Saturday, July 2, 2011

God, Bring The Rain

Goodness gracious. It's been another crazy couple of weeks. I just want to start by saying thank you so much for your prayers. It's not always easy, and there are days where I hit "rough patches," but I know that God is moving. And I know that your prayers are felt by myself and my teammates. So on behalf of everyone, thank you so much, and please continue to be in prayer for us as we finish up here in Denver and head out to San Francisco.

Speaking of...goodness...I can't believe it's already been a month. It seems like just yesterday we were flying into the Denver Airport. And in just 3 days we will be landing in the Bay City that is San Francisco. I'm so excited to see what God has in store for us there. But for now, we're still in Denver, and there's still Kingdom work to be done here. Just like the song, "greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city."

Anywho, let's get started with the daily rundown:

Sunday (6/19)

We woke up bright and early, as usual, and attended Bear Valley Church for the early Worship Service. We've been studying personality types and which Biblical Characters fall under each category. This week was the Lion personality. To my surprise, I actually have a little lion in me. I took an online inventory test to see what I came up as. As expected, I am very much a "Golden Retriever" for the most part. I know you're saying, "really, Seth. You took one of those dorky online tests?" It's really not like the dorky online tests, I promise. This is legit, and I feel that it gives a pretty accurate read on what your personality is like. I recommend going and doing this yourself; just go to this site:

Just follow the directions at the top of the page and see what your personality resembles most!

Back to the day, though. I really have enjoyed Pastor Jim's messages, and I can really see God moving in him and Bear Valley Church as a whole.

After Morning Worship, we came back to our apartment on CCU's campus and had a FIFOW meeting. FIFOW is an acronym for "Facts Imagination Feelings Own Wants." This is a tool we were taught by Keith Inman to use for conflict resolution. Stepping through each step of the acronym, we can more easily resolve conflicts. Anyway, we had to have an emergency FIFOW meeting to handle something that had gone on. I won't go into details, but it all boiled down to miscommunication (as most conflicts do), and it was easily resolved.

We then went to Green Gables for the church services there. This week I led music, along with Chastain, and Chad Winston brought the message. Everyone did a great job.

After church was over, we went around to the various apartments handing out Father's Day packages. It was hard for some because of their family situations.

We came back and had some R & R time at the apartment, which was definitely good. After debriefing time later that night we had a random night of worship. Man, I can't put a word down to describe what it's like to experience God in the little things. That's what I love random nights of worship like that. We honestly need to worship God with our lives, in everything we do, but it's just really awesome to come together as a group and sing praises to God, and pray together, and read Scripture together...goodness. God is awesome.

I really felt God putting a particular passage on my heart. Zechariah 10:1 reads "Ask the Lord for rain in the time of the latter rain. The Lord will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, grass in the field for everyone" (NKJV). I feel God had placed this on my heart because there are times when we will face rough patches, there are times when we encounter dry spells and droughts. And when those times come, we just have to pray that God will bring the rain. We typically look at these times of rain and storms in life and feel negative. We get gloomy. But look what the rain brings: it brings life, without the rain the plants wouldn't grow and without the rain in our lives, we wouldn't grow spiritually either. The rain brings a pleasing aroma (or at least I think so) and that's a beautiful thing. We also see a rainbow after the rain. That's not just a promise from God that He will never flood the Earth again, it's a promise that He won't leave us "hanging out to dry." It's a promise that He will always be there with us through the deepest, wildest storms and that although it may seem rough at the time, we know that the storm will end and because of the rain, life will have lots of awesome flowers and other life that is just beautiful. The rain is a beautiful thing; we need to ask God to bring it!

Monday (6/20) light of the passage in Zechariah, we prayed for rain Sunday night. God brought the rain--Spiritually, and physically. In fact, so much rain that we had to cancel all our regularly scheduled activities for Monday.

We had morning devo time with our team leader, Stephanie. And afterwards she informed us about the cancellations and that we had the day to regroup and re-energize ourselves for the week.

I was one of 4 people who went to the Creekside Assisted Living Complex Monday afternoon. My teammates and I sat in on some devo time with a few elderly ladies. We did an activity where we wrote out the highlights of their life--what they'd like to be remembered for. It was pretty neat hearing their stories.

Later that night, all 6 of the guys got together to have a little "man-time." We were mainly discussing topics for a "Man-votional" I was going to start leading throughout the week. I feel like it's necessary for us to have devo time as a co-ed group. But I also feel it's necessary for us to have devos as a group of guys too. We have to have that community as men as well. So we decided that we were going to go through Song of Solomon in our man-votionals to see what we can glean from that: not only the perfect picture of how Christ loves the church, but also how we are to love our spouses (whenever that time comes).

But for this night, we went through Lamentations 3. Goodness, if you haven't read that (or even if you have) I highly recommend you do so, it is packed full of awesomeness. I think my favorite part is verses 22 and 23.

Tuesday (6/21)

Cindy Pelphrey (Campus Minister of 6 Owensboro campuses) flew in last night. Our devo time with her this morning was spent planning for the coming two weeks. She brought with her planned VBS's and was running us through who was doing what and where and at what time. We had two different themes: Avalanche Ranch (which was a lot like Saddle Ridge Ranch) and Beach Blast--which was more of a summer, tropical theme.

We got everything lined out and headed to our sites for the day. Today I was at 13th and Reed again. And we had a great VBS there. The kids were all great, and paid attention. Everything ran smoothly, as far as the overall structure of everything goes; which is good, because I was the team leader at 13th and Reed.

Wednesday (6/22)

Devo time was awesome, we started talking about our identity in Christ, and who we are according to Him. Some key passages are: Psalm 139:23-24, Romans 12:12, Proverbs 14:13, Genesis 1:26-28.

We also talked about how we have to love ourselves before we can love others. And we have to accept God's love for us so that we can pass on that love to others.

We then went to our various sites. First stop today was Jewell Park for me. It was great there, as always. The kids there are so attentive and smart, and they really remember the stories and have good questions. It's just really encouraging to see that.

Here's a fun video I took during Recreation, haha. Some of the guys took the words "whoever tags me first wins" to mean "whoever tackles me first wins." Check it out:


After Jewell Park was Green Gables. It actually went decently well today. We had a good number of kids there, some of whom didn't usually come. They were attentive (for once) and, despite a few snide remarks, were actually really good. After the story we went to play kickball for about an hour or so, and had a great time with that.

After Green Gables, half our team went to Willow Glen Retirement community. I was not part of this group, but our group instead went out to eat at Chipotle (fast food Mexican-style). It's similar to Qdoba, but personally, I like Qdoba much better. But the food was still great.

Then we went to Mardel Christian Bookstore. It's pretty much exactly like a Lifeway. It was really awesome, and this was the second trip this week we made out there (first was Monday).

I really felt compelled to get Bibles for a couple of the kids I connected with at Jewell Park. So Chastain and I got those, and a journal for each of them, and we wrote in there a little inscription of encouragement on the inside, and also gave them our contact info to keep in touch.

We came back and had our first Man-votional, studying Song of Solomon 1:1-4. It was really packed with a LOT of good stuff, and so we went over that and discussed how we could apply it to our lives even now.

Thursday (6/23)

Devo time continued with our study of who we are in Christ and "unmasking" our past. The key scripture for today was Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:13-15, and Romans 5:1.

We then went out to our sites. I was at 13th and Reed once again. And once again it went really well. The kids all enjoyed themselves, our team all enjoyed ourselves too.

After VBS, we came back and Chastain and I went and hung out with Jacob and Josh from Jewell Park. We took them to Coldstone (a wicked awesome ice cream shop) and talked with them about their lives up to this point and what their stories were with regards to coming to Christ. They are really cool kids and I know God has awesome plans for them.

After we got back to Jewell Park, we gave them each the Bible and journal we got for them and the look on their faces was priceless. They were so excited to get those things and it was just really awesome to see these young kids get so excited about Christ. It was really a blessing.

