As pastor Tim said tonight at our end-of-day group time, “God was in the house today!”
We had another much-needed later start. Several of the chaperones hosted breakfast of bacon and pancakes. Afterwards, we went to City Island, a mile-long island in the Susquehanna river for a cruise on the paddleboat, the Pride of the Susquehanna.
Right near the boat landing, there was a small covered pavillion under which was a group of wounded veterans of various ages having a get-together for food, music, fellowship, and support of one another.
PJ approached a man who seemed to be in charge and asked if we might sing the national anthem for them. They agreed, and we sang it. Some stood and saluted. PJ then asked if they’d be willing to let the group sing one gospel song for them. They had a sound system set up, and I had my iPad with me. They agreed to allow us to plug into their system and sing. Once again the group touched peoples hearts. Imagine if you were having a small function, and a 65 member youth choir showed up and asked if they might perform for you! They were quite appreciative and encouraging. Before we left, a young veteran approached me and said “Thank you all for coming by here today. Many of these men and women have lost their way during their times in combat, and I know that your young people have shown them the way back.” WOW!
We split up into 3 groups of around 25 kids each and spent the afternoon doing mission work. One group went to Caitlin’s Smiles, an organization that began with a mother simply providing little bags of crayons and coloring books as distraction for her young daughter who was dealing with hospitalizations from cancer. That organization now provides those bags to children dealing with serious illness in multiple hospitals in Pennsylvania and the surrounding states.
A second group volunteered at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, which distributes more than 48 million pounds of food and grocery products, equivalent to more than 40 million meals, every year to more than 900 soup kitchens, shelters, and food pantries in 27 central Pennsylvania counties. These agencies directly feed thousands of hungry families throughout central Pennsylvania.
Mission Central was the 3rd mission opportunity. It is a United Methodist mission warehouse that provides help for those in need locally, nationally, and internationally. Some of our kids prepared packets of gloves to be sent to midwives and doctors abroad who deliver babies. A group of middle school boys sorted through donated shoes, and prepared/packed around 400 pairs of shoes today that will be sent to those in third world countries who are in need of shoes. Some of the high school girls swept the huge warehouse for nearly three hours. The high school boys provided muscle for moving things around the warehouse floor.
We made a quick stop at the mall for dinner. When we arrived back at our buses in the mall parking lot, each of the four had parking citations for $100 on the windshields. All of the adults were in disbelief that this would happen. We parked correctly, didn’t we? We parked away from the crowds. What was the problem? PJ definitely gets the most out of the monetary resources Ignite has, and $400 in parking tickets would sting. Then a few of the older boys started to smile at our distress and confessed to their evil (and completely ingenious and successful) plan–revealing that the tickets were not real, but well-devised, authentic-appearing pranks. Genius!! Well done boys, well done.
The final stop for the day was Bethesda Mission, a mission in downtown Harrisburg for men who are homeless. As PJ later explained to the kids, the mission doesn’t provide a hand out to these men, it provides a “hand up.” They provide for the physical needs of these men (a place to sleep and food to eat) as well as providing them training, skills, recovery programs and more, all in a Christian setting.
PJ explained to the group that she had no idea what kind of reception would await us for our performance, but we were going to give them our very best. We set up in their chapel and the Holy Spirit set the place on fire! The men there were extremely supportive with claps and praises and encouragement–often standing and praising the Lord. The kids sang their hearts out and every face in the choir was smiling with joy. Tears were shed. Hearts were touched. Thank you Lord! Logan, one of our seniors, and I were packing up after the program, and he said to me, “Mr. Noah, this is what this is all about, isn’t it?” Enough said.
After the program, we provided ice cream for a social time and heard from some of the men about their lives and backgrounds. We met a man, Robert, who is from Lumberton. Another man, named Souvenir, is from Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). He told Bo and me that he was touched to see “the next generation” being brought up to love the Lord.
Tonight’s end-of-day meeting was so encouraging. Many Ignite members articulated a feeling of connection with the men there and a joy in singing Christ’s message to them. We explained that the experience they had was not simply a “feeling.” What they experienced was an encounter with the Holy Spirit–that comes to us when we are completely in line with God’s will.
We can feel your prayers and ask you to keep them coming. We love you all back home!
Make sure to check out this short video one of the chaperones captured in that room tonight.