Monday, October 26, 2015

What a night! Box City at Blaine High School

This past Thursday night, October 22 Chain of Lakes Church partnered with Blaine High School (BHS) to share an event called Box City.  We slept out in boxes on the tennis courts of BHS to give participants an experience of homelessness and to publicize the issue of homelessness among teenagers in Anoka County.

This was the second year in a row that Box City took place.  For a while I wasn’t even sure we would have Box City.  The Social Worker at Blaine High School with whom we worked last year left for another position in the school district.  It wasn’t until some teachers at Blaine High School approached Chain of Lakes about doing Box City were we sure that this would happen.  How cool is it that the school approached the church about partnering together!  And how often does that happen?  We are so glad that Chain of Lakes has developed this level of partnership with Blaine High School.

Once we decided Box City would happen, we had a planning team made up of folks from the school and Chain of Lakes.  We meet for five weeks.  It was a wonderful and effective planning group. 

Over a hundred teenagers, adults from the school and thirteen adults from Chain of Lakes ultimately participated. (The picture above is from folks from Chain of Lakes.)

We started the evening with a program about teen homelessness.  Jon Sitarz had us all in tears as he shared his story of starting Hope 4 Youth; Jessica, a student from Blaine High School who served on the planning team, shared her stories of helping homeless teenagers; Rochelle Carrick, a woman who attends Chain of Lakes, shared her story of being homeless as a teenager;  I talked about the importance of having compassion towards teens who were homeless.

At the program we discovered that some of the students raised money for the event.  One student raised over $400; another student raised $200. 

After the program we went out to set up boxes.  We were fortunate in that Josh Dochniak, from Chain of Lakes, again was able to provide boxes.  The weather was warm and the feeling among all participants was excitement.

The choir at Blaine High School was holding their concert.  They dedicated a piece to teenagers who were homeless and mentioned Box City.  After one song, they took a collection for homeless teenagers.  They raised $1,200!

We went to bed in our boxes a little after 10.  About four in the morning it started to rain.  The rain wasn’t strong and it never made it through the box in which I was sleeping.  The rain reminded us of the challenges that homeless teenagers encounter that the rest of us won’t encounter.

Most of us were up at 6:00 in the morning to start taking down our boxes.  The students went directly to school.  The idea was for them to have an experience of going to school as a homeless teenager would experience.  We cleaned up and were off the tennis courts by 7:30 a.m.

Paul Edget—a participant in Box City from Chain of Lakes—wrote about his experience at:

This was a marvelous event that gives me wonderful hope that the goal of ending homelessness among teenagers can be reached!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Worshiping at the Crossing

Our worship team has been spending some time visiting other churches as we prepare for a worship retreat this Saturday.  I chose to attend the Crossing Church in Elk River.  Our team wanted to learn about a very large church that wasn’t Eagle Brook.  I drove there yesterday and attended their 9:00 a.m. worship.

According to their web site--—the Crossing was launched in October 2004.  They have grown very fast.  They have 1,600 people who attend worship at one of their four campuses.  They also have an on-line campus and and three micro-campuses.

I arrived at their Elk River campus about five minutes before worship.  I was greeted at the door and given a lot of information about worship and the Crossing.  In their lobby they had a coffee shop, book store, plenty of signs, and directions to their kids space.  When I walked into their worship space I was offered ear plugs. 

Their worship space was very large.  It had a cement floor, two large screens on the side, a smaller screen at the front, a stage and lots of audio/video equipment in the back.  Much of the space was roped off at the 9:00 service.  I would guess that between 150 and 200 people attended that service.

The band began right as the timer on the video screen hit zero.  The lead guitarist welcomed us and a band of eight played two songs.  Many people raised their hands—the band acknowledged that it was early to worship and encouraged us to be energized.  After the songs a woman shared a prayer with music playing in the background.   We were then encouraged to fill out a connect card that was in the back of the seat in front of us.  Announcements were shared and then a video about the current sermon series called, “I Am.”  After the video the band led us in a very high energy song.

Lead pastor, Eric Dykstra, then talked about the I Am sermon series that he has been sharing.  This is an identity series.  He was dressed in a leather coat with black jeans.  He was a very engaging speaker.  He talked for about ten minutes and then introducted four people who talked about different parts of 1 Peter 2:9-10.  Each person was on staff.  One person talked about how God chose us, the next person talked about how we are royalty, the third person talked about how we are holy.  All of the speakers gave their talks from memory.  Eric Dykstra then came back and did a wrap up.

Before the closing Kelly Dykstra gave a six minute talk on giving.  She used the metaphor of a ketchup bottle and shared a story of using ketchup at a recent staff retreat.  A video was then shared about an upcoming series on the devil along with an announcement about a large Halloween party.  I left the building around 10:20.

I’m glad I went.  The people at the Crossing are obviously doing something right.  I didn’t know the songs and had a hard time singing.  I enjoyed a few of the talks—though I was given so much information that I felt like a water hose had sprayed me. 

I don’t think I could worship weekly at the Crossing, but I applaud them for the many different ways they are reaching and connecting to people.