Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Love Chicago

The above is true and simple.  I love that town.  You might say that Chicago is full of crime, the winters are terrible, and maybe you hate the Cubs (although my husband is a devoted fan, despite their struggles), but none of that deters me.  Let me tell you what I love about Chicago.  I love Millennium Park, Lincoln Park Zoo, Grant Park, Sprinkles, Giordano's Pizza, State Street shopping, and especially Pacific Garden Mission.  While, no, I am not planning to move there, one of the events I look most forward to every summer is the week my family and young folks from the OCYE spend working at Pacific Garden Mission.

If you are not familiar with PGM, it is a homeless shelter, although the Mission encompasses so much more than simply providing a night's sleep for down on their luck men and women.  PGM does provide just that, as well as delicious meals, but they also share the gospel before each meal, as well as provide Bible programs for the men and women who choose to stay for a longer period of time.  There are various other ministries within PGM, and you can read all about them here.

We first started volunteering at PGM nine years ago, back when the building looked like this:

In 2007, PGM was able to move into their new, much larger building.  Our first visit to the new building was astounding.  The kitchen and dining area were several times larger then at the old mission, and the accommodations meant PGM could help even more people. This is the mission today:

Our job usually consists of setting up and cleaning up from breakfast and lunch, sweeping/mopping floors, organinzing the stock room, cutting vegetables or meat for dinner, serving soup and sandwiches, and the occasional bed-making and bathroom cleaning.  It may seem like everyday, mundane work, but it is one of the biggest blessings of my life each year.  Obviously, I am reminded of my blessings, how fortunate I am to how a home, clothing, and food. 

However, what I didn't realize is that each year I would be blessed most by the people with whom we work in the kitchen.  Some of these men, the chefs and other workers, are familiar faces each year.  Men like Chef Turnbull, who has worked at PGM since before we started coming, who remembers our names every single year without missing a beat, and who hugs us all on the last day.

Then there are the men we meet who work in the kitchen as part of their participation in the Bible program.  These men are making strides to completely change their lives for the better.  PGM offers them a place to stay, an intense study of God's word, as well as resources to futher their education or other training for future job opportunities.  From these men I have learned more about love, sacrifice, and overcoming obstacles than I ever knew was possible.  I know for certain that while we are supposed to serve to be a blessing to others, they are the true blessings to us.

We do also have some downtime while in town. One of the most common themes of my blog (and my life) is my love of good food.  Chicago is a great place to find fabulous food.  See for yourself.  :)

The first order of business each year when we arrive at the hotel is to order Giordano's pizza.  It is heaven in a cardboard box!

My second favorite Chicago food spot is definitely Sprinkles.  Best. Cupcakes. Ever.
Ready to devour some cupcakes!


My favorite meal of the whole trip was this one: Voodoo Shrimp from House of Blues.  The sauce is spicy but the rosemary cornbread is sweet.

You should have known we made more than one trip to Sprinkles.  :)

Wednesday is the one day of the week that we do not work at the mission; we use the time to peruse the city.  Our first stop of the day was the (free) Lincoln Park Zoo.

The afternoon was spent at the Field Museum, and right before dinner we headed to Millennium Park.  This particular park is one of my favorite spots.  The fountains are such fun, and I love to people watch, so it's a joy to watch the children splashing and jumping. 

At the Field Museum with Sue the dinosaur
He has big feet, but not quite dino-sized.

And Connor's favorite party of the trip?

"meeting" Woody at Water Tower Place

It was an amazing week...see why I love Chicago? 

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