Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
This morning we ate breakfast and were on the road by 8:45 am heading to Crossroads - an alternative school for “troubled” teens. We did our dances and I gave a talk about my friend James who was killed in a car accident at the age of 15. During the talk I challenge teens to make wise choices in life. After the talk the team did their “Everything” drama. More than one student had moist eyes. Unfortunately the kids had to go straight to class when we finished, but our girls did have a chance to pray with three or four girls who were crying in the back row. After ministering at the school we went to serve at the Toccoa Soup Kitchen. The kids scrubbed walls, did dishes, sorted food, organized closets, broke down boxes, etc. While the people were eating their lunches we performed our dances and dramas. When we finished working at the soup kitchen we drove about a half-hour to Victory Home, a Christian drug and alcohol recovery center. The guys in the program were really touched by our ministry, and again, lots of these big, burly guys were crying when they saw our dramas. When we finished the team got into groups and prayed for just about all of the guys. When we returned to camp the team was tired and after dinner Pastor Lenny made arrangements for us to take everyone bowling at Toccoa Lanes. That was a great move! It really revived the spirit of the team as for two hours we laughed and played together.
Today was our biggest day of ministry, ministering in five locations, doing our program 6 times! We started this morning at 6:30 am when we drove to the public middle school to work with local youth pastors who run a program before school called First Priority. We had about 25 minutes and several hundred students were present as we ministered. In addition to our dramas Laura shared her testimony and I encouraged the students to remain faithful to Jesus and to let their lights shine for Him in school. When we finished we shot back to camp for less than an hour to eat breakfast and have devotions. This morning a couple of the kids were not feeling well, so we took time to pray for each person. (I have been making them all take a multi-vitamin in the morning, so I am sure that has helped keep the sick count down as well.) As soon as we were done we headed off to The Boys and Girls Club where we ministered to over 100 of the cutest kids you’ve ever seen between 3-5 years old who participate in a school called Head Start. Every year this os one of our favorites! When we are done with our program we invite the kids down to show us their dance moves and they are just adorable! We finished up there and went straight to the High School. We were supposed to have a school assembly in the gym, but they moved us instead into a large classroom. The room could not contain everyone, so they had half of the kids come in at 11:15 and the other half at 11:45 am, and we had to do our program twice. I felt led again to share about my friend James, and both times you could have heard a pin drop by the time I finished. I know God really spoke to some kids. We were able to have lunch at the high school, and a lot of the kids came up to thank us and tell us they had been touched. When we were done at the high school we drove about 30 minutes to Heart Ministries - a recovery home for women. About 25 women were present, and they just fell apart crying as three of our girls shared their testimonies and as we did our dances and dramas. It was another special God moment, and we were so glad to be able to encourage them in their recovery process. When we finished we went around and prayed for every woman. They said that they have seen lots of people come through during their time there, but that our ministry was the most powerful thing they had ever seen there. Praise be to God! Lots of tissues were used. In fact, they ran out and a lady was handing out paper towels. After some snacks and a time of fellowship with the ladies - many of them sharing about their lives and challenging our kids - we jumped back in the vehicles and drove back to Toccoa where we visited the elderly and seriously disabled in a nursing home. We did two of our dances, and I simply told the folks that God cared about Him, that He loved them, and that He remembered them; that’s why we had come - to deliver a message of God’s love to them. Then our kids went around and spoke with each and every person and prayed with them. It was very special! Before heading back to camp we swung by Toccoa Falls and took some pictures. We are now eating dinner and tonight we will sit around the camp fire and share all that we have learned and experienced this week. Tomorrow morning we will journey back to Atlanta to catch our flight home. It’s been a really busy and a really great week! See ya tomorrow!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday Part 2 ...
After lunch our team headed to Shepherd’s Hill Farm which runs a residential program as well as summer camps using horses to help troubled teens, as therapy for disabled people, and to teach leadership and team work. We were planning on helping around the farm by cleaning up ... you know ... animal “stuff”, but unfortunately (or fortunately, however you want to look at it) the trailer had not arrived and there was no place to put the “stuff”, so instead of serving we ended up with a real treat. The folks from the farm spoke to our team about life and shared lessons that horses can teach us about life in Christ. Two of the girls who are residents of the program gave us a demonstration of what they have been able to accomplish and shared a bit from their own lives. Following that they split us into two teams and gave us a challenge. Each team had 15 minutes to get one of four horses to jump a hurdle. The first team went while team 2 watched. This was a great advantage to team 2 which was able to learn from their observation of team 1. We learned much about leadership, teamwork, and most of all ourselves in the process. I won’t take time to spell out all of the things we learned through this exercise, but it was a real eye-opener and a real treat.
