Team NY/DC

by Focus International

The NY/DC trip is designed to enhance the APU students’ understanding and appreciation of the community of Christian faith in its relation to two distinct urban environments: the boroughs that make up New York City and the many neighborhoods of Washington, DC. This year’s intense immersion into urban life included stops in Philadelphia and Boston. Zipping to and fro on public transportation, we met with agencies, churches, cultural centers, direct-service providers, and community advocates who seek justice and empowerment for the economically disadvantaged.

In New York, our base camp was Broadway Presbyterian Church in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. From there, we did an initial walking tour of the area to find out where we would do our laundry, buy food, and catch the subway for our daily journeys. On our first day, we served at Broadway Soup Kitchen operated by a professional chef, went to Little Sisters of the Assumption in East Harlem and learned from Sis. Judy Garson about the necessary services they provide, toured the renowned Hale House child support services, and finished the day with a wonderful meal hosted by some friends from Hale House. Each day in New York City was packed with these kinds of opportunities for challenge and learning, and each night we had a lengthy debrief of our experiences.

In Washington, DC our itinerary was quite different than New York. While we spent our nights sleeping on the floor at National Memorial Church of God, our days were filled with meetings with elected officials like Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Sen. Diane Fienstein, Cong. Mike Pence and many others. We also met with chiefs-of-staff, like Frank Watkins from the office of Cong. Jesse Jackson Jr., and did a question-and-answer session with Chaplain of the Senate Barry Black. Other highlights included hearing Jim Wallis preach in an intimate setting at Sojourners/Call to Renewal and meeting with economics guru Dean Shahinian from the office of Senator Paul Sarbanes. None of us will forget the experience of being eyewitnesses to the opening debate between Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Minority Leader Harry Reid, and Senator Ted Kennedy regarding the process of judicial appointments – we sat in the Senate Chambers for this historic discussion about the value of the filibuster and the need to cooperate across the aisles.

During our debrief in Boston at the end of the trip, students shared some of what they were taking away from the experience. “My church is a Ziplock bag,” said one student. “We are about ourselves and don’t really connect with our community, and I feel inspired to change that.” Another student explained, “Everything about this trip was like another step into something greater. I need to have a God-centered life, and this trip has been powerful for my thought process and growth. When I go back home people will see the changes because they are many.”