Peter Horn, alum of Penn State and Lutheran Student Community, visited New York City with the Youth of Grace Lutheran, State College, PA. “We were there to serve and learn, for, as we learned, where there is one extreme (wealth), the other extreme (poverty) also exists.”
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In the summer of 2019, the Grace Lutheran Youth went to New York City for a service learning trip. While many individuals and families have been to the city before to see the glitz and glamor NYC has to offer, we were not there to see a Broadway play or to dance on the FAO Schwarz Piano. Instead we were there to serve and learn for, as we learned, where there is one extreme (wealth), the other extreme (poverty) also exists. We stayed at the guest house of the Lutheran social service ministry Seafarers International House.
While there, the director, Pastor Marsh Drege (previously a staff member of Lutheran Campus Ministry at Penn State) set us up with daily serving opportunities. We served God in several soup kitchens for breakfast and lunch, restocked and distributed food at food pantries, and went door to door with Meals on Wheels. This is not something that most of our youth had experienced and the learning was very steep yet meaningful.
One story in particular that I would like to share is of a soup kitchen I went to with some of our youth. This soup kitchen used the leftovers from the previous day’s corporate kitchens to provide breakfast. Many of the guests were the working poor, meaning those who have jobs but don’t make enough money to provide for their own daily needs, showing us that need is everywhere and that our system is not providing for the most vulnerable. Our youth left the soup kitchen with many thoughts and questions, but most of all, care for the neighbor.
We did not only serve, even though it was very thought provoking and life changing. We also did some sightseeing, traversing the city to the Brooklyn Bridge, Hudson Yards, the 9/11 Memorial, ate in many different places including Chinatown, and visited some of the Grace “alumni” who live or work in the city. Our hope was to connect the youth with experiences that cannot be had in the State College area.
By reading this, I hope that you have found some comfort and enjoyment this holiday season. I also hope that you have found some resolve and determination to help your neighbors in need.