The final day is always bittersweet. There is the joy of having accomplished something significant, yet there are tears from departing our new friends.
Rounding out our last day of mission work, we surveyed two more neighborhoods for community needs future church planters can reach and meet. One of the areas was quite wealthy and had many Orthodox Jews, there was a synagogue in the middle of the neighborhood. The leaders purposefully stood back to let the students engage with the people. And engage they did! The students would walk right up to strangers in a park and hold a conversation about the local community. We gathered a lot of good information about these communities.
After a couple hours surveying, we rode the bus to Reading Terminal Market to eat lunch. We intentionally choose to use public transportation for all our transportation needs on this trip. It took a day or two before we were somewhat comfortable being on the buses, but now we are right at home on the buses. When someone outside of our group sits beside any of our team, a conversation is often struck up with the local in the most natural way.
With a quick return to the church we are staying at, we ride the transit system for the final day of sports camp. Today's sport was baseball. Not many of the children had experience with baseball, so fundamentals were emphasized. Bo was part of the batting station and he went the extra mile for these kids. He worked one-on-one with the small children to ensure they were able to hit the ball.
The grass was so high a baseball wouldn't roll more than a few feet before stopping, so we switched the game to kickball for the final event. The smaller children had to be guided pretty much every step of the way, so the students ran beside and constantly encouraged the children to run as fast as they could.
As usual, Tim wrapped it all up with a discussion about Jesus. Having already presented the Gospel over the last three days, Tim only needed to remind the kids about what he already said to make his point. It was a precious moment when Tim mentioned asking Jesus into their hearts and a few of the children jumped up and down saying, "Oh yeah! I did that a few days ago!"
We believe six, maybe seven, accepted Christ over this week due to the sports camp. We know many families were shown the love of Christ due to the children going home so excited by the camp. A few parents were so ecstatic, they asked if they could help us run the camp; we graciously accepted their offer and they were running right beside their own child around the bases during kickball.
One of the girls in the camp, Kate, attended last year's camp and the student's relationship with this young girl has significantly grown this week. Rebecca suggested we attend Kate's basketball game tonight. We kept it a surprise and over half the team showed up to her game to cheer her on.
The children were so sad to see us leave. Everyone was hugging and exchanging contact info and promising to return next year. It was hard to rush through the farewells, but we had to catch a train back to the church.
The train takes us as far as downtown Philly, right beside City Hall and the famous LOVE sign. To get to the church, we have to take a connecting bus a short walk from the train station. While we were waiting for the bus to arrive, we took some pictures with the LOVE sign. Right beside it, we met Jesus! Well, at least someone who intentionally dressed like him. The man dresses like Jesus and tells the gospel to everyone who will hear him. With his long hair and white tunic, there was a constant stream of people coming right up to him to see what he was doing dressed so oddly. He said he is a disciple of Jesus who dresses like him to get people thinking about what Christ has done from them.
After dinner, Alec, Trey, and Philip went around the dining hall to sing personalized ad lib songs to the leaders and students. It was an amazing way to end the day. Everyone was uplifted by the hilarious lyrics and zany antics of the trio.
This trip has been more successful than we could have ever imagined. Not only was the sports camp wildly successful, we reached communities and people who could only stare and point at some of the service projects we took on—they couldn’t believe anyone would take the time to do the simple things we did. City council members and chamber of commerce members noticed our work and wanted to keep in contact with our group so we can do even more in the future. Doors have been opened left and right. God is working in Philadelphia.
Tomorrow we will take our customary "fun day" to tour some of the city. I hear Joel has lined up a private tour of a local attraction that has everyone excited to go see. Tune in tomorrow to find out how that goes!
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Eastside Baptist Church
2450 Lower Roswell Rd.
Marietta, GA 30068
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