2014 Mission Trip Blog!

July 19,2014

Friday blended into Saturday; after we finished the bike tour, we headed back to the hostel with a stop for dinner. Bolt Burgers was right next door to the hostel and it was a good compromise for everyone, especially since it was 10pm and our options were dwindling. Nothing disappointing about a build your own burger joint with a side of fries and a group of 16 children.  Julia may have a different opinion as she was the first to order and the last to get her food but with a full stomach and the rest of the night ahead of us we were good to go. We returned to the hostel and there was an immediate rush for the showers. With our train departing from DC at 5:25am and a very early check out from the hostel, it was easier for to allow the kids to stay up all night. Majority of the kids tried to watch a couple of movies, others tried to shoot some pool and the rest just sat around and talked. Union Station at 4am in the morning was still a great place to people watch. With the cleaning crew getting preparing for another busy day and travelers like us waiting for our train, Au Bon Pain was our friend (open 24 hours). A group of 20 at 5am, does lead to some questions fortunately the police women that asked was very friendly and arranged with Amtrak to let us board early so that we could all sit together. Some of us, that did stay up all night, sat down and immediately fell asleep.

Our arrival into New Haven was met with happy parents and we greeted them with dirty clothing. It was another successful NMCC Mission trip. We learned a little more about each other and grew in our faith as we served others.

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July 18, 2014

A day of leisure is in our plans for today. With a healthy breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, we were well prepared for a tour of Ford’s Theater. Inside the theater we learned about the struggles that President Lincoln encountered throughout his presidency and during the war. While sitting in the theater section of the museum, a Park Ranger told the story of the assassination of President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth.  After our walk through history, it was time to visit the National Zoo, via the Metro. Over this past week we have become more proficient with public transportation, where it only took us 5 minutes of staring at a map to figure out where we were going. We get to the National Zoo Metro stop and encounter the longest escalator we have ever seen.  Anyone with a fear of heights might have considered this escalator a challenge as we did witness one woman refuse to get on, even with the coaxing of her children. But not our kids, up we went, back onto street level and in search of another Dunkin Donuts for some much needed caffeine.

It was another great day for the Zoo, sunny but with low humidity, the temperature was manageable and the “It’s so hot” comments lessened to one every half hour.  Immediately, a majority of our group went in search of the Giant Pandas or Elephants, while others enjoyed the Zoo by observing Howler Monkeys, which were surprisingly very quiet. Pink Flamingos were also scattered among the exhibited animals, along with Emu’s, and other oddly named birds. The group spent a total of three hours at the Zoo- one hour navigating the many paths, one realizing many cages were empty because we had visited on cage cleaning day, and the third making jokes as to where the animals REALLY went. The Zoo, in sum, was entertaining for all in one way or another.

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Shortly after the Zoo, our group headed toward a noodles restaurant. We refueled with pesto, curry, and Mac and cheese noodles, trying the many flavors offered at this unique food joint. Then, with a stop at the Hostel for a quick rest, the group was eventually mentally and physically prepared for the bike tour. Now, the bike tour was interesting, exhilarating, different, and educational. Each member of our group was given a helmet, a neon vest, water, a bike, and the trust that we wouldn’t veer down dark alleys or into cars. Our two tour guides, one a former youth pastor, and the other an admissions worker at American University, brought us to six moments in total. Both of them supplied us with many fun facts and trivia questions about our destinations.  First was the George Washington Monument, which originally had an elevator that timed twelve minutes to the top and was so dangerous only men could take it. Then all twenty two of us, single file, headed to the White House, for another fun fact filled informational on the building itself. With six underground floors, thirty six bathrooms and twenty eight fire places, the White House proved to surprise us all. The Lincoln Memorial also surprised our group, considering our bike guides informed us that the dimensions of the large pool, directly located in front of the memorials steps, was actually built to small. The entire length of the reflection of the Washington Monument was meant to fit into pool, however only ¾ of the reflections is actually visible from ground level viewing. Our group was lead to a giant structure of Albert Einstein, where we rubbed his nose in hopes of becoming smarter, as our guides said to be true. Then we biked off to The War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and the Korean Memorial which truly captured the loss, sacrifice, and bravery each American Soldier made for our country. Lastly the Jefferson Memorial, with a view of the Washington Monument, really tied together the wonderful image and feeling of American Spirit of D.C.

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July 17, 2014

Since the rain on Tuesday night, the weather has been wonderful; sunny, mid 80’s and low humidity. Our experiences in helping people who are homeless has also been great so the group was excited for another day of helping.