After our time with the boys, we came back to the apartments to get ready for evening ministry. Half of our team (I was included this time) went to Bear Valley Village to cook for the people there and serve free food and such. Our job was to play with the kids and keep them entertained while the adults got into conversation with some of the adults that were there with us.

I got the opportunity to expand my relationship with a few people I've met there before. One of whom was little Andrew (pictured below)

Oh my goodness, he's so sweet, haha. Some people get what's known as a "ice cream mustache." Little Andrew had a full-on ice cream goatee. It was so cute.

Then I saw Jim and Shawn again, but sadly I don't have pictures of them.

Overall, it was a great time there, and I know there were some awesome conversations going on.

Friday (6/24)

Today is the day Rachel and I celebrate 13 months of being officially "dating" :) woohoo! She's so incredible and every day I'm reminded of how blessed I am, and how much God loves me and knows me. God blows my mind, He really does. Below is probably my favorite picture of us:

Today was also the day of our weekly field trip with the children. We went out to Bear Creek Lake Park and did all sorts of awesome things, from swimming in the lake to picnic lunch to paddle boats to canoeing. It was a BLAST! Sadly, though, I didn't put enough sun screen on my shoulders apparently. I got a little burnt, but not near as bad as some of the other guys in our group.

Saturday (6/25)

We started off with some devo time with Cindy. In continuing our theme, we were talking about "unmasking our past" and so we did a cool activity of taking these plastic masks and writing all the things were ashamed of on the inside of our masks. And then on the outside we wrote words opposite of those on the inside, and wrote words pertaining to our identity in Christ (words like forgiven, redeemed, justified, etc.) and then we also put scripture references by each of the words. It was a really awesome visual representation of my identity in Christ.

Key scripture included: Romans 8:1, Romans 8:35, Galatians 5:1, Colossians 1:22, 1 John 2:12, Titus 3:4-5, Galatians 1:10, 1 John 4:4-11, John 3:3-6

We then had the rest of the day off to regroup, relax, and get some much needed rest. I took a group to the Mardel Christian Bookstore again. And then afterwards we went to the Belmar Mall, which was a really cool outdoor mall.

Sunday (6/26)

We had the fourth and final message in the Personalities Series at Bear Valley Church this week: the Beaver. The Biblical representation of the Beaver personality is the Apostle Paul. Surprisingly, after taking the personality test I showed you all above, my second most one was a beaver. But after thinking about it, it did make sense, because I am analytical, sometimes overly critical, a perfectionist, and various other beaver-like things.

We then went to Green Gables to lead our weekly worship there. Chastain, Kayla Cooper and Kayla Mae Smith led music. And I preached again :). The title was "Flourish where you're planted" and scripture included Psalm 92:12-14, Luke 8:4-8, 11-15, 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, and Zechariah 10:1. Basically, we're plants for God and we've been planted for a reason. We've been planted to receive nourishment from the soil God plants us in and we've also been planted to give back spiritual nutrients to that soil as well. I used the example of crop rotation and how God rotates us around in different areas in different seasons for a reason--in order to feed us and also to feed others through us. And so regardless of where we're planted, God wants us to flourish there, and grow into beautiful spiritual plants for His glory.

Monday (6/27)

Devo time was yet again awesome. Key scripture included: Psalm 8:1, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Romans 8:10, Colossians 2:9-10, and Ephesians 4:24

We are complete in Christ, we are accepted, we are free. The definition of who we are is who we are in Christ.

We then went out to our ministry sites for the day. Today was Jewell park first. Again, great day. We were down a little bit in numbers, but it was still a great quality day for sure.

I (along with Marcus, Lindsey, and Becky) went back to Creekside Retirement Community after Jewell Park. We had another awesome Bible Study with the ladies there and we dealt with an activity where we somehow were given $200 million, and we were to plot out how we would spend the money. The elderly woman I was paired with and I decided to tithe the first 10%, then the rest of it was used on things such as a shelter for the homeless, shelter for battered women, shelter for abused children, etc. She was a really selfless lady, and it was really encouraging to get to know her and how she feels God calling her to do His work even in her old age.

Afterwards, we went to Green Gables for our weekly evening grill out. There were a lot of children that came out, and also a lot of families from the community (some of whom were not regulars). I played basketball with some of the kids who typically give us trouble by way of dirty mouths and poor behavior, but today wasn't as bad. That said, they did "school" me at basketball (at least, according to them).

Tuesday (6/28)

Devo time was? Yes, awesome. Key scripture was James 1:23-24, Colossians 3:12-15, 2 Timothy 1:8-10, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, and Romans 12:2.

We learned that "No matter what happens, no matter how low you go to, as a follower of Christ the bottom of the pit is always solid and firm. And no matter how far you go down, He's always there.

We then went out to our daily ministry sites. Today was 13th and Reed for me again. It was really fun, as usual. And all of the children really were getting the stories we were telling them about Jesus, and loving every minute of it. They really like to dance. I'm sure videos of that will probably be posted somewhere in the near future. But I think we had a dance party there every day we were there for the last two weeks. It was crazy awesome.

Later that night we got the opportunity to serve alongside various churches in the area in a ministry called "Mean Streets." They go around to the various homeless locations and serve them free food and hand out things such as bus tokens, toys for kids, and all sorts of things. It was really awesome to see the receptiveness of these folks. And a man by the name of Xavier even asked if I'd pray for him there on the spot, which I was more than willing to do, it just kind of surprised me that he requested it, and approached me for prayer. It was really awesome.

Wednesday (6/29)

Devo time was really cool today. Mrs. Cindy gave us an activity to find a quiet place all to ourselves, meditate on two passages of scripture (Psalm 25:8-10, and 2 Corinthians 1:3-4), and then say aloud the following 5 times each:

  • I accept God's love for me
  • God is in control
  • Through Jesus Christ, I am clean in God's sight
  • I release my fears to Jesus
  • I claim the joy of being God's child
  • Because God loves me, it is ok to be incomplete
  • I accept God's healing of the painful memories of my past
  • No matter what happens, I trust that God is working for my good
Then we were to close with a prayer of thanksgiving.

It was a really awesome activity and cool to see God use that to bring peace into my heart about things. And again, it was a really cool physical representation of God's love for me.

We then went out to our ministry sites. Jewell Park was yet again awesome. It was also a little sad because it was the last VBS at that location. After a wonderful VBS, there were many hugs and a few stifled tears. But I know God has great plans for Jewell Park. The kids there are awesome, and there's definitely a solid foundation in place to build upon.

After Jewell, we went to Green Gables for the last VBS there. It was actually an overall great day. There was some pre-teen drama (what pre-teen doesn't have drama?) but really outside of that it was great. For whatever reason, we didn't have many of the guys and the guys that did come got there much later. But everyone was overall well-behaved and very attentive to the story. They asked a lot of great questions and there was awesome discussion of how we could apply the story (Jesus calms the storm) to our lives.

As the craft, we baked brownies and it was really cool to see the children work together to accomplish a delicious result.

After Green Gables, half of our team went to Willow Glen retirement home again. They had a blast, and from the stories they told, they met some pretty interesting folks.

The rest of us stayed back and had some R & R. I had a really cool chat with Mrs. Cindy about various things, and that was really fun.

Thursday (6/30)

Devo time was cool and we moved on to a new topic of counseling others. We learned that "it doesn't matter who you are, if you have accepted Christ, you are called to minister to others."

Key scripture for the day included: Luke 19:10, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9-10, and Ephesians 4:11-12. We also went through an outline of steps taken when counseling others, and discussed what to do in various situations.

We then went out to our ministry sites. Today was the last day of VBS at 13th and Reed. It was really sad and many of us cried after leaving. But aside from the sadness of leaving the children we've grown so close to, it was a really awesome day. You can really tell a difference in the children. The 13th and Reed kids were always one of the better groups as far as behavior goes and such, but still, there's even a noticeable difference even in them.

