For youth pastor Jonah Wilson, a BridgeBuilders trip he attended when he was in 8th grade made such an impact that it strongly influenced the path his life would take- coming full circle last summer as he led a group of middle school students from Crossroads Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI on a BridgeBuilders trip.  

 

We sat down with Jonah to debrief about his experience with BridgeBuilders and how the summer trip has led to some key transformations for their church.  One of the key take-aways from their BridgeBuilders week-long trip was the concept of “Shalom in the City” which is one of the first topics that BridgeBridgers presents on.  The Hebrew prophets in the Bible understood the concept of SHALOM as the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. For Wilson, this opened up more conversations on how their group can be shalom in our own community by addressing poverty, racism, or injustices. He affirmed this is something their church, Crossroads Bible Church in Grand Rapids, has also been talking about.  Another take-away from their trip was talking about the privileges we take for granted. “It was so good to hear from people in Chicago sharing their experiences and going through the poverty simulation helped open the eyes of some of their students to the realities others face.”  

 

Youth from Crossroads Bible Church participate in the BridgeBuilders Poverty Simulation during their Summer 2021 trip.

When Jonah was in 8th grade in Lansing, MI, his youth group participated in a BridgeBuilders trip.  His eyes and heart were opened to so much during this trip that it would guide the choices he made in attending Moody and becoming a youth pastor.  When he had the opportunity to take the middle school youth group he leads on a BridgeBuilders trip, he said it was a “no brainer”.  

 

Sunshine’s BridgeBuilders program offers week-long service-learning trips in the fall, spring and summer.  Groups experience a variety of interactive lessons, service projects, neighborhood tours, and discussion groups.  For Wilson, highlights of their trip included some of the lessons which led to great group discussions as well as serving and learning from community artist and local gardener Bill Hill.  Their group was able to help with some community projects in Woodlawn gardens alongside Hill.  Wilson shares that learning from a community leader who has served his community for decades and sees the beauty and rich history of Woodlawn is inspiring.  “Bill Hill also took time during our lunch break to engage with our students and ask them about their lives and experiences.”  

Woodlawn community leader and artist Bill Hill gives the Crossroads group a tour of the murals in Woodlawn that feature it's rich history.

In addition to their time spent with Hill, their group also worked with local church Living Hope and were inspired to see fellow Christians really putting their money and actions where their values lie.  Participating in the poverty simulation, an interactive experience that allows students and leaders to engage in real-world scenarios, opened the eyes of many students to the complexities of poverty.  For Wilson, this led to many good conversations in the weeks and months to come about privilege and how their church community can leverage privilege to further seek the shalom of their city.  Since their BridgeBuilders experience, Crossroads Bible Church has begun very intentional ministry with the homeless community in Grand Rapids.  The church has partnered with local organizations Mel Trotter and Family Promise Network to support efforts to address the issues around housing insecurity.  For Wilson’s group, the outcome of their BridgeBuilders trip is truly the hope of all who engage in Sunshine’s work- that they would take what they have learned back to their communities and use it to bring Shalom to their city.  

 

If you are interested in participating in a BridgeBuilders experience, we are currently accepting applications for Summer 2022.  Please contact BridgeBuilders Director CW Allen (cw@sunshinegospel.org) or fill out an application here.  

 

Watch the full interview with youth pastor Jonah Wilson here: