From last Sunday through this Friday I had the opportunity to lead a group of middle school students at “Madison Missions”. I spent the week at Blackhawk Church in Middleton, WI. For 3 or 4 weeks each summer Blackhawk Church hosts Madison Missions and each week is a different age group. There was something special about the week that I was there. There were about a dozen visitors from Honduras. Our friends from Honduras ranged in age from 18-29 and it was a joy to serve with them. Once every few years Blackhawk sends a group of youth to work in Honduras, this year they returned the favor.
So here’s how it worked. We were split into 10 teams, each team had a leader from WI and from Honduras, and each time had 4-7 students. There was one all male team and one all female team, the rest of the teams were a mix. Team 8, the team that I co-led had 3 boys and 2 girls. 2 of the boys of were twins and the other was a friend of theirs, they were all from Mount Horeb, WI. The girls played on a summer softball team together. All 5 were 14 and will start high school this fall. My team co-leader from Honduras was Carlos who is in college in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
The first time we all met was Sunday night at our teams first devotional time. I felt like from the beginning that we would have a good week together. We started our service together Monday morning by dropping off bags around a Madison community asking for goods for new mothers and their babies, we were collecting items for a place called Care Net, a place where mothers who are not sure if they should have their baby go for help. Care Net provides health and parenting education for these mothers as well as a place to live and raise their child for 9 months. The plan was to drop the bags off Monday with a list of goods Care Net needs for their mothers and at the also on the list was a time that we would be back to pick up the bags.
Below is a picture of Team 8 on Thursday, pick up day, people were very generous and Care Net was grateful!
We did many service projects that ranged from ringing a bell outside of a grocery store for the Salvation Army’s “Christmas in July” to spending the day with residents from nursing homes with Alzheimer’s and different forms of memory loss. I think that the kids enjoyed hanging out with the residents of the nursing homes the most. We spent one of our mornings together at a nursing home playing cards with, talking to, and playing putt-putt with the residents. On another morning we met a group of women with Alzheimer’s right next to Monona Lake in Madison on top of building overlooking downtown Madison. There was a beautiful view of the capital building from where we were. We enjoyed a children’s program with the women and then had lunch together. It was very eye opening for me and I think the kids would say the same. I think it put life into perspective for the kids. For some of them I know that it was the first time they had interacted with a person with Alzheimer’s.
The devotional and large group times were a lot of fun. There were a few scripture verses that guided our conversations. Here are a few of them : James 2:14-17, Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 Cor 13 and a few others. The church I volunteered at is not the church that I attend, it is a non-denominational church. I think it falls under the category of "Mega Church" but I could be wrong. There are so many people that love the Lord there and the youth there are vibrant, it was a great community to be part of for a week. I was a bit surprised when I saw those few verses in our devotional time, those are common verses that Catholic apologists use when non-Catholics confront Catholics about their beliefs. I enjoyed the week so much, but it did start off a little slow and that was my own fault.
At the beginning of the week I really felt that I needed to share my beliefs about the truth and beauty of the Church that Jesus established, the Catholic Church. Eventually I realized that most importantly I needed to share the love of Christ with the kids and if the opportunity came up I could share what I wanted to about the Church. That opportunity came last Wednesday night when each of the team 8 group members shared their testimony. Since most of my testimony and conversion story has a large part to do with the Catholic Church I was able to share with the kids about physical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, Adoration, Our Blessed Mother, and the Rosary. Nothing too in depth, but I got to just mention and share about those truths, planted some seeds.
Our group had a great time together. Carlos and I really felt like we bonded with the kids. They were hard working and very mature for their age. The kids did not complain at all during the week and a few of our work projects were not the most luxurious. I look forward to keeping in touch with the kids and seeing how they live out their faith.
Here is a picture of our group on our last night together.
Please pray for me these next few weeks as I work hard to be fully funded so that I may continue to spread the love of Jesus Christ and truth of the Catholic Church at Seton Hall this fall and into the future. Please comment and post any of your prayer requests and I will gladly take them with me as I go before the Lord this week and pray.
God Bless you, VERSO L'ALTO