Here's Heydi and I. She's so cute, but until the very last day, she would not give me a hug (avarosa, en espanol).

Here's us with all the kids at 13th and Reed:

Later that night, we went to Bear Valley Village again. We a couple of people return from last week. Sadly, little Andrew and his family weren't there. But I met a new little buddy named Gabriel. Man was he rambunctious. Goodness, I've never seen so much energy. And I made the mistake of speaking in my broken spanish. Because he then assumed I spoke a lot of Spanish, and started carrying on full conversations with me and I just stood there, nodding my head and saying "" Thankfully I was able to talk with him a little bit thanks to the Google Translate App on my phone. Regardless of the language barrier, though, we both had a blast, and he wore me out. I was exhausted, but it was definitely a good exhausted. Sadly, I don't think we got any pictures, but if some turn up, I'll definitely post them.

Friday (7/1)'s July.

Good grief, time has flown. I can't believe in just 3 days I'll be landing in San Francisco! Crazy stuff!

Anywho, today was our weekly field trip. this week we took the kids to "Lair of the Bears Park." I know, right? That's what I thought when I heard the name. But it's completely misleading. There were no bears. And there weren't even lairs. But it was a wicked awesome park. We went on various trails and climbed in trees and just had a blast with the kids.

At one point Marcus and I had to break up a fight between two of the children. But it ended up being a really cool experience. Because after they had some time to cool off (they got angry for a ridiculously silly reason), the boy I would NEVER picture apologizing for anything in his life went up to the other boy and said "I'm sorry." And then they gave each other five and a manly chest bump and went on. Marcus and I just looked at each other for a second. That was visual proof of the fruit of our labor, I feel like. It was just crazy awesome.

The rest of the afternoon went really well, no problems, no fights, a lot of fun.

Later that night, one of the college students that lives in Denver and helps out at Green Gables sometimes invited our team over to his house for a grill out and relaxation/hang out night. It was really awesome to feast and fellowship with these guys because they were really fun and have some incredible stories about what God's done in their lives. We played Catch Phrase and Apples to Apples and once it was dark we started a fire and roasted marshmallows. It was a really fun time.

And finally we're caught back up. I still can't believe it's July already. I can't believe I'll be home in less than a month.

But we can't focus on that now, because there's still Kingdom Work to be done. God has some AWESOME things lined out for us in San Francisco, I know He does. He even has some awesome things planned for us for our remainder of time in Denver--we're going camping tomorrow night at Mt. Falcon, be looking for pictures from that.

Thanks again, on behalf of my entire team, for your prayers, cards, and words of encouragement. Thanks for taking the time to read my blogs as well. It means more than you know, especially since I know I tend to be long-winded (it's the preacher coming out of me, I promise, I can't help it). Thanks for everything, and please continue to pray for us.

Pray for safe travel, pray for the hearts of those we were able to touch here in Denver, and the hearts of those who have touched us as well. Pray for the hearts that God has in line for us to reach out to in San Fran, and just pray for our team to remain focused on Him and His work. Pray for open hearts, and open opportunities to share Christ. Pray for boldness, and fearlessness.

Thank you again, and I love you all!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A "Rockie," But Rewarding Week

What a week.

I mean This week has seriously expanded my horizons. I've been through the lowest lows I've had all summer as well as the highest of highs all summer. It's been a week absolutely packed with things. So without further ado, here we go:

Monday (6/13)
I posted on the morning of this day already earlier in the week, but here's how the rest of the day went:

My group went to Jewel Park. Here we had another VBS. The story was Jesus' death on the cross and how His forgiving the people for spitting on Him and mocking Him shows us that He will forgive us for anything too. Also, how He promised the one thief He would see him in Paradise relates to how God promises us Paradise if we invite Jesus into our hearts and have a true relationship with Him. The third main point is how Jesus promised that although He was going back up into Heaven, He would send the Holy Spirit down to live inside of us; this is also a promise to us if we accept Him into our hearts.

We only had two children for the lesson and craft and whatnot, but it was still great because they were very attentive and responded to the questions we asked and whatnot. After the lesson, craft, and snack was over, we played games and had two other boys join us for those. We're hoping to get them to come out for other VBS's in the future.

After this was over we all met up at Green Gables for another VBS. I was in charge of teaching the lesson for the pre-teen age group, and boy were they rowdy. I've never heard so many vulgar words and comments and disruptions come out of kids like that. But despite all the disruptions, the majority of the kids were engaged and paying attention and asking questions, which was encouraging.

After VBS, we had a grill out at Green Gables and kids and adults alike came around for food and basketball. I was in charge of the grill, and cooked some pretty mean hot dogs. We also served ice cream.

Tuesday (6/14)
We started off the day with devo time with Scott Werner, possibly one of the greatest, most peaceful, Godly men I've ever met. We talked about reaching people. More than that, we talked about how Jesus reached people. He used a pyramid that looks kind of like a food pyramid to illustrate it. At the bottom was the word "Loved" (ref. Matthew 9:36). Next was "Fed" (ref. Matthew 7:29). And at the top was "Trained" (ref. Mark 3:13-14).

We learned a lot of other things about Jesus' ministry techniques. The most important thing we can do, though, is to be present with the people we're talking to. We do this by listening--truly listening. We can use technology to help us be present (if used in the right way), but technology can also be used against us in regards to being present.

We learned to tune in with our eyes, ears, calling them by their name, etc. We learned to be consistent and to commit, but not only commit, also follow through with those commitments. We learned that typically when stuff gets messy, people scatter. So in light of that knowledge, instead of scattering, we need to be there. We learned that the greatest form of ministry is the ministry of presence.

After devo time, my group went to 13th and Reed, and held a VBS there. We had the same story as we did for Jewel Park the day before, and it was really cool to see how all the children remembered things from last week and how they responded to questions and truly listened.

After the lesson and craft were over we went through a seemingly endless time of piggy back rides. Let me just say, that it was absolutely more than worth it to see and hear the joy it brought the children. But man, they were relentless...I would take a water break and have at least two kids tugging on my shirt trying to get me to come on, saying "hurry up." Saying the phrase, "necesito mas agua" (I need more water) became a very common thing for me. Despite the physical strain it caused me, though, it was so rewarding spiritually, it really was. I mean, just look at these kids faces and tell me you don't feel the joy bubbling inside:

In this last picture, Tyler (child on my shoulders) was pretty fascinated with my beard. It was kind of weird. It also shows their relentlessness as I was clearly trying to drink my glass of water, but that didn't even phase him in climbing on top of my shoulders.

Despite the physical exhaustion that came from it, this was one of my favorite points of the week.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays we have scheduled in our week some flex time to be used on "Special Projects," which are basically times we go and spend some one on one time with some kids we really feel a connection with.

I decided I would try to find W (see previous posts). I was left with no number, no way of getting ahold of him besides that he came home from work around 5 or so. So Marcus (a teammate) and I went and sat outside of His apartment complex to wait for him. We had waited about 45 minutes when we saw one of the kids who was a regular at VBS. We chatted with him for a while about various things. Finally, W's roommate, E, came out and I caught him and asked if W was in their room. He said no, but that he would take my number and text me his work schedule (apparently I was told the wrong schedule). We left shortly after this to go back to our CCU apartment for dinner. It s Friday, and I still have not received a text nor a call from E. I didn't think about it at the time, but I will definitely be sure to get one of their numbers the next time I see them. We're going back. God's decided that. I know He wants W and I to talk, and moreso, I think He wants W's roommates and I to talk too. The enemy's not going to win. contrary to what he may believe...

Definitely keep praying for W, E, and M. Pray for boldness when I speak to them. I know God's got something in mind, I can't wait to see it.

Wednesday (6/15)
This was when my roller coaster was at its low point. Not just yet, but this day as a whole. I'll get to that in a second, though.

