Camden, New Jersey: December, 2010

Team Updates

December 22

The team has posted several thought-provoking video reports on Olivia’s blog page. Most recently, the group reports on:

An unstructured day at Urban Promise which led to fun interactions with students and a visit to Urban Boatworks , and

A tour of Sacred Heart Ministries’ housing and urban gardening projects.

December 20

Sorry for the lack of updates, you all. Things have been GO GO GO for the last couple days and there hasn’t been much time to write outside of these constant events and the journaling of our own feelings. However, now it is Sunday where we are certainly in a time of rest after coming back from a mass service at Sacred Heart, a Catholic church in south Camden. It was Olivia’s fourth time ever going to mass, and she said the best of the lot. I’d have to say I agree, from my own experiences.

Going back to last Thursday, it was a typical morning working with the kids, but for the afternoon we were taken out to lunch, and then shown around south Camden to see what the Sacred Heart ministry has been doing. It was nice to see a ministry outside of Urban Promise that’s working within this city, but especially in areas separate from formal education. Their ministries are focused more around education of health via food and gardening, as well as painting and the beauty of art and poetry. There are some truly phenomenal people working here, doing things as a church that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Maybe it’s just more explicit because there are so few ministries and their impact is significant in every way imaginable.

Later that evening we watched a documentary titled, “The Poet of Poverty,” which follows Father Michael Doyle, and the work he has done in Camden since coming here over 25 years ago. It’s interesting, because it showed media clips of him in interviews two decades ago, and then clips of him now, and there is no difference in the words he is speaking… simple because there hasn’t been much change in the social and government structure of the city. He laughed at his consistency of words, but was obviously saddened by the lack of change that’s occurred. If you talk to our group individually, you’ll find that we were each impacted for various reasons on this movie. We hope to purchase a copy and show it at school next quarter. Please come.

Friday was just more of working with the kids, and I had the opportunity to go on a field trip to the revered Philly Art Museum with the 9th and 10th graders. Love those kids. They were so well behaved in the city, and I doubt anybody would have been able to recognize that they were Camden children based on their demeanor. I was real proud of them. What really amazed me was how engaged and willing to learn they were concerning the art pieces we saw. They were mesmerized at the displays in every room, and couldn’t stop talking about them when we ate lunch together. It was a real treat to be a part of that.

Finally, our day off yesterday was well spent touring the sites of New York City. We woke up early, drove to Staten Island, took a free ferry to Manhattan, visited Olivia’s friend in Brooklyn, subwayed back to the main part of the city, saw more sites, and gaped at the bustle of a city so grand.

I know Owen has been posting Olivia’s and my blog, as well as sending out the video’s she’s made. Hopefully that’s satisfying all your appetites for knowledge of our many adventures. We’ll be sure to send out at least another update before we head home on Wednesday.

Further prayers for safety would be much appreciated; as well as the desire to do our best on these closing days. The kids are really starting to warm up to us, and I think we’ve all made a profound relationship or two with a child. That’s certainly satisfying – thank you, Jesus.

Hope everybody is doing well! You’ve treated us so well and we are truly thankful for your support. We wouldn’t be here without you.

December 16

This week we’re volunteering in the classrooms. On Monday we started the week off having Jim do devotionals with us. The daily devotionals are about Camden and the Urban Promise ministries. These devotionals are a time where we can learn more about Camden and see how God is working through others to make this a better place.

After devotionals, we each went to our designated classrooms and served as teachers’ assistants. I am working in the elementary classrooms. Olivia is serving in the middle school science classroom. Chris is the Art teacher's assistant. Rebecca is in the English and History middle school classrooms. Lauren is working with the choir and the music directors.

On Tuesday, we had devotionals with Jesus in the morning. We sang songs of worship and had a discussion about service. Today was our first day at Urban Boatworks. Urban Boatworks is an afterschool program that helps keep youth out of trouble. Rebecca and I went in today and helped sand pieces of wood for the future construction of the boat. The rest of the team will go on Friday and will help with the highschoolers. Thus far, school has been delightful.

December 15

The team has posted two new video updates on Olivia's blog page, reporting on their Friday activities and Saturday's Philadelphia adventure.

December 13

Here’s a collection of updates sent by the team over the weekend.  Below, Lauren reflects on the team’s exploration of nearby Philadelphia.  Today the group spend their first full day in Urban Promise’s classrooms.

Two team members are chronicling the trip through their personal blogs.  Visit Olivia’s blog for a short video and reflections from the team after their tour of the city.  Chris’ blog includes other pictures and reflections.

