On March 2, 2018, a bus-load of 25 Grace College students on spring break departed early from Winona Lake, Ind. The group went into the downtown area of Philadelphia to spend six days at the Urban Hope Training Center. Grace College has been sending students to UHTC during spring break for over a decade now (praise God!), but I must say that this year’s trip was something special.
The team of students was one of the quietest groups we have ever seen. Yet God, like He always does, stirred in the hearts of our team developing immense growth in each student as they initiated conversations with others furthering the kingdom of God. As I write this, I can’t help but think of Ephesians 3:20, which says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Before the trip, our team prayed for a monumental week of ministry. Not only did God provide this, he provided immeasurably more.
During the short week we performed community service tasks and prayer walks in Kensington (the neighborhood where UHTC is located) as well as evangelism in Philadelphia’s famous Reading Terminal Market and bustling South Street. We also assisted several missions in Philadelphia such as Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission and Whosoever Gospel Mission. One of our greatest places of ministry was underneath Philadelphia’s elevated train where many homeless are camped out to escape the weather. Here, we were able to provide dinner and conversation, as well as pray with many people showing them that they matter to God.
A massive snowstorm hit on our last day so we spent the day cleaning UHTC’s facilities and shoveling snow. But throughout our busy schedule (and the weather), we still found time to experience the plethora of cultural dishes Philadelphia has to offer including Puerto Rican food, Cambodian treats, and, of course, Philly cheese steaks!
Drew, one of our students, shared: “I came on this Philadelphia trip to Urban Hope Training Center because I needed it to graduate and it was the least expensive option. But after being here, not only was it a great week, I think it was the best week of my entire experience at Grace College.” Now, if a student believes that doing a week of ministry in downtown Philadelphia over spring break is the best week of his college career, I think we’re doing something right. God is good. — By Marc Baldwin, student leader (from cenational.org)