Our team arrived in Chicago Saturday and had an evening of bonding time in the city. There is nothing like Uno's Pizza to start off a mission trip! Sunday morning we visited the New Life Church inside Chicago Hope Academy and had an amazing worship experience.

The pastor was teaching on the book of James which is what every mission trip with Heal Ministries starts on. James 1:27 is the scripture that Heal Ministries is founded on. How does Chicago Hope Academy fit in? The majority of the families are single parent homes and some of the kids do not live with either parent. Most every student here has experience some type of abandonment: divorce, killings, gangs, poverty, etc. Our mission teams goals are to serve humbly, be strengthened in Christ and to build relationships.
Today, we worked along with students that attend CHA. We scraped rust, painted a fire escape and cleaned out a garden area. The truth is, CHA would be just fine if we did not show up and the work would be done......maybe even better! We are here for the experience and the pure joy of spending time with the students. We always think that an American mission trip is so different than a mission trip out of the country. That is not true.
A hurting heart is the same all around the world. Abandonment feels the same whether you are playing basketball in a city like Chicago or playing marbles in Africa. Poverty evokes the same feelings in any location. The one thing that is different here at Chicago Hope Academy is that these kids have been taught that they can make a difference. They can be lights in a hurting world and be a mentor to all who are lucky enough to be in their presence.
Today, we spent time with a student that just graduated. He has never known his dad and his mother is a drug addict. He lives with his aunt who is in her early twenties and has 4 children of her own. He would rather spend time at Chicago Hope after school than go back to the projects that have become his home. He is a fighter. He believes that God is in control and he will succeed in college because he has been given HOPE. This is why we are here: to love and encourage the students and the staff for the excellence they have achieved.
Tonight we went to a little league baseball game which is how Chicago Hope Academy started. Bob Muzikowsky was given community service and started a little league many years ago. God has used Bob to change the course of many students and the students were chosen to change his course as well. The student that we got to know today that will be going to a college in August is because of a man that desired to give that little league baseball player an opportunity. To be given an opportunity to better yourself is priceless. We have learned so much in the two days that we have been here. We have learned that Christ is real at Chicago Hope and that we have been blessed to receive an opportunity to serve. We have already experienced Jesus from the students and the staff. We have painted and cleared a garden but God planted lifetime memories in the smiles of a student that is going to college because of Chicago Hope Academy.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27