Blog: April 2009

Monday, April 6

It is Saturday. School starts again on Monday. Spring Break is over. My week with UrbanPromise is over. It is painfully hard to believe that this week came and went so quickly. It is almost surreal. Now I’m home. I’m back at school. Life is back to ‘normal.’

Now what?

Is this experience just going to be a fun week I had over Spring Break in Camden hanging out and playing with kids? Is it just going to be an impressive experience to tell people I’ve had in my life? Or am I going to let it really affect me and change me? What was it all even about? Was it about spending time with sweet little ones and listening to them? Was it about giving relief to the teachers and workers at UrbanPromise and the Forward School? Was it about building relationships with those on my team and at UrbanPromise? Was it about giving back to the community for a week? Was it about many of these things and more?

Driving home, I heard a song on my iPod that struck me in a powerful way and articulated a large part of what I gleaned from my experience at UrbanPromise this week. 

Oh the Glory of It All, by David Crowder:

Oh the Glory of it all is:
he came here
for the rescue of us all
that we may live
for the glory of it all 

oh he is here
for redemption from the Fall
that we may live
for the glory of it all

After night
comes the light
dawn is here
dawn is here
it’s a new day
it’s a new day
everything will change
things will never be the same
we will never be the same…

To me, this is what it is all about. Rescue. Redemption from the Fall. New life. Dawn after the darkness. Change. 

Being in Camden this week broke my heart, on so many levels. Leaving those kids and that city was so hard for me, for many reasons. This week also challenged my worldview and assumptions about people and reality.  But, what I’ve found to be the most impacting lesson of all is that it reminded me of the absolute and beautiful redemptive power of God to bring the dawn and light to the darkest parts of our hearts and lives. I was reminded of why I am a person of faith, and why I do the things I do. I was reminded of the possibly the most important facet of the heart of God, his desire to redeem his people. That is exactly what He is doing in Camden, bringing redemption. Likewise, that is what Urban Promise is doing alongside God in Camden. I am honored to have spent a week with them.

Physically, Camden is a very dark place, as evidenced by our tour of the city and even reading statistics about the city.  Seeing the work at Urban Promise this week, and participating in it, gave me a glimpse of the expansive and amazing work that UrbanPromise does day after day. On a deeper level, this week gave me a look at the heart and passion of God.

I hope to end up at UrbanPromise again soon, but in the meantime, I am challenged to bring the same hope and love to the people I encounter on a daily basis. The work Urban Promise does is unique to Camden in many ways, but the overall mission is the same around the world. We are all called to love the loveless, remember the forgotten, and bring hope to the hopeless, wherever we are.

Personally, being in Camden for a week working with UrbanPromise, I have a renewed faith in the redemptive mission of God for our world, and even in my own heart. I have been overwhelmed with conviction, staggered by reality, and renewed with hope.

 Even with my brief experience in Camden, I could write for pages and pages. I only spent a week at the Camden Forward School with UrbanPromise, so I can not fathom what a longer term and more diverse experience with UrbanPromise and the people of Camden would look like for my life. But I know I want to find out. But for now, I’ll just have to grasp what I have learned and carry it with me wherever I go.

Thanks UrbanPromise, for welcoming my group and me into your community and loving us with the same love you show the people of Camden. 

See you all soon I hope!  

Baylee Smith

Randolph-Macon College

Monday, April 6

 

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This past week was my second spring break that I went to Camden. I am amazed at how different of an experience it was for me then it was the first time I came to Camden. Not only was I able to use some of my skills for the ministry but I was also able to interact with the kids in one of the after school programs. I interacted with a number of kids but there are two in particular that stick out for me. One was a boy named Jeffry who on my first afternoon being at the after school program came up to me and asked me to play basketball with him. Somewhere in the conversation the boy said to me that he was going to make a facebook account just so he could add me as his friend. The other was Eman who I randomly started talking to and continued to talk to until the end of the week. Both boys showed me the impact I had just being there. 

 

Andrew Raih
Dordt College
PLIA 2009 Camden group

Monday, April 6

Serving a community often considered the most poverty-stricken city within the United States opened my eyes not only to the daily struggles faced by residents of Camden but also to the social injustice created as a byproduct of politics.

Breathing the putrid air at a playground near the sewage facility, which was considered "acceptable" on that particular day, was only a tiny glimpse into the environment forged upon people living in the vicinity. The definition of poverty for me has been redefined to include socioeconomic disadvantages that prevent a particular group from having a voice in the placement and development of undesirable facilities, such as wastewater systems and prisons.

In addition, interacting with kids K-8, street leaders, and interns at an UrbanPromise after-school program was perhaps the most rewarding and valuable experience from the trip. I had the opportunity to see what Camden was like through their eyes,and, from these exchanges, learn more about community dynamics as well as myself as an individual. The week we helped out in Camden was well-spent and inspires me to pursue engaging in activities with UrbanPromise in the future.

Tracy
Bowdoin College

Monday, April 6

What an awesome experience!  Several members of our group had participated in ministries similar to UrbanPromise, but everyone felt that UP had something special.  Our time spent at Urban taught all of us a great deal more than what we were expecting.  The extreme poverty that has smothered Camden cannot be understood without spending time in Camden. There has to be a change, and Urban is changing the city little by little, and it was wonderful to be a part of that. 

We spent most of our time in the Camden Forward School, and it couldn’t have been any better.  Working with the teachers and students there was such a blessing to us.  Hands down, lunch, recess, and gym were our favorite subjects.  I hope that we were able to encourage the teachers as much as they encouraged us.  They are living out their faith at UP and putting God’s work first in their lives.  As college students, it can be difficult to allow God to guide our lives when we feel so focused on the degrees that we are working toward.  If Urban brings God’s love into a city that needs it so much, shouldn’t we be able to find ways to reach out to our campus that greatly needs God too.

The staff that organized all the WorkGroups was far better than we could hope for.  We were immediately welcomed when we arrived at Urban, and given a quick introduction to where we would be staying (the Trekker House).  Each morning we had devotions with all SIX groups that were at Urban that week.  On Tuesday Jim Cummings gave us a more than excellent tour of Camden.   This was not your typical tour, we all learned so much, and it broke our hearts to see some of the sights and learn about the history of Camden.  We were also treated to a Caribbean beach party, which was the perfect mid-week booster.  The food was excellent, especially because several in our group got to help make the shish kabobs.  On another night, we had the opportunity to meet the Poet of Poverty, Father Michael Doyle.  We watched a movie of his, and dove deeper into the injustices that have befallen Camden.  Obviously we were treated very well, and whenever we needed something (whether direction or directions), we were well taken care of. 

To sum it all up, we met amazing people at Urban, learned and saw things that will be life changing, and hopefully gave UP back at least half of what we came away with. 

Justin
University of New England 

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