After dinner (John Long ribs ... once again, doesn’t feel right to eat this good on a missions trip! lol Thanks John!) we all went down by the lake where we had an awesome camp fire cranking. We spent three hours debriefing our day, sharing, praying for one another, and worshiping the Lord. It was a beautiful and special experience. Lots of tissues were needed, and when those ran out sweatshirt sleeves sufficed. After the serious time the air filled with laughter as the team began to sing silly songs and children’s rhymes, and we headed up to the cafeteria where we enjoyed some cake in honor of Matt Moreo’s birthday. It was a fun and fruitful day!
This morning we went to the Stephen’s County Jail. We were told we would be doing some ministry, but when we arrived we were informed that due to a recent policy change we would not be able to interact with the inmates. Not all was lost, however. The sheriff and the chaplain gave us al a tour of the jail including a trip to the tower where we could observe the prisoners in their pods. It was definitely a great experience in terms of giving our students a glimpse of what life is like behind bars. No clocks, no time outside whatsoever, no television ... in short, no fun! At the end of the tour we did do a bit of ministry. We prayed over the sheriff and over the entire jail. She was very touched that we did that.
After the jail we went to the Senior Center, a community center for senior citizens. We did a couple of our pieces for them as they ate lunch. Afterward we had a chance to clean their tables, meet the folks, and pray for many of them. Following our time there we went back to camp for lunch.
This afternoon we went to The Boys & Girls Club where we ministered to and played with the kids who were there. After our time there we went to the Tallulah Gorge and hiked down the 1,062 steps and all the way back up. It was a great workout and absolutely stunning scenery. Everyone on the team made it. On the way back up a lady who was coming down asked me if I was the youth pastor. After I said I was, she said that she had seen our shuttle and grew up in our church. I couldn’t believe it! After talking a bit I asked her for her name and she said that her maiden name was Burd. Incredibly, she was Laurie, sister of Danny Burd of YWAM. How crazy is that? We spent quite a bit of time talking with her. Very cool! After dinner we gathered together for a team meeting and will be turning in early tonight. I am certain that everyone will sleep very well tonight after such a big workout! Thanks again for your love and support!
Monday, February 16, 2009
Greetings everyone! It's Monday morning about 11:15 am and I have finally found a few minutes to sit down and update you on our adventures. I do not have Internet access where we are staying, so I have to wait until we go to Pastor Lenny's house or the church to get online. OK, I'll try to be brief but thorough.
No problems at the airport. Everyone got through security fine, our plane was on time, and we had a nice flight. We had the opportunity to talk to a few people about what we were up to, so that is always good in terms of letting our light shine. Anthony brought along a copy of my book, and he and Mike used it the entire flight. So cool! They said that it made the flight feel like 5 minutes. Yes, that was a shameless sales pitch. Ha Ha! When we arrived at the airport we met up with Pastor Lenny & Jackie, picked up our rental, and after about an hour were on the road headed toward Toccoa. We stopped at Wendy's and everyone got dinner. I got to talk to a young man named Jeff who was inquiring about our group, and gave him one of my cards. We got to out camp around 10:30 pm and everyone was stoked to be there. John Long was waiting for us with donuts and hot chocolate! After a brief team meeting we took our luggage to our rooms, and the worship team did a bit of a rehearsal. Lights out was at midnight, but in reality everyone fell asleep around 1:30.
