el2All too often those of us from the white, middle-class culture of the US tend to speak and give answers immediately. We often struggle to wait, to listen and to learn particularly when we think we know how to “fix” someone or their problem. The result is often that we answer the wrong question, solve a non-issue and offend those we’ve “helped.” Alas, how easy it is to harm those you intend to serve.

As a result, an indispensable aspect to our program is listening. If we refuse to listen both group2
to God and to our neighbors, we will inevitably go astray. To circumvent this, we provide space daily to listen both to how God is at work in Chicago and to the people who actually live here. Each day we will engage in a customized opportunity and get a chance to simply listen. Listen to how God is at work through his people in various forms of ministry. Listen also to the residents of our community and our city by interacting on a relational level. Afterwards, we intentionally debrief each experience.

Although we have a number of these listening experiences, here are two of our most popular.


We often visit Pacific Garden Mission, touring their facilities and hearing from a person who has been through their year-long bible and rehabilitation program. Their testimony of God’s faithfulness is always staggering. Our goal is to listen to how this mission has responded to their calling to homeless outreach through the story of a particular person who has been served and is now serving.

Typically on the following day we experience what we call the “Meal Share.” Herein students group into teams of 2-3, pack a sacked lunch each and one extra per group. We then head out to a pre-determined location and spread out, and each team seeks to find a person who seems to be in need of a meal. They ask to sit and share their lunch and a conversation with the goal being a ministry of presence and relationship.

Our hope is that in listening we will begin to see the real issues, humbly admit that we don’t have all the answers, and seek to develop healthy, sustainable, and reciprocal relationships. In listening we can hear how God is at work and how we can begin to weave our lives into the tapestry that he is creating.