Day #6 – Thursday

In the first part of our day we went near the Capitol and met with Nora Leccese, a political advocate for the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness. With her, we learned a little what she does with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and how faith and politics interact within the government. We also discussed how we can learn to use our personal strengths to be advocates in our own communities.

Afterwards, the group walked to the Capitol building to meet Washington State Representatives Cathy McMorris-Rogers and Denny Heck. We had a series of questions to ask that were thought of by the students which dealt with global warming, poverty, health care, and education.  Cathy had a meeting with the Vice President right before she was scheduled to meet with us, so her head of staff Ian Fields responded to most of our questions and Cathy was able to respond to one question. We took a photo with Cathy and then we were given a special tour of the Capitol building courtesy of her interns.

Once our tour was finished, we met with Denny Heck for a few minutes and asked him two questions before he had to go to the house floor to vote. We ate lunch and headed over to the Air and Space Museum, where we were given an exclusive and highly informational tour by our very own Joe Bruce.

The final item on our agenda was a stop at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a locally renowned restaurant. Because of the Chili Bowl’s noteworthy secret chili recipe, it has attracted many famous customers over the years, including Barack Obama. Upon returning to the Pilgrimage we all rested our tired feet and had our nightly routine of journaling, prayer partners, worship, and family groups to reflect on the day. It was a very memorable day.

- Gracie and Hailey

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Day #5 – Wednesday

Today our group went to Charlie’s Place, an establishment where homeless people can go to eat breakfast and get clothes that they need. All articles of clothing had been donated, and the food is prepared fresh daily. The establishment is run by a man named John, a man who was once homeless and came to Charlie’s Place as someone seeking food and clothes. He began helping clean up afterwards, and eventually worked his way up to become manager. Before breakfast, we were in charge of getting the clothes that people requested, and it quickly became apparent that there was a serious lack of men’s shirts, pants, and shoes. While people ate their “pre-breakfast”, we spread out among them and had genuine conversations with them. Next we served breakfast to people, staying to serve seconds, thirds, and even fourths, watching as a few people placed breakfast items into bags for later. We then went back to the pilgrimage to rest and pack lunches to bring to people in DuPont Circle. In DuPont Circle, there was no shortage of people in need of lunches, and within minutes we had exhausted all of our bagged lunches. While giving out lunches, we were able to meet and make relationships with new people. We also encountered a few people who we had seen getting breakfast at Charlie’s Place and even a man who had served alongside us. While we were on this adventure, the other two work groups worked together at Washington Parks and People, helping out the community around Marvin Gaye Park.

Originally, Watt’s Park had grass taller than 5 feet and had the highest crime rate of national parks. Washington Parks and People made it their goal to restore the park. Armed with jackets, flashlights, and a smile, they took on the task of making the park safe again. After seeing success and significantly reducing crime rates, the organization spread to other parks in the city and now has over 40,000 volunteers every year working to continue keeping the parks safe. While working, we saw many friendly faces excited that we were improving the area. Our jobs included picking up the abundant garbage scattered around the park and river and weed whacking/trimming bushes and trees. We only had the time to cover a small area of a large park but the work that we did made a difference in the cleanliness and quality of a place that people in the community walk through everyday.

After both groups returned to The Pilgrimage and ate lunch, a group from Ohio and us participated in a poverty simulation run by the Pilgrimage. In one hour we went through one month in the life of families in poverty. Each family was different in dealing with their own problems because of medical, educational and financial challenges. We quickly realized the amount of stress put on a family who makes very little and needs to pay for food, clothing, mortgage, utilities, loans and transportation expenses. After the debrief, we learned that only one family was able to pay for everything in full out of the twelve participating families. We learned that it is hard to get out of poverty because while support services exist, people are often unaware of them or have no extra time or transportation to access them. We also experienced the domino effect of one bad thing causing every other area of life to rapidly go down.

After dinner tonight we are excited to go on a walk to the Obama’s neighborhood (only a 1/2 mile from where we are staying).

