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Day 8: Seeing the Sights

After a long week serving the community for the Lord, we have a day of touring the city. The day is filled with everyone getting pictures at landmarks and places of interest.

We have passed City Hall and JFK Plaza several times this week, but not had much time to appreciate the sights and get proper group pictures. We make sure everyone gets all the pictures they want.

Riding over to Old City, we split up into several groups. Some stopped by Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but the lines were super long. A small group went by the Mütter Museum, a medical museum. Yet another went by Christ Church (seven of the founding fathers attended there), Elfreth's Alley (the nation's oldest residential street), and the docks, where they saw several ships, including a docked military ship on the other side of the water.

We liked the Reading Terminal Market so much, we went back again today for lunch. Everybody tried something new this time around, though everything was delicious.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP). ESP is an abandoned prison a few miles from downtown Philly. Built in 1829, it operated until 1971. Among some of its notable prisoners, Al Capone was incarcerated here.

We had a scheduled, after-hours tour of ESP. The tour guide was quite good, explaining and bringing up historical and modern issues with the prison system, both with ESP and other prisons. Outside, the Gothic architecture was intended to deter crime by being an imposing prison on a hill, although now the city has surrounded it completely. Inside, the halls were designed to look like a church with their high, curved ceilings. Everything about the inside of the original building was designed to encourage reflection from the prisoners. The prison originally operated under a methodology of mostly solitary confinement for all prisoners, with genuine penitence being the ultimate goal. Later years saw the impracticality of several aspects of that, and the increasing prison population eventually led to the abandonment of that mentality to a more utilitarian philosophy.

The issues raised by the tour guide made us think about the United States' justice system and if there are ways to improve it. A few discussions over dinner revolved around this topic. Dinner was ordered in from two local restaurants, Lazo's and Angelino's, a few blocks from the church. Over the week, we've ordered several lunches from Lazo's and built a great relationship with the owner. The staff was great and willing to work with such a big group on a Friday night. On hearing tonight would be our last day in Philly, the owner insisted on taking a photo of the group who went to pick up the food. The pizza, stromboli, and wings were amazing!

Dinner was succeeded by worship, taking communion, and prayer for and with each other. Mission trip worship times are always something special, but the last night with communion and the prayer brings out joyful tears and many hugs among the team.

Our flight time allows us to sleep in and catch up on some sleep. Our flight is scheduled to arrive in Atlanta around 7:30pm. We look forward to meeting our families at the airport and driving back to our own homes. See you later today!