Okay, so it's been a week and already sooo much has happened. There's too much to put it all on here, but I know I promised updates so I'll try my best not to leave too much out. I'll just go through and list what we did each day of the week.
Saturday June 18th- I flew to Seattle from Newark airport at 7:00am. I almost cried because I had so much trouble finding where I needed to go, but God was with me and I made it to my flight on time. I wanted to make friends with the people I was sitting by on the plane, but since I was kind of tired I fell asleep for about 4 out of the 5 hours we were on the plane. When I wasn't sleeping I was reading the Chronicles of Narnia. I love how C.S. Lewis writes, I had chills all through The Magicians Nephew. Once I arrived in Seattle I started to make instant friends. I feel blessed to know every person on this team, they're wonderful people. We ate food and hung out a bit, but that was about all.
Sunday June 19th- We went to an inner city church. It was a really good experience, it was a tiny little church so when our giant group walked in, the pastors wife just lit up. They were so happy to see new faces. Then we went on an underground tour. It was interesting to get some history about the city. After that we went to Pike Place. It's a famous fish market in Seattle. We were allowed to have free time, but some how a group of about 6 of us ended up having a very blessed spiritual conversation with a group of "houseless travelers". These people were so interesting, they've spent years of their lives living on the streets, traveling from city to city. We sat with them for about an hour and a half just talking and hang out. I will never forget these people.
This was on the underground tour it's an original toilet, once referred to as the "crapper".
Famous fish market.
These guys were playing at Pike Place, they were absolutely fantastic. (Morrison Boomer)
Me and a whale carved out of a tree, no big deal.
A few of my friends hanging out on the dock.
Jenny, Pirate and me just messing around. He's spent the last 20 years of his life traveling and living on the streets.
Tuesday June 21st- Our group split in half and some of us went to the Tacoma DOC and some went to the Seattle DOC. I was in the group that went back to Seattle. We listened to another speaker talk about work crew. It's basically where you see offenders picking up trash on the side of the road. We went to a work crew site. The people doing the community service were all offenders on parole as far as I know. We talked to a couple ladies who had struggled with drug problems, but were trying to get their lives back on track. Then we went to a work release half way house, and talked to a few guys that were in the program. They were inmates that were released to go find jobs for the last 6 months of their sentence. The guys we talked to were all about done.
Wednesday June 22nd- It was my first ride along day. The life of a CCO is tough. You don't realize how much they have to deal with, but one of the officers said it's basically getting paid to babysit criminals. They have a case load of about 40 offenders and they spend work days meeting with them and making sure they're on track. There are a bunch of different things the offenders can do to violate parole and the CCO has to constantly be checking up to make sure they aren't doing those things. If the offenders decide to skip a meeting the officer may put out a warrant for the offender. It was sad to see so many people in bad situations mainly because of drug use.
Thursday June 23rd- The second ride along was fun, we did a bunch of home visits. Depending on high risk the offender is to reoffend the CCOs have to do a certain number of surprise home visits each month. Nothing crazy happened, but it was cool to see how the officers interact with their clients.
Friday June 24th- We had a debriefing at the DOC in Tacoma. We ate some food and listened to a few more speakers and said our thank yous. When we got back to our dorms we found out that we were going to be living like the homeless until further notice. The homeless simulation was started so we could understand how the people we would be working with feel on a daily basis. So we had 20 minutes to get 3 personal belongings and get out of the building. I took my camera, toothbrush and a blanket. We were also allowed to bring a Bible, journal and pen. We went out to find some cardboard and other things to keep us warm. Our leaders acted like people a homeless person would encounter, sometimes they were rude to us and sometimes they made us feel inferior by taking on a "holier than thou" attitude. Since it was only a simulation, the "homeless shelter" we stayed at was the parking garage at the university and the "soup kitchen" was in the building's laundry room. Still we got a good idea of how it would be. I slept on a cardboard box that night on a concrete floor, and it hurt.
The beginning of our homeless journey. This is the wolf pack.
Dumpster diving, like true homeless people.
Some of the guys showing off the nasty chair they found by a garbage can.
So much cardboard, that's not even close to all of it.
Our homeless commune in the parking garage.
Still homeless, but loving life all the more.
Sunday June 26th- Today we went to Mars Hill Church and I met Mark Driscoll! He is such a nice guy, he let us take pictures with him and talk with him. The sermon was so powerful and the worship was so intense. It was such a good experience, I would love to go back again. Then we had some free time to just walk around and hang out. I'm tired, but having an amazing time here. I love Seattle and can't wait to see what God wants to do with the next 3 weeks. I am so blessed to be on project in Seattle. I'm just so happy to be able to do what Jesus has called me to do.
Finally, we spent each day out in the city witnessing to homeless and just showing them some love. I have a lot of stories, but they're much better told in person. To sum it up though, God rocked my world last week. He revealed a knew calling in my life and taught me things about myself that only He could. I go out of this week seeing a few different things: how powerful prayer really is, broken youth, a calling to high school ministry, stereotypes broken down and a renewed hope. I'm so sad that I only have 2 more weeks in Seattle, but I'm going to give it my every last shred of energy until that last day comes. This next week I'm working with Somali youth at an apartment complex. I don't know what that's going to look like just yet, but I'm so excited I can hardly wait. I know God is going to use my team for amazing things through out the rest of project. He did work in our lives and the lives of the high schoolers this week. He broke our hearts and made us crave His love all the more.
