This is CHAT y'all!! - Perkins Fellow Phil Wood, '17

Three weeks ago I officially became a summer immersion intern with Church Hill Activities & Tutoring (a.k.a. CHAT). CHAT is 1) awesome and 2) a Christian community development organization that is devoted to working with the youth of the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond, VA. They do a lot of really cool stuff like after school tutoring, life skills classes, youth groups, summer camps, Church Hill Academy, and more. Many of these wonderful kids are part of one-parent households and grow up being exposed to violence, drugs, abuse, and crime at extremely young ages. CHAT’s goal is to equip and serve the youth of Church Hill to make transformative decisions. They simply try to be good neighbors and love each other with intentionality, hoping to transform hearts through the harsh realities all around, alongside the realities themselves.

Through my peers, studies, and involvements at UVa, I’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about racial justice, impoverished communities, and the Kingdom of God. I’ve felt led to spend this summer in the midst of these problems. Christ teaches us to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done,  on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6.10). This summer, I’m incredibly excited to serve alongside an organization that I believe is transforming their neighborhood and our world to look more like the Kingdom of God. Straight up, Church Hill can be a pretty rough place. There are three different public housing projects and just a couple weeks ago there was a shooting at one during CHAT's tutoring session. One of the kids that will be in my high school program this summer was robbed at gunpoint at his bus stop. It's a place where a lot of kids have trouble succeeding. And so, at CHAT we work not to change the neighborhood or save these kids, but to take part in what we feel like God is doing here, and that's pretty hype.

Urban ministry (and particularly CHAT) is something I truly believe God has placed on my heart, and I am devoting this summer to learning more of what it means to love and serve my neighbor, becoming a part of a community. More specifically, my summer will involve 10 weeks of running a summer day camp for high schoolers and partaking in a study on racial reconciliation and urban ministry, but have most importantly been living life alongside the kids and adults of Church Hill (and specifically alongside the 20 other summer interns) which has been really, really cool.

So far this summer has gotten off to a great start! Two wonderful folks, Jeff and Dabney, are hosting me and have kindly opened up their home to me. I've already had the chance to meet the neighbors and have some wonderful front porch chats. The other interns as well as CHAT's yearlong residents have been really awesome. Not only have we been learning deeply about CHAT, Richmond, and Church Hill, but we've also had chances to hang out at many a park, go to the river, and play lots of sports, often bringing along some kids from the neighborhood. I’m incredibly excited for what’s in store!

--- Stay tuned for more updates about Phil's summer with CHAT!