08 Aug 2013

Little Lights Mission Trip 2013

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In early July, CTPC sent a youth group team to serve Little Lights Urban Ministries located in South East, DC. Little Lights works with families in local public housing units to provide them resources and opportunities. Our team consisted of Teresa, Joshua, Jessica, Yi-Ying, Shuai-Ya, Mayline, Erica, and Jason.

The children that we were serving came from challenging circumstances: the average family income is half of minimum wage, they often come from single family homes or are being raised by someone who isn’t their parent, and they’re surrounded by an environment where drug trafficking is common and the threat of violence is high. Jason and Shuai-ya were shocked when a young child picked up a pill from the ground and jokingly asked them if they “wanted to pop a molly (ecstasy)”. (everyone involved declined.)

Because parents are either uninvolved or working multiple jobs, the children are often left unattended or bear the burden of adult worries. Jessica recounted a story where a young boy asked her if he could have the toy salamander that she had just created. She said yes, assuming he wanted to play with it, but instead he said perhaps he could sell it to someone so that his family wouldn’t have to rely on food stamps. It was a sobering reminder that we have a long way to go before we understand what challenges these kids are faced with in life.

This is where Little Light’s great work comes in. Almost every day during the year, they offer activities and programming for the kids, right in their own neighborhood. The kids love to come, and, for many of them, we realized it was one of the few places where they were free to just be a kid and to be properly equipped for a life outside of the projects. The kids are drawn in by loving staff who create and enforce a safe environment for the children to learn, play, and hear the Gospel. Through love and discipline the children are visibly changed as they learn to love themselves and one another.

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While sitting around the arts and craft table painting picture frames, one of the girls kept messing up and started putting herself down. “I’m no good at this, I stink at everything I do!” Another boy at the table, however, quoting from Steve’s sermon he had heard earlier on self-worth, said “No, you’re fearfully and wonderfully made. You’re knitted from the womb!” It’s very encouraging to see kids remember what they’re being taught and applying it throughout the day.

When we first arrived we were met by an unexpected surprise: we had anticipated staying in the Little Lights main center, in a transitioning neighborhood, but were told instead that we were going to be staying in the Little Lights apartments in Anacostia. In all honesty, it was challenging at first. There was one bathroom for eight people, there were dead cockroaches in the corners, and, strangely enough, the four locks on the door and the barred windows some how made it feel less safe. After the first few days though, we grew to see the housing as a blessing and a privilege because we had a taste of what life is like for the kids we worked with. In the end, the apartment was a place to pray, a place to rest, a place to share meals and to call home. It was great to know that God would help us treasure what the world may dismiss.

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For our team it was a great week. We were pushed outside our comfort zones, challenged, and blessed because of it. Some members of the team even went back the following week to help out more. We grew together, and most importantly we saw how God was working in DC through the amazing servants who were working at Little Lights. We saw with our own eyes and testify that He is truly the God that defends the weak and the fatherless and upholds the cause of the poor and the oppressed. (Psalm 82:3) Praise the Lord!

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