#Project365MB: January 25-31 & February 1-7

January 25: Best friend from Buffalo comes to visit? Go to the Bills backer bar, of course. (That would be Lincoln Station, if you’re curious)

SO thrilled to have my best friend @meghanisajoke visiting Chicago for a couple days! #gobills

January 26: My roommate Teresa’s birthday. We went to a restaurant called the Longman & Eagle, where we tried such adventurous dishes as braised duck, roasted cauliflower and beet lentils, and fried goat ravioli. Oh yeah, and instead of cake, they gave her a shot of bourbon with a candle in it for her birthday. Happy birthday indeed.

Happy birthday @treezie126! #thatsmyroommate #birthdayshots

January 27: Spent the day in Wicker Park with Meghan, went to Transit Tees, ate delicious tacos and drank beers with hot sauce and lime at Big Star, took an adventure to O’Hare.

But I can’t stop from just smiling when that damn sun is shining on, hell it’s just shining down all over me. Thanks for hangin with me, @meghanisajoke!

January 28: Bridgeport seems like a neat place.

Hung out into Bridgeport today, super cool place. Reminded me a lot of South Buffalo. Thriving arts scene. Great coffee. And combination liquor store-bars that are next to British pasty shops.

January 29: I can’t even explain why I get so elated when I find myself at a bar that carries Labatts. Also, appropriate t-shirt, no?

Spreading the Buffalove, one @labattusa at a time. #buffalothings

January 30: Selma is an incredibly powerful, moving film that everyone should see.

Went to see Selma for community day. If you haven’t seen it yet, you absolutely should. “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” -Winston Churchill

January 31: Wherever you are, there you go.

This year, summed up in one sentence.


February 1: Super Bowl Super Blizzard Sunday. Apparently the fifth-largest blizzard in Chicago’s history.

So it snowed a little bit in Chicago… And in a total Buffalo moment, we helped push someone out that was stuck in the snow! Say what you want about winter, but cold fosters community.

February 2: Groundhog day, Grandma’s birthday. I love this picture of my Grandma, my Aunt Marjie, me, and my Mom.

Happy birthday Grandma, on what would be your 86th birthday. Love and miss you every day.

February 3: Trains and city.

Views from an overpass. (@Ashland [CTA Green/Pink Lines])

February 4: “Dibs” is serious business in Chicago.

One of the strangest things about Chicago in the winter is the concept of “dibs.” When it snows, people will shovel out a parking spot and then leave chairs, crates, ironing boards, even giant stuffed teddy bears or floor lamps in their parking spot to save it. But the craziest part is that people actually respect this and won’t park there if it isn’t their spot. Nowhere else would this work. Ever.

February 5: The overpass that leads to the Kedzie-Homan blue line station entrance.

View most mornings before getting on the train, view most nights after getting off the train.

February 6: Sunset in East Garfield Park.

View out my bedroom window.

February 7: Community Organizing Training.

Spent most of the weekend with these folks participating in a Community Organizing Training put together by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

#Project365MB: January 18-24

This was definitely a week of learning and new experiences. From celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King, to walking around Chicago’s loop at 1 a.m. counting homeless persons, to seeing firsthand artifacts from the Holocaust, here is a look at the week that was:

January 18: I love MLK Sunday for many reasons, but singing this is definitely a highlight, because I think it captures the essence of Martin Luther King, Jr’s. legacy. And also, I got to sing it twice. Thanks, Fourth Presbyterian Church.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on til victory is won!

We sing lots of incredible hymns at church, but this one is in my top three. I love the melody, I love what the song stands for. #LiftEveryVoiceAndSing

January 19: Stained glass window at First Church of the Brethren.

Today is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Chicago YAV house is next door to the First Church of the Brethren, in which MLK was based out of when he worked on affordable housing in Chicago. I love walking by this window in the sanctuary not only because it is so colorful, but also because in the lower left hand corner is a depiction of Rev. Dr. King, in commemoration of his time with First Church of the Brethren. Today, we celebrate how far we’ve come as a nation, and remember how much work is still yet to be done. #YAVProgram

January 20: State of the Union Day! The day’s highlight, though– My roommate Teresa and I went with some friends to see The MLK Project: The Fight For Civil Rights, a one-woman show about a high school teenager on Chicago’s South Side who is required to present a project about MLK. The performer alternates between the persona of the young girl who is learning about the Civil Rights Movement, and various figures and leaders from the same time period. The acting was phenomenal, and really provides a unique perspective of the people who lived through the Civil Rights Movement.

“The State of the Union is strong.” And Chicago got a shoutout for offering free community college courses! Also, I love Chicago’s flag.

January 21: Downtown

Downtown, looking up.

