Twelve Days, Twelve New Experiences

-Keri Frese

Twelve days have passed since arriving in Southwest Baltimore, and with it innumerable stories, jokes, and experiences. However, in order to not overwhelm the world with the multitude of stories I would love to tell which would begin a never-ending onslaught of my voice, I will tell of twelve experiences that have happened since beginning this adventure in Mount Clare. A number of these stories, are inconsequential or superficial, but for me severely impacting, a number are incredibly embarrassing, and many illustrate the great lengths the Lord is taking me in my journey closer to Him and His people.

12. Thursday. On our first full day in the city, we were tasked with a job which may fall under my literal worst nightmare. We were supposed to go door to door throughout the city, knock on doors, stop people in the street, and hand out fliers for the VBS happening at the church that week. Now if you know anything about my family, when someone knocks on our door, we mute the tv, lay down flat on the couch, and pray they don’t realize we are actually home; so being on the other side of that door was a bit of a challenge to say the least. The results were mixed, at one point a woman opened a door, saw our VBS shirts and declared “Oh you guys are God people, well let me tell you, God and I aren’t talking right now, but thanks for stopping by” and proceeded to close the door in our faces. On the other hand one woman opened the door and was so delighted at what we were doing she wanted to give a cash donation to the church and if not that, then at least donate boxes full of supplies. So all in all, it was terrifying and against every instinct, but I survived and can now say I will open the door for anyone who knocks and respond in kindness, because I’ve now seen the other side of that doorway.

11. Friday- On our second day in the city, we were asked to go down a street assigned to us in pairs and get to know some members of the community and just hear their story. Now this was definitely more my style and as my partner and I approached a random group of guys, I had no idea the way they would enlighten my view of Baltimore. Now our conversation was incredible, hilarious, strange, and heart-wrenching, but as I don’t have the time or word count to recall it all I will sum it up in a series of firsts. First time I was offered a gallon of wine because I was a classy lady. First time I was offered cigarettes (how sheltered a life I have led so far). First time I heard a succinct and understandable explanation of the governmental problems plaguing the urban centers of Baltimore. First time I have felt genuinely loved and cared for by a random stranger.

10. Saturday- On our third day in the city, I attended my first candlelight vigil. It was for a young girl who was hit by a car three blocks from our home. It feels insensitive to even talk of it, but I will definitely forever remember both the young girl, her parents, and the memories of that day.

9. Sunday-On our fourth day in the city, I finally got to visit the famous Farmers Market under the 83. At college, I have a pretty great friend who has been telling me about it for months, but due to the immense need for sleep I have on the weekends I have never been able to get up and go before church. Needless to say, I regret every hour of sleep I got on Sunday mornings that I could have been going to this beautiful mecca. For those who do not know of it, the best way I can think of to describe it is as a swap meet of food, with the great variety, selection, and atmosphere that make me love the swap meet, but instead of junky products that you will later regret, imagine fresh fruits, vegetables, and so much coffee.

8. Monday-On our fifth day in the city, I heard for the first time in my life a rap, about cleaning up. In our training for our day camp that we will be running for the rest of the summer, our all-star directors found a musical masterpiece (which I intend to sing for the rest of my breathing days) entirely about the act of cleaning. I recommend you listen to it now, I promise you will certainly have an experience (albeit not as positive as mine). It is by the artist: KidSpring, as part of the album: Turn it up. I literally could not have made a more perfect piece of art if given a thousand more years of life.

7. Tuesday-On our sixth day in the city, I used a laundromat to wash my clothes for the first time (spoiled human being alert). It was super chill, and watching the washing machine spin incredibly fast reminded me of the beautiful day our family first got a washing machine with a clear door and we watched the entire first wash.

6. Wednesday- On our seventh day in the city, I attempted to write my first sermon/Bible lesson for children for the day camp. As I wrote it I was deluged with memories of elementary chapels and the severe judgment I held for the speakers, these recollections led to immense fear regarding what I was to speak and write on. As I have now finished writing it, I lift my prayers up to God, that these children have much more kindness and much less cynicism then I did as a child.

5. Thursday-  On our eighth day in the city, I completed one of the tackiest actions of my life, which was also a first, which was taking 50+ paint chips from a Wal-Mart for a craft at our kids camp. Even though taking paint chips is technically allowed, overall it definitely felt wrong and not an experience I desire to repeat. (My innate inability to break any rule or guideline definitely made this a tough first.)

4. Friday- On our ninth day in the city, I was supposed to have my first Snowball (a snow-cone equivalent that is supposedly a 100x better) however due to my playing for play dough for two hours straight with kids I missed my opportunity. So my first for this day, was actually playing with play dough straight for two hours, something I believe I haven’t done in my adult life, though I might have as a child (though likely not as I have a pitiful attention span).

3. Saturday- On our tenth day in the city is where the embarrassment comes into play for sure. We went to the Baltimore LatinoFest, where one of the main attractions was live music and Salsa dancing. While standing on the sidelines, watching the incredible dancers along with a number of my friends on the Salsa floor, (bumping, dancing, moving) along to the music a very kind man came up and offered a hand for me to go dance with him. Which due to the rhythm of the music and my innate desire to have an incredible moment on the dance floor, I accepted. That was a mistake. What followed was one of the most cringeworthy two minutes of my life, in which I attempted to dance, pitifully failed, and awkwardly walked away. So the Salsa dancing though a first, will not be a last, for I have vowed to never be that dramatic of a failure again. As a result of this first, failure it may have been, one of the members of our program agreed to help me learn how to better dance.

2.  Sunday- On our eleventh day in the city, we were sent to a variety of churches to experience more of the neighborhood and get to know people more, my group attended a Pentecostal Church, which was a first but will definitely not be a last. The churches motto, is that visitors are family, and that was 100% true.

  1. Monday- On our twelfth day in the city, the group attended a local community meeting, this was a first. It was an experience, which felt like a scene straight out of Parks and Recreation, except replace the topic of a park with the much larger and more comprehensive topics of gentrification, crime, and government policing.

Twelve days, twelve different adventures. There are now thirty-two days left and with it inestimable learning experiences, first times, and personal & spiritual growing.

-Keri Frese

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