A Week at UrbanPromise…

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