Devo time was awesome yet again. We met Scott at a nearby park. He gave us an assignment: First, we were to find a secluded location in the park anywhere. Then, we were to pick a Gospel, pick a passage from the Gospel you so choose, see what we can learn from how Jesus handled a certain situation, and hide a particular passage in your heart.

I chose to study the passage about how the enemy tempted Jesus in Matthew and Luke. It was really cool to see the scripture come to life. Scott told us to look at what Jesus did, and how he taught, and also what the purpose of that passage was. And it was cool to see because, we're working with these multi-housing communities and you can seriously feel and see the darkness that is clouding these kids' eyes. I feel surrounded sometimes, like I've been cornered. I feel like I've gone into a burning building with a water gun sometimes. But after reading these passages, it's just encouraging to see how Jesus Himself resisted the enemy and that no matter what kind of temptation we face, no matter what the world tells us, no matter what our flesh tells us, no matter what the enemy tells us, we can persevere.

We went to Jewell Park again to do another VBS. Our two regular attendees were there and excited to learn more about Jesus. But it was really cool because by the end of our time there, these two girls randomly came up and I asked them if they would like to make a craft. They said yes, and they went over and sat down to do their craft, and while they were doing that, we told them about the story for the day. It was just a great experience. To top it off, we ended our time at Jewell Park with a rousing game of Duck Duck Goose! Great times :)

My day up to this point had been really well. No problems, no issues, no unruly kids, none of that. And then there was Green Gables.

Once again, I was in charge of doing the lesson for the pre-teens. We didn't immediately go into VBS because we were trying out this new activity that (in short) is essentially reading the Bible with each child in small groups, an attempt to get them excited about the Word. For the most part, it worked! It was amazing to see these kids so excited about reading the Bible and so proud of accomplishing so much reading. We gave all of them notebooks so they could journal or write out prayer to God or draw pictures, or whatever they might want to do. Most of them did well on both the reading and writing. And then there were three...

Three pre-teen boys, who think they know everything there is to know about everything, and yet they know nothing about what really matters. I say nothing; I honestly believe they do know it. I think they do know what it takes to be saved, and I think they know about the Bible and whatnot. But they're not afraid--of anything. They're not afraid of adults, dying, getting hurt, anything. And because they don't have that urgency, they're tuning the Gospel out.

This particular day, they were extra feisty. They barely read at all, I think their journals combined for a whopping 3 sentences. They were constantly being absolutely out of control, and picking on each other, and picking on others, and it was just bad. But that was just the beginning.

After coming back inside from going to get a snack, we tried to sit down and teach the story. These kids would NOT listen, they would NOT be respectful of anyone or anything. I finally taught the lesson to a couple of sets of receptive ears after trudging through all the interruptions.

Despite getting through the story, though, these boys were just getting to me. It was ridiculous the things they were saying and doing. I've seriously NEVER in my life seen any boys of that age acting and saying the things they were--things so bad, I honestly can't mention on here. It took everything I had to not explode. I like to think I'm a pretty mellow guy, pretty slow to anger for the most part. But these kids were knocking on the door to say the least.

We had four of the six men on our team in that room and it was only by the Will of God Himself we didn't all converge on them. Afterwards we all went outside and I was starting to cool down but then I noticed the boys were all around one of the girls on our team. They were flicking her and calling her all sorts of things (again, I can't mention due to the vulgarity), and I stepped in between them in attempt to get them away. And then they got in my face and was trying to start who knows what kind of trouble.

I won't bore you with saying essentially the same things over and over again, but let's just say they kept pushing all of our buttons to the max. So much so I had to pull aside one of my teammates, and we went to the parking lot so I could vent. I honestly don't recall there ever being a time in my life that I've literally shook with anger. It felt like I was about to turn into the Incredible Hulk or something. Marcus talked with me about it, and prayed with me and we returned to the area where everything was going on.

It was then where I met up with LuAnn, who heads up the multi-housing ministry of Bear Valley Church (who we are partnering with). She could tell something was bothering me and so she pulled me aside and I told her what the boys had done. Of course, she saw first hand part of it; she stepped in right before one of the boys was about to punch one of my teammates. But she went on to say that in her experience with those boys, they tend to have their days when they're good, and days when they're bad--and when they're bad, they're bad.

It was then that I was pretty much completely cooled off. And so I was able to think more clearly, and hear God more clearly. And I was reminded of Ephesians 6:12 where it says, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

I'm not fighting against these kids. I'm fighting a spiritual battle with the enemy. Like I've said, you can literally feel the enemy surrounding some of these kids. It's crazy, it really is. But with that in mind, I've got to remember that I can't do this on my own. I can't do anything without God, and I think I've been trying too much to rely on my own strength, on my own ability to fight the enemy with regards to these guys. God can get through to these kids. God can reach them. And He can do some wicked amazing things with them too. I've just got to remember that I'm yoked with Christ, and that I need to do all I can do, and rely on God to take care of what only He can do.

Thursday (6/16)
Devo time was? Yes, you're right! It was awesome, as always.

We talked about spiritual gifts. Scott mentioned how "spiritual gifts are found in the stream, not in the well." This means that we can take all the spiritual gift tests on the internet and whatnot, and some of them will tell you generally what your gifts are, but you don't really see your spiritual gifts until you're in the action, until you're in a stressful situation, until you have to act on instinct--that's when you find out a lot of things about yourself you never knew before.

Scott also talked about how are gifts aren't always static, meaning we may have gifts we don't even know we have yet. Our gifts tend to change and develop over time and in various situations. So, one could say spiritual gifts are sometimes "seasonal" in the sense that you have whatever gifts God needs you to have in the particular "season" of life you are currently in.

He made sure we knew not to compare ourselves to others. Just like Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12, we can't compare ourselves to each other just because we're different. God made us different for a reason. Comparison breeds inferiority and superiority, both of which are bad.

We also broke into groups and talked about two passages: Philippians 2:1-11 and Mark 1. In these passages, we discussed what we could learn and how we could apply it to our ministry. It was a really cool thing to see. In Philippians 2, we see how Jesus:
  • came in the form of a bondservant (v.7)
  • humble (v.8)
  • obedient (v.8)
  • sacrificial (v.8)
We also see the following instructions from Paul:
  • put others' interests before your own (v.4)
  • don't be selfish (v.3)
  • be of one accord, one mind (v.2)
Scott went on to explain the difference of lust and love in a new light. He said "Lust desires to benefit self at the expense of others, because lust desires to "get." Whereas "Love desires to benefit others at the expense of self, because love desires to "give." And we were reminded to outdo one another in love, creating a crazy awesome environment of growth toward Christ and each other.

We were reminded that if we're going to serve Jesus' way, we're going to pick up the towel and wash everybody's feet. When we lead Jesus' way, we lead from the bottom. And most of all, when we lead Jesus' way, God is glorified.

In Mark 1, we see:
  • Jesus is assertive
  • Jesus is a man of action
  • the phrase "see a need, meet a need" embodied
After Devo time, my group went to 13th and Reed again and today we had reading time for the majority of the time. Each leader was assigned 2-3 children to read the Bible with them. I got to spend some time with some amazing boys who understood a lot of the basics. I was able to hone my Spanish skills more, though, because one of the boys spoke very little English. His older brother was my translator to him.

After reading, we went through a couple Bible stories (Jesus' death on the cross, and Jesus healing the Centurion's servant) and they listened as they worked on their craft. By the time this was over, though, we only had a short amount of time before we had to leave. So naturally, I got to give more piggy back rides for the remainder of our time there, haha. I even had one boy who rode on my back Tuesday specifically seek me out.

Later that afternoon, I was wanting to get with a couple guys I had connected with to get some ice cream and find out more about their story. Sadly, though, once again I had no way of contacting them or finding them except where they lived (which I didn't find out until much later on Thursday). Nevertheless, I went and knocked on their door, but no one answered. I was kind of upset, but I knew I would see them again and I could then find out how to best get ahold of them.