Morgan’s & Mr. Sachs’ groups: Milan, Reid, Reed, Tyler, Emma, Maggie, Olivia, Kat

The group was working with Thrive a shelter supporting the homeless. They had to be at the shelter at 8am and since traveling around DC using public transportation can be time consuming, the had to leave the hostel at 7:15am. Work started once they arrived, some were placed into the kitchen helping to cook breakfast, others had to help hand towels out so that people could take showers and the rest were asked to clean. The benefits of working early at in the day meant that they were finished early and after grabbing lunch, they were off to examine another museum.

Pastor Jim’s and Mr Chin’s groups: Devin, Ryan, Matt,  Sabrina, Ryland, Conor, Gracie, Julia

Our group was able to sleep in and left the hostel at 8:30am to head toward SOME (So Others May Eat). A well organized soup kitchen, we were put to work preparing the lunch for the day (macaroni and tuna salad, fruit, mixed vegetables and bread). Some of us were then assigned to serve the food, others were pouring drinks and as with all kitchens, two were assigned cleaning dishes. Lunch at SOME was fast, lunch was served at 11:30am and 12:30pm and  it was an assembly line. As the people walked into the door they were handed a plate of food and then directed toward a table. Our lunch service was blessed with a pianist, after a man finished his lunch, he sat at the piano and played for the rest of the time that we were working.

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Both groups gathered back at YSOP later in the afternoon. We discussed our experiences throughout the week and then said our good-byes as our work with YSOP was over. After dinner, some of the group went to explore the Air&Space Museum while the others stayed back at the hostel talkin and enjoying a movie.

 

July 16, 2014

Pastor Jim’s and Mr Chin’s groups: Devin, Ryan, Matt,  Sabrina, Ryland, Conor, Gracie, Julia

Pastor Jim: As we’re learning more about homelessness we’re “getting it” that it’s a condition not an identity. So rather than say “Bill is homeless”, we can say “Bill is suffering from homelessness”. It’s not a big difference but it addresses the most debilitating part of living on the street, according to Alan, who talked to us of his homeless experience: dehumanization.

Ryan: Today we went to a really nice retirement home (Unique Residential Care Center). While we were there we met some very interesting people. One man would look at you and then just start laughing. There was also this little old lady who was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. After that we went and did some service projectURCCs. Mr. Chin and I attempted to clean a kitchen floor. We almost flooded the kitchen. Thankfully we stopped the water and mopped it up.

 

 

Morgan’s & Mr. Sachs’ groups: Milan, Reid, Reed, Tyler, Emma, Maggie, Olivia, Kat

Milan: Today our group’s went to S.O.M.E. an association that provides breakfast and lunch to the hungry. We served two different lunch waves-some of us pouring coffee/tea and others serving food and clearing plates. We were able to talk to the families and share some laughs with the SOME staff.

Tyler & Olivia: Today we were able to work in a soup Kitchen and it was a great experience. This soup kitchen was really well organized and well run so when we got there it was easy to fit in and begin work. It was nice to meet with all the people that came in and see how excited they were to get their food. Overall it was a great day and a fun day that ended with a relaxing outdoor movie in the NOMA area.

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July 15, 2014

Morgan:  On Tuesday we:

1. Left the hostel minutes before our planned departure time.

2. Got a tour of the U.S Capitol, observed the Senate Floor and took the underground trolley to the Hart building

3.Went to the Botanical Gardens

4. Made sandwiches and packed toiletries bags which they then handed out to homeless people we passed on the street.

5. Bought water with their own money for a homeless man

6. Pushed a homeless man in a wheelchair across the street and later invited him to join us for dinner (de declined).

7. Cooked, served and ate dinner with 40 special guests who enjoyed storytelling, lemonade, board games and laughter together. It was a long day and full of pushing our comfort zone to provide comfort to others. I’m one proud Youth Group Leader – Morgan

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What is a trip to Washington, DC without a visit to the Capital? Thanks to Morgan and some early planning, Morgan was able to schedule a visit to Senator Chris Murphy’s office that included a tour or the Capital. We were not able to see Senator Murphy himself, but two lucky interns were available to give us the VIP tour. The tour was VIP because we were allowed to travel from Senator Murphy’s building to the Capital through the underground system that included a ride on the underground trolley and tickets to get into the Senate Gallery. Viewing the Senate in action was just like C-Span, but being close-up and live. The Botanical Gardens was next on the agenda with a quick stroll through the building to enjoy the local and not so-local plant life.

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The afternoon was spent doing our YSOP service project for the day. We all made PB&J sandwiches and included in the lunch bags were some simple toiletries (soap & lotion). Each group then walked around the neighborhood, in an attempt to locate a homeless person and give them a lunch bag. It took the group some time to find some people and hand out the lunch bags but mission accomplished.

