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July 27, 2018

My name is Isatu.

When I think of justice, I think of fairness and equality. I think about communities and the divisions that will always exist. Living in this house and being a part of Encounter Philadelphia has shown me that there are so many problems in the world and divisions that are results of the fall. Recently, a friend and I were discussing our concerns and the defeat we felt with not being able to reach out and serve the unjust. 

I’ve learned that despite our hospitality and selflessness, someone can still feel left behind. Just like in Deuteronomy 15:11, “God says there will never cease to be poor in the land. Internalizing this truth brought me relief knowing that some things are just a part of the earthly world and these fallen systems can only be conquered by the one true God. I may sacrifice something for someone, but find myself fading in the back and not having justice served for myself. I may want to serve the homeless in hopes of justice, but one may throw back the food I tried to offer because their view of justice is that they should be given money. We may advocate or fight for justice for something we believe in, yet to another opposing party it will go against their personal view on justice. 

At the end of the day, I’ve learned that this broken world seems to thrive on the divisions we create. There will always be an in group and an out group, the outcast, blue collar vs. white collar, etc. Despite all of these divisions, I feel like God has reassured me to be in the field of hospitality. I can serve those who are different from myself in multiple ways: this is a little piece of how I can shine God's light and bring justice in my vocation of hospitality management and event planning. The ultimate issue of injustice will never be settled until God comes back. Until then, all we can try to do is multiply our kindness and live like God to serve our brothers and sisters. 

Hi, it’s Danni again!

This past week was week six for the Encounter Philadelphia program. Honestly, I do not want it to end. I have been learning so much here. This past week, our topic has been about reconciliation, making amends and restoring relationships with people. To apply what we learned in class, we went to the Irish Memorial. This trip inspired conviction and taught me about how people from Ireland migrated to the United States, Canada, and other countries. What inspired this migration was when the English began conquering Ireland and taking away their food resources and land. In order to escape from the famine, starvation, and disease, the Irish left their homeland and migrated to Canada and the United States.

What they found when they arrived in the U.S. was a welcoming from Native Americans, Africans, and Quakers. However, from other groups they were treated as outcasts. The American society did not want them to be there because they were afraid of terrorism, their religious preferences, job security, change in racial demographics, etc. This is something that still happens today in America. This is hard for me to understand because God wants us to help others who are in need. People are fleeing their country today to seek survival and to find a better life. By not allowing other people into our country, we are forcing them into dangerous situations where they cannot escape.  

I believe that reconciliation happens when we as a society start to welcome people into our country and not to judge them, to allow another human into our country and treat them as another brother or sister in Christ. We need to let people know that they are cared for and wanted, the same way the Native Americans, Africans, and Quakers welcomed the Irish when they came to America to escape peril in their native land.

Hello, my name is Abby Smith.

This past week learned about reconciliation. For class we had HeeJung, a professor at Bryn Mawr, come to speak. She walked us through both the worldly and biblical definition of reconciliation and how to live it out. I was very surprised that the worldly definition of reconciliation is “the restoration of friendly relations or the action of making one view or belief compatible with another.” Previously, I thought reconciliation was completely related to Christ and that it was Him making all things perfect rather than us finding it here on earth through relations being restored. When it came to applying reconciliation, we were told that we needed to pray for every aspect of our lives, for ourselves, family, and community. It has been a challenge to keep up with praying for all of this, but it has been an encouraging push of my faith.

To further apply our understanding of reconciliation, we visited the Irish memorial and participated in biking in the city. I was able to learn about why the Irish came to America for the first time and how they were supposed to have the same rights as the rest of the civilians in America, but they did not. The bike ride around the city was used to show how they felt when they migrated here, which is why this was probably one of my favorite go trips the whole summer. It revealed to me how frustrating it is to exist in traffic with the other motorists who had more power and protection on the road. This was a test to not only my patience but my observation skills. It was also a test to do some sightseeing and people observation while trying to ride in traffic. I feel that it was a balance of freedom and also feeling like the minority and having to fight to exist.