Friday (6/17)
Today was another field trip. We went to a place called Bear Creek Lake Park. Everything was fantastic, except for the fact that it rained. It was off and on as far as precipitation goes, until finally, we just decided to head on back.

Some of the folks went around the Park and swam and did other various things. I hung out with one of the two kids I want to take to get ice cream (they're brothers). These guys are awesome, they really are, and I know God has some awesome plans for them. They are believers and followers of Jesus, and I am really looking forward to learning more about them.

But anyway, I hung out with one of them during the time at the park. We played guitar and it was really cool because I actually taught him a couple songs--he's such a quick learner. The first of which is Sweet Home Alabama. This was really sentimental to me, because Sweet Home Alabama was the first song I learned on guitar, and here I am teaching it to a youngster. It was awesome, it really was.

After we got back, I and some teammates decided to go to McDonalds with both brothers. They're really funny, and so different from all the other kids. You can really see God in them, and they are just really cool kids. We learned some of their story and their family tree, it was mostly surface stuff, but it's a start, and I really look forward to future meetings with them.

Saturday (6/18)
Today was an R&R day. We had scheduled to have a work day with a new church, but that fell through, so we decided it would be best to have an easy day where we can refuel for the coming weeks.

I slept in for the first time in a long, LONG, time, but once I woke up, I and two other guys decided to go to Set Free Church again to help out.

By the time we got there, there wasn't a whole lot to do, though. Really, the only thing they had for us to do was flower arrangements, so I spearheaded that venture. Flowers are awesome, and we made some really cool arrangements.

We had a really good chat with Terry again, and also had a wicked awesome lunch cooked by Terry--chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, and fresh steamed asparagus. It was so good.

After praying with Terry, we went on back to the apartments and we got ready for the evening. We were able to go to a Colorado Rockies game! It was so awesome. It was the first MLB stadium other than Busch (St. Louis) that I have ever been to, and it was really cool. It was a great game to watch, Rockies beat the Tigers 5-4. And of course, the stadium bratwurst, loaded with peppers, onions, and sauerkraut, was so delicious as well. It was such a great experience.

Then we came back and hung out; I decided to finish writing this blog post that I've been working on for a few days now, haha.

I know this has been long, but thank you for reading it. Keep praying for us as we gear up for more of God's work this coming week. I love you all!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Seeing God Through Moldy Bread

First of all, I just want to say it took so long for this post to come out because I had to convert the video interview (which you'll see in a little bit) into a smaller size so it could be posted on here in its entirety. But nonetheless, here it goes:

I know what you're thinking: "what in the world kind of title is 'Seeing God Through Moldy Bread?'" How is God seen in moldy bread?

Well, I don't mean to make it into a cliffhanger, but I am going to have to hold off on that answer for a little bit.

Friday (6/10), we went on a field trip with all the kids from all the various apartment complexes we're helping with this summer. We took them to a park. And I had a blast. We played football together, and ate sandwiches.

I found out what a swimming hole is actually like. There was a creek that ran adjacent to this park we were at. And I got in the creek along with one of my teammates and a good-sized group of kids. The water was just a tad chilly. But it was an awesome time for sure.

What I enjoyed most, or at least what was awesome to see, was the contrast in the behavior of the kids from the day prior to this day. These guys (who happen to be pre-teens) just the day before this was calling each other vulgar names, fighting with each other, everything under the sun. Yet when they were on the field trip, they really were different. Yes, they still had their tempers and non-discipline. But it was truly unreal how big of a difference it was to see that.

Saturday (6/11) was awesome. Here's where the moldy bread story comes in. We're scheduled to work at a place called Set Free Church. And so, I'm thinking to myself about what we might be doing. And all I can think of is organization and construction, etc. This came to fruition in the beginning when we were organizing the loading areas, folding laundry, etc. And then it happened.

We were instructed to essentially consolidate these areas of thrown-out, bad, rotten bread. This bread had SO much mold all over it, and my initial reaction, of course, was just that I didn't want to touch it. I thought it was disgusting. And at this point my day was starting to look very glum. I was getting very discouraged, and I wanted to quit.

We went inside and we were basically waiting on these food trucks to arrive. They get food trucks to bring in food every weekend. They were running late this particular Saturday, which was definitely of God, because it gave us time to interview Terry (the guy who was showing us the ropes and more or less leading us along). Here is the entire video interview with Terry (I apologize for the shakiness of the camera, I tried my best to hold it still). I know it's a long video (about 20 minutes) but I promise it's more than worth it to hear Terry's story:


I know, right? It was said by someone in our group that Terry reminded them of Moses when he came down from the mountain after talking with God. In Exodus 34:29-35, it talks about how Moses' face literally glowed from talking with God. Terry just glows for God. It's incredible.

After the video interview, he took us on a tour of their facilities and a small group of us got to talk with him more about what he does. The question was asked, "How do you stay motivated?" And Terry's response was unreal. He said, "You know, I'm just going to be real with you. I don't want to wake up at 6 every morning. I don't want to cook for these people all day every day. I don't want to be doing this. I'd rather be sitting back in a recliner watching TV. But that's my flesh talking. My flesh is saying those things. My heart wants to serve God. And even though my flesh doesn't want to do these things, I continue to do them. Because God is with me. God gives me strength. God gives me rest. You know, we go through this life serving God, and times can definitely be hard, we get to where our flesh doesn't want to do it anymore. But that's just God chiseling away at us. Every pain, every thing we go through, God's just chiseling away at us, shaping us into the men and women he wants us to be."

Terry is so awesome. And he literally reeks Jesus. And that's not meant to be negative at all. It's an awesome thing, and I can't wait to work with him even more throughout our stay here.

After a while, one of the ladies that helps out a lot at Set Free Church asked if any of the girls would like to help her make flower arrangements. Being as I had made various flower combinations/arrangements before for my beautiful girlfriend, Rachel Hall, I figured I would ask if I could help too, despite not being a girl. She said I definitely could and gave us the donated flowers we had to work with and told us to use our own creativity and make the arrangements. Everybody did a great job and the arrangements turned out really well. Here's a picture of them:

Sunday (6/12)
Worship at Bear Valley Church was awesome once again. This month, they're doing a series on personality types (the main four) and characters in the Bible that these personality types relate to. Last week was the "Otter" personality. The main character that went along with this personality type is Peter--the guy who always put his foot in his mouth, the guy who was always going, and didn't really think everything through, but he was the guy that also made life interesting for everyone around him.

This week's personality was the "Golden Retriever." This is me. I mean, I have some qualities of the otter, and I've been told I show signs of a Lion too (which is what one of the other types is), but I am definitely predominately golden retriever. The Biblical character example was Mary, Jesus' mother. She was the one to be loyal and faithful regardless of what situation there was around her. She was very observant, and was always aware of everything going on around her.

It's really cool how these characters in the Bible come even more to life than before in exploring their personality types. I'm really excited to see the next couple services and what messages they bring.

Then we led worship at Green Gables again. Chastain, Kayla and Lindsey led music and did a wonderful job, as always. And I brought the message again. The message this week was from Matthew 11:28-30, and also included the passage from Matthew 14 where Jesus fed the 5,000. The message itself was over letting go of our own knowledge and understanding, and letting God take control of what we can't do. In other words, do all we can do, and let God do what only God can do. I think it went really well. I would post the messages on here too, but I haven't been filming those. To be honest, until now I just didn't even think about it. Anyway, the service went well, and then a local Sunday School class brought us lunch via Papa John's pizza. It was delicious, as Papa John's typically is.

We had some awesome team time and sang songs of praise and worship together, and prepared for this upcoming week.

This morning (6/13)
So since I've already had some awesome experiences this morning and I'm blogging now, I figured I'd go ahead and share.

This week we don't have a KBC Campus Minister here with us. However, we are having devotional time every morning with our guide who led us up St Mary's Glacier last Monday, Scott. He's great, and I literally look at him, and listen to him and think of peace, because the peace of Christ is just so evident in him. He exemplifies a lot of aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, but I'd definitely say peace is the one he's best at.

