Reflecting on our City Search experience
By Jackie Balzer, a junior with North Oak Community Church, Hays, Kan.
Editor’s note: Congregations were invited to select one student to serve as a CL student reporter for SA2011. Thanks to the 11 youth leaders who recruited student writers and to these students for their honest and inspiring reflections.
With some, but little expectations, I wasn’t sure going into this conference what exactly God wanted me to get out of it. North Oak Community Church brought a group 34 students and leaders. For our service opportunity our group got to stick together. We received a one day bus pass and were told to go explore the city – find out what goes on and meet new people. One of the best ways of witnessing to others is by simply encouraging them.
NOCC is located in Hays, Kan., – which when compared to San Antonio is a smaller town. Getting to walk downtown and see the busy life was a neat experience. From the start of our walk heading towards the bus stop, I saw a man with one bag of personal belongings clutched under his arm as he slept. When you have a group of 34 people all get on one bus, people’s curiosity consumes them and opened up a window of opportunity to get to know others. I met a woman and was able to hear a little bit about her life and share some of mine for the short bus ride.
Once off the bus, we walked any and everywhere we went. Our first stop was at a community Natatorium where a lady spoke about what they do. It’s one of the cheapest places for people of all ages to swim and participate in activities that keep them off the streets. Schools use it for their swim teams, and people are also able to use it for medical therapy as well.
Moving on, our next stop was a community center. Their goal also is to provide opportunities for all ages. Providing breakfast for the elderly monthly, they also help run a food bank, provide activities for kids to get involved in and have programs for newly or soon to be mothers. In an attempt to keep kids off the streets and out of gangs, the community also paints murals as opposed to graffiti. Kids come to help paint, knowing that what they are doing makes a difference.
We also had the opportunity to visit a Catholic Church. One of the priests shared about their beliefs and talked about the painting of Mary. We learned that Catholicism is a major religion practiced in San Antonio. Waiting for the bus, we met a guy who wore the rosary around his neck and carried the holy water in his pocket.
To end our adventure we had lunch at a little café and dessert at a bakery across the street. My favorite thing about the café was seeing this small group of maybe five people working as hard as they possibly could to serve each of us and doing an excellent job of it. The bakery was quite an experience in itself and wasn’t what I expected when first walking in. I bought two 50 cent cookies and told the guy to keep the change. To see his face light up was absolutely amazing.
This experience has put many things into perspective for me. I don’t necessarily have it all, but to see people who have nothing makes my heart ache. At home and church I will definitely find more ways of serving my community and helping out to make a difference. In addition, in everyday life I will continue to try my best to be an encourager in everything that I do. Seeing these people devote their lives to making things better for others and putting other’s interests before their own is such an inspiration.