No time to sleep in! We had to be on the vans heading to Athens, GA (about an hour away) at 6:00 am, so wake up time was at 5 am. I was awakened by the sound of boys talking, and showers and sinks running. I thought: did I oversleep? I looked at my clock and saw that it was only 4:25 am. Why in the world were all of the guys awake? Too much adrenaline. We hushed and shushed them until about 5:15 am, but it was no use, we could not fall back to sleep. At 5:45 we all grabbed bags with muffins and water bottles. We were supposed to have fruit too, but the walk-in refrigerator had frozen up during the night, so that was out. The kids wolfed down their continental breakfasts and we pulled out at 6 am. After a quick stop at the WalMart to get some supplies we drove the hour to Athens where we did the church service for over 200 men at The Potter's House - a Christian recovery center. They packed out the chapel and about 20 guys had to stand out in the foyer. It was a great service! The team did really great! Mike played guitar, James played drums, and Stan and Laura led worship vocally. The men sang with all of their might, and it was a glorious sound! Stan shared a powerful testimony that was very moving and challenging to the guys. Justin & Jeff shared their testimonies as well. We performed two of our dramas/dances and I preached, followed by the kids praying for dozens of the men at the altar and more worship. After the service we shared some refreshments with the guys, chatting with them before heading back to Toccoa.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
On Monday I was in Manhattan teaching two youth ministry classes at NYACK College. I was guest teaching for my friend Gregg Makin. I Taught American Youth Culture and Intro to Youth Ministry. It was a ton of fun, a great privilege, and a great joy to be in my element! I taught from 2-9 pm, returning home on the train and arriving at 11:30 pm. I tried to go right to bed, but I did not fall asleep until 2 am (my usual bedtime). Unfortunately, I had to get up at 3:30 am on Tuesday so I could catch a 4:30 am bus to Albany as I was chaperoning a trip for the Smithtown/Suffolk County Youth Bureau. We took 300 kids from Suffolk County for the Youth Leadership Forum and to lobby our leaders regarding funding for the youth programs, which would be drastically cut if the governor's proposal goes through. We met with two of our Assemblymen and three of our Senators, with many of the students telling them what the youth bureau programs have meant to them, and how their lives will be impacted if they are cut. We also asked them not to lump prevention programs with mandated programs, which the governor has also proposed. At 3 pm we loaded the busses and headed home.
I arrived home at 7 pm, just in time to get to the church for Claudia's first solo in the elementary choir. (See video. Note: I adjusted my hand while holding the camera right before she sang, and I accidentally covered the mic with my finger. You can still hear her on the video, but turn your volume up. Sorry!) She also played flute in the Beginner Band. She was absolutely outstanding and we were so proud of her. I thought I might be able to sleep in a bit on Wednesday morning, but nope! It happened to be the day I was scheduled to speak at the elementary chapel. I had an absolute blast with them, talking about hearing God. After chapel I visited a 6th grade class to talk to them about my book and the process of writing and getting a book published. I asked some questions from the book and the kids were going crazy ... the point of the book perfectly illustrated!
Today I facilitated our monthly youth leader's network meeting. We had a wonderful time of sharing and interaction followed by lunch together. After our meeting I went to the Apple store to pick up my new laptop ... a 15" MacBook Pro! Totally sweet! I had nothing but trouble for 3 1/2 years with my Dell XPS, the latest of which have affected my ability to do my job and the cost of trying to fix it was adding up because the warranty had expired. I am excited to learn the Mac, and hope that I can catch on quickly.
This evening our friend Laurie Crowley came out to see us. She is a youth pastor in Greece, NY and was down in the city visiting her brother. When she arrived on the train we all went to Port Jefferson for dinner after which we returned to the house to sip Starbucks and visit. I am really excited that she has recently joined our Purpose Driven Youth Ministry team as the second New York State mentor. I recommended her to PDYM as New York is so spread out and I felt we needed a rep upstate. We had a nice time together just talking about life and ministry, sharing ideas, and encouraging each other.
Tomorrow I finally, finally have a day to rest. Then, on Saturday, I am taking a team of 24 to Toccoa, Georgia for a week-long missions trip. I am hoping to blog while on the trip, but it will depend on my ability to get internet access.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Another talking point from the story of the mother of octuplets. Here's an article from http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090206/ap_on_re_us/octuplets
"Octuplets mom says she longed to escape loneliness"
WHITTIER, Calif. – In her first interview since giving birth to octuplets, Nadya Suleman tells NBC she wanted a huge family to make up for the isolation she says she always felt as an only child.
In a brief excerpt of the interview released Thursday, the 33-year-old single mother tells "Today" show anchor Ann Curry she had a dysfunctional childhood and sought to erase that with the closeness children could bring. NBC says the full interview will air Monday.
Suleman, who now has 14 children, says all were conceived through in vitro fertilization with sperm donated by a friend.
The octuplets, born last week, remain hospitalized. The others range in age from 2 to 7.
Suleman says it took seven years of trying before she became pregnant with her first child.