So to continue the discussion about the homeless simulation…
Well the first evening was not that bad. We were fed by a “shelter” where we had to listen to a message and prayer before they would serve the food. They gave us smaller portions then they normally would have and had really strict rules about where we could sit. We had to go out and we scavenged for some cardboard that would make our beds for later that night. After dinner the “shelter workers” took us to where we would be staying for the night. It was an on campus parking garage that was abandoned because school is not in session. They took us there, searched our bag to make sure we didn’t have an illegal items and left us there with instructions to all be back by 10. Some of us went for a walk, others stayed back, and some went to the park. And while all of us were back by 10, it didn’t matter because no one showed until after midnight. It was actually really cool to hang with the team during this time because we just talked. I heard a couple peoples stories (testimonies) and had some good talks with a couple people. But this time was rudely interrupted by the poverty simulation team (aka, the white-shirts, pov-sim team). They made us line up on the wall and then split us into two different groups. One group stayed (that was mine) and another group was taken away but no one knew where they had gone until the next day. It was kind of sad that they split us and the morale of my group definitely decreased. Come to find out that the other group had a great time worshiping and doing yoga 🙂 Meanwhile my group just went to sleep. However we didn’t sleep for long because the white-shirts came back at 1:30 because they needed to find the person that had “stolen”. They took a few people and then told the rest of us to go back to sleep. We didn’t know where the people they took went until the next day.
I can now say I have slept on a cement floor using cardboard as my mattress and plastic as my blanket. None-the-less it was not the most sleep I have gotten nor was it the best nights sleep I have gotten. It was a long night and it did get cold but I was able to sleep a little bit. In the morning (like 5:00) I just got up because I was tired of tossing and turning. I walked laps around the garage and in doing so I found a grate in the ceiling that linked to another garage. This garage was where the other group was held. It was literally the same kind of building it was just a second story. After I found them a couple of us stood by the grate and the whole group sang worship songs. It was the best part of the night! The white-shirts came back at 8:15 for our breakfast. They again lined us up on the wall; we came to find out that they really liked doing this. But they fed us and told us that we had to report back to the garage in a couple hours. Most of us ended up going to the river a block off campus and a small group of us shared our stories with each other.
When we got back to the garage the bus was there again and we all boarded the one bus (making for a hot, packed, stuffy bus). They didn’t let us sleep on the way to the city and they kept us from getting too loud on the bus. We were then dropped off in the city where we were told to complete the list they had given us. Thankfully, each group had a guy so everyone felt a little bit better. The list had various things that we needed to complete before they picked us up that afternoon. On the list was our needing to find a free lunch. We didn’t really succeed at that particular task. The most we really ate were some samples from the market and the mall food court. The things on the list created some interesting situations that led to some good conversations and brought some insight to the members of my group. We were rejected, hungry, and frustrated but we were still able to eventually come back to God and realizing we were not as bad off as we could have been.
We returned to the park and boarded the bus. On the bus they demanded that we be completely silent which was frustrating because who were they to take away our freedom to speak? It was a very quite and reflective ride. Once we got back to the garage, our team leader (Tom) had the pov-sim team get off the bus and then told us how hard it was for the leaders to see this happen and how treating all of the team members in this way was not in their blood. I had held myself together pretty well until Tom spoke to the team but during his talk many of the girls lost it and we started crying. I can’t even explain why I was upset but I think it was the breaking point that they wanted us to reach. After that, even though I was upset and didn’t like how they were treating us, I was better able to handle the orders and the way they treated us. We returned to the garage and the team had completely trashed the area that we has slept in the night before. We had to clean up the area and take out all of the cardboard that we used and put it in the dumpster. After that we were served dinner and then were told to go find more cardboard for the next night. We settled into the garage again. Our small group leaders walked in and we met with them for about an hour. After they left, we worshiped and the group came together in one corner where we sang for quite a while. A small group of us went to the bathroom and thankfully we took our things because when we came back, the white-shirts had ordered us to clean all of the cardboard we had so nicely laid out and pick it up. We were again lined up on the wall and then they had us carry the cardboard to our new spot. It was outside under a lamp that liked to turn on and off. It was honestly a little comfier then the garage because the grass added a cushion! Then the white-shirts came back saying that everyone had to come and they would take us to the bathroom but if we had to go at all, we needed to go then. We walk back to the garage and they all go in. The garage door goes up and they had all taken off the white shirts. It was over!!!
The rest of the night was filled with happiness and gratefulness. Tom was there with the other trip leaders. He talked of how the leaders are here to serve us and to help us. Because of this passion that they have, everyone had their feet washed. The staff washed the staff’s feet and the pov-sim teams feet, the pov-sim team washed the student staff feet and the student staff washed the feet of all the students in their small group. It was an amazing night to sit there and feel God’s presence. I mean finally showering was awesome too!
God taught so many us of things and he opened our eyes to see things that we have never seen before. He taught us about being homeless, about ourselves, and also about our teammates. It was a blessing to share this with so many amazing people that share the passion for God that I have. I can’t even begin to tell you everything that he did; in some ways I am still processing it myself.