J.T. sent me his reflections on Mission Peoria. He not only talked about how God had used him to help Impact lives but also how God had Challenged him to live life differently for God.
This short video shows you how God Impacted a City through young people who were ready to "Run Hard" after him.
Below is the email that he sent me.
Mission Peoria Reflections
By J.T. Henderson
As I strolled towards the Dream Center, a tall building with the letters “dcp” plastered across the front, I was greeted by the chaotic lines of an anxious crowd. I was awestruck at the number of people who were attending this community event. When I saw the joyful faces of the children frolicking in the parking lot, my heart swelled with happiness. Winding my way through the masses in the blazing summer sun, I was relieved to step inside the air-conditioned building. Spotting my group leader, I asked where my assistance was needed. When I learned of my assignment, I was excited that I would be working alongside my friends. I climbed the long steps dodging the adults and kids waiting. Entering the gymnasium, I noticed thousands of backpacks lining the walls and stacked on tables. As the children received their backpacks filled with school supplies, I shared in their delight. Realizing the amount of effort that went into this event, I admired those who donated their time and money to make it possible. I thought with amazement, I am actually a part of Backpack Peoria!
Backpack Peoria was the conclusion to the weeklong camp I attended known as Mission Peoria. On June 20th, 2011, I began an incredible journey from my home in Hawaii to the fascinating state of Illinois. I was thrilled to see family and friends in my former hometown of Peoria. When my youth pastor, Brian, described Mission Peoria, I proposed the idea to my parents. When they said yes, I envisioned all the fun that I would have when the week finally came. Mission Peoria began at 2:00 PM on July 25th. As I arrived at the Dream Center I was embraced by the bedlam of hundreds of kids milling about. Then a youth leader, Alex, guided me to the nearby church which would become my home away from home for the next week. The room in which I was directed to place my sleeping bag was fairly spacious, but still almost filled to the bursting point.
Afterwards, I made my way back to the Dream Center for orientation. As I surveyed the gym where orientation was being held, I noticed the hundreds of excited kids ready to begin their weeklong journey with Mission Peoria. As I scanned the crowd for a familiar face, my eyes fell upon a group of kids from my church. Suddenly, the sound of a English brogue directed my attention to the speaker, Andy King, Director of the Dream Center. As he welcomed us, I listened intently to his instructions and my enthusiasm to begin helping people grew. My team, Cobalt Blue, boarded one of the Mission Peoria busses to ride to Glen Oak, an area of downtown Peoria. Glen Oak Church, an aged, grand building, would be our post for the children’s program known as “Baseline.” From there, we walked door to door handing out fliers regarding Baseline. I worried that it might not go well, but we were given a very warm reception from kids and adults. Later in the day, we played some games and rocked out with a group of musicians, our “band” for the rest of the week. As I crawled into my sleeping bag, I thanked God for a phenomenal first day.
A light as bright as the sun invaded my sleepy eyes. It’s morning already? I wondered. I pulled myself out of my sleeping bag, glanced around the room, and noticed most people were already up. I then looked at my lanyard and saw that it was time for devotions, so I grabbed my Bible and my devotion book and trekked towards the cafeteria. On my way I tried to wake myself up. I did my devotions and braced myself for the rush of kids coming to breakfast. The cafeteria turned into a madhouse very quickly. After breakfast, I made my way to the parking lot where the busses were kept. There were many kids milling about the busses waiting, like me, for the command to board them. It’s almost time to leave for the service project, I thought with excitement. We were given the signal, so I climbed into the bus and took a seat. Kids flooded into the bus and filled every available seat. Then, we were on our way. At the service project, my job was mostly picking up shingles at a roof repair site. I was impressed with the amount of workers helping the elderly owners of the house. When the service project was over, I was exhausted and famished. When we arrived at our sleeping quarters, I made my way to the cafeteria. I quickly got in line; kids were stacked up in front and in back of me. As I chose my food, the aroma was intoxicating. I sat down by my friends and demolished the meal. Next, I was off to practice for Baseline and was one of the first to arrive. We discussed everybody’s jobs and then, headed back to the parking lot where we boarded another bus. Once at the Baseline site, we set up. One by one neighborhood kids walked over, picked up a toy, and began playing with us. I thought that was pretty fun. After we completed Baseline, we ate dinner. When dinner was complete, we had free time. I played a card game known as Mao with my friends, and then went to the evening service. How great is this? I marveled as the band played. The room was so packed, I could hardly breathe. The message from the guest speaker was phenomenal! After the service, I attended youth group. When the long day was done, night was upon us. I climbed into my sleeping bag, and closed my eyes. This was a typical day at Mission Peoria.
It started Friday morning during announcements. We were informed of the special “surprise” that would occur at the end of the day. The surprise was front row seats to see the famous band, Jars of Clay, perform! Waiting for the concert was tortuous. Finally, we were told to enter the auditorium where the concert was being held. I was almost bursting with anticipation. First, an opening group of musicians played a few songs. Then, Jars of Clay introduced themselves. The crowd was electrified. The rest of the concert was great. After a couple of hours, the night was over. That was an epic last night at Mission Peoria.
Reflecting back on Mission Peoria, I realize that I had many meaningful experiences. For instance, handing out fliers for Baseline helped me see the living conditions of the inner city. Baseline showed me that the Lord can bring joy even in difficult circumstances. Our daily youth group increased my spiritual life substantially. Together, the nightly band and the Jars of Clay concert inspired me to work especially hard on learning piano and guitar with the goal of someday playing in a Christian band. Backpack Peoria really helped show me how thankful the kids were for something so small as a backpack. It also made me more thankful for my possessions, as most of the kids don’t have nearly as much as I do. I’m really thankful for the people that made Mission Peoria possible and I look forward to being a part of it next year!
More information about Mission Peoria 2012 will be available in early 2012