pil·grim·age (pĭl'grə-mĭj) n.
1. A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.
Here we are in the City of brotherly Love, my home next year. The scenery surrounding this stop was not of a glorious national park, Times Square, or sheep and buffalo. No, here was a neighborhood we had only driven by in the other cities to discuss the cultural and social impact of the local economy as well as observe the ilapidation of a broken-down area in America.
Walking forward, the group at my heels, my mind races as to why we are here, in a rougher neighborhood of Philly? Why have I decided to go into this area, as the group’s leader, when I am a small-town girl from east Tennessee and have never been here myself? With Pierce’s father’s text messages warning him to run and get away from this side of Philly as soon as possible, my own concerns bubble to the surface.
The Allegheny and Kensington subway stop, I called Caz Tod, the city director for the non-profit program Mission Year, to inform her our group was about at her door for dinner. Immediately entering the Mission Year office, I felt responsible for my group and volunteered to go around the corner with Cory, Chris, and a participant of the
Mission Year program, Joe Tucker, to buy pizza. As we left, my stomach twisted with anxiety to leave the rest of my group alone with Caz and Amy, another Mission Year participant, with little introduction.
During this time Caz informed our Belmont group more about Mission Year’s goals and purpose. Started by Tony Campolo and his son in 1997, Mission Year places young adults within six different inner cities (Wilmington, DE, Philadelphia, PA, Chicago, IL, Atlanta, GA, New Orleans, LA, and Camden, NJ) for one year to love God and people
through volunteering at schools and non-profits. After I received Philadelphia as one of my cities to be ambassador of for the 40/40 trip, I discovered I was placed in the Philly for the Mission Year program which I will be participating in after I graduate from Belmont this August.
For the purpose of the 40/40 trip, I wanted to know why Philadelphia seemed a place for this program out of every other city in America? How Philadelphia- once the capital of America, the resting place and protector of the Liberty Bell, where the 1st and 2nd Continental Congress was held, and where the Declaration of Independence and
Constitution were formed- could be in so much need?
This is some of what our group discovered, Philadelphia struggles more and more because of racial and economic tensions. Joe Tucker’s illustrates some of this struggle with his story of how the mayor tried to shut down eleven libraries in lower income and minority areas in hopes to help the economy. Maybe the mayor hoped to sweep it under the rug without much uprising from this “violent” area, or maybe he believed they didn’t use the library as much as other areas because of their demographic and economic level. Either way, Tucker seemed
empowered to be a part of the movement to protest and work towards keeping the libraries for kids and preserving their rights. Rights they do not yet understand and have a smaller voice for those in power to hear.
freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
This morning we read the inscriptions of the colonials’ determination to preserve the Liberty Bell and now, hearing Tucker’s tale, I saw that common American spirit to keep fighting and press forward-the persistence to be heard and fight for their rights. Many of the descriptions about the bell told of its trip around America (not unlike our own). This artifact is not as much as a statue of our history but a relic. A relic like in religious terms, inspiring
visitors to not only see it but also touch and kiss it in gratitude and honor.
I think of so many Americans journey to the Liberty Bell to acknowledge their freedom, and I must compare it to my own pilgrimage to Philadelphia. The trip has been a long road and rocky, but now I will be in Philly next year and needing support as well as prayer to finish my journey. In Tod’s words Mission Year and working in Philly
allows young people, “not to become a certain person but a different person.” A person who can see the good in Philadelphia’s scariest areas and build a community for God with His love.
I realize this blog is personal, but that is what life is. A serious of personal journeys within communities that happen to be within cities, and in our case, these happen to be in America.
“Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof”
Lev. XXV X