JUMP and the Bronx were recently blessed with 10 young adults from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Below you will find some reflections from their trip. Enjoy!!!
Reflections during “Ask the Lord”
Jesus, be my Vision.
Be my source.
Be my guide.
This is the song and the words I hear in my mind as I begin to pray, to Ask the Lord; to seek Him, to find Him. I reflect on where I have seen despair, yet also where I have seen hope—where I have seen God. I reflect on how God wants to be in my thoughts, how I long to be led by the Holy Spirit. So I write…
God is on the subway. God is in my thoughts.
God is in Promesa—the detox ward.
God is in my thoughts.
I’m reminded that God has a promise for Roberto. The same promise that God has for me. This promise is both understood and an ongoing mystery.
God is in my thoughts.
Ivy. A beautiful old lady. Flowery dress, her face a light purple from make-up, a cute hat, dark chocolate skin, loving eyes. Deep, compassionate, loving eyes. Eyes that smile. She is beautiful in the way she loves. I wish the world could see this beauty in her. She begins to tell me stories, in her Trinidad accent, that flows out of her mouth so sweet like honey. Musical and with rhythm. I could listen to her all day. Lives by herself—no one takes care of her. Her lonesome thoughts swirl in her head at night, not allowing her to sleep. My heart goes out to her.
Donald D.— call him D.D. I notice when he walks in—the way he carries himself: bold, and kind. Once a tall, handsome man I’m sure. Hair gray, but face still young. Talks of the adventure he discovered as a child growing up in Harlem and the Bronx. Of balloons rising. Of rafts flowing down the Hudson River. A live exciting history book—bringing back memories of his dare-devil (D.D.) childhood, appreciative of the good adventures he and his friends created—keeping himself young by his memories. Of balloons rising.
God, I beg you to send young people to these old people, so their hearts and stories may be heard. While our age may separate us, God simply calls us to listen, to engage. D.D. and I may appear different, yet we laughed together and shared our love for adventure.
Sometimes I’ve wondered why it’s important to help the elderly—they aren’t going to change the world now, in their old age. Yet, I step back to hear what God puts into my thoughts. I move out of my usual passing lane, into the slower pace and realize: I think this Christian life is not always about changing the world, or even empowering others… sometimes its just about listening, and giving of ourselves. For me today, it was about giving back. Giving back on behalf of my generation. Giving back to the elderly what they’ve already given to our world.
So much brokenness in this world, my Lord. So much. I reflect and weep for it is not fair that I’m just like all these people I meet, but my life is so different.
Yet, somehow, by the grace of God… out of the brokenness, love blooms. God’s love fulfills.
Our few days at JUMP really opened my eyes to the power of God. At our school, and in the Mennonite tradition in general, there’s a big emphasis on our role in changing the world. We are the body of Christ, His hands and feet committed to service. And while this has raised up generation after generation of Christians devoted to serving God, I think we may have slowly lost sight of the God we serve. Our hodge-podge group of ten came into the Bronx, reassuring each other that the same God we knew from Harrisonburg would also be with us in New York City. But during our time there, I was reminded that God always has something new in store for his children. A mentor once warned me not to let God stop surprising me, but I think I had lulled myself into the false pretense of understanding God. As a city girl myself, I wasn’t so concerned about culture shock or dangerous neighborhoods; in fact, the Bronx reminded me a lot of Washington, DC. But I let my past experiences with inner-city work color my expectations for this trip, and God ripped down those preexisting notions pretty quickly. He showed up more intensely and more powerfully than I ever imagined he could in a four-day trip. From speaking to us each individually during Ask the Lord, to showing us a glimpse of spiritual warfare on the subway, He showed up in incredible ways. I was humbled again and again as we continuously connected all of the ways that we had seen God work throughout our trip, even in the simple act of me packing chocolate chip cookies that later got passed out around the neighborhood. By the end of our stay, we had to reassure ourselves that the same God we met in the Bronx would be with us back at EMU; that He could be just as present and involved in our seemingly safe bubble of a Christian campus. I am once again in complete awe of the God we serve, and I am reminded that we are chosen vessels of Christ’s love, and we can do nothing in our own power and strength.
It was one of my hopes for the week that the people I met would make a real imprint on my heart, and that their faces and names would be forever with me. I will never forget: Robyn, Kehl, and RJ from JUMP and the amazing wisdom and leadership they demonstrated for us; Sandra from the church; Pastor Al and the girls at the detention center; Helen, Jackie, and Maria, the volunteers at the senior center, and Mr. and Mrs. Alexander who let me share their catalogs; Rachel Lloyd and her stories of fighting sex trafficking; James and Roberto from Promesa; and everyone else we met along the way, like the guy with a black jacket and orange shirt in the park.
************************************************************* A few reflections from the trip…
In NYC The Bronx was a place for me that really got me out of my comfort zone. I come from a small town so everything from the people, the traffic, and the noise was a culture shock to me. But even with the newness of the experience, the meetings I had with people were something I will never forget. What stuck out to me the most was going to the Girls’ Detention Center on Staten Island. I had no idea what to expect going into it but the moment the girls arrived in the gym and started to interact with us filled me with hope. I did not see 20 girls who had committed crimes that made them end up in the detention center. Instead I saw 20 beautiful girls who are loved by God and who are just trying to find their way in the world. We started to sing songs for the girls and seeing them come alive with the music awakened a joy in me I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Seeing the joy in these girls’ faces were the highlight to my time in NYC.
