcomed us warmly and invited us to join a "family dinner." They have a community of about 15 of their friends ranging from all ages and stages of life. Most of them live in the same neighborhood, intentionally. The group of friends shared a meal together and then shared their hearts and updates from their lives. At one time, Paul and Kristie had hosted weekly dinners but the group decided that if they wanted to focus more on outward community, they needed to meet less frequently.

We were so amazed by how quickly the group, not only welcomed us, but also reconnected with their friends after not meeting together for several months. Kristie told us that from the beginning, the group made a choice to always be real and communicate honestly with each other. The discussion we shared in that night revealed the fruit of that decision.

Another aspect of the group that amazed us was how closely knit it was when everyone was at different stages of life. There were a few young couples with kids, single young adults, young couples with no kids, and even nursing students.

We stayed with two girls we had met in Seattle, Joyce and Jen. They have a great apartment near the Monteiros, with a spare room they keep open just for guests. They obviously love to serve and host and share their city with new friends.

After a breakfast of homemade crepes and an assortment of jams, they took us on a neighborhood tour. We didn't realize that Chicago is was a neighborhood city. The girls have become involved in helping Burmese refugees. They showed us where the majority of refugees work and live. It's obvious talking to the girls how much they love the refugees and how God is blessing that. Jen got a call at her job asking if her company could help this group of refugees and she said well our company can't but my roommate and I might be able to! This decision has entranced them into the lives of these refugees. They recently received a multi-thousand dollar grant to publish materials that will be helpful for refugees coming to the city. They explained that the government has given permission for a certain number of refugees to be received in US cities. The capacity to receive the refugees is not always sufficient. The girls are also personally engaged with many refugees through tutoring and mentoring. A major part of their ministry is just befriending, loving and helping with their day-to-day needs, big and seemingly small. Joyce has connections with Loyola University and Jen is part of a non-profit tutoring program to inner-city kids. The girls’ hearts overflowed with love for their newfound friends.

That afternoon, they dropped us off downtown and of course, we hit the tourist attractions. We started with Chicago style pizza and then headed to the top of the Hancock building for a breathtaking view of the skyline and the lake. Next, we walked down Michigan Ave to Millennium Park. Our big city adventure concluded with a ride on the “L” back to the girls’ house. Christin had dinner with Eric and Jessie, two Auburn grads! They live and are a part of the community with the Monteiros. They talked about challenges and joys of their recent life after college transition.

Sunday morning, we went to church with Kristie (Paul stayed home with sick kids). The church service was focused on Jesus’ life and ministry and how we fit into that. Three individuals shared their own expression of this and what it looks like in their lives. It seemed to fit in with the continued theme of the weekend in regards to outreach and community.

We had lunch with Kristie and heard more of her background with the Navigators, her heart for 20-somethings and current involvement with b2g. The day wrapped up with extended time with Joyce and Jen in a fun, jazzy, local Chicago restaurant.

Monday morning, we toured Breaking Ground, a Nav ministry to the urban poor. Jeff Daniels took the time to share his heart and passionate for working with the poor. Breaking Ground focuses on job training and placement of inner-city youth and 20-somethings. They have found this to be the key to discipleship of this demographic of people. Breaking Ground holds classes to train people in life skills. We had the privilege of meeting Connie, whose story is unbelievable and inspiring. His life has been completely transformed through his experience and time with Breaking Ground. Because of his background, the connection, inspiration and power of the Gospel, he ministers to countless people who come through the program. Jeff’s vision and passion for Breaking Ground is a concrete expression of the Navigator calling.

Our time in Chicago reminded us of the church described in Acts 2:42-47.
After our tour of Breaking Ground, we headed back to Minneapolis, stopping in Wheaton for a quick lunch. We arrived back in Minneapolis late Monday night. The rest of that week was spent doing laundry, moving into Bruce's house and preparing for the fall conference.

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