Going into this trip to Chicago, I was certain I knew what to expect. We would be spending a week at Fourth Presbyterian Church performing mission in and around the community. The program was essentially the same as our CROSS program and was led by interns like ours. Having chaperoned on the Philadelphia mission trip last summer, I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on things and managing a group of excited middle schoolers. Most of the kids were familiar faces to me and were joined with kids from the CYMC that I volunteer with throughout the year. Easy right? Wrong.

Let me be clear; I was wrong in the best of ways. Everything I thought I knew about our kids and what this trip would be like was challenged and made me think differently. Throughout the week, we were challenged to take notice and experience something new. “Get uncomfortable, step outside your box and be truly present in this moment” was Michelle’s charge to us. I watched as kids who normally are quiet come out of their shell and light up the room. They engaged deeply with not only the service they performed but with every person they came in contact with; from homeless neighbors to staff at the church, to people on the train.

We served in many different places throughout the week from food pantries to foster care facilities. We traveled by train, bus and foot to communities all over the city where we met people from all walks of life. Not once did I experience any of them hesitate to show love. On one bus ride, an older lady asked me on the bus where we were from and what brought us to Chicago. I told her we were on a middle school mission trip with our church and were serving in the city. “That’s nice” she said “But are you only speaking service, or are you actually SERVING?” she asked me. Her question made me pause and think for a moment. It’s one thing to say you’re serving, and another to actually do the work. But even then, are you REALLY SERVING?

I found the answer to that question from Lauren, one of the youth from CYMC. She told me “When you volunteer you have to remember you’re doing it for other people. It’s not about you, you’re not trying to please yourself.”

As we leave this place we take with us the words of Micah 6:8 or guiding verse for the week:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God? 

With every act of service, every moment of joy and thought, and with every step, we walked humbly with our God.