The rest of the week was a great experience but the Detention Center was by far the highlight and something I will never forget.
Ardi Hermawan’s Reflection
Ivy…that’s what her name
Her beautiful eyes will tell you her mourn
Her voice will utter her hidden moan
But yet..I still wonder who she is
Ivy with her beautiful eyes
Just could keep silent, wordless
But ivy was sitting
Sat until someone would attain
Ivy with her beautiful eyes
Would not forget her journeys
The journeys which bring back laugh and joy
The journeys which bring back tear and cry
Ivy with her beautiful blue eyes
Told me how should I survive
Without any hesitations
She told me how my soul should revive
Ivy with her beautiful eyes
Taught me agape loves
The love which we all shares
The love which I have found in the heart of Bronx
Here I am, humble myself to say thank you for anyone who has given me such a wonderful opportunity to grow, to nourish, and to know deeply who God is. I have been struggling to seek the purpose and the meaning of my life. I could not express it, but my soul just screamed asking for help. Is there anyone out there will help me to find out what the meaning of life is? What makes me matter and accountable? What is the meaning of being a Christian…yeah…being a truly, real, pure Christian?
I have not expected that all of my questions above will be answered through this Y-trip. However, deep in my soul, I found myself so hungry and thirsty to know more about my God and myself. The why questions always haunted me. They just attacked me with their strong and powerful force. However, I was defeated and unable to give reasonable answers. Yeah..I just feel so helpless
But God was in Bronx with ten of us. They were nine amazing people with their own stories, characteristics, and backgrounds who accompanied me in this journey. Within a short period of time, we built a strong and solid community, and we all wondered how we could possibly establish such a strong and meaningful relationship. This is one of the most interesting things that I still wondered, but once again God was in Bronx, and He is with us even now.
All the experiences have drawn us closer. Proclaiming the words of God through dances, hymns, poems, pictures, laughs, and devotions is just such a wonderful mission, so that other people know how they are matter and accountable in our eyes. I found that people are so fragile and they are so broken inside, but yet there is still hope. Bronx is not just one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, but there is still hope. So, what is hope? Maybe in our human eyes, we will see that there is nothing we can do in order to get fragile people back to their fullest potential level. There is no way for the sinful city like Bronx can turn into beautiful place like Tennessee. However, I found that God sees it differently. There are so many “fragile people” in Bronx who are desperately seeking for God. Their hearts were screaming but yet we did not understand. One of them is Roberto, a former drug addict in Promesa.
Roberto is one of the people whom you will call the outcast and the marginalized, but God sees so many potentials within his life. In our human eyes, maybe we see darkness, brokenness, unworthiness. However, God see him beautifully. He is the prodigal son who is ready to go back to the embrace of his father. Thus, I learned that as a human being, we easily judge others without seeing our own sin. I realized that a lot of time, I let my human nature to judge my brothers and sisters as sinners, without knowing that I am also a sinner.
Let me also introduce who Ivy is. She is an old lady in the nursing home. She lives alone through this time, and has no families and children. Day by day, she spent her time waiting for someone whom she can share her journey with. But it seems no one care about her. Her friend is the fake roses in a beautiful vase on the top of the table. She spent her time waiting for someone who is willing to sit next to her, but again, no one seems care. As I sat in front of her, I could see her facial expression was dramatically changed. I could feel joyful spirit radiated from her tiny body. She is a very strong woman I ever met. Through difficult times, she said that she would never be able to survive unless gave her hands. Ivy ended our conversation by giving me a paper brown bag because I hold a cold coconut drink. “It is freezing outside; here is a bag, so that you can put your cold drink in here.” That paper brown bag has revealed a simple act of unconditional love from the stranger whom you never met before. Ivy with her beautiful eyes taught me a great lesson in order to survive in my long journey: placing your trust in God, for He will never forsake you.
Another lady was sitting on the corner. I could see her smile and laugh when she played dominos with Tim. She said that she has never been defeated in this type of game, but Tim has defeated her. However, I felt that I need to bend my knees and listen to her. I kneeled down and she opened her brown envelope. Her hands were shaking and her facial expression changed. She tried not to cry, but she just could not handle herself. Her trembled voice illustrated her deepest grief and pain when she knew that her 24 y.o. daughter had passed away. Her eyes told me her sorrow and pain. Without any hesitation, I embraced her, and I was speechless and could not say anything. I could feel her pain and … I just saw how big the love of parent towards her child is. As I sat back and thought about that moment, I was remembered that if human beings know how to love their child, God will do more than that. Thus he sacrificed his own life on the cross…to show us what love is
Another miraculous work of God is the way God used amazing people surrounded me. Jamila, Nicole, Erin, Elise, Melanie, Melody, Jordan, James, Tim, RJ, Robin, and Kehl have taught me so many lessons that I will never be able to get in anywhere else. The moments that we have spent time together are so precious, and I will never trade them with anything else. God has used each single of those amazing people to teach me wisdom, patience, compassion, empathy, and respect. In this place who has been judged as one of the hot point of the United States has taught me faith, hope, and love. This place that is so broken has teach me how to appreciate life and how big God’s love is.