Day 8 of outreach started like any other with the two exceptions of it being my birthday and the new knowledge that the Cubs had tied up the series. We were joined by Andrea early in the morning and then went to spiritually and physically clean up the local park. There was a lot of graffiti on the equipment bemoaning lost loves and betrayal and in general it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in years. Bringing the joy of the Lord and generally walking in the opposite spirit (bringing joy to somewhere you see sadness, community where you see isolation, etc., etc.), we spent a lot of time cleaning the equipment, raking leaves, dancing or singing. I spent most of my time cleaning up this snake/dragon looking play structure, clearing out leaves and dirt or washing the sides with Anna and Jenn. At first I was a little discouraged because I knew there were going to be more leaves to fall, dirt, etc., but then I prayed/felt that local kids could and would take over the work of upkeep, that the kids who used to come to smoke and vandalize would see that they could bring joy, accountability, and positive influences to their community instead. I prayed for the kids and the park and over the graffiti. It felt like I was cleaning out all the dead, rotting things, both spiritually and physically and bringing new life where death had been. It felt really awesome, especially to do something so concrete, and though there was still more we could have done, time allowing, I also felt really satisfied when we were done. Andrea said it looked cleaner than he had ever seen it!
After the park we went back to the church to have lunch. We had salad and tuna with some kind of really soft cheese and then they gave me a slice of marble cake sprinkled with coconut for my birthday! They were so sweet about it, they wouldn’t even let me share. Also it was delicious.
After that we went out for coffee and stopped at the supermarket for snacks. I accidentally went out the emergency exit without realizing (yes, it was incredibly stupid, but also in my defense it’s directly in front of the cashiers where a normal exit should be) and got a really condescending/deserved look from one of the cashiers. It was pretty hilarious in the end, but thankfully I didn’t cause any kind of crazy stampede. I also got to try these strange pine tree flavored lozenge/candy things from Channi, and I swear they tasted like Christmas, although others didn’t agree. At any rate, Channi and I enjoyed them.
The evening was dedicated to evangelism. It’s a beautiful town, and the people were very friendly, gathering to watch and talk to us as we danced, sang, wrote and drew. Alli was even paid for her artwork more than once (much to her chagrin, but they wouldn’t let her give it for free)!
After wrapping that up, we went back to the church, where Sarah’s family had generously offered to make us dinner. Tabea introduced a German birthday party game where we had to cut through newspaper with a fork and knife to get to and eat a chocolate bar (you have to put on a scarf, hat, and gloves before you start cutting and then everyone else rolls dice. If they get a six you have to take all the extra stuff off and they have to put it on before they can start. It gets pretty hectic, but it was also really fun), and then when we were finished, they called us in for dinner, a once again overly abundant and delicious affair of spaghetti with egg and bacon followed up with four different kinds of gelato (creme, chocolate, coffee, and lemon and chocolate and vanilla for those who had to have soy). Her family, who are all very musical, sang me happy birthday with all of the instruments from the sanctuary and then gave me the last portion of food, which as a special treat had all of the extra bacon that had sifted through to the bottom. The team all gave me a card, Annika drew me a beautiful fox picture with pastels, and Channi sang me a song she’d rewritten about us sharing our bunk. I took a few pictures to commemorate the day, then settled in for a good night’s rest (world series stress and excitement aside).
It was a beautiful day, and a wonderful birthday too.