This morning during devo time, we talked about what ways we see God most clearly. We went around the room, each sharing about what we thought about it, and heard a variety of ways people encounter God, and experience Him most clearly. It was really cool to see that.

Then, Scott led us through 6 basic pathways that we typically have in relation to how we encounter God. They are:
  1. through creation
  2. through study
  3. through service
  4. through worship
  5. through relationships
  6. through contemplation
The way I most clearly encounter God is through relationships, because I just see how God is moving in others' lives and I love having conversation with people and hearing their stories, and telling my own stories, and communicating with them. And there are literally times when words are coming out of my mouth and I don't know where they're coming from, and my only explanation is God is speaking through me and to me in those times and it's just awesome when those times happen.

We're about to start our VBS's for the day, so I must go for now, but be looking for another post soon. I have a really good feeling about this week, and I'm excited to see what God has in store.

Keep praying for me, please. Thank you for your support. I love you all!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Little Chaos, But a Lot of Awesome

So Wednesday was a really laid-back day. We started off with awesome devotion, as usual. Daniel Berry, campus minister at UK, has been here leading us in devotionals and offering some crazy awesome support, ideas, and wisdom. He speaks truth. He allows God to shine through him, and he let's God speak through him in an amazing way. He tells us what we need to hear, not a sugarcoated version of what we want to hear. It's just really evident that God is moving in him, and leading through him, and that's just crazy awesome.

We had a VBS at Jewel Park (where W lives, see previous post). It was really calm there. We had 6 children come out. They were all really cool and well-behaved. They also knew a lot about God and the Bible. And if I'm not mistaken, I think I had heard that all of them had accepted Christ within the last year, which is really awesome.

One of my teammates had a heart to heart with one of the boys in his group. He and the boy got into a conversation about heaven and Jesus. The boy then proceeded to tell my teammate about how he had two older sisters that died before he was born. One died of cancer and the other died of heart attack. That in and of itself is a lesson about how short life may be for us. We're not guaranteed tomorrow. So it made me ask the question, "Am I leaving it all out on the court for Christ every day?" Because I may not be here tomorrow. That affects our ministry too, because we have to tell others about Him. We can't just be happy about our own salvation and just sit back and keep it to ourselves. Salvation isn't a gift meant to just lie in wait; salvation is meant to be shared with the world. Salvation isn't the wool, knit sweater we just toss in the back of our closet to collect dust; it's the awesome shiny new toy we want to show to everyone and that we carry around with us EVERYwhere.

That's not a just example, though, because, well, let's be honest, nothing could every truly describe what the gift of salvation is like. It's truly indescribable, unmatchable, amazing, unbelievable, and undeserved. Isn't God awesome?

But back to the story, this boy was telling my teammate about how his two older sisters had died before he was even born. Then he asked my teammate a very hard question, "Do you think they're in heaven?"

He responded in a way that couldn't have been worded better. He said, "Well, if they believed in Jesus, and truly confessed Him as their Lord and Savior, then I fully believe that they are in heaven."

The boy responded, "Good. I believe in Jesus too."

That story touched me. It's so awesome to see these kids that have professed Jesus as their Lord at such a young age, and see how much knowledge they have about it all. It's truly awesome.

I didn't see W at Jewel Park. I'm going to see him again though. And we're going to have some more awesome conversation. I just know it. I can feel it.

Today (Thursday), we had another busy day. It started off awesomely again with devotion time led by Daniel Berry, filled with some epic advice, application of scripture, and truth. I learned some more listening skills today--listening to God. DB had each of us go somewhere where we could be alone, no technology, no people, no Bible, no journal, just us and God. I had done this before, but not exactly in this way. I've never had absolutely nothing ( I typically carry around my Bible and journal with me everywhere just about) with me. It was awesome just to sit and listen to what God had to say. I didn't hear an audible voice, but I couldn't stop repeating "Be still and know that I am God" in my head. I really feel like it was God. Because in all the chaos of these youngsters running around, it's easy to crawl back into our shell and stress out. But when those times come, we have to just take a step back, take a deep breath, and literally "be still and know that [He] is God," and know that He is in control.

I needed that today.

God knew that (I know, I'm pointing out the obvious, right?).

It really does still blow my mind how He gives us exactly what we need, all the time.

We went to 13th and Reed today as our first location. I got to be a group leader for the older boys (10 and 11 year olds). It was rough. That age can be very rambunctious, and let's just say rambunctious boys are certainly NOT my forte. But it was a great experience, because doing missions for God isn't about staying in our comfort zone, or being in our bubble, or standing on the ledge at a safe distance. Doing missions is stepping out of our comfort zone, it's shattering our protective bubble, it's leaping off the ledge in full reliance and faith in God.

We're nothing. We can't do anything. We are inadequate. We are all these things when we try to do it by ourselves.

"God doesn't always call the qualified, but He ALWAYS qualifies the call."

With Him we can do "all things" ( Phil. 4:13)

When we fully rely on God, not on ourselves, that's taking a leap of faith for Him.

When we give everything we have over to God, awesome things happen.

It's not about what we can do, because we're nothing in and of ourselves. Instead, it's what God can do through us.

Those little boys drove me up the wall. I am in no way adequate to lead those boys when I rely on my own abilities (as I tried to do). But God showed me when I just let go, God can do some awesome things through me.

After our first VBS, we put on another VBS at Green Gables. I was a floating helper here, but I ended up mostly helping with the teaching of the lesson. Everything was going awesome until the pre-teen boys came around. I found out later that by the time they got to the story station they had actually settled down some...I can't even imagine what they were like before. They were calling each other vulgar names, making awful jokes, showing NO signs of respect at all. It frustrated me so much because my teammate was trying so hard to teach them the lesson, and I was doing everything I could to settle everyone down, but we could hardly get a word out before they started up again. And get this: it was just three boys; just three! I'm still trying to figure out how three boys can wreak that much havoc. It's unbelievable.

I finally wised up, though, and again realized that I couldn't do it by myself, and that I needed to just "be still and know that [He] is God." I started praying and the boys finally started calming down. It was awesome about how they started to pay attention and actually learn the story and scripture.

Finally, we had a carnival from 6-8 pm for the Bear Valley Village. First of all, I would like to throw out there that this place has been named by the locals as the "crack shack" because of the prevalence of drugs.

But what better place to share the Gospel, right? Jesus Himself went to the hard places. And that's what I want to do too.

I went with a group of people knocking on every apartment door, personally inviting everyone to the carnival. I was wary about going door-to-door because I always feel awkward doing that. But again, it goes back to stepping out of my comfort zone. So I just went for it, and relied on God for protection and for the words to say. I only had one man slam the door in my face, to my surprise. I barely got out, "Hi, how are you?" before he cut me off with an "I'm not interested" and shut the door.

There were a lot of people that either weren't home or ignored us. But nearly everyone that answered was very polite about it all, and a lot even seemed really enthused about it.

I came across one door that was already partially open. A man came to the door, holding his son, came to the door and after I gave my invitation for the carnival, he acknowledged that he and his son were already planning on coming (they had passed out flyers before today). He was really nice. And he introduced himself as J and his son S.

The carnival was awesome. There were a lot of people that came out, a lot of kids. And the really awesome thing is that all the kids were so adorable and well-behaved and just so grateful of everything we gave them and did with them: playing games, food, prizes, balloon animals, etc.

I got particularly close to a little boy by the name of A. He could barely talk and it looked like it wasn't too long ago that he learned to walk. But he was so cute, and was tickled to death that I was chasing him around. There were a few times where he had started crying for various reasons, and I would pick him up and he'd stop. At one point he even laid his head down on my shoulder and I thought he was going to fall asleep. He was so awesome. And I praise God that He allowed me to see Him in the smile and laughter of a sweet little boy.

