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UrbanTrekkers- Honoring our Differences in Atlanta

Recently at the UPN after school program, we've been talking with the elementary students about differences–differences in our looks, our preferences, our habits. We’re highlighting how God honors our differences, and because we love and follow God, we should honor people’s differences, too.

Earlier this month, I saw honor in action when UPN traveled to Atlanta for the day.

Three adults and six teenagers woke up early on a Saturday to hit the road for ATL. On the agenda for the trip: Refuge Coffee Company; the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, including MLK’s birthplace and gravesite; The Center for Civil and Human Rights; Olympic Park; and Ponce City Market.

When we arrived at Refuge Coffee Co., StreetLeaders immediately exclaimed, “That’s my country!” The coffee shop perimeter was decorated with small flags of countries from around the world, and the teens on our trip were so proud to see their first home on display. A couple of StreetLeaders even posed for a quick photoshoot in front of their flag. They had fun finding and sharing their flags with each other, and I felt lucky to witness such a simple, sweet moment of honor.

At the coffee shop, a large group of adults was gathered at a table near us. Among them was a man who had prepared a delicious pot of rice and meat for the group to enjoy. He had some leftovers when we arrived at the shop, and he invited our group to finish off his handiwork. As we enjoyed the dish he gave us, we chatted with our new friend. He appeared to be in his sixties, and he’d come to America just five months ago. He had helped the American government with translating in Afghanistan, so he needed a new home after the Taliban takeover. He had lost so much, and yet he was blessing us with an unexpected homemade meal. One of our StreetLeaders, Brishna, was able to talk with him in his original language. They discovered that he was from the same town that Brishna’s mom was born in! Meeting someone so kind and generous from her home country made Brishna proud, and I am sure he was grateful to speak with someone who understood his home.

After delicious coffee, smoothies, and chai at Refuge, we set out to find a quick bite to eat. We went to a small shop that sold lentil sambusas. Our StreetLeaders Siyama and Esther, from South Sudan and Kenya respectively, said they had never had sambusas that tasted exactly like the ones in Africa, but these did. Listening to them savor this nostalgic treat and reminisce about the different foods they used to eat reminded me that our childhoods were very different and all precious.

Our next stops were focused on the civil rights movement in Atlanta. We visited MLK Park and the Center for Civil and Human Rights. At Centennial Olympic Park, we enjoyed some sunshine and discussed what we’d been experiencing on our civil rights tour. Eddy said the sit-in simulation at the museum was really powerful; it was hard to keep his hands steady on the counter for the duration (if you haven’t been to this museum and experienced the sit-in simulation, we highly recommend it). Brishna, who has only been in the US a little over a year, said she wants to read and learn more over the coming months, and then come back to the museum to better understand the exhibits.

We ended our ATL visit with dinner at Ponce City Market. StreetLeaders got to see the busy nightlife of a big city, and we all enjoyed cuisines from around the world. When we loaded back into our cars, everyone was exhausted from a very long, good day full of exploration, reflection, and conversation. And all six StreetLeaders on our trip, none of whom had ever been to Georgia, now have ATL checked off their bucket lists. :)

-Mary Jones, StreetLeader Director

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