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Day #4 – Tuesday

One of our work groups got an early start on Tuesday, waking up at 5:15 in order to head over to Charlie’s Place – an organization which works to serve the homeless population of D.C. in a variety of different ways (see Wednesday’s blog) – and then to hand sack lunches out to homeless people at a park a couple blocks away from the Pilgrimage. The other two work groups left a few hours later and set out for a morning of work at A Wider Circle. A Wider Circle was started by a man who, like us, was bringing food to the homes of families in poverty and did not find what he was expecting. Not only were they without food, but they also had no place to eat the food on because the houses were completely empty. Families were eating on sides of bathtubs because that was the only raised surface in the house. In his living room, he began this organization to take in donations and give household items to families who need them. They are now located in a giant warehouse, basically IKEA without an AC, where people can get whatever they want for their homes including beds, kitchen appliances, living room furniture, bathroom items, and linens. In addition, they provide business clothing for their clients who may be interviewing for jobs or entering the workforce. Those who want or need business clothes are allowed to take a minimum of five outfits but can take more, providing them with enough clothing to get through an entire workweek. A Wider Circle has multiple other services to help reach out to the growing population of low income families. While we were there, half of our group folded and organized linens and baby clothes in the warehouse to make them more easily accessible. Another group was downstairs in storage organizing and moving A LOT of donated mattresses so that they can be distributed more efficiently to the many clients in need of beds.

After a morning of work, we came back to the Pilgrimage where we had the opportunity to hear the life stories of two inspiring individuals. The speakers are a part of the National Coalition for the Homeless. Each of their stories was a testament to God’s goodness and faithfulness even in the hardest times. They had both been through many losses, trials, and for periods of times had both experienced homelessness. Through faith and the help of organizations in D.C., they overcame homelessness and are now leading happy lives enjoying a full time job and retirement. The insight they shared opened our eyes to the reality of poverty and what God can do with just a little faith.

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Day #3 First full day of service

Today was our first day of actual mission work. To start the day we met with a woman named Deborah, who is a social activist in DC. She talked the group through the population density of Washington D.C: 650,000 people in 7 square miles. To compare, Spokane has 209,000 people in 60 square miles. Every month 1,000 people move into the city causing lots of new apartment buildings resulting in a lot of displacement. She then explained to us about three different types of poverty (generational, cyclical, emergency) and how each type had its own difficulties on how to overcome it. In order to get a good understanding of the different income levels in D.C., Deborah took us on a little field trip, where we split into two groups and walked down different blocks in downtown. Through this, we gained a lot of perspective over how many citizens live in poverty.

For our work projects, we once again split into 2 groups to go out and serve. The first group, work group 3, went to an organization called A Wider Circle. This organization provides free furniture, toys, kitchen utensils, and even nicer outfits for job interviews for people who live in poverty and who are in need. Our group worked together to sort through donations of kids toys and linens and pick out the best to put out on the floor for people to have. After discarding some creepy toys and a few rugged books, we were able to clean up the storage room and make a real difference for the organization!

The second group (work groups 1 and 2) went to Washington Parks and People, located near Marvin Gaye Park. The organization cleaned up and lowered crime rates in the park. In addition they help the local community with food needs and community projects. We worked with a man named Kenny who works in the community garden that they run. We picked all the weeds out of the garden and watered all of the plants. We then walked through Maryland and back to the metro and made our way back to the pilgrimage to eat dinner, play games, and worship.