J and S (the father and son I met from knocking on doors) finally came, and they had a great time. I got into a really good conversation with J and he really surprised me with how quickly he opened up to me. I mean he literally poured out his entire story. It was awesome to see where he's been and where God is taking him now. He professes to be a Christian, which is definitely awesome. What's also cool is that he said he enjoys living in Bear Valley Village for the fact that he has such a great ministry field to reach out to others. He said, "they call this place the 'crack shack,' but what they don't know is that it's really the 'Jesus Shack'." I just think it's awesome that he is claiming that little community for Christ. and that he's doing everything he can to minister to others in that hardened community.

He was encouraging about my ministry, and going to seminary and whatnot. And he said that he was going to be praying for me, which is definitely cool. He really believes in the power of prayer, which is really awesome too.

I really hope I'll catch J and his son, S, again, but I'm not positive I will. I mentioned the schedule we have for VBS in that area and he said he'd be working and wasn't sure that they'd be able to make it.

But regardless, please pray for J and S and that I would have more encounters with them. Also, continue praying for W (from Jewel Park). Like I said, I really feel like God's got some plans for that situation, and so just pray that I'll have more opportunities with him and pray for good conversation and that God will just soften his heart, and pierce his heart with truth.

Thanks for all your prayers, I really feel it, you all are awesome. And thank you for reading this, too.

I must go to bed, though. We have a big field trip planned for the kids tomorrow to one of the area lakes! Get excited :) Be looking for an update on how that goes.

Remember to stay strong even in the hardest trials, and to just "Be still and know that [He] is God."

Love you all!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Glaciers, Laughter, and Good Conversation

Today was a great day. But before I get to today, let me talk about yesterday.

I climbed a glacier.

I never knew there could exist snow (and lots of it) in 60+ degree weather. But here I am climbing a glacier! Crazy stuff.

But it was a really awesome experience. We were 10,000 feet above sea level, so it was especially hard for my out of shape self to breathe. But the pain in my lungs was so much more than worth it once we reached the top. This was the view I was greeted with:

God is so awesome. I've seen mountains before, but not like this. And just having a day to take in some of God's creation like this; it blows my mind.

This isn't technically the "top" of the glacier, but it was a frozen lake near the top.

We climbed a little further so people could sled down one of the snowy areas pictured above. Naturally, being as I am doing a lot of the videography this summer, I went with them. Chad Bell and Chad Winston decided to sled together. And by together, I mean right after one another (what you shouldn't do). Not only that, but also, they each learned to 1) listen to directions, and 2) when one is sledding very fast down a steep, icy embankment, one should probably think of a way to slow oneself down. Luckily, though, the camera was rolling:


They're both fine, Chad Winston had a few small scratches but that was it.

We later went to a place called BeauJo's Pizza in Idaho Springs. According to our Glacier Tour Guide, it is the best pizza in the state of Colorado. I could definitely believe it. It was very, very good, for sure.

Now for today.

Like I said before, today was a great day. It started off great, like most mornings, with my quiet time with God, and also devotional time with the team. But then it got a little dicey.

As I mentioned before I'm one of the main videographers for the trip. This is totally cool because I honestly enjoy doing it a lot--I even edited the above video footage for fun. But I was assigned to do videography for each of the two VBS's we did today. It was 4 hours of me shooting essentially the exact same shots (or at least types of shots), trying to get multiple angles on everything, trying to get everyone involved in the shots, etc. Again, I want to say that I do enjoy videography very much. But today it got monotonous, for one reason: I was focusing on the videography.

It's easy to do, I suppose, since I was assigned that job and that job only. But it was my fault all the way. I was focused too much on getting all the right shots and essentially didn't put the camera down. I just didn't have a proper balance of videography and helping with the VBS's themselves. Thankfully, I learned this lesson quick and apply it now versus going through an entire month of monotony.

But even though I didn't feel that involved at this juncture, the next stop of the day was much different.

We were to put on a carnival at a new apartment complex. I was manning the grill for this one, so I was just cooking hot dogs like nobody's business. I'll pause real quick to explain something: I don't know about releasing information about people, so I'm just going to use a first initial for some people. Anyway, as I was cooking, a guy by the name of E pulled up. He seemed like an awesome dude. I didn't talk to him much then, but he said he would be back down after he went up and changed clothes.

I was beginning to wonder if he was coming back as we were about to close up shop for the evening when three guys started coming toward where I was. It was E, along with two friends M and W. M and E were both really nice, but they didn't stick around long. W, however, stuck around and continued talking with me about various things.

I mentioned that I was from Kentucky and at that he asked me the trademark question of the entire 1:8 Leadership Experience: "Why are you here?"

I answered him, "Well I felt like God was wanting me to give up my summer and come serve you all and to just share with everyone I could about Christ and what he's done in my life."

He then proceeded to politely nod and say "that's cool, man." I could tell it was kind of making him uneasy.

After some time I asked him if he went to church anywhere in the area and he then told me that he did not go to church anywhere because he doesn't believe in organized religion.

After some more time, he then asked me, essentially, what denomination of Christianity I aligned myself with. I told him I've been born and raised in a Southern Baptist Church but that every denomination has its problems. But I continued and said, "but here's what I believe: I believe in one God, the creator of the universe..and I believe He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth, live a perfect life, and die on the cross for our sins and be resurrected three days later."

I was especially encouraged by his willingness to listen, and attentiveness to my beliefs and what I was saying. And I think it was partially due to the fact that I tried my best to be respectful in hearing what He had to say too. We each had times where we would respectfully disagree with each other on issues, but neither of us ridiculed the other for believing something different. Ridicule doesn't get anyone anywhere. Ridicule is not love. Listening is love. And we had a very cool, deep, awesome discussion; he and I just went back and forth on sharing what we believed with regards to various things. And that was so great.

........*sigh*...he somewhat gets it. But at the same time, there are still a lot of things he doesn't get.

He said he believes that everything is God, and everyone is God, therefore he is God.

He also said that he believes all religions are pursuing the same God, just under a different name. To that I tried to explain to him what differentiates us from other religions, and that's when I told him about Jesus coming and living a perfect life and dying on the cross for us. He disagreed with Jesus living a perfect life. He said he found scripture that proves Jesus wasn't perfect. And to that I'm pretty sure I raised my eyebrows as I asked him to please explain that. He claims that when Jesus "cursed the fig tree" (see Mark 11:12-25), Jesus sinned. He then proceeded to say that this fact gives him hope because it leaves room for him "to be like Jesus."

Regardless of these pretty sizable doctrinal issues, I still think he has the framework that can be built upon. For instance, at one point he said that he "does believe in a God, a creator, because this [pointing to the beautiful scenery around us] is too beautiful for there not to be a supreme creator."

I had to go because by this time my team was finishing up the tear down of the carnival. But I told him I wanted to continue talking with him about this, and he was really "gung-ho" about continuing conversation, which was also very encouraging. I told him I would definitely meet up with him again sometime soon (maybe tomorrow), and continue conversation. So I am praying for that opportunity.

Just please keep W in your prayers. Pray for me as I try to minister to him. Pray that God will give me the knowledge and wisdom and support and words I need when I talk with him and with others. Pray that I will have boldness in proclaiming Christ, not afraid to step on toes or cross boundaries. Most of all, just pray that W will have an open heart and open mind, and that God will just speak to him and convict him, so that he may come to know Jesus as his Lord.

I can't wait to see what God has planned with regards to W. I know it has to be something big, I just feel it.

Thank you for your prayers and for taking time out of your day to read these updates. It's always awesome to know I have solid support in my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Love you all, and thanks again!

It's off to bed for me, I've GOT to get some rest for this exhausted body of mine! :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Playing "Ketchup" (Everything from 5/31-6/5)

So, as mentioned in my previous post, this is going to be a very long and detailed post catching up on everything that's happened thus far on the 1:8 Leadership Experience.

