November 21, 2017
It is a muggy Thursday afternoon in Uptown, Chicago and I am standing in a small apartment kitchen wearing a trash bag, throwing spices into several large pots of tomato soup whilst listening to Kidz Bop.
If you had asked me what I expected from my Passage experience the Saturday I boarded my 7 AM flight from Boston to Chicago, it most likely would not have been this. The word “unexpected” can be used to summarize a majority of my experiences on Passage - after all, walking through the streets of Chicago blindfolded and sharing the intimate details of your life story with near strangers is not part of the typical college experience. Neither is the deep love of Christ I found in my fellow Passage members, student leaders and interactions with the surrounding Chicago community. I had prayed for a smooth and successful transition into college, and God answered me in the most unlikely of ways - with exceedingly more blessings than I could have imagined.
Several hours and 250 grilled cheese sandwiches later that same Thursday evening, eight passage freshman girls and two student leaders trek into the southside of Chicago with several large vats of tomato soup, waters, bananas and grilled cheeses perched precariously at various intervals throughout our large white van. We are slightly worn out and definitely covered in pan grease, but a sense of accomplishment and pride fills the space in excited conversations. The past several days exploring God’s unconditional love as a group and sharing that love with one another has filled us with a desire to bring that love to the people we will serve tonight.
Over the course of an hour the sandwiches and soup go fast, but people linger to swap stories and gospel songs that permeate the atmosphere with praise. I feel this deep joy of shared human connection that occurs when people set aside their differences and focus on the one common link that binds us - Jesus. The unexpected happens again - I came prepared to intentionally share the love of Christ with the community of Englewood but left impacted by the steadfast faith and graciousness of a community entangled in a struggle with social injustice, oppression and systemic poverty. I have been on missions trips and served with my church in the past, but this was the first experience where I genuinely told those I served that my desire was to be “the hands and feet of Jesus”. The unending compassion and grace I saw in the encounters of each of my Passage group members with those we served made it evident that I was not alone in this. The stories of meaningful interactions and reminders of God’s goodness each of us carried back to the Uptown apartments that night was a revealing of the kingdom work going on amidst the brokenness of the world.