One of the favorite activities of the youth at Trinity every year is sleeping outside in cardboard. Each year it takes us endless hours to build a cardboard shelter big enough to house the entire group, and this year we had an awesome castle built. Unfortunately, it started raining after noon and didn't stop until well into the evening, and with 2" of water on the ground, we were unable to build our shelter or sleep outside (but we've saved all the cardboard, so look forward to seeing it next year!).
Even though we couldn't sleep "out", we still had a wonderful evening put on by Keystone Opportunity Center. We learned a lot about homelessness and hunger. One of the numbers that always shocks us is that 1 in 5 kids in America live in poverty, and in this area, 1 in 4 kids are on reduced or free lunch programs at their school (including Palisades - check out the numbers yourself). We simply can't believe hunger is that present in our communities.
This year, one of our activities was to make a chain of paperclips representing all the homeless in the area that Keystone serves (Bucks and surrounding counties). We attached 7500 paperclips to each other! Even the coordinators didn't realize how big it was going to be, and after getting tons of help from the youth and wrapping the chain around the fellowship hall twice without even half of the paperclips attached year, we found ourselves in a tangled mess. Eventually we moved the chain into the sanctuary, where it went up to the front and back (in an aisle longer than Trinity's) about 20 times.
If we were overwhelmed by paperclips, you can imagine how poverty services in this area feel. These 7500 people, we were reminded, don't want to be homeless. A bad moment in life or a one wrong choice got them stuck in this situation. Everyone wants a home.
As always, the teens had a lot of fun, playing minute-to-win-it games, drawing awareness posters to be put on the roads around Souderton, and even braiding the guys' hair. We also learned about an awesome ministry in Allentown that sends doctors and nurses out to people who are homeless, who often have no means of transportation, and provides them the basic medical care they need and arranges for more specialized treatment when necessary.
The big thing the youth took away is that "we can make a difference, even at this age," one said. Another replied, "Just us going there made a difference." We had our eyes opened to a problem in our own neighborhood, and knowing there is a problem is the first step in being part of the answer.
A special thanks to Jen Ritter and Jim Nilsen who helped us last minute in transporting the cardboard we hoped against hope we'd be able to put up.