Monday, July 16, 2012

A lack of friendship...

Last week I had the opportunity to go to Houston on a mission trip with 6 of our students. It was such an eye opening experience. I honestly don't know how I'm going to write this post because we did SO much stuff and I have SO many thoughts about it all. I'll start with a few pictures from the trip. These are tiny pictures because they came from my phone. Sorry...

This was taken from the 60th floor of the Chase Tower downtown. It was a beautiful view of the city. It was hard to tell from that view that there were so many problems and needs in the city.

 We sported hair nets and gloves and made 1900 sandwhiches one morning for students who are on free and reduced lunch during the school year. The next day we got to hand deliver them to the children.

We took an awesome group of students. LOVE them...

We took a long time exploring downtown. We had the opportunity to ask some questions to homeless people, police officers, and business people to get different perspectives. 

Houston is the 4th largest city in the nation, and as of last year is the most diverse city in the nation (taking the place of New York City). It also has the highest homeless population in the nation. And boy was it evident. As we would tour the city and walk the streets, we would see homelessness and extremely impoverished areas everywhere. 

I had never heard this word before, but we learned about gentrification. Its basically when the wealthier population come in to the lower income areas. Nice new buildings or homes are built where run down ones used to be. Its a way of "economic planning" for the future of that city. I guess maybe the idea is to eventually push out the "low-incomeness" of areas. It sounds like a good thing. And in some ways it really is a good thing. But to see it in person is different. I wish I had taken a picture of the area we saw, but I didnt. So I found similar pictures to what we saw. 

We drove down a street where on one side we saw nice condos like this...

and directly across the street we saw homes like this...

I guess I have a hard time with gentrification when it comes to "city planning" if the impoverished and homeless are not included in that planning. Economically it makes sense for the city as a whole. But I think its forgotten that behind the doors of those run down and dirty houses are real people who may have no where else to go. Thats their home.

What was interesting, though, was that on the lower income side of the road I noticed a huge sense of community. People sitting on porches together, neighbors visiting with each other, people working on their cars together. On the condo side...not one person was to be found. 

One afternoon, we helped cook a meal for about 100 men in a drug rehab facitilty. I had the opportunity to work along side a man named "Country" who was a resident there and worked in the kitchen. He basically taught me how to cook! He showed me how to sautee and "keep that food moving." He taught me how to control my heat and not be afraid to taste it along the way. I swear he needs his own cooking show. He was so much fun!

Another evening, we had an opportunity to listen to the Salvation Army Harbor of Lights mens choir. The entire choir was former addicts. As I watched them, I couldn't help but notice their hearts of sincere worship. I felt convicted as I realized that I don't give God the same kind of worship as they were. 

Our last evening there, we went to a place called Bread of Life. They serve meals to the homeless community that is cooked by homeless culinary students. They fellowship together every evening (that particular night they had a paint night). Then they open up showers and line up as many mattresses as they can and let them sleep for the night. As they were setting up their beds for the night a couple of homeless guys lifted a wallet in the air and started yelling, "Family! Someone lost their wallet! Who's wallet?" Another sense of community. They called each other "family" all night long. And they protect each other and take care of each other. 

I expected to go to Houston and give to the needy. I didn't expect the needy to give back to me. I didn't expect to be taught by them.

Throughout the trip we had numerous opportunities to interact or work along side people who were homeless, kids in an impoverished area, or men in rehab. We sorted clothes, cooked and served food, packed lunches, etc. We were helping meet a lot of physical needs. But throughout the entire trip, I kept thinking of a quote from a video I watched about poverty. The quote stated that, "The definition of poverty is a lack of friendship." Sure we can help with physical needs. But real friendships with these people can go a long way. The best things that happened all week for me was finding out their names and about their families and what they like to do. It was then that the walls I had built between us began to fall down.