January 22: Chicago Homeless Count

Last night, the City of Chicago dispatched over 300 volunteers to do a “point in time” homeless count. In addition to counting people in shelters, hospitals, and other public spaces, volunteers also went to specific neighborhoods to count people outside. This helps to create a “snapshot” which is then sent to US Department of Housing and Urban Development and determines funding for homeless services the city receives. The agency I work with sent quite a few people, myself included.

January 23: Community Day

For community day, we went to the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie. In addition to a powerful collection of stories, artifacts, and first hand accounts of the horrific events of the Holocaust, the museum had a special exhibit on race and its history, privilege, and the ways that we use race to treat others as inferior. Exhibitions like this are so important, because to have progress in our future as the human race, we must understand and learn from the mistakes of the past. “Imagine all the people, living life in peace.” Wouldn’t that be something.

January 24: Capping off the week by celebrating multiple birthdays!

Fourth Presbyterian Young Adults have so many birthdays this week! So we had a mega birthday celebration last night. Such fun, so birthdays, wow

#Project365MB: January 11-17

January 11:

The labyrinth in the Buchanan Chapel at Fourth, which I have utilized on multiple occasions. #zenspot #timewithGod

January 12:

Pretty spectacular sunrise this morning on my walk to the subway. The tall building in the background is the original Sears Tower!

January 13:

Watched the Dominator’s jersey retirement from the Bills Backer bar in Chicago. Because we are #OneBuffalo. Thanks, @LincolnStation.

January 14:

So I love trains. Today in Wicker Park, I went in to a store that sells transit (and Chicago-themed) merchandise! Stickers, magnets, t-shirts, keychains… Even candles and soap. How great is that?!

January 15:

Tonight, we celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at the University of Chicago. We heard from The Rev. Jesse Jackson, and also from Ernest Green, a member of the “Little Rock Nine” that integrated Central High School in Little Rock, AR, as well as various university personnel. And of course, we sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is one of my favorite hymns. “Hate cannot drive out hate- only love can do that. Darkness cannot drive out darkness- only light can do that.”

January 16:

This is where we live, colloquially called “Faith House.” There is this incredible mural on the side of it!

January 17:

Spent most of the day making and eating mac and cheese for a fundraiser for @heyjdk’s friends. And then taking pictures of our creation with the #selfiestick.

 

#Project365MB: January 1-10

As I mentioned previously, I’m taking part in something called Project 365 this year. The concept is straightforward- a photo a day, every day, for 365 days.

Here’s January 1-10:

January 1: Ringing in the new year with a ball drop at the Electric Tower in Downtown Buffalo, New York. 

2015, day 1: Happy New Year from my favorite building in my favorite city. Cheers to 2015 being a great year!

January 2: Even though I was set to board a train at 11:59 p.m., I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see my favorite team play my favorite game. Go Sabres.

No place I’d rather spend my last few hours in #Buffalo than here. #LETSGOBUFFALO! #Sabres #Home

January 3: These are my good friends Ken and Jon. My first night back in Chicago, we had homemade tacos and bro time. I’m going to have dreams about that corn and rice salad. So. Good.

Where two or three are gathered, there am I.” Thanks be to God for these gentlemen, for taco nights, for good wine, and good conversation. I get by with a little help from my friends. #yavprogram

January 4: This is my church home in Chicago- Fourth Presbyterian Church. My year in the YAV Program would not be nearly as full and enriching without this place.

How wonderful to be back at Fourth this morning, and, believe it or not, the FIRST snowfall of the winter in #Chicago!

January 5: Winter swoops in with a vengeance.

Winter decided to show up for real today. But how lovely to sit by the window and watch the snow fall!

January 6: My roommate/co-YAV Teresa and I are transit geeks.

We like (usually) the CTA in our house. So my roommate Teresa got me this El mug and magnets from two stations I use often! What a wonderful Christmas gift! #yavprogram

January 7: NopenopenopeNOPE

it was frigid today. Like, wind chill of -20°F frigid. But, like my mom says… This too shall pass. Hopefully quickly. #PolarVortex

January 8: The L stop I get off at to go to work. I have a tolerable/absolute frustration relationship with the Brown Line sometimes.

Waiting.

January 9: Probably one of the most extraordinary conversations we’ve had during our time here. If you have the chance to read some of John Fountain‘s work (or hear him speak), jump on it.

We had lunch at Lou Malnati’s yesterday. Besides having incredible salad and pizza, we met John Fountain, a local #Chicago author, with whom we had a deep and inspiring conversation about the West Side of Chicago, race relations, politics, and journalism. We also learned that Lou Malnati’s hires people specifically from the Lawndale neighborhood and donates its proceeds to community organizations and revitalization efforts. So, yeah. Awesome lunch. #yavprogram

January 10: Giselle, my pretty kitty who loves to cuddle.