Participating with the YSOP organization also meant that YSOP has the opportunity to cook dinner for those in need. This week besides the NMCC group, YSOP had a group of 20 SYG/JYG people from Mechanicsburg, Pa. The guests that we served dinner to may not have been only homeless but also people that were simply struggling to make ends meet. Planning for 40 guests (and 40 of us), we began cooking a menu of: baked chicken, homemade mac  n’ cheese, homemade cole slaw, garlic bread and cupcakes or ice cream for dessert seemed a bit daunting but the hustle of the children cooking and setting the tables was impressive. The doors opened at 6pm and our guests came strolling. The first 30 minutes of the dinner was time to mingle with games and popcorn at each table, the kids were able to sit around and talk to each person. As with all initial meetings, the first 5 minutes seemed a bit awkward but a SYGer  with a smile and a laugh breaks through all the ice and the dining room was soon filled with lively conversation. The night ended with some sadness first because the conversations had to end but more importantly the it was realization that it was raining outside and some of these people had to go out and find a dry place to sleep for the night.

 

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Our group’s night did end on a good note as Julia finally caught up with us at the Hostel. The world traveler that she is, was in Spain the week prior, came home and got down to DC . Our SYG Mission trip group is now complete.

July 14, 2014

A good night’s sleep and a couple of band-aids are great cures for weary legs and some minor blisters. Youth Service Opportunity Project (YSOP) is the organization that we are working with this year. This organization links volunteers likes us to other non-profit organizations around the DC area that need help with a focus on the homeless. After introductions about themselves and the work that they do, we were split into two groups, given our folders and our adventures began

Morgan’s & Mr. Sachs’ groups: Milan, Reid, Reed, Tyler, Emma, Maggie, Olivia, Kat

Our group was assigned to work at Playtime. A service for young parents who may be in transition from homeless to having a place to live.  This program gives them some evening opportunities for free daycare in order for them to attend parenting classes and seek employment. When we arrived at the facility we were warmly greeted by the site coordinator (Zoey). She explained that this was one of the newest facilities of its kind in DC. and the necessity of the program. She hoped that we would  be able to thoroughly clean, vacuum and mopp the entire daycare center, so off we went. We repaired a vacuum cleaner and Reid S and Olivia organized a large toy closet by sorting through all the toys and costumes and identifying items no longer needed. Olivia and Reid entertained the group while trying to fit into children’s ballerina outfits!!! Reed B. helped build a shelf to organize the closet and Emma, Maggie and Milan scrubbed clean all the children’s toys. Kat did a great job organizing and cleaning and later Tyler and Milan worked on the baby room. Kat rocked on the mop while Tyler and Emma were vacuuming pros! Morgan became the furniture sterilization queen.  Jim S hung toys and fixed loose tables and such. At the end of the day, the daycare center was spotless and smelled like an ad for disinfectant. Our group was proud of the cleaner environment we left for the twenty or so children who use the site!

Pastor Jim’s and Mr Chin’s groups: Devin, Ryan,Matt,  Sabrina, Ryland, Conor, Gracie

Washington Parks and People (WPP) manages some of the parks within the DC area. The particular park that we went to, was in severe disrepair. Over the past 10 years, WPP has dedicated the time and volunteers to beautify and maintain the park. Working outside is always something to be happy about, except when it is 95oF, sunny, humid and little shade to work under. Our goal for the day was to remove the over growing vines and trees that lined some backyards. Fortunately, some volunteers from YouthWorks were also working with our group. The work was hard, particularly removing the vines but after 2 hours of a lot of sweat,  the work that did made a difference. After lunch, our time was limited so we organized their collection of donated bikes and inventoried all the inner tubes that they had collected over the years before hopping on the bus to head back to YSOP.

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With all the groups back at YSOP and our service completed for the day, it was time to learn more about being homeless. Allen was our guest speaker and recanted his life journey from having a successful career and family to becoming homeless (twice) and finally to where he is today. Allen’s goal was to show that homelessness can effect anyone and that a homeless person has feelings and that a smile or a hello can make a huge difference in their lives. Our night ended with a quick bus ride to Georgetown to visit Thomas Sweets (ice cream) or DC Cupcakes.

