Unification News for August 2003

Summer of Service in Chicago

by Rev. Bruce Sutchar

When I heard about Service for Peace and the Summer of Service July 12 - 20, 2003 I was motivated to take a two month leave of absence from my position as a researcher with the University of Chicago. Why? Partly because of the needs of my three teenage boys and our wider Chicago community for good male role models. So when David Rendel told me that our old buddy Gregg Jones wanted to come to Chicago to introduce us to the 2003 Summer of Service projects, I was immediately open minded about the possibilities.

To me the strongest asset of our Chicago community is our unity. We immediately formed a steering committee and began to plan the impossible. Although I would be gone for a full week, attending the American Leadership Initiative in Washington, DC, our steering committee met faithfully every week for nearly two months in preparation for the project. We chose the dates of July 12-20 as our project dates.

On Saturday, July the 12th nearly 50 youngsters ages 12-20 gathered at our base near the University of Chicago and Summer of Service: Chicago 2003 was about to begin. Our participants included youngsters from Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Maryland as well as our own Chicago youth.

In addition, we welcomed 21 Japanese and Korean students, who were studying English in Toronto and had come down to Chicago to participate in the project with us.

Mr. Jamal Johnson served as our education director, and we spent Saturday and Sunday in a 2 day "Culture of Heart" seminar to prepare us for the work ahead. I’d also like to thank Mr. Satoshi Iida, Kenji, Maui, Artie, Alice, and Taeko "Joy" Nakamura.

Monday served as organization day. We met with Dr. Charles Knox, who directs the VISTA program from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). IIT was founded when the Chicago meat magnate, Mr. Charles Armour heard a sermon from a young minister entitled, "What I would Do if I had a Million Dollars." The next day, Mr. Armour gave the young minister a check for $1,000,000 and Armour College (later to become IIT) soon became a reality.

Dr. Knox had arranged for us to work on the following projects: 1) a summer day camp in the inner-city 2) doing door to door canvassing (a la Erin Brockovich) in a public housing community built on a toxic waste dump 3) working with the National Sarcoidosis Society (Sarcoidosis is a disease which attacks young African-American women, much the same as Sickle Cell Anemia attacks young African-American men). 4) Feeding the homeless in a public shelter 5) Helping to rehab a private school started by one of our ACLC pastors 6) Canvassing some of the inner-city projects to gather information concerning the need for 24 hour day care 7) Experiencing the varied programs at Kennedy-King College 8) Learning to start a computer repair business 9) Teaching seniors how to work a computer 10) Working with Congressman Bobby Rush and his "Re-birth of Englewood Project." Note: Englewood, where I first taught school after graduating from college in 1856, has become the highest crime area in America in regard to number of murders, rapes, drugs, gangs and crime. 11) Meeting with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and the leaders of Rainbow/PUSH 12) And more! Each of the projects would call for their own article, but let me suffice it to say that a challenging, exciting and fulfilling time was had by all.

One amazing thing about this Summer of Service is that we had so many different projects to work on. We had to turn down projects which included working in a natural habitat or staffing the Abraham Lincoln historically re-created community in New Salem, Illinois.

But the essence of Service for Peace is really in the education of heart, not just the projects. Our students need to know that their efforts can make a difference, both in the lives of the people they touch and in their own lives of faith. Everyday we had a guest speaker in the morning (before our service projects began) and in the evening after dinner.

This year, we were happy not only to receive our nice new blue Summer of Service Tee shirts, but we also received beautiful journals, which became our practical bibles. Everyday at the end of the projects we spent 20-60 minutes with our project teams writing down our reflections.

Mrs. Kathleen Sometani provided the necessary "Irish mama" input. Kathleen greeted us as we arrived home on Monday night, complete with the evening’s dinner, both physical and spiritual. And after being well fed physically, she shared with our young people the wisdom of a mother and elder sister.

On Tuesday, a civil rights icon, Rev. M.Earle Sardon spoke to our group. Rev. Sardon was a World War II veteran, who came back to America in 1945 after having built bridges all across Italy, so our infantry could win the war.

Once back in the USA, he discovered that although, as an engineer, he could build bridges, no bread or beer company would hire him to drive a truck because the color of his skin happened to be darker than theirs. So Rev. Sardon joined the Civil Rights struggle in Chicago. 15 years later, in 1962, Rev. Sardon would spend time in prison with a young man about half his physical size, one Martin Luther King, Jr. Rev. Sardon is now 91 years young. -- having slowed down merely half a step since he first began working with us in 1982.

On Wednesday, we had a musical guest speaker. Mrs. Jeanette Kravitz, who is currently in the midst of traveling all across America gathering up singers on the level of Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan to record a song on the level of "We are the World." Jeanette arrived just in time to have dinner with SFP Executive Director, Mike Balcomb, and a good time was had by all.

Thanks too to Mike, who arranged for his return flight from Korea so that he could visit some of our project sites before moving on to a program the very next day in St. Louis. We literally ran from site to site so that he could drink in as much as possible in the few hours he had to visit Chicago.

Thursday morning Dr. Knox arranged for Dr. Al Sampson, a veteran of the Civil Rights movement in Chicago to address our young people. Dr. Sampson gave our youngsters an overview of the Civil Rights Movement. He explained that Dr. King was not just a motivational speaker, but that he operated using Ghandi’s 7 principles of non-violence. He explained how Dr. King won over the hearts and minds of Chicago’s gang leadership and shared some moving stories from that era.

Thursday night we listened to a slide show presentation about the patriotic, spiritual and religious history of America and then proceeded to spend Friday, our last project day, touring Kennedy-King College in Chicago.

On Friday night, our brothers and sisters shared their testimonies and there was not a dry eye in the house. It was a tribute to how strongly this project was moving and transforming people.

On Saturday morning, we were invited to meet with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Dr. Knox felt very strongly that in order to fully grasp the fullness of the African-American experience in the inner-city, where we had been working all week, we had to experience the weekly Rainbow/Push Saturday morning meeting.

Of course Rev. Jackson is constantly traveling all over the world and is only present in Chicago from time to time. But on our Saturday, Rev. Jackson was not only present, but he was the featured speaker. He had our membership stand up and be recognized and referred to us at the ‘Hyde Park Freedom Fighters.’ Afterward we went outside and joined him, where he stood unflinchingly through 14 flashing cameras without turning his head one time.

Saturday afternoon was set aside for our "grand-finale" picnic and rally. Every project team had prepared a skit and we actually built and painted a full scale stage which we placed in the park and one by one each group performed for the excited audience. Bishop and Mrs. Kim, Dr. Knox and many of the parents of Summer of Service participants were in the audience. Interspersed with the skits, our 4 essay finalists read their winning essays.

to those who were leaving, but Bishop Kim invited everyone back for an official Service for Peace Sunday Service the very next day. Here we heard more testimonies, viewed a powerpoint slide show of the week’s activities and listened to the word of God through our brother Satoshi Iida.

Finally, we all hugged and said good-bye, see you next time.

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