A village of boxes littered an area of Forest Park Friday night and Saturday morning. Snuggled up inside the boxes were homeless seventh- and eighth- graders who had nothing more than a sleeping bag, a pillow, and their cardboard shelters.
Thirty-six members of the Northview Christian Church a 2,000 member church in Carmel, Ind., left the comforts of home and camped out under the stars as a part of their Indiana World Tour. The tour's name is derived from the stops they will be making in cities named after foreign places that also happen to be in Indiana, including Peru, Lebanon and Frankfort.
On the four-day long tour, the children also went to a senior citizen center and a church of a different religion in order to reach out to different demographics and age groups.
For their stop in Brazil, the youth group experienced homelessness and hunger. Feelings that will put the spiritual hunger of the world in perspective to give participants a glimpse of what their life would be like without having accepted God and to appreciate what they have. The church also made a stop in Terre Haute to serve food at a homeless shelter where they consumed their evening meal alongside the occupants.
Junior high youth pastor Todd Hair, came up with the idea for the world tour from MTV's popular show Road Rules in which a team faces a different challenge everyday with very little clue about where they are going and what they will be doing. Hair had been scheming up the tour for several years and called upon the thirty regularly attending junior high students to come along with him.
Hair said, "One of our goals for this tour is to show God's love in a practical way."
Church member Sandy Wagner Willis said, "At their age, they think it will be an adventure."
Hair and his staff sat the children in the bandshell to announce to them that they would be sleeping in boxes for the evening, he soon found himself giving instructions over laughs, groans, clapping and one "Are you kidding me?"
In the wee hours of Saturday morning, Brazil police officers awoke and lined up the teens to tell them to move on. That they do not allow sleeping in the park.
When they explained to the officers they had nowhere else to go, police let them stay and told them that "real" homeless people have to struggle to find food and shelter every night.
After their run-in with the law, boxes shook as kids tossed and turned to get comfortable again.
Seventh-grader Ben Gooding, who cheered wildly Friday night, said, "It was fun but I wouldn't want to do it again. It was kinda wet and soggy and cold. I think I can empathize with the homeless now because I know they have it pretty rough."
Lindsey Morgan, an eighth-grader who had shouted, "Are you kidding?" agreed with Gooding. "I thought it was going to be a lot worse than it was and it was cold and it was bad. The cop didn't help any. I now see how the homeless feel now. We only had to do this one night and homeless people have to do it for longer. I think we should be thankful for what we have," she said.