Every once in a while, it's good to read reports like this
This past spring break, Generation Xcel hosted 6 or 7 InterVarsity NYCUP volunteers. Christina and Jeff are returning this summer for internships. Jodi posted lengthy reflections online, which I found today for the first time. Here's an excerpt:
"I did leave on that last day with a heavy heart. My insides were churning. I had become attached to those kids, those faces, even that small strip of Avenue D, even their maintainence guy Enrique. What would happen to them? Was God calling me to help with this program? Would God keep it from shutting down due to lack of grant money? As we waited for the subway, I talked with Stephen. What he told me was something along the lines of: find peace in the fact that God is restoring them, that God's heart is broken for them. ... "On the last afternoon of helping at Generation X-Cel, after the kids had left, the high-schoolers, Kristina (the site coordinator) and my team circled up to pray for the program. I was blown away by the prayers coming out of these mouths, the passion exuded by people I barely knew at the departing of people they had only met for four days. I thought that we were the only ones being changed, but I realized that we had made a change in their lives too. And standing there, holding hands with a high school mentor on one side and Jeff from NYU on the other, I knew that this was what Heaven was going to be like--all of us on common ground, people of all ethnicities, people of all backgrounds, of all histories, all crying out with praise to the One who created us--and at that moment, I saw myself not as praying with latino teenagers from worlds away, but as praying with my brothers and sisters in Christ. "God is cooking something, Anna told us, so let it stew. ...Then I found this one, from Steven, another NYCUP vounteer:
"We were in the basement of a housing project, just a few blocks from NYU in the Lower East Side. Our team was assigned to Generation X-Cel for the week, and that's where we met Taco. He was one of the high school volunteers who came in to help out with the younger kids after school each day. And he was everything you'd expect from a guy named Taco. Cornrows, sweet dance moves, backflips...always looking to joke with you. You couldn't help but know Taco right away. "But it wasn't until Wednesday that he told us his story. It could be a movie, except no one would pay to see so much sadness. Gangs and guns and drugs and death, all the elements you'd expect; all before he became a teenager... (I'm sorry, I can't write his story. I've been sitting here, back in my dorm room, trying to find the words to paint with. But it's not a story meant to shock or inspire you. It's just one of many from this week.) ... "We said our good-byes (our see you laters) yesterday afternoon; of course, we couldn't do it without praying together. So we stood holding hands in a circle, NYU students with kids from the ghetto, two worlds separated by mere miles colliding in order to create a sweet, sweet sound. And to hear Taco pray Jesus God...Father God...Jesus God... "In our final small group last night, we were asked what we would take home from the week? My answer was that I can see the city again with tears in my eyes."And this, from Regis:
"I volunteered at Generation Xcel that week, an after-school program for kids in the Lower East Side, Alphabet City. It was such a blessed time to relax and play with the kids, and fellowship with the Christians there. "My time at NYCUP opened my eyes. I began to see Jesus in the poor and homeless, in the disenfranchised and powerless. Jesus Himself had all these attributes as a man. But as Christ, He is all powerful, seated at the right hand of the Father, with all the riches of the universe at His feet. So now, He calls us to take up His cross and follow Him - for if we seek nothing else but Him and to be transformed into His likeness, we will be blessed. "But here is the big part: we should seek to be like Christ as He was here on the earth, so that we might be like Him when we are resurrected. For now I'll leave it at that; may Christ enlighten the eyes of our understanding to be transformed into His likeness. I'll say bye for now; meditate on this: "'Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.'"Special thanks to the effervescent and jubilant Anna Lee, the NYU InterVarsity staff worker who was one of the famous "seven college students who paid to intern with us" the summer we opened Xcel and co-directed this spring's NYCUP experience. Anna reports the following about Dennis, another of the Xcel volunteers:
"Dennis, who was not a Christian before NYCUP, became one by the time it was all said and done. I am realizing that NYCUP is less of a typical "missions trip" and more of a sitting among the poor, like Job's friends did for him, and meeting the living God in the process. You can't help but be changed in the process, like Dennis (I love brining not-yet-Christians into Christian community. They don't stand a chance!)."