Youth Give Back and Visit South Side

On April 10, thirty-seven youth and adults converged to Chicago Fourth for a fun overnight and day of mission in the heart of the city. This annual event, known as AWOL (A Work of Love), is sponsored by the Presbytery of Chicago. The goal of the event is to bring together youth from throughout the Presbytery to participate in a day of mission and learn more about one another. The AWOL event has existed for more than twenty years (as a matter of fact, as the group was walking through the city, a young professional in her thirties stopped when she saw the t-shirts and said, “AWOL! I participated in that when I was in junior high! I loved that event!”)

Youth from Libertyville First, Chicago Fourth and Grayslake Wildwood began the weekend by gathering for pizza and fun on Friday night. Waking up early the next day, youth helped prepare breakfast before heading out for a full day of adventure. Katie Patterson, Junior High Youth and Mission Coordinator for Chicago Fourth and Co-Moderator of the Youth Ministry Team, helped organize the weekend.

Start of AWOL tour

awol yard clean up from Libertyville

Photos courtesy of Rev. Matt Parker Wrzeszcz and Libertyville First

Guided by Mr. Ronnie Harris of Go Bronzeville, the youth participated in a walking tour of the Bronzeville neighborhood, located on the south side of Chicago. Using an all-day Ventra card (see photo on left), they travelled by train, bus and foot. The youth learned interesting facts about the community, its leaders, the effect of the Great Migration, and the future hope for the families, residents and business owners who call Bronzeville home.

Starting at Quinn Chapel AME, the group heard of the struggles and celebrations of past residents. From there, the group travelled by train to the corner of 51st and the Green Line. Mr. Harris described a number of innovative plans to bring the community together, including a refurbished park, eco-friendly restaurants and the Bike Box, a small business designed to encourage residents to exercise by using their bicycles (Biking tours of Bronzeville embark from the Bike Box on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer at 3:00 p.m.).

Youth spent a few hours picking up trash and cleaning the area while talking to residents (see left photo). The group moved towards Washington Park and stood on one possible spot where the Obama Presidential Library may one day stand. Traveling eastward, the group walked past the Obama family home and then traveled to the Stephen A. Douglas Tomb (located next to Chicago Sixth Grace). A final bus ride took the group to Alison Saar’s bronze statue Monument of the Great Northern Migration located on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive near the McCormick Convention Center. It was a beautiful, fun and informative day.

As youth sank into the seats of the bus on the ride back north to Chicago Fourth, three middle school girls enthusiastically asked, “Can we do this again next year?” Sean Smith, a 7th grader from Libertyville First said, “In my opinion the best part about AWOL was being able to be with your friends and at the same time getting to help the community in a fun way.”

We encourage as many youth leaders to bring their youth to the 2016 AWOL event next April! According to youth Sean Smith, “AWOL is a good way to show God’s love through community work and it’s very enjoyable.”

Get more information on Presbytery of Chicago youth events.

This article was originally published on page 5 of the June 2015 Our Common Ministry, the presbytery’s newsletter. Download the complete issue.

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