- Ashley, Ryan and Mallory

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Sunday, July 9th:

We started the day with a nutritious breakfast of cereal, bagels, and cups-o-joe. Today was our sightseeing and museum day, so we packed our gear, threw on some sunscreen and were off. The metro was under construction, so we realized walking all the way to the mall, (the place with all the monuments and museums), would be more efficient. We visited the Vietnam War, Lincoln, Korean War, Martin Luther King Jr., and WWII Memorial, and licked the Washington Monument (it wasn’t required). After a great food truck lunch, we toured the Museum of American History, which was very educational, and some even saw Abraham Lincoln’s hat! (It was actually not very tallL). Later was the Holocaust Museum, which many people found powerful, eye opening, and moving. While some of the group decided to stay longer at the Holocaust Museum, everyone else went back to the pilgrimage using the Metro. Upon our arrival at the Pilgrimage we were surprised by the Moe family who is also in DC (Pastor Betsey is on sabbatical and spending time on the East Coast). Everyone was exhausted, and those who were back prepared a plentiful meal of pizza and salad. After dinner was finished and everyone had returned, we met the second intern Cody and played a fun game that introduced us to key ideas of the week. We ended in some worship and prayer partners, and got ready for bed to restore our energy for a big day of service tomorrow.

- Michor and Ben

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Day 1: Washington to Washington

Shoutout to all those awesome parents that dropped their kids off at the airport at 4 am this morning. You all rock! We are soooo happy that you got to go back to bed :) Meanwhile, we’ve been up and running…

Our first flight took us to Denver where we spent an hour layover finding food and playing epic card games. Our next flight was a ‘straight shot’ to Washington D.C. that included a 45 minute pit stop in St. Louis where we enjoyed the sweltering heat of an un-airconditioned airplane. Despite this obstacle, we finally made it to Washington D.C., where unfortunately many of our bags did not make it to the carousel at the same time. We had to wait a while, but in the end, we walked out with all of our luggage! We grabbed some burritos and quesadillas at Qdoba before riding the Yellow and Red Metro lines to the Pilgrimage in Dupont Circle. Here we met our host, Wes, the summer intern for the Pilgrimage. We settled into our bunk beds and our now comfortably playing more card games, journaling, and sharing laughs before lights out!

We can’t wait for a great day of sightseeing tomorrow and a fantastic trip!

Signing Off,

Johnny, Summer, BrookeN, and BrookeM



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Highlights of the Week

Lying under and naming the gorgeous stars -Mallory

Watching the sunsets -Ben

Making relationships and goofing off with the kiddos -Abby

Mini hike with pastor CJ -Henry

Staying up late and playing games or pulling pranks -Weston (Churchill)

Seeing all the beautiful and breathtaking canyons/sunsets -Ryan

Love playing with the little kids -Janna

Screaming car rides blasting Timberlake and Rector for three+ hours –Nathan

Seeing the stars and the kid’s faces shining God’s love -Michor

Laying under the stars, hiking, and being filled with joy from the kids! –Lexi

Building new relationships and strengthening existing relationships with our students, and watching them use their strengths and talents for God. –Scurr

Witnessing the beauty of God’s creation in deep canyons, under bright stars, and in the kiddo’s smiles and laughter. –Brooke

Picking constant goat heads out of my shoes!!! – Diane

Seeing how happy the kids were to be at VBS/sports camp. –Bethany

Getting to share God’s love with all the kids that attended VBS. –Macie

Experiencing God’s beautiful creation from a different place a culture along with lighting the God’s fire in all the kids. –Evarosa

Being able to actually come together as a group, giving the chance for younger kids to have God in their life –MaKinzy

Watching the students be the “light of the world” to children and each other and great car conversations. – Katie



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Leaving Ganado

We started off the day with a leisurely morning. Before heading out of Ganado we stopped at the Hubbell trading post and we looked at the items for sale that were made by Navajos. We departed Ganado shortly after. We then headed towards Canyon de Chelly, where some kids hiked down while others visited lookout points. We all had lunch at burger king and started the long car ride to Albuquerque. On our way to Albuquerque we stopped at Window Rock where we learned about the history of the Navajo code-talkers used during WWII. Then we departed to First Presbyterian Albuquerque. It was a 2 ½ hour drive but it was nice to get to spend quality time with each other.

