The Indianapolis team arrived at Shepherd Community Center safely on Saturday afternoon after a long and arduous hour a half journey from TU! Okay, so maybe the hour and a half drive we had wasn’t as arduous or adventurous as some of the other spring break teams, but none-the-less, we are grateful to have made it safe and sound to Shepherd.
Saturday mostly consisted of getting settled in to our new home for the next week at Shepherd First Church of the Nazarene, and as a result we didn’t have much interaction with any of Shepherd’s ministries. Sunday was when we finally got to experience all that Shepherd is about as well as explore the wide range of socioeconomic backdrops of Indianapolis.
We began our Sunday eating breakfast with one of the multiple congregations that meet in Shepherd’s facilities before the start of their church service. Breakfast (as well as the church service) was served in Horizon Christian Academy’s cafeteria room. Horizon is a prek-5th grade private Christian academy that is located on Shepherd’s campus, and the cafeteria is often converted to all sorts of rooms to accompany the needs of Shepherd’s various ministries. The congregation of this church consisted of the widest range of people our team has ever seen: all sorts of people from all different walks of life. This church was started years ago in a section eight housing complex and moved to Shepherd’s cafeteria space when the amount of people coming could no longer squeeze into the housing complex’s spare room. All sorts of broken people (including every single person on our team, after all, we’re all sinners in need of grace) from different socioeconomic classes: middle class families, lower class families, drug addicts, alcoholics, elderly, young, the homeless. Families, single people, single mothers, lonely people, joyful people, people of color, white people, people with felonies, and people with college educations. There were well over 150 of them. One man told us that’s what he loved about this church. In between mouthfuls of flimsy pancakes and grey scrambled eggs, this older gentlemen explained how the pastor of the church had a past that was relatable to his, and how this congregation made up of alcoholics and drug addicts was “not like a traditional church”. That comment haunted our team the rest of the day. Why was this church, one full of diversity, over flowing with complete and open honesty, and one that had a congregation completely in love with Jesus, considered to be a “non-traditional church”? Hmm.
The rest of our Sunday consisted of driving throughout Indianapolis. We were in awe driving through Hamilton County (a suburb on the fringes of the inner city, one of the wealthiest counties in the country) and seeing elaborate mansions lining the streets for many miles, only to be harshly brought back to reality when our cars turned the corner to enter the actual city of Indianapolis. It was like driving into a brick wall; streets of clean and proper rows of green grasses and hedges were instantly replaced with weed infested sidewalks and street corners. The impressive mansions instantly turned into dilapidated duplexes. It was clear where the line was drawn between the haves and the have-nots. Again, that stark contrast haunted us well into the rest of the evening.
Finally, this morning, we started our work in the classroom’s of Horizon Christian Academy. The majority of the students at Horizon come from the neighborhoods surrounding Shepherd, which means many of them come from lower socioeconomic families. Everyday they all eat breakfast together in the cafeteria, and are whirled away to math, reading, vocabulary, social studies and penmanship lessons. Students are as young as three years old and as old as 10 or 11 years old. Our team split up and had lovely experiences being teacher aids in three/four year old preschool classrooms as well as one second grade classroom. The majority of the students were Latino/Latina, and thus spoke both Spanish and English. Our team was blown away by their excitement and eagerness to learn, not only about math/reading/social studies, but also about Jesus, who loves them so dearly. Once again, our team loved our time with the children, but were deeply haunted by the fact that over 80% of the students were either Hispanic or Black. Clearly the past of our country is still rearing its ugly shadow across the lives of the people groups who make up the majority of these disadvantaged neighborhoods, and we will struggle with the questions that come with that disturbing fact far beyond this week.
In the afternoon, our team was guided throughout Shepherd’s campus and the surrounding community to perform tiny work projects: first, unloading a truck full of food for Shepherd’s food pantry. Then picking up large dump piles of sticks and branches in the yard of a house Shepherd was renovating in the neighborhood for a family who attends the ministry, and loading them into a truck. Then coming back to Shepherd’s campus and unloading them into the dumpster. Then organizing a random storage room in the church full of all sorts of random boxes full of random things, and finally carrying various useful random things we found to the food pantry for use in Shepherd’s ministries. Flexibility was the theme of our afternoon, but our team found great joy in performing simple things with great love for Shepherd and the families our work would eventually impact.
Okay! That is it for today. To anyone who actually made it this far…thanks for reading! I (Erica) sincerely tried to make this blog post short and sweet, but I can never seem to do that, ever. For anything. There’s just so much our team wants to share with you! The good news is that from now on, other members of our team will be able to contribute to our blog posts! So…be on the lookout for their posts!
Thank you for supporting us and praying for us, we can’t wait to share with you again in a few days!