Spring Break 2010 - Newark, NJ - "Contradictions"

I stepped out of my car into the twilight of a chilly New Jersey evening. “Well, hello Newark,” I thought to myself. “It’s been awhile.”

I was facing Trinity Church, and Hawkins Elementary School lay behind me. Vicks Cafe was across the street, and the Hyatt projects were just down the road on the left.


Vic's Cafe - Best coffee ever


Trinity Reformed Church


Hawkins Elementary School


Hyatt Projects

Surprisingly, I felt at home. The normalcy of Newark and my comfort shocked even myself. Four years ago, on my first trip to New Jersey I was agitated and cold. Now I was joyful… though still a little cold.

A team of 40 CNU students arrived periodically throughout Saturday afternoon. The plan for the weekend consisted of a church service Sunday morning and a New York City trip that afternoon/evening. Then on Monday we would plan for the rest of our stay. We split into two groups: half the team would stay at Trinity and go to the elementary schools from 11:30 to 2:30 to assist teachers. In the afternoons that same group would help run the afterschool program, SHACK.

The other part of the team would be working at a church downtown, by helping with the homeless ministry and doing work projects. Finally, both teams would gather together for a community dinner at Trinity church.

Sunday comes and goes – New York City was, of course, fabulous. One of the interns at the church, Asa, showed a few of us his favorite spots and David and I finally got to eat out favorite brie and turkey sandwiches we experienced over Fall Break once again. I love New York. The End.


Oh the things you'll find in the city.

Onto Monday. This was the team’s planning day. Everyone was signing up for different jobs; some were on worship team, others were in charge of stations the children would rotate though during the after-school program, and some were on a skit team. I sat beside my friend Kelsey, while both of us tried to figure out where we would best be useful.

Well… I’m not one to sing in public. Scratch worship team off the list.

And I’m not a skit-team kind of funny. Scratch.

There was the Bible verse team? I could do that. So Kelsey and I wrote on names on a sheet of paper and volunteered to present the Bible stories and verses daily.

About five minutes later I realized my mistake. Bible verse team? I don’t know ANY bible verses! Present the stories for the week? I only know the basics! I am a failure when it comes to memorizing the Bible. And though I would never say it in the church, the phrase “F my life” rolled through my mind (for those readers who don’t know what that means – don’t worry about it. And don’t Google it).

So I panicked for a brief second. This prompted my internal contradiction for the week: pride vs. low self-esteem. I am always a contradiction; just ask my roommates. I love hanging out with guys, but I love wearing dresses and high heels. Too many chick-flicks makes my head hurt, but give me a musical to watch any day of the week… the list goes on. So this was the newest contradiction.

You see, I know the ropes in NJ. I’ve gone since freshman year! I know which kids will be a problem, how to create some type of order, and who to run to when a fight breaks out. But Bible verses? I had it in my mind that I was not worthy to be teaching these crazy kids what I too was learning.


Desperately searching for things I don't know. Where IS Kings?! Photo by Katelyn James

So here is what I was already discovering on Monday morning:

1) I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. I mean really… I don’t even like kids under six. Nope – my knowledge of what to do in NJ and my love for rambunctious children is totally a “God thing.” And whenever I thought I was the one doing something right, inevitably another something would go horribly wrong.

2) But also - there is no religious resume or selection process in who can learn and teach the Bible. So what if I didn’t know Matthew 19:14? I do now. And believe me, after so much repetition, I practically go to sleep saying that darn verse. It has been memorized for life… as have been the lessons I slowly and stubbornly learn.

Because, as more than one person pointed out to me last week, we are very much so like the children we teach: stubborn and frustrating. God tells us to do something; we go running the other way. I tell Kyasia to “please stop punching” the boy next to her, and she smacks him the head.

But I think we’re both willing to learn ;)

More updates to come…