Hey Owen,
Update time!

Ok, so I think by now you have already seen the video Olivia made of our first day & the tour of Camden that Jim gave us, so I won't say anything about that, except that it was sobering, thought-provoking, and very good.

During the rest of Friday, we did some odd jobs for the UrbanPromise office staff, nothing fancy-- stuffing envelopes and the like. On Saturday morning, we went to campus for a half day of outdoor work projects. We were joined by about 30 other people from area churches. Our team raked leaves and uprooted some dead shrubs (Being the fiercely strong girl that she is, Becca managed to singlehandedly destroy an axe and a shovel in the process. It was impressive). 

After that, we met up with two Urban interns and took the train into Philadelphia! The interns-- Susie (from Glasgow, Scotland) and Ashley (from Cherry Hill, NJ) took us on a brief walking tour of the city, starting in Chinatown. Our guides gave us a whirlwind tour of downtown, the shopping district, and Rittenhouse sqaure. We then took in the eclectic scene on South Street (think the Ave but longer) and ended our day by eating gloriously massive Philly Cheesesteaks. 

We didn't tour any historical sites, but we saw plenty of 1830's brick rowhouses, the gorgeous and ornate City Hall, and some 1900's-era factories and smokestacks. 'Twas great. And our guides are really fun girls-- we all enjoyed getting to know them a little. 

We were pretty beat after all the walking, so we slept in today. This morning, Olivia and I went to the late service at the Lutheran church we are staying at, which was nice. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming! After lunch we finished up telling our life stories to each other, which the snow had prevented us from doing in Seattle. Tonight we all went to Circle of Hope, which is the church our two intern guides go to. It's a cool church. Very contemporary & relaxed in structure, but also very thoughtful and contemplative. I think we all liked it. And now we are all getting ready to sleep and preparing ourselves for our first day in the classrooms tomorrow.

It's been surprisingly warm over the weekend. Today it was a balmy 50º and rainy...felt like home.

Well, I think that's it for now. Like I said, we're all getting ready for school! Prayers are appreciated as we anticipate the long day tomorrow...

Thanks! Hope all are well in Seattle!

December 10

We are, indeed, alive. We actually arrived an hour earlier than planned, which Jim from Urban Promise was more than willing to accommodate us over. We were picked up, brought to the church we would be staying at, and then introduced to UP briefly. We created a game plan at nearby diner in which we ate an obscene amount of food for real cheap. If that's how they do it on the East Coast, then I'm not sure many of us would like to come back home.

The next two hours were spent figuring out what this NJ area looked like, both by grocery shopping and finding places to purchase little items we forgot: i.e. - towels, belts, toiletries.

We crashed hard last night at around 10:30, woke up this morning at 6, and made our 20 minute commute from the church to UP. Jim then gave us a tour of the city and described the history and change that's occurred in this area over the last few decades. It's crazy. Camden is a decaying city. There are a myriad of reasons as to why, and I'm sure we will touch on that later, but at this rate, there is little hope for it's future in terms of growth and contribution to society. I think all of us are still in shock at how ridiculous the situation is. I hope we can discuss it later tonight.

And now, here we are, back on UP's campus, doing little tasks here and there. We just went over our schedule for the next week. The typical day is teaching from 8:30-3:30, and then after-school programs until 6, possibly. Tomorrow, we will be doing a workday with other church groups around the city, which will be awesome considering that will be our first major interaction with the people of this city. Lord, may the questions abound!

Oh, and I should say that everybody is doing all right. I'm a little sick with a head cold, but I've got water and meds to take care of me. Prayers would be welcome. Prayers for our safety and willingness to be bold in representing Christ here would be appreciated as well. Sorry, I'm not sure what the girls want to say, but I'll let them write the next one when we get the chance. Thanks for the support, everybody.

December 9

This morning a team of 5 students departed SeaTac Airport, bound for Camden, New Jersey, where they’ll spend the next week and a half engaged with Urban Promise and the Camden Forward School.

Known for a variety of negative attributes, Camden is not without hope. In their time with Urban Promise the students will learn from the organization’s long-term investment in youth, education and community development. I’ll send regular updates as the team reports back on their experiences.

The team will land in Philadelphia this afternoon, where they’ll meet their hosts from Urban Promise and travel to the house where they’ll stay, in Oaklyn, a short drive from Camden. Tomorrow they’ll tour the city with Urban Promise and get an orientation to the school, where they’ll spend next week volunteering in classrooms and afterschool programs.

Camden 2010 Departure