Last week on Wednesday, I boarded a plane at about 6am for Phoenix with people from my church, most of whom I didn’t know well. I didn’t have many expectations only to work hard and sacrifice my introvert time! We arrived in Phoenix safely and were off to the Phoenix Dream Center in no time! Once we arrived, we were greeted and put to work right away.
Myself and roommates were given the task to deep clean the Hacienda, a room used for children’s church and women’s morning devotions. A bit later we put together discipleship binders that the men use for their program. I can’t tell you how many times we tried to create a smooth process to put the right forms behind the right tabs just like the example binder. There were seven of us (4 missionaries, 3 female program leaders) and just as it was turning into a lunch break we finally found an efficient process! Now I can put together those binders in my sleep! The rest of the day is a blur as we were kept busy until 9pm, cleaning and painting rooms.
Thursday morning we woke up around 4am for a 5am hike at The Phoenix Mountain Reserve. I was not enthusiastic and chose the “easier” path when offered. Soon I renamed the “easier” path as the “actually moderate for me” path. It was a mental challenge because I did not know the path or where it was leading or when it would be over! I kept my negative thoughts to myself and continued on like everyone else. Maybe it was my short attention span taking over, my untrained body shocked or my stubborn will deciding “so what’s the point?” We came to another crossroads our leaders told us: we could hike up a very steep hill to see a beautiful view or walk back towards the parking lot. I said PARKING LOT immediately, but as most of my peers decided to take the challenge, I succumbed to their lead. Guess what? It was a very beautiful view and yes I did feel accomplished having done the harder thing. After that I did look forward to our Saturday morning hike at another location but the night before it got cancelled and we were scheduled to do a different project.
A task we were given on Friday afternoon was to clean the 3rd floor railings with rags and a bucket of cleaning solution water. I never imagined I would be cleaning the railings of re-purposed hotel but there I was. The rooms of The Phoenix Dream Center all face an open courtyard where birds are free to fly so there’s no lack of bird droppings on the railings. Cleaning the railings gave plenty of time for people to talk and share their stories with one another. This was my view looking up from the 3rd floor.
Friday evening, we went to an outreach to a neighborhood park to play with the neighborhood kids. Every Friday program students facilitate this outreach, they bring food and clothing, music and usually share the Gospel. A boy named, Nick, who was about 10 years old asked us if a certain woman was with us but we told him she did not come with us, he opened a pocket size bible and showed us that she signed her name in it. He explained that he had been waiting to see her again. He also asked if she had sent the bags of clothes she promised, which she had. I was amazed at the relationships that were being built there in the park on Friday nights.
Friday night, we gathered as a very large group to pray before we headed out onto the bar district of Tempe, AZ. It is an outreach they do every Friday night. We broke into smaller groups to walk around and pass out bible tracts or pray. I held a sign that read, “Jesus Forgives.” It was something I wouldn’t ever do at home. We walked by a lot of people enjoying themselves at the bars or restaurants, most ignored us. However, some did not ignore us. They mocked us or mocked our signs, someone from a balcony shouted “hail satan” repeatedly as we crossed a street. The Discipleship students that were with us did a great job of initiating conversations or just greeting passersby. They asked if they could pray for them and accepted whatever response they got back. Although this was all new to me, the students do this outreach every Friday night. I wondered if what I was feeling was what the Apostle Paul felt when he spent time preaching and writing letters to the believers in cities like Corinth. He knew the believers would need encouragement as they lived in a place known for lasciviousness. Most of us do live in a Christian bubble. Most of us don’t spend our Friday nights getting drunk at clubs anymore and so we are removed from the people that never left. I realized it is going to be an important part of ministry to put myself in places I would usually stick my nose up at. The night ended at their traditional spot, Jack in the Box. The only complaint I had that day was Jack in the Box was all out of chicken salads! Seriously, all I wanted was a salad.
Saturday was the day we went to the Gila River Reservation. We were part of a similar style outreach for the kids there. Hot dogs were grilled, basketball was played [ not by me LOL], there was bible trivia and candy. I had my first experience with “rez” dogs, dogs I’ve only heard about on the internet.
In the afternoon, we gathered again for another outreach in an apartment complex parking lot. Discipleship students and some of our group members walked through the apartment buildings to gather the kids. We served hot dogs and cookies, sorted through donated produces to make take home boxes for the kids. Some little girls got their face painted. I played Connect 4 with a 8 year old boy until it was time for the bible story and quiz. There was a water fight. There was am irate man that threatened to call the police on us if we didn’t leave, although the group had permission from the property owner to have the outreach every Saturday. The man took a few food items but eventually left and the outreach went on smoothly. One little girl around 4 years old didn’t leave the Leader’s side. She went wherever he went and always wanted to sit with him. I could only imagine she was desperate for a father and this may have been the only positive consistent male figure in her young life.
We gathered back at the Dream Center afterwards. Soon after, someone in our group quickly came up with a plan to ambush another mission team from South Carolina with a water fight. This was done to us by our mission coordinator earlier in the week. The South Carolina team had arrived at the Dream Center early Saturday after some had pulled all-nighters for their flight. After the water fight, we circled up and both teams prayed for one another. Later that night, our mission team met together one last time to debrief. We shared our highlights for the week which most of us talked about how we did things we don’t normally do, we stepped out of our comfort zones, we appreciated all the hard work The Phoenix Dream Center does daily, and how much we enjoyed getting to know other people from our own church.
The next morning we woke up and prayed together one last night before heading to Dream City Church Phoenix. The church campus was beautiful! We got a quick tour before going into service. I posted the following on my social media accounts: “Sunday morning concluded my first mission trip. As I sat 3 rows centered from the stage in a reserved section I waited to hear special guest @drcarolineleaf speak, I began to simply take in the moment. I thought WoW, I get to be here in Arizona – serve at the Phoenix Dream Center- attend service at the main @dreamcitychurch – hear the author of Switch on Your Brain speak! During worship I began to repeat these experiences and as I said in my mind, “Im front & center here…” – God said “yes, you are front & center to me, you’re my Shining Star and I like it when you are outgoing.” I thought in my mind “I always feel on the back burner”….God instantly said “You Are Not on The Back Burner.” I began to cry, almost weep. I cried for a whole song. Even throughout the next 20min if I replayed the conversation in my head I began to tear up. I hadn’t ever articulated that I felt on the back burner before that very moment. It was a real conversation from Heaven down to my ears! God speaks to me when I least expect it and tells me things I didnt know I needed to know! He’s so so kind to me♫”
I know I’m leaving a lot details out because there are so many things I could write about. I appreciated that I had a team that didn’t complain and just went to work when given any task.
The Phoenix Dream Center: https://www.phxdreamcenter.org/
Dream City Church Phoenix: https://dreamcitychurch.us/
Dream City Church Omaha: https://dreamcitychurch.us/campuses/omaha-nebraska/
Church on the Street: https://www.cotsphoenix.org/