- Bethany and Macie

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Our final day of VBS and of Ganado 

We woke up tired from the previous night of having fun and looking at the stars. We were however ready to take on the last day of VBS and sports camp with enthusiasm and excitement. Even as we started our personal morning worship a few kids started to show up wide-eyed and bushy tailed. We started the day off by getting all the kids super pumped and ready for the day by singing a lot of songs and dancing around the church. While a lot of the kids just gave us strange looks, a few joined in the fun. We then began the fun of teaching the kids about Joseph’s story. Us, being a day short of what the curriculum gave us, made us have to squeeze two stories into our very short Joseph time. We broke off into our small groups and taught the kids about family and forgiveness. Which led us into our fun afternoon, starting with a delicious lunch created by the one and only Mary Mattie (with help from Nancy). Then we dove right into the final day of sports camp, which involved fun games and competition. The kids finally got to play the sports they were waiting for all week. The blazing hot sun made our sports snack of Otter pops just that much more appreciated. We took pictures with our family groups and the kids. Then came the hardest part of the day…telling the kids good-bye. Knowing we would never see these kids who had shared their stories and a week of their lives ever again was heartbreaking. Kids asked us if they could fly back to Spokane and live with us or begged us to stay for another week. We were also asked to take a picture in front of the White House and send it to them… they didn’t quite understand that there are two Washingtons. This is a week that we will never forget, from the adorable kids to the terrifying ghost encounters. This week has changed all of our lives for the better; it gave us an amazing cultural and spiritual adventure that we will not forget.

Written by the coolest kids on the block: Evarosa Perry and Ryan Thompson.

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On Top of the World, Beneath the Stars

Today was by far the best day we’ve had with these kiddos. They’ve finally gotten comfortable with us: our leadership, our friendship and our piggybacking abilities. It’s cool to notice how each kid comes into the sanctuary remembering our names, jumping eagerly into our laps, and laughing with us as if we were old friends.

We started off the day enthusiastically singing the songs they had grown to love already, even though they’d only learned them two short days ago. All the voices cheered faster as we sang “Happy All the Time”, and everyone participated in the funny dance moves that went along with “Pharaoh Pharaoh” and “Father Abraham”. We went to visit Joseph to hear about his experience with wisdom and how God will always lead us to the right path. Then during family time, our students got a hands-on experience by leading each other blindfolded around the classroom. They embraced each other’s in(sight)ful wisdom and had a blast doing it. Other highlights of VBS today included the kid’s willing participation in craft time (we made beaded crowns), the insisting need to play with every caterpillar they picked out of the trees, and the competitive and sportsmanlike spirit showcased in our giant game of capture the flag! We are blessed to say that after some prayer and a whole lot of sleep, God renewed our patience and energy, allowing us to lovingly connect, teach and be crazy with every single kid.

Sports Camp went quite smoothly following our fantastic morning! Our hardest group, the 6-7 year olds, really got into playing volleyball. They were engaged, passing, laughing, and we even lifted them up to spike over the net like “a real varsity star”. We also got a kick out of the fact that the 10 year olds playing basketball were originally unfamiliar with the game ‘bump’; but once they recognized it as ‘Knockout’ (The same game with a different name) they rallied and gave Weston a run for his money. We ended sports camp by gathering around to sing/chant “Boom Chika Boom”, and say goodbye to our favorite new friends for the day.

For the evening, the pastor at Ganado Presbyterian, C.J., invited us to hike up to one of his favorite spots, Fluted Rock: a viewpoint at 8,000 feet where you can see Navajo land in every direction you turn. Here we heard C.J.’s testimony about how he came to his faith, and learned about other Navajo traditions. In the light of the falling red sun and the quickly brightening moon, we were blessed to have the opportunity to see the sacred prayer circles of the Navajo people, where all come to worship, celebrate, ponder and grieve. There are really no words to explain the beauty that we saw. The night concluded with worship under the moon, stars and galaxies. Some of us saw our first shooting stars, while others entertained ourselves with star tripping. Laying in a circle, counting the stars and creating our own constellations allowed us to grow in fellowship and friendship with one another, and really just became a family.

- Brooke and Mallory

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