as promised, the long-awaited milwaukee post!
last weekend ben and i drove up from bluefield to milwaukee, wisconsin to check out transformation city church and all that God is doing there.
we also pit stopped in grand rapids, michigan to visit grandma betty (on ben’s side) – whom i had never met before. pure awesomeness. i love spunky old people 🙂
let me just go on record and say that taking a 12+ hour road trip with your prospective spouse could be the most intense form of pre-marital counseling out there. the drive was sweet, but definitely not without its fair share of stresses. first of all, we had to drive through chicago to get there. (nothing more needs to be said on that one). second, we got lost…twice. and third, the car we rented had xm radio which led to the epic debate of whether we would listen to ESPN radio or 80’s pop for hours at a time.
(our compromise, we listened to dave ramsey’s “financial peace university” cd’s for about 8 hours straight!)
but we finally made it to milwaukee despite lack of direction, radio debates and chicago. we arrived on friday afternoon and, after briefly meeting the lead pastor, Jason, were whisked off on a driving tour of the city by the youth pastor, Kevin. milwaukee is the tenth poorest city in the united states. as with most places, this poverty affects every facet of life. literacy rates are incredibly low and high school drop out rates are high. in short, milwaukee is hurting. but as we drove around we saw not just incredible poverty but extravagant wealth. much like bluefield, the poverty line in milwaukee can literally be just across the block.
Kevin drove us around and told us about the city (which is also really fun, by the way. fun artsy district, lake michigan, professional sports… 🙂 ) and bought us some incredible, real, wisconsin cheese before taking us back to eat dinner with the community pastor Tim and his wife Sommer.
saturday we went down to the community house for a church work day; this is when we really started to get a taste of what transformation city is doing to, well, transform their city.
but first, you may ask, what is a community house?
the community house is a duplex in the central part of the city that the church purchased last year with the vision of having it become a place where people from the church would come to live and invest their lives in the community. pretty cool really.
currently, Kevin (the youth guy) and Ben (a church guy) live in the upper unit in the community house. our work day project was to work a little in the lower unit, getting it to a livable condition and to dig up the backyard so that Kevin and Ben can plant a community garden this spring/summer.
we got to meet several people from the church and work alongside them. it was truly amazing to see what God can do when people live their lives with reckless abandon and in authentic community. we also got to meet some of milwaukee’s finest…
…the kids of course!
we had a great time scraping paint and turning up soil, and i even learned how to throw a football the right way (the fifth graders can still out throw me though…)
sunday we went to church; transformation city meets in a movie theater which brought back sweet, sweet memories for me of set-up and take-down from back in the days of new century in roanoke 🙂 (i love you guys!)