Seattle skyline. Surprisingly, it didn't rain that day.
Space Needle up close.
I'm pretty sure this play ground contraption was made to cause motion sickness. So fun.
Me and some friends took a little detour on our way to Mars Hill for the 2nd time. You can't totally tell from this picture, but we're all riding bear cubs.
July 5th- Me and 5 other people went to a Somalian youth and family center. Today was our first day working with them and I got something out of it I didn't expect. I thought we would be working with Somalian refugees(kids and adults) and serving the workers, but I ended up doing minimal filing work and then the program coordinators served us. Every time they would talk to us they would bring food over. I can honestly say that the Somali people are the most generous group as a whole that I have ever encountered. Even though we met most of them today, they said they considered us family. Tomorrow they're taking us out to Somalian food for lunch. It was definitely a good lesson for me; I'm going to work to be as hospitable as they were. I'm so sad it's all almost over, but I'm sure God is going to use this week for big things, especially since most of the Somali population is Muslim. And on top of that they all have a very skewed view of Christians because they associate Christian with the typical American stereotype. So we're combating the views they have of us and I pray that by the end of the week they see that we are faithful, loving and modest people. The weather here is going to be in the 80s all week (hottest it's been since we got here) and my group has to wear long sleeves and pants everyday. No worries though, I love respecting their culture and getting an idea of what their women deal with their whole lives. It's a very cool learning experience and I can't wait to see what God has in store the rest of the trip.
Today we went on a Ferry Ride so I'm going to put some pictures up from that and I also have a couple of pictures from the 4th of July.
Before the fire works went off.
A little bit later than the last one, my camera died right after this so I couldn't take sweet fire work pictures on my camera. Good thing I have an iPhone!
Me and Jenny!
Such a beautiful day.
Some of the ladies and me!
I have trouble finding the time to keep up with a blog, but I'm not going to give up so easy. I want to be able to share exciting things in depth. I never got around to writing about what happened in my final week of Summer Project, so I owe that much.
Our team had to split up into two groups because of our large numbers. Half of us went to a maximum security prison, Washington Correctional Center for Women, or Purdy and the other half went to a minimum security prison, Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women. I was in the group that went to the minimum security prison. Honestly it looked like a camp... with really high barbed wire fences. The group at the maximum security prison said it was pretty nice as well. I heard that Washington's women's prisons are pretty nice in comparison to others. The ladies at Mission Creek had a very nice facility though. The barbed wire probably wasn't necessary considering they don't want to try to escape and then end up at Purdy again. The way it works is they'll spend time in Purdy then when their sentence is coming closer to an end (I'm sure behavior and what there charge was contributes too) they get to be transferred to Mission Creek. I was surprised to hear that some of them preferred Purdy because there are more programs offered like cosmetology training and things of that sort. At Mission Creek they are also required to get a job assignment. Which is good since most of them are only a couple years away from being on the outside. There were quite a few training programs offered at our prison though. Unfortunately once you have a felony your chances of getting hired for a job greatly decrease, so most of the training offered was for manual labor.
Now that I gave a bit of background on the prison I'll explain what we did. We did the same thing all four days that we were there. We would plan to show the video "Magdalena" after lunch. So when we got there we would go from building to building in groups and invite the ladies to go to the chapel to watch the movie. We were able to sit and chat with them for a bit and start to develop friendships. At lunch time we had a rare opportunity to be able to eat prison food. We weren't able to eat with the inmates, but I feel as though we got the full effect. It wasn't bad, but I don't think I would want to eat it more than just that week. After lunch we would meet at the chapel and the women would start to show up. We didn't do much talking before the video started, but after we split up into small groups. The movie was the story of Jesus Christ told from the perspective of Mary Magdalene. The ladies were able to hear Christ's life from a woman's point of view. Me and a couple other people talked to the same two ladies three out of the four days we were there. It was such a blessed opportunity. They were both Christian women, truly seeking to change their lives and move forward out of their sin. We bonded so much in a short period of time, even I was surprised that I teared up saying goodbye. God used us to encourage and speak truth into them. Our project coordinator went through a booklet with them on how to live a Spirit-filled life and then the next day we went through it with all of them women that watched the video. They were just so genuinely ready to get home to their kids and start fresh. I can honestly say that by the end of the week they were my friends. I will never forget them.
I wish I could see everyone appreciate salvation as much as the women we met in prison and the ex-drug addicts I met on the streets. They have destroyed all of their relationships and burned all of their bridges. When they hear that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save them from their sins, it hits them hard. It should hit us all that hard. They have hurt so many people and so many people have hurt them that it's amazing to them that Jesus loves them and will forgive them no matter what. God has shown me so much beauty in the darkest places. These people have so much love for Christ that I wish I could see in all people. We get so trapped in living life and thinking we're good, that we forget the condition of our sin is eternal death. We are all in need of a savior and it's so important to never forget that. They rejoice in His name and worship Him with so much authentic passion, it's poetic in a way. We need to remember that we are all guilty, whether we're behind bars or not.