I love Wednesday nights in Chicago. Of all of the nights we spend here, I’d say Wednesdays are my favorite. Now, I know I shouldn’t play favorites and don’t get me wrong the rest of the nights all have their perks, but just between you, me, and big brother (who I think probably keeps a close I on everything that goes on here at the Steve) Wednesdays are the best. Let me explain:
When we get here on Saturday, there is a certain buzz about the group. We’re all excited about the week ahead and the anticipation is not unlike waiting for a beautiful storm you know is right around the corner. So we all try our best to sleep that night while adjusting to the city noise right outside the window, the mattresses on the floor and the anticipation of what’s to come.
Then there’s Sunday night. It’s so fun on this night to hear the students talk about their experience at FCC. They talk about the worship, the greeting time, the bowling, and the ethnic diversity in way that makes it clear that their worldview was changed during the course of that day. It’s awesome…but not Wednesday night awesome.
Monday night varies for us a little bit. That day has typically been spent working on projects around FCC and then we head to Michigan Ave for a few hours before coming back and working on our lessons for chapel at By the Hand. Not much to write home about here other than the fact that we’re going on three nights of anticipating our time at By the Hand!
Tuesday night is perhaps the most interesting night every year. We have just spent our first day at By the Hand and it is always interesting to hear how the students are going to describe the various ways that their expectations collided with reality. To be honest, this is the night that many of the first year students come back slightly discouraged. They have heard (many of them, for years) how much fun we have with the kids, how attached we get to them, and how incredible it feels to invest in the lives of these young children. But it’s hard to know what By the hand is going to be like until you experience it for yourself. The kids are loud, they’re a bit crazy, and sometimes it’s hard to know that what you’re doing is making a difference at all. Many of these kids have walls that they’ve been building for years and it takes time for them to warm up to you. This tends to be a bit of a reality check for the new students because it seems so different from what they’ve heard people say who’ve been on the trip before. That’s because after Wednesday and Thursday, nobody remembers that Tuesday anymore.
Wednesday Night: Somehow there’s a switch that flips. I don’t know exactly when it happens but I can tell you that it’s sometime between the hours of 6:30 on Tuesday night and 3:00 on Wednesday afternoon. When the kids come to the program that Wednesday it just feels like they are themselves. It’s almost as if they were just being cautious on Tuesday to protect themselves in case we didn’t show up the next day. But then they see us on Wednesday and it’s a whole new day. Wednesday is filled with hugs, laughs, testimonies, stories of home, and progress with school work. This leads to the best night of the week for me. On Tuesday night it’s almost as if the new students feel like they’re doing it wrong, or they can’t figure out why that day wasn’t everything they’ve ever heard Chicago would be. But on Wednesday night it’s all clear. It’s as if there’s a collective sigh among the group that says, “Oh, I get it.” It’s a night of encouragement. It’s the night when students relax and feel good because they know that they’ve been used by God to help accomplish a purpose that’s much bigger than them. And they also know that it’s nothing that they could have done on their own. Wednesdays are awesome.