Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Human Cycle (Forgetting God) by Philip Yancey

I once read of an American journalist who inquired of an African pastor why Africans worshipped God so passionately. The African pastor responded, "You Americans believe in God. We Africans depend on God." SELAH!

I read the following in my devotional (Grace