Chicago Summer Mission–Week 1: Settling In
Wow, we’ve made it through one crazy week of being in Chicago. Only seven days ago, we were all trying to cram 10 weeks worth of clothes, cooking and cleaning supplies, and other miscellaneous belongings into our rooms in Dwight Lofts. It was a common talking point prior to arriving, how blessed the students of Chicago Summer Mission 15 (CSM 15) are when it comes to living situations, but there were more than a few of us who were utterly blown away when we walked into our apartments and saw the modern setup of our rooms and the gorgeous views of Chicago.
That first Friday, after a full day of unpacking and getting settled, we all got together in the 11th floor Sky Lounge (our designated hangout location) and had an authentic Chicago pizza dinner, the first time many of us had ever had deep-dish pizza. Meeting so many new people all at once was overwhelming for many of us, to say the least, but an enjoyable experience nonetheless. After some icebreakers and conversation, most of us were more than ready for a good night’s sleep.
Saturday came with its own excitement. We started early in the morning with a briefing of CSM 15 as a whole, and were enlightened on what we would all be experiencing throughout the duration of the Mission. After lunch, the 68 students and 42 staff split up into groups of five or six to take on Chicago for a city-wide scavenger hunt. The weather was cold and rainy, but everyone managed to have a great time exploring the city anyway. The rest of the evening gave us some down time to socialize, watch a movie, play games, or just head to bed early.
Sunday brought with it our first day going to church in Chicago. For the duration of the mission, we’ll be attending Harvest Bible Chapel, located in Harvest Chicago Cathedral. It’s a beautiful building, one of the few to survive the Great Chicago Fire nearly 150 years ago. It’s just a short subway ride north of Dwight Lofts, and is also the location for our Monday and Thursday night meetings. After church, the Crossroads team met for lunch in order to get to know one another better. Later in the day, the whole project met for a few hours to receive training from the staff concerning evangelism. Unfortunately, due to the rain and cold, we didn’t get the chance to go sharing in the city as planned. Regardless, we still had plenty of time to talk to students about the Gospel during our campus day, but more on that later.
Monday, after a somewhat-restless night’s sleep for many due to excitement, it was time to start our first day of work at Crossroads! It was great to to see our office space for the first time and take a look at what types of things we would be working on over the summer. After work, at 5:30 p.m., we met in the 11th Floor Sky Lounge and had Portillo’s, a Chicago classic and absolute must for anyone visiting Chicago. We had Portillo’s Chicago dogs, Italian beef, pasta and last but certainly not least, chocolate cake. Seriously, it was delicious. After our dinner, we made our way to our Monday night meeting that the Crossroads team named “Family Room”; it lasts two hours every week, during which time we have praise and worship, a talk from one of our leaders, and a discussion time. We were all kind of tired by the end of the night, but we still learned a lot at Family Room and were able to connect with some of our peers.
Tuesday after work, we all had a little bit of free time before heading off to our Action Groups, which consist of about 8 people of our same gender, one or two of them our Action Group leaders, who we have Bible study with once a week. After eating dinner with them at 6 p.m., we started on the Philippians study that we’ll be concentrating on the whole summer. Action group ends at around 8 p.m. and the rest of the evening is free!
Wednesday is Crossroads’ campus day, while the rest of the students on CSM are able to go on campus to share the Gospel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays depending on their schedules. All of us are split up and mixed in with other CSM students to travel to different campuses throughout Chicago to initiate spiritual conversations with the students there. During our Family Room on Monday, we were told the importance of listening to other people’s viewpoints before talking about the truth of the Gospel. It is important for us to remember that we are only responsible for starting the conversation and leaving the results up to God. We can’t save people; only God can. Campus time gave us a chance to practice this ideal. After campus time from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., we had some free time before “Date Night with the Lord” from 6 to 9 p.m., during which time we all spread out and go to different parts of the city to have a quiet time to connect with the Lord in our own ways. It’s a great time to reflect on what God has been doing in our lives throughout the week and take a step back from busy Chicago life.
Thursday brought us back to the office. After work, CSM students met up in the Sky Lounge to have our weekly ethnic food. This Thursday was Flaco’s Tacos. Our staff provided us with tacos, burritos and some of the best tortilla chips and guacamole that some of us have ever had. With full bellies, we made our way back to Harvest Bible Chapel to go to our Thursday evening meeting, which the Crossroads team named “Vantage”. Vantage is similar to Family Room, only it’s half an hour shorter and open to college students that we invite during campus times and coworkers of other CSM students. This Thursday, we discussed the magnificence of the Gospel, as seen in Philippians. We used Paul’s passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ even while he was in prison as a good example for the passion with which we should approach sharing our faith. Bacho Bordjadze, the CSM 15 director, led us through an enlightening exercise that revealed where our true theology rested, and gave us a game plan for realigning our priorities in life. After Vantage ended at 8:30 p.m., the rest of the evening belonged to us.
If you’re still with me, we’re now back to Friday! As you can see, it’s been a crazy week, but certainly a lot of fun. The Crossroads team got to end early on Friday, and Josh treated us to chocolatey Nutella goodness at a little restaurant in Eataly that serves nothing but bread, pastries and crepes covered with Nutella. Again, it was very tasty, which seems to be a trend of the food in Chicago. The Crossroads students’ weekend started at about 3 p.m. and everyone on CSM did their own thing for the rest of the evening. Some spent time with roommates, a group went to see a White Sox game, and others played volleyball in a nearby park. Overall, it was a fantastic way to end our week and set up the rest of our 10 weeks here in Chicago.
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