Hunter

 This past week, we learned about civic engagement. Civic engagement is the participation and act of engaging in a community solely for its benefit. What really spoke to me was the aspect of service and how service and volunteering aren’t always the same thing. The majority of the time when people volunteer, they do it because it looks good on a resume. However, service is when someone serves but for the purpose of being with the community and engaging them.

The reason why service stuck out to me is because I literally do that everyday with my youth ministry back at home at Hope Church in Memphis. I’m a volunteer youth leader at my church, but I don’t do it for my resume. I do it because I remember being a kid in the youth ministry and being so lost and alone. But when teenagers receive attention and mentorship, there’s a potential in them that just burst out and it allows them feel wanted and loved. Because of this topic, I have been inspired to continue to engage in my community when I return home by becoming a full-time youth leader.

July 3, 2018

Hi, my name is Abby.

Moving to Philadelphia was a major change for me. I am from Altoona, PA and I live at home with my mom. To go from living with one other person to living with thirteen other people was a little chaotic.

Another change I am embracing is my job with Blair Christian Academy. It has been very challenging to get to know the students and how to work with them effectively. I am one of two white staff members, serving forty five of the students of color.

This week in the Encounter Philly program we have been learning about cultivating faithfulness. While at work, I have began to struggle with being a white person. Something that I have found to be helpful while working in this challenging environment is something we discussed in our class time. We were reminded to embrace our culture rather than being stripped from it.

Also, in my discipleship I have been reading in Philippians 2, where Paul talks about Christ’s humility and to shine like stars. Through this inspiration, I have dedicated the last three weeks of my time at Blair to have the mentality of “How is Christ using me and my life to work with these students as I interact with them?”


Hello all! My name is Linnae.

This week we talked about cultivating faithfulness. Something that really stood out to me when Cole and Billy taught class was just how entering into wonder can be sacred. Taking moments to admire someone’s eye color or enjoy our surroundings is taking time to not only revel in God’s creation but is also apart of cultivating faithfulness. 

Another huge component is trusting God. When we talked about the blind man in John 9, he followed the directions Jesus asked without question. This was amazingly moving because he had been blind his whole life and did not outwardly question how this man he had just met would heal him. He also was not recognized by the people in his town. This should mirror how when we have Christ in us we should be noticeably different to the outside world.

 

June 25, 2018

From Ethan:

 This week, our theme was vocation and wisdom. On Tuesday we had a guest, Chris, talk about anaplastology, her vocation. Anaplastology deals with prosthetic rehabilitation of an absent, disfigured or malformed anatomically critical location of the face or body. She talked about her passion for seeing these patients experience healing and wholeness. She loves building relationships through doing good work. She also mentioned that it was a job the Lord led her to. She had no idea what job to pursue until this opportunity was presented to her. I think it helps reassure us as college students that it’s okay if we don’t know what major or vocation God is calling us to. He’s directing and working behind the scenes for us.


Then on Saturday, Byron Borger shared his thoughts on vocation with us. He talked about dualism and how destructive it is. There is a sacred or secular divide in the world. We shouldn’t box the Creator of the universe into only salvation and sanctification. He created a vast world with so much complexity that He wants the church to cultivate and restore. Christ reigns everywhere, which includes work! We have a misconception that work and worship are foreign, but they are actually related. Work is a good thing created by God and it is a way we worship Him. 

 

June 18, 2018

Hi! My name is Amanda. 

Coming to Philly, I was almost as nervous as I was excited. I commute to class and still live at home, so this is by far the longest I’d be away from my family in my entire life. When I arrived, I felt so welcome and loved that almost all my nerves left as I began to get to know my new community. Now that I’ve been here a few weeks, we’re beginning to realize how hard living in community really is. For this reason, community was the focus of our second week. 

