Monthly Archives: March 2012

Playing Favorites

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.



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The hype zone and a rat….

Somehow Steve let me guest blog today!! How exciting!

Tuesday was our first day at By The Hand in Cabrini! Our first-timers seemed a little nervous in anticipation of what to expect at By the Hand but by the end of the day, they’d fallen in love as all of the students have come before them over the last 10 years! 

We started the day in the morning meeting with the By The Hand staff. Sarah James and I came up with a “devious” plan for the week since this is the 10-year anniversary trip for HP! We decided that the students and their team leaders would earn points throughout the week by doing things that promote team spirit, getting to know each other (testimonies, meeting parents, etc) and on Friday at our get-together with the staff, we, as “the judges”, will announce the winner! It’s allowing the students to really get to know their team leaders which is an element that hasn’t been true for every student every year. It’s things like Miss Shanta calling Jan Pride so their purple team can earn more points! Sarah also mentioned we’d accept bribes – I can say I’ve received my first chocolate rose on this trip! Oh and the automatic win is if they find us our future husbands by the end of the week – all I can say is apparently we are pickier than we thought considering we’ve had to say no to quite a few options they have pointed out on the street!

After the introductions, our students did whatever their team leaders needed them to do. Most of them cleaned tables, set up the rooms, cleaned out some closets, talked with their team leaders, and even planned some team spirit elements! We also had a couple groups doing some odd jobs like taking a load of coats down to their basement so they can use them next year and cleaning out votives for their Spring Benefit in April. 

At about 2:45, the kids started rolling in! They have a “hype” zone for the younger kids that get here early that includes a whole lot of dancing! Once chapel started, our students jumped right in to singing and loving on the kids! Our skit team (Michelle, Morgan, Mariah, McKinzie, Paige, Bailey, Caleb, and Isaac) did a FANTASTIC job telling the story of the resurrection from the disciples perspectives. Then they joined their teams for homework time and electives. During our “debrief” last night, many of the students made comments about how much they enjoyed encouraging the students on their homework assignments and the various stories the students would tell them. They noticed how much the kids light up with encouragement and one-on-one attention and the team leaders so appreciated having so many volunteers (a team of 30 students from Clemson University are also here serving) providing that for their kids. 

After helping with dinner and clean up, we headed out to Portillos! Many of us look forward to this dinner throughout the year. If you’re ever in Chicago, try it – they have some great Chicago dogs but their pasta is amazing (my personal fave is the Pesto Chicken!)! 

We got around this morning, had our breakfast, spent some time reading in Daniel 4 and breaking up into pairs to pray for each other. Great start to the day! Arrived at By The Hand, after taking a scenic drive on Lake Shore Drive, to start some more projects! Our focus was closets! We had a supply closet upstairs that had mostly school type supplies in it. We had a snack closet to reorganize. And we had a locker-room closet to clean out. (All of which Sarah walked in later in the day and just turned and smiled at how wonderful they looked.) The best moment of the day was hearing a shriek from Bailey, Kelsey, and Lauren as they ran out of the locker-room closet; quickly finding Brian and Lane to frantically explain they found a “used” mousetrap! Brian and Lane calmly reply, “you should probably find a broom and dustpan then”. The girls look at each other and head off to find a broom and dustpan! I won’t say that they were able to remove the mousetrap without some additional shrieking but they did it!! Now that’s what I call sacrificial service!! 🙂

An organization donated some bicycles to By The Hand but when they received the bikes, they were in bad shape. All of them unridable and even needing parts to be able to be usable. Sarah had a volunteer group a few weeks ago take them apart so they could take the metal to the recycling center. We had a team this morning take the parts from the basement to the vans and then a couple of us headed to the recycling center.

After lunch, the group finished a few more projects and made sure the rooms were ready for the kids to arrive. The group welcomed them at the door and joined the hype zone again! Today the teaching team (Kelsey, Taryn, Lauren, and Madison) presented to the kids what the Resurrection means for them – that their sins are forgiven – they have a pure heart because of what Jesus did for them. 

The students joined their team for homework time and electives and are now getting ready to help them for dinner! They are all having a great time and enjoying every moment with the kids and serving their team leaders! It’s been a great week so far and will only get better!!

Continue praying for the group to have the energy to continue to serve the By The Hand staff the next couple days, to continue to love and encourage each other, and please pray for a few of us that are fighting off the allergies in this 80+ degree Chicago weather! 

Hopefully they will let me guest blog again – it’s kind of fun!! 


Steve    Shanna

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A real post!

Woo-hoo for wifi! 

So the trip up here was awesome! We ran into a little rain, but nothing major + we needed limited stops + when we stopped it was relatively quick = our best time ever! Heck, we pulled into First Christian and it was till daylight! So far, so good. 

Most years we have either already eaten dinner when we arrive or they have something waiting for us because they have had some kind of fund raiser or banquet the day of our arrival. Not so this year so after unloading our stuff we headed out to find some grub. A 3 minute drive took us to a little place called Potbelly. These awesome sandwiches and shakes are primarily in the northeast but you can also find them in Texas. 

While at Potbelly, Madison began to notice a little tingle in her throat. Before long it became clear that she was having an allergic reaction to what turned out to be carrots that were in her sandwich. After taking some benadryl and calling her parents we kept an eye on the situation for a few minutes and ultimately decided that it was best to take her to the Emergency Room. Shanna, Michelle, Madison and I loaded up and headed out to the Hospital. After a long wait in the ER waiting room they took Madison back to a room, gave her some meds, and kept an eye on her for a while.  We got out of there around 1 am and got back to the church ready for bed time. Here’s the thing, Madison was somewhat of a late addition to our team this year. She graduated a year early which technically put her over the “grade age limit”, but we decided to let her come anyway since she still had one year of eligibility and we just couldn’t leave her behind. Now I know why. Heaven forbid I take Madison all the way through her high school years without ever making a trip to the ER with her. With all of her funky allergies, it’s a wonder it took us this long to share this experience. Take Madison to the ER because of food allergies: Check.

Sunday morning was an awesome time of worship with our family at First Christian. We always feel so welcome here. They are always happy to see us and we love getting to spend some time with them. After our worship time together we went out and had some Philly Cheese Steaks at the Ford City mall which has become something of a Sunday afternoon tradition for us here in Chicago. 

When we got back from lunch we just had enough time to grab our socks and head to the bowling alley to meet the FCC crew for our annual afternoon of bowling. We split everyone up so that the lanes are mixed up with FCC and HP people. This is such an awesome time to get to know people. We ask them their stories, how they got to FCC, where they’re from, etc… Once we got back from bowling we ate some dinner together, went over our lessons for the week at BTH and hit the sack early so we could be well rested and work hard today. 

Monday is the day we spend at FCC doing anything and everything they need us to. Today was spent cleaning pigeon nests and… um…other pigeon stuff from windows and ledges, cleaning out gardens of weeds and leaves, picking up trash around the grounds, trimming hedges, washing windows, and stuffing 2,000 little baggies with Easter programs and tickets to pass out around the neighborhood. Everyone worked hard and we finished up about 40 minutes ago. Just in time to get cleaned up and meet Sarah and Trey Trey for some dinner and ice cream! 


P.S. Paige and Bailey say hi.




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27 hours

Hey everyone! This is basically just a filler to let you all know that we’ve been in Chicago for about 27 hours now (we made great time) and we’re having a great time! We’re awaiting wifi access so we can type up a real update. We should have that by tomorrow night. Look for an update then. For now, suffice it to say that we had an awesome morning of worship with our family here at First Christian! Talk to you soon!


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