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July 13, 2014 IMG_20140713_084259_221 Guten Tag!  Or any other “good morning”, in a different language, was the requirement to get into the breakfast line. John, our breakfast host  at the hostel, has learned to say good morning in over 65 different languages using this method, and is currently trying to become fluent in Spanish. After talking to John about some of his favorite languages, we headed out towards the White House. Where is Roberta when we need her? Flowers are in bloom, and without an expert gardener, Mr. Sachs and Mr. Chin were left scratching their heads and making up family and genera! We saw the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol Building in all their glory. We attended the First Congregational Church, UCC DC, for our Sunday Service. The church was recently rebuilt and designed to be warm and inviting. The church was extremely modern and fit the streamlined, glass surroundings of the ultra-modern Washington businesses in this district. The congregation was also  trying to build a church, “full of light” and boy did they achieve it. The church did not dissapoint. We were warmly welcomed by their Greeters. The service was made extra special when Pastor Jim was invited to close the service with a Benediction. The Holocaust Museum was next on the agenda after a lunch break.  An eye opening experience that one does not learn in history books (or the books that I read). To truly appreciate the magnitude of the museum, we would have needed all day, but the symphony awaited, and we needed to get to the Kennedy Center. By the end of the week, we may be professional Metro riders, but until then, Devin needs to wait for the gate to open before trying to walk through.  The Kennedy Center is impressive in so many ways, from the amazing views from the massive roof terrace of the Pentagon, Lincoln Memorial, Air Force Memorial and the Watergate Hotel, to the entire view of the Potomac and Basin – the scale of the building is remarkable. Inside the Kennedy Center, the two foyers are massive and gorgeous. The giant Bronze Bust of JFK is extraordinary. The NSO Summer Institute held a free Sunday afternoon symphony put on by youth from around the US. Some of the adults commented that the youth symphony did not miss a note and was perfect. One of our kids said, “they were pretty great for being our age!” IMG_20140713_174957_165   We finished the night with a dinner at Old Ebbit Grille. The restaurant has a turn of the century, patriotic and electoral theme and there were many reproductions of famous American paintings.  Everyone enjoyed fine food and a courageous waiter willing to teach and let some of us balance up to five plates on one arm. No food was spilled or plates were damaged.   IMG_20140713_212552_108

 

July 12, 2014 Hostelling International At about 5pm on a Saturday, the NMCC Senior Youth Group stepped into  the humid air of Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. With the hustle and bustle of foreigners and natives  surrounding our platform, Union Station became our first encounter with the District of Columbia. Traveling through the Metro and walking through the streets of DC as a group is nerve racking and humorous. Similar to our car convoys, a trail of children can span across an entire block such that timing the crosswalks and staying together becomes the challenge. IMG_20140712_182305_408 The hostel that we are staying at (Hostelling International) has air conditioning (what a blessing). There is a room for the boys and one for the girls (5 bunk beds each room). After checking in and freshening up, we started walking again, this time in search of food trucks by the monuments. Unfortunately, the tech savy children can not read a map and we found ourselves zig-zagging through the streets. Although the buildings were architectually beautiful, empty stomachs does not lead to true appreciation.  Our efforts to find food trucks was abandoned and we settled for a sit down Mexican restaurant. The walk back to the hostel seemed shorter with full bellies and we finished up our night with our group gathering. A Prayer and an Alumni Our SYG Mission trip 2014 started off in a completely different fashion this year. No one needed a traveling pillow, an EZPass or a full tank of gas. Instead we all met at Union Station, New Haven Ct., circled around each other and began our trip with prayers for another successful misson trip. Thanks to the Board of Deacons, each one of us was presented with a goodie bag that would help us endure the 5 hour train ride. How small is the world or how large is the NMCC family? As we were waiting for our train the Heidi and Bob Perrone walk through the doors along with Megan, who was on her way back home to Baltimore. Even more ironic was that Megan was on the same train. Although they were happy to see other NMCC people, disappointment soon took over as we told them the bad news that the train was 40 minutes late! IMG_20140712_111710_098     All Aboard!   Finally, after a 50 minute delay we are on the Amtrak train headed to Washington, DC. Morgan, our leader, was truly prepared negotiating with Amtrak for the group tickets. Even more impressive was that when we boarded Amtrak opened up another car, allowing the entire group to sit together. Coincidence? Doubt it.           IMG_20140712_101855_736 SYGmission NMCC Senior Youth Group participants Front: Jeff Chin, Morgan Aery Middle row: Olivia Chasse, Devin Maus, Kat Allen, Ryan Murphy, Sabrina Dibello, Emma Connolly, Pastor Jim, Maggie Shea Back row: Matt Parker, Conor Dickson, Ryland Chin Gracie Gilbert, Tyler Phan, Reid Staples, Reed Berestecky, Milan Sachs, Jim Sachs