We started this week with a class about how to live in community, the hardships that come along with it, and we addressed some serious issues the community had been dealing with. As a person who does everything within her power to avoid conflict, that conversation was one of the hardest things I’ve done throughout this experience. I eventually appreciated having the conversation though, because we were able to work through our issues and learn how to love each other better. We were able to visit Chinatown and learn about that community as well, both their strengths and struggles since it was established in 1865. I’m so excited to see what the rest of this experience will entail for me and the ways I’ll be able to grow this summer.  

 

Hi! I’m Shiann.

This week at Encounter Philly, our theme was community. And we learned that community is hard. We started the week having an honest discussion as a house. We were vulnerable, aired our grievances, and realized we had to be honest with each other if we want to grow with each other. I feel like it’s easy to avoid hard conversations. I find myself doing it so often. But this week we challenged each other, and ourselves, to face conflict head on. And to move forward from it. 

Strengthening our community set the tone for success and joy in a lot of the rest of our week. We cleaned in community on Wednesday night, which makes things go more quickly and adds fun to our chores. Then Friday night the entire house helped prepare dinner. Cooking in community is becoming one of my favorite parts of the week. I love seeing everyone prepare the pieces of our food puzzle, then bringing all the parts together to make a meal we share together (plus it’s well known that eating is one of the best forms of fellowship).

Touring Chinatown Saturday morning ended our week perfectly; learning about the power of a community coming together and taking care of each other really resonates with our group, and I want us to strive for that. I’m so excited to continue to grow alongside new friends and to apply the beautiful gift of community as we pursue God’s kingdom. 

June 11, 2018

Hi! My name is Morgan Tucker. 

On May 30, I was laying on my bed with a million emotions about the flight from Memphis and what my summer would look like in Philadelphia. I was literally about to accomplish three of my fears in one day. It was my first time on an airplane, and I was terrified. This would be my first time coming to Philly after hearing so many stories about the city, which made me horrified to come. Lastly, I was moving into a house with more than ten people, which had me petrified. 

Fast forward a week later, and everything was and has been great. My flight was wonderful. I arrived safely. Staying in community has been challenging, but relationships are beginning to be formed. Philadelphia is very interesting. Peter and Bill have been gracious enough to enlighten us on how God is transforming the city. Hearing the stories behind the ministries has encouraged me greatly in my journey of faith. The one phrase that was repeated by both ministries is “If it is Gods will, He will provide a way.” That phrase has been embedded in my brain, and has been very helpful as I live each day. I am looking forward to understanding more about why this phrase has stuck out to me this summer.

 

Hi! I am Danni Myers.

During orientation week for Encounter Philly, we visited two parks in Center City Philadelphia, Washington Park and Rittenhouse Square. The one that stood out more to me was Washington Park. This is where about 40 soldiers, prisoners, and a numerous black slaves were placed at a burial site from the Revolutionary War. All of the individuals did not have markers, which means that you would not be able to identify who these people were. This is something that really struck me. This saddened me. We in the United States did not recognize these people or respect them as children of God. I pray that the park recognizes these fallen people because they are equal just as anyone else.

We recently had our first class and the topic was identity. Antonio Morton spoke about what it means to place our identity in God. God will never leave us and He will never fail us. When we put our identity into worldly things like having the approval of others, we start to obsess over it. Then our identity in worldly things start to fail us. I liked that Antonio stated that “We cannot serve two masters.”

A very encouraging passage from the Bible he brought up was 1 Peter 1:3-9. It talks about how when we accepted God into our hearts that we have a new identity in Christ Jesus. He died on the cross for us and we did not have to pay the price of our sin. God gave us grace and He loved us that much. We do not have to focus on the past and have that weigh us down. Then the rest of passage of Scripture explains that we will go through hard times in life, but when we persist and focus on Jesus, our faith will grow stronger.  

I cannot wait to see what else Jesus has in store for me this summer. Thank you for your prayers and support! 

June 6, 2018

Watch this space for weekly updates from students and staff who are participating in Encounter Philadelphia 2018. We are so excited to share with you the things that God is revealing to us while we immerse ourselves in the city of Philadelphia. As we continue through the summer living in intentional community, we ask that you keep us all in your prayers.