Spirit Safari Helms’ reflections August 12

I’ve been in the Big Apple since August 9th.  From the 9th-11th, I was helping to lead the Summer Communities of Service debriefing for the interns who spend 10 weeks serving churches and social justice agencies in Chicago, Centreville Virginia, Charlotte, and Raleigh.

The first challenge of my trip was traveling by myself.  You see, I tend to travel in packs.  I’ve now realized, I don’t just travel in packs, I love traveling in packs.  I feel secure traveling in packs.  I feel more certain traveling in a pack.  So, when Greg announced to me that I’d be traveling on an airplane, then on a airport train, then on a subway, and then by foot from Enderly Park to Hell’s Kitchen, I was most definitely afraid.  After a few sniffles, I mustered up some courage and made my way.

I celebrated as we landed and I made it out of JFK…and then I got to the subway.  I shouldn’t have watched the movie “Divergent” the night before.  I half-laughed at myself as I sat in the subway strategically thinking about all the ways I would survive in New York City if someone stole my identity, took my bags, or led me astray.  I made it to Metro Baptist Church all on my own without having to use my new-found survival skills, thank goodness.

SCOS debriefing went well.  The main highlight was worshiping with Metro on Sunday morning.  A small gathering (maybe 40) of people joined together in sacred space for worship.  The music, the creativity, the attention to one another, and the words…..it was quite evident that the Spirit of God was breathing into these people and this service.  Michelle, the Director of Adult Programming at Rauchenbusch Metro Ministries was our preacher and Man! Could she preach!

The take-aways:  I was overwhelmed by feelings: “I’m not the only one who believes!”  “There are others who are fighting the good fight and celebrating with joy!”  “The Spirit is alive!”  and also “Gosh, I keep thinking it’s all up to me, that I’m the only one.  But I’m not.  That’s a relief.  It’s also quite humbling and an ego check.”

Overall, the first few days centered around fear, courage, and trusting God.  Also, encouragement, solidarity, shake the dust, and we’re in this together.

On Monday at lunchtime, the van full qcfamilytree unloaded onto the front steps of Metro.  I was so happy to see them- these are my people!  We ate, toured the church building, rested, and then prepared for our first adventure.  Our pack stayed close together as we maneuvered the Port Authority to the subway.  We got off the subway at Brooklyn Bridge Park where we admired the sights, took pictures, ate pizza (Julianna’s- it’s good!), and explored. Then, we climbed the hill and the steps onto the bridge and started the journey across.

The weather was beautiful so the bridge was packed.  When we got to the pit stop area, we stopped so that everyone could take in the sights.  I was surprised when I turned around and noticed that our kids weren’t taking in the sights at all.  They weren’t admiring the big tall buildings or taking photos of the landscape.  They were waving.  Our youth were lined up on the platform, waving , smiling, and giving peace signs to the drivers and passengers in the cars below.  My heart swelled.  Given the chance, our kids will opt for an interaction and a relationship rather than a picturesque photo.

I noticed throughout the day that one of our youth was happy one minute and then grumpy the next.  I thought perhaps it was because she was tired or hungry.  I asked and she said she was fine.  Later, I thought maybe she didn’t have any spending money, so I asked her and she said she was fine.  But she wasn’t fine.  So, I pressed her to share.  She said she was angry.

“What are you angry about?”

“I’m angry because there are all these homeless people.  Men just sleeping in the streets and on benches.  Trash everywhere.  And you would think that in a city like this, there’d be an answer. ”

She started to tear up and shared a bit more.  We asked questions together and talked about how we’d keep searching and asking questions along the way.

We’ll keep searching and exploring….looking for the Spirit.  So far, the Spirit is clearly alive and vibrantly working through the church and also through our youth.