It's been over a week since I got back from Chicago and I just wanted to give a quick summary on how it went. First of all, it was a really great trip. The aspect I enjoyed the most was getting to see so many quality ministries taking place to the various people groups throughout the city.
We left on Friday and it took about 11 hours to drive to the neighborhood of Lawndale where we were staying. Our flat was right next to Westlawn Gospel Chapel and on Saturday morning we helped put on a carnival for the neighborhood kids. This neighborhood is strictly African American except for the missionary family that lives there and is where MLK Jr. moved his family before his assassination to bring awareness to the poverty in the ghettos.
That night we went to Boys Town where we learned about Emmaus Ministries and spent about two hours in the gay district. The student I was paired up with and I ended up in a bar for almost two hours talking with a group of three guys. In the bar that night they were having karaoke and the show tunes were big hits. A cross dresser named Honeydew was very affectionate toward us and very disappointed we forgot our cameras and couldn't take a group photo. The guys we hung out with couldn't believe that two straight people from Arkansas would be in a gay bar in Chicago. By the time we left at 12:30 they wanted us to go with them to the next bar. This experience was very valuable in that it helped reinforce that homosexuals are people too who welcomed us to their party wholeheartedly. I doubt my church would make them feel as comfortable at a potluck.
Over the next two days we went to Little Village (the Hispanic area of town, which actually felt like I was in Mexico), Little India, and Chinatown. We were the only white people in all of those places and it was neat to see all the shops and culture so condensed in neighborhoods. After visiting these places each time there was a debrief in which we had great talks about racial reconciliation, immigration, and the challenges in reaching these communities with the love of Christ.
Over all it was a fantastic weekend that really stretched my perception of urban life. The 14 JBU students that went have been impacted and challenged in their perception of the world. I'm really thankful that I was able to go along and to participate in this great learning experience with them.