Sunday, July 2, 2017
By Kathleen Hynan
Last week, I had the indescribable pleasure of embarking on a service trip with eighteen of my peers to Minnesota for a week. This was the third and last Worktour I participated in as a member of Foundations, and it was certainly one for the books. We mainly worked with Rebuilding Together Twin Cities doing home repairs and upkeep for elderly neighbors and people with disabilities. While we spent many grueling hours working, and just as many hours laughing, I’d say what made Worktour most memorable was the presence of Terry Nelson-Johnson, who helped to create an emotional experience for both the teens and leaders. Although I could delve deep into the story of how he caused first time Worktour tears for some of our most proudly self-proclaimed non-criers, I choose to focus instead on one particular night when he was leading devotions.
As a bit of background, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say one thing I love about Foundations and Old St. Pat’s is that we keep our focus on the positive aspects of faith and religion. Our discussions promote love, acceptance, service, etc., rather than warning off sin with threats of Hell and eternal damnation. That is something that I will always consider to be a beautiful thing about this church, and one of the main reasons my faith has survived through my years of teen angst and cynicism, in which most people I know have rejected the idea of God altogether for one reason or another.
That being said, the concept of Hell has always been a sort of elephant in the room for me in the journey to fully understand my faith. On the first evening that Terry led devotions, he chose to address this elephant in the room in quite a beautiful way. He laid on the ground a pink hula hoop at one end of the room and a ring of Hawaiian shirts at the other end. He explained that for the purposes of this exercise, the hula hoop would represent sin and Hell and the Hawaiian shirts would represent Heaven and grace. He then went on to explain that to him, Hell wasn’t a place of divine punishment or even a place for “bad people.” Instead, he described Hell as essentially being a poor emotional state, the feeling that you are not enough or that you are not worth it; aversely, Heaven represented happiness and emotional security.
Then the activity began. Terry invited everyone to get up one by one to stand in the middle of the pink hula hoop and explain if they were in a state of Hell as he had described it before they came on Worktour. They were then to name one person in the room who had helped them reach a Heavenly state over the course of the four days that we had been there, and to explain how this person had used their personal gifts to do so. Then, that second person would get up and take the first person’s arm, and together they would
walk from the pink hula hoop of Hell to the Hawaiian shirts of Heaven in a symbolic act of companionship and love. What followed was an incredible experience, the details of which are best left to the memories of those of us who were there to witness it.
This, along with many other experiences and moments, made my last Worktour a truly unforgettable week. This exercise was unique in that it provided space for sadness and struggles along with the usual enthusiasm and positivity of Worktour, and because of this the bonds we made were even stronger and deeper than they would have otherwise been. I made unbreakable friendships with both my fellow teens and the adult leaders, and can confidently say that this Worktour was an experience I will never forget.
Kathleen Hynan is a rising senior at Hinsdale Central High School. She has been a participant on Baltimore, Birmingham, and Minnesota Worktour.
My experience on Worktour was the best. I did not expect things to go as they did. I had so many interesting and fun things happen throughout the week.
What does Worktour mean to me? To me, it’s something you can just be yourself at. Somewhere where you learn to love, laugh, and enjoy life.
What makes Worktour special is the people. This is special because during Worktour people really act however they want, like their true selves. Also, during Worktour there are no phones so the connection is almost forced together, making you make new friendships.
Minnesota Worktour gave me perspective about how life continues even in the midst of loss and challenges. It also helped us to gain a newfound appreciation for our abilities and our mission as servants to God.
visit us at oldstpats.org
On Worktour you have this sense of community with everyone else who comes because we all experience short lines, van dances, and the friendships we make.
Worktour is a place where I can be myself, even if that involves singing and dancing really silly to Hamilton. After Worktour, I hope to challenge others to be themselves more often.
What Worktour means to me. Worktour means emotional liberation. You suddenly aren’t locked in a cage of emotions anymore.
Worktour means so much to me because I feel content and full of pure joy during it. It’s the place I feel closest to God.
Worktour for me is a beautiful annual collection of faith, friendship, service, and theology all wrapped into one incredible, life changing week.
It’s a place like no other in this world where all walls come down, and an openness to growth is nurtured.
I felt more peace, love, joy, and community this week then I ever thought possible. I learned to see positives and negatives in everything. I can now embrace and identify the positives and change the negatives. This is a week I will never forget.
To me Worktour means having freedom to let go of everything I don’t like about myself and working on my spirituality and building new friendships.
Worktour is not only a place where we participate in profound service and reflection, but a space of vulnerability. During Worktour our insecurities and imperfections are embraced, welcomed, and accepted. There is nothing like Worktour, it is pure bliss.
Worktour to me is very amazing and special. Working at a homeless shelter that does so much for the people was so cool. I liked helping and feeling more connected within the communities we visited.
Worktour means togetherness. We are all just a bunch of Jesus-loving teens from all corners of Chicago, who somehow unite as one life-changing group.
For me, Worktour has been a chance to experience church in the “walk” of “walk the talk”. Us teens have now experienced these life changing moments together with our church in a very hands-on way.
Worktour was such an amazing experience and I felt blessed the whole time. One specific time was when we went to our first worksite. We moved junk from a man’s backyard to a dumpster; I never knew I could bond with people while breaking apart an old hot tub.
This Worktour has been really enjoyable, and we all have learned a lot about ourselves, each other, and the people that we served. I will never forget this Worktour.
What makes Worktour such a great experience is the people. I’ve never felt so connected to a group of individuals in my life.
Thank you to the adult leaders,
Annie Kielian, Ania Martens, Terry Nelson-Johnson, Sophie Ramatici and John Weinheimer for their incredible generosity of time, energy, and Spirit! 9