Mission 2018 Day 1: Off to Detroit! (via Chicago)

Hello, Dear Reader!

Welcome to what is typically an annual tradition of a round of blog posts about a summer mission trip experience. It’s my hope to bring you near-daily rounds of written updates and plenty of photography. As these blog posts are often written after others are in bed (because that, frankly, is the only “down time” there is to write), I thank you for your grace as these come up and hope you’ll forgive the occasional typo or odd sentence just in case I fall asleep at the keyboard and purple monkey dishwasher.

This year, the church I serve, Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, has teamed up with Richfield United Methodist Church and a good friend from Northfield United Methodist Church to serve Jesus at Motown Mission in Detroit, Michigan. Our team is 7 adults and 13 youth entering grades 8-12, with some of us on our very first mission trip. We’re a diverse crew of many different backgrounds and identities, though we all have one common identity: beloved children of God. We hope to remember this at all times as we band together as “the church” for our week serving at Motown Mission (you’ll learn more about this organization and their local partners as the week goes on).

On the Road Again…

Wow, we left at 7:15am, a mere 15 minutes late on Saturday morning. That’s pretty good, friends! I mean, you try to get 20 families from at least 6 cities and 3 churches to all converge on the same spot at the same time! Pretty proud we were able to pull it off. It was important, too, as Saturday is our “fun day” yet a fairly scheduled day. See, we were due in Chicago for this first day as Detroit can’t take us until mid-afternoon on Sunday. It just didn’t make sense to drive all the way to Detroit in one night, just to sleep and hang around for a half day. Hence, a stop in Chicago and several reasons to be on time. We had a host to meet at our overnight accommodations, a tour to take, reservations for dinner, and a play that’s going to start on time whether we’re there or not. So yes, leaving on time truly counted this day!

Our crew of 20 split into 2 vans, John Wesley’s Gracemobile and Charles Wesley’s Holy Roller. We don’t have a “luggage van” because we’re trying to build community, so halfway through the trip we mixed it up with who rode in which van. The ride eastbound to Chicago was a mix of quiet sleep, music playlists, card games, chatter, guessing what the name of the toll booth attendant would be (we never did guess correctly), and the occasional Mad Libs (I’ll try to post one later for you, Dear Reader). I was only in Charles Wesley’s Holy Roller so I don’t know for sure, but I’ve been told John Wesley’s Gracemobile was a little quieter, though that may be because I wasn’t in it.

We were blessed to stay with First Church of the Brethren in Chicago, IL, a church I’m connected to through my friend, Juan Pablo. We met a few months ago as our churches are both working on a new grant to create new young adult ministry (guess what, we got the grant, stay tuned, young adults!). I’m glad to have this connection via Juan Pablo, and we’ll talk more about that later. For now, let me offer that our host, Erma, was kind and helpful, and the accommodations were great, one of the better “sleep on the floor of someone else’s church building for a night” experiences I’ve had. We weren’t there for more than a few minutes this afternoon, however, as it was time to get to Chicago Temple.

“That’s where they’ve got that Picasso!”

The honorable Richard B. Daley Plaza is more than home to a Picasso sculpture, the offices of Cook County, and the amazing conclusion to The Blues Brothers (although I could not stop quoting it the whole time!). It’s also the site of First United Methodist Church, a.k.a. Chicago Temple. The highest building of its time, this is literally a United Methodist Church in a skyscraper. The first floor features tenant businesses to help pay the bills as well as a beautiful cathedral-style sanctuary. Go up from there, you’ll find a chapel, classrooms, offices, the offices for the Northern Illinois Annual Conference (Hello, Bishop Dyck!), a parsonage for the senior pastor, and at the tip top is the Chapel in the Sky.

So the story goes, in the 1950s the senior pastor spoke of dreams he’d had of a “chapel in the sky.” Around this time, Mr. Walgreens (yes, that Mr. Walgreens) passed away and Mrs. Walgreens wanted to build something to honor him. She told the trustees to build the chapel in the sky. When they asked the budget, she said “Unlimited,” and they still came in over budget. At least, that’s the fun way Leslie put it to us on our tour. It was a beauty to behold. With seating for an intimate 30, it isn’t used regularly for a worship space, though it sees its fair share of tourists and weddings. The architecture and windows capture the imagination and the altar piece is as prescient today as it was in the 1950s (see the photos and captions for more).

Deep Dishin’

There’s a lot of community that happens around the dinner table, and a nice long table at Lou Malnati’s Gold Coast location was just what we needed that evening. A few appetizers, an Arnold Palmer or two, and a nice selection of deep dish pies satiated our bodies while good get-to-know-you conversation satisfied the soul. I’ve been a fan of Lou Malnati’s this year ever since happenstance and convenience brought me to one in Evanston earlier this spring. When it became clear we’d be in Chicago for this trip and would need a spot for dinner, I definitely knew of an experience I wanted to share. We ended up with leftovers but not for lack of trying. We were simply too stuffed to finish it all! (That’s what boxes and breakfast are for, however.)

While people were being seated, I got to have my first of two mini-tours of the city. I dropped passengers off then circled around and around looking for a parking spot. Finally found one but not before an interesting interaction with a police officer. While at a stoplight, one approached near my van and I asked if he had any ideas on where to park a 7’2″ vehicle (all the nearby ramps were 6’8″ or so. He smirked and said, “Treeek, no!” Well, he didn’t say “trek,” but it was a different word with a nice, hard syllable ending. Chicago’s Finest: adding color and humor to giving directions.

The Play’s the Thing

I ended up with my second mini-tour of the city when I dropped off passengers at Navy Pier to catch Shakespeare Theater’s abridged rendition of A Midnight Summer’s Dream. I heard the play was great. You know what else is great? Lake Shore Drive. Twice. For an hour. FYI, there are many, many nearby parking ramps that with 6’8″ clearance or lower, as well as very nice traffic officers who happen to put cones out and divert your lane of traffic juuuuust before you turn right into the one ramp you researched before the trip that has an abundance of head room. Nevertheless, I persisted and on my third time through was able to get into the lane that took me to sweet, sweet 7’2″+ bliss.

I joined the group just as the play ended. We had a fun moment of welcoming Jill and Emmy, mother and sister to a mission trip attendee, Jamie, in our midst for the evening as they were in Chicago for the weekend. Don’t you just love serendipitous meetings in other cities? We all split up into small groups, taking in the sights and sounds of Navy Pier. Some did the ferris wheel, others piloted RC boats, plus shopping, snacking, and people watching. Finally, we all settled in for a brilliant fireworks display backlit by a low-hanging near-blood moon. I’d never been to Navy Pier and while I didn’t necessarily care for the $30 parking fee, I did find it a fun place to explore and get my steps in.

Finally, it was time for bed and we arrived back at First Church of the Brethren. We’d been told we should expect another group there that evening, one that had already been to a mission trip and was on their way back home. Dear Reader, Juan Pablo has many friends, because we walked in to discover it was none other than our good friends at Cross Winds United Methodist Church in Maple Grove! You’ve gotta love it!

Wow, what a full first day! Plenty to write about for the next day, including the ride to Detroit and through Detroit traffic, arriving at Motown Mission and Metropolitan United Methodist Church, and preparing our team to work together as a team. We are looking forward to the trip and all of your prayers and comments truly matter. Write a comment and we’ll make sure it gets read to your loved ones, Dear Reader!

-nm