Wow, God has already shown me so much and it hasn't even been a full week yet. But here's my best attempt at catching everything up to now. Again, I apologize for waiting until now to really post, I promise I will be more consistent now that I have regular internet service. Anyway, here it goes:

I said my goodbyes to my family. It hadn't sunk in at this point--it still hasn't really sunk in--how long I'm going to be away from home, far away I'm going to be away from home. It's just crazy thinking I'm currently thousands of miles above sea level. I've always wanted to go to the Rockies...I'm getting side tracked; I apologize, I promise I'll try to stay focused, but just know that sometimes I tend to go on tangents.

ANYway, so I said my goodbyes on this day. It was overall a pretty laid-back day. We went over basic orientation things and plans fort he week, little things like that. So that was cool. And of course, it was awesome to see my team again. It's crazy how we've only seen each other 3 weekends prior to 5/31, but we're already so close, and I can't wait to see how awesome our community with God and each other is going to look like by the end of the summer.

We received the John C. Maxwell Leadership Bible that we will be using a lot throughout the summer. It has some really awesome articles and commentary on how scripture directly ties into leadership skills. We also received these awesome daily devotional books called "This day with the Master" by Dennis Kinlaw. It's really got some awesome insight on things too.

We went over the five languages of apology in a seminar. It was really cool and I can even see using the skills from the session outside of the 1:8 Leadership Experience. It's really awesome.

We also went over legal issues--stuff the lawyers needed to tell us in case we encountered issues.

Keith Inman led a session on telling (and listening to others') stories. Our stories are what we've been through. Who we are. Where we've been. What we've been through. Most importantly, our stories are how God has used those experiences for His glory. What He did in us. How he comforted us. We talked about telling our stories. In telling our stories, we're carrying out what it says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. Paul's telling the Corinthian church to use our stories for God's glory. He tells us to show others the same comfort, the same peace, the same love God showed us in our time of trouble. Sharing stories with one another is a perfect way to do that because we can relate to others in sharing our stories, and relating with people leads to showing them Christ in you, which leads to some crazy awesome conversation.

We had team time every day, where we just got together and talked about various things. This day's particular team time was really neat because we went around the room just sharing our stories with one another.

This day we had training on basic blogging and video editing/filming. Each team is to come up with a video. Me being one of the tech guys in the group, naturally I get to do that, haha. I am really going to enjoy that though, because I love doing video editing for fun.

We had seminars on listening too. This was awesome, because again how I can apply it to my life outside of the 1:8 leadership experience.

We did some team building activities and games and then went over to the Inman family home for dinner. We took pictures with the teams and ate Qdoba tacos (which were absolutely delicious).

Later that night, we came back and worshipped. It was just the students. It was random. It was absolutley amazing :). I felt God in our presence to say the least. It was awesome just singing songs of worship and reading scripture and praying--just quality time with God :).

This is the day I experienced my first commercial flight. Wow. I was so anxious about it. Every slight touch of turbulence, every bell that came on the loud speaker, everytime I looked out my window (Yes, I had a window seat) and saw the wing of the plane flapping up and down, I started freaking out. I knew God was in control, I knew He would keep us safe, but in that tiny smidge of time, I got really nervous.

Flying is great. I think I still prefer road trips for various reasons, even though they take longer. I just really don't see a whole lot of added value in flying. Of course with the exception of flying overseas: there's definitely added value to flying in regards to that department.

We landed safe and sound in Denver and drove our rented vehicles to Colorado Christian University, where we will call home until July 5th.

The apartment is fantastic. It has everything, even free laundry in every apartment. The guys are all in one apartment and the girls are split into two apartments.

This day was pretty much reserved for flying and settling in to our temporary "home".

This day we woke up and went to a couple by the name of Tom and Barb's house for an orientation brunch. Man was it delicious. Breakfast casserole, fresh watermelon, raspberries, donuts...mmmmmm. It was great. Their house is literally a Republican museum..elephants everywhere--literally, statues, pictures, sculptures--all elephants, scattered everywhere. They're very politically involved, which is cool. They've personally met EVERY republican president since Reagan. Campaign buttons. Photos. Books. Memorabilia galore. But it was really cool going around their house.

After brunch we had an orientation of the multi-housing ministry we're going to be working with. We met the leaders of each particular location (we'll be working at 6 locations every week doing Bible schools, carnivals, etc.). They are really awesome people, and it's really awesome to see God moving in them, and through them.

We then took a brief tour of the main location (Green Gables). We all passed out flyers for the carnivals and Bible Schools and for the church services offered at Green Gables.

After passing out flyers, we made our first (of what I'm sure will be many) walmart trips. We stocked up on groceries and supplies, and for some of us things we left at home and didn't realize we needed it until we had already flown halfway across the country (*cough* myself *cough*).

We had team time and I finished putting together the lesson/sermon for the following morning service at Green Gables.

And finally we get to today. Of course, at the time I'm writing this it's technically June 6th, but it's ok; I haven't gone to sleep yet, so I still consider it the same day.

We got up bright and early and went to services at Bear Valley Church at 8:00 am. Worship was awesome. They give over 25% of their budget to missions, and it shows. They are very awesome, mission-minded people. The pastor there was awesome too, they're doing a study on the four personality types this month, and I won't put his sermon notes on here, but just know it was an awesome, informative, and unique message to say the least.

We then went over to Green Gables where parts of our team were teaching sunday school for teens/pre-teens, younger children, and I taught the lesson/preached a sermon for the adults. Chastain Napier and Kayla Cooper led music and did an awesome job. I really felt God moving in the service, so I just pray He moved in the hearts of those who were there. I know he moved in my heart, for sure. The message was out of 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (sound familiar?) and was over the topic of "Using your story for God's glory" And it was basically over the kind of thing I was talking about earlier with regards to this scripture.

After this it was time to set up the first of two carnivals. We had a bunch of people at the carnival at Green Gables. I played basketball with some people and helped with the various carnival games and whatnot.

Even the first day I have already started developing relationships with these kids. They're so awesome. and the vast majority of them (to my surprise) were well-mannered, well-behaved, and very very sweet. I really started developing relationships with a couple of kids (Mateo and Ty-Ty). Ty-Ty and I even have a "secret handshake." I can't wait to see what God's plans are this summer.

After the Green Gables carnival, we loaded up and quickly went over to 13th and Reed (another multi-housing ministry location) and held another carnival there. I pretty much did the same thing at this carnival in that I helped out with games and kind of floated around wherever I was needed. I got to use a little of my spanish as a lot of the kids in this area of town are spanish-speakers. I'm excited that I remembered as much as I did, crazy!

I'm exhausted. I am absolutely physically drained. But spiritually I am on fire, and that's an awesome feeling. I know God's got some awesome plans for this summer and I can't wait to see them unfold.

As mentioned, it's rather late, even in Mountain Time, and I really need to get some rest before tomorrow. We are getting up relatively early again to go climb a glacier (you know, usual procedures). Anywho, be praying for me and my team, and for all the teams of the 1:8 leadership experience. We need your prayers for open hearts and open doors to share the gospel!

Thanks for reading, and I apologize if there are any spelling/grammatical errors. Please excuse me, as it is very late, haha.

Having fun. Serving God. Having fun serving God. :)

Love you all!

P.s.- pictures coming soon :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The 1:8 Leadership Experience

So this is the first time I've really been able to get on here as of yet. All I can say is God is keeping us busy to say the least, and I'm loving every bit of it! :)

I get to preach tomorrow at Green Gables Multi-housing community, and I'm so excited :). I'm sure I'll have a much more detailed update tomorrow night.

For now, I just praise God for safe travels, for the experiences, long, deep discussions, and awesome time with Him that I've had already--and it hasn't even been a full week yet. This experience is going to blow my mind..God already has blown my mind.

I promise more updates will come and on a much more regular basis. For now, though, I must get some much needed rest.

Thank you, Abba, for this opportunity :) I love you!