My baby girl with the green eyes

Going Forward

Hello friends,

These past few months have been… well, a lot of things.

New. Exciting. Hectic. Depressing. Wonderful. Anxiety-provoking. Rewarding. Beautiful. Ugly. Holy.

I’ve been stretched in ways I never though possible, done things on a regular basis that I had never imagined, and become “comfortably uncomfortable” with where I live and the kind of work I do.

How appropriate that today, the desktop background on my work computer changed to this:

-im-possible

Unfortunately, I have been majorly slacking on updating this blog with the happenings of all things YAV, things both wonderful and challenging. Hopefully, that changes today.

Here’s the plan:

Over the next couple weeks or so, I’ll publish “digests” from each month. Starting with October 2014, these will include highlights, events, funny moments, challenges, and lots of pictures.

I’ll also write about some specific tenets of this program that have become important to me or integral to how we as a community function- examples include church (that’ll be a big one), work, and riding the CTA (that’s Chicago Transit Authority, for the less public transit-savvy).

I’m also trying a new twist on an old idea this year- it’s called Project 365. The idea is pretty simple- take one picture a day, every day, for one year. I’ve been using Instagram to do this, but I’ll start posting these daily photos here also- retroactive to January 1. (Shameless plug: if you want to follow me on Instagram, my username is @mackintosh716.)

Thanks for sticking with me, and thanks for your continued support.

-Mack

ÂĄEste momento! This is the moment!

Author’s note: It took far longer than it should have, but the blog chronicling my YAV year in Chicago is finally up and running. Apologies for the delay, and enjoy!

One year ago, I was living on the west side of Buffalo, employed in a semi-decent paying job at a restaurant, and primarily commuted by car.

Today, I’m living on the west side of Chicago, working for the Heartland Alliance, living of an exceedingly modest stipend of $100 per month, and commute almost exclusively via the subway and the bus.

How did this change come to be?

Allow me to introduce myself- my name is Mackintosh Barker, and I’m one of 91 participants in the Presbyterian Church (USA)‘s Young Adult Volunteer Program. YAVs, as they are known, serve with under-resourced and forgotten populations– the least, the lost, and the lonely, if you will– in 21 sites around the United States and the world. Volunteers partner with various agencies and organizations in these cities for “a year of service for a lifetime of change.”

A couple of weeks ago, all of the YAVs got together at the Stony Point Conference Center north of New York City for a weeklong orientation- or “dis-orientation,” as it was framed to us. Now, this orientation consisted of many things– workshops on cultural competency, former PCUSA moderator Rick Ufford-Chase teaching us to read the Bible in a whole new way, and time for reflection with small groups.

We heard from Larissa Kwong Abazia, vice-moderator of the 221st PCUSA General Assembly, and J. Herbert Nelson, from the PCUSA’s Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC. We even spent a day in Manhattan spent learning about the Presbyterian Church USA’s mission to the United Nations.
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And, like any good Presbyterian gathering, there were energizers.

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And also the “evangelization” of Kan-Jam. (You know that as a Western New Yorker, I’m particularly pleased with this one.)

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Every night, we would gather for worship, and every night we would hear stories from the YAV Alumni (or ‘YAVA’) about their years. Some were funny, some were serious. One left us all in tears, too shocked for words.

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And every night, we would close in song. One of my favorites was called “ÂĄEste Momento!,” which means “This is the Moment!”

Click here for a snippet.

The last line of the chorus reads “This is the moment, and it belongs to God.” Not only were we reminded to take and cherish the good and the bad–and trust me, all of us will definitely experience both the good and the bad this year–but also that it all belongs to God. All of us gathered in that place, gathered together in certain uncertainty, we’re all where we are for a reason. We’re all part of God’s plan. We all belong to God.

On Sunday, preparation and orientation turned to action when went to various churches throughout the Lower Hudson Valley to be commissioned. The church I went to, First Presbyterian Church of Beacon, actually invited the five of us to lead worship, which included some of us sharing about how we came to join the YAV program. For the offertory, we taught the congregation “Sanna, Sannanina,” complete with bongos, maracas, and tambourines. After the service, we took a stroll through town and had homemade tacos with some of the congregants. It was quite a lovely day.

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Then on Monday morning, it was goodbye New York, and hello YAV Year. As I was standing there, on a Metro-North train station platform in Nanuet, NY, running on far too much adrenaline and far too little sleep, it finally hit me.

This is actually happening.

This is the moment, and it belongs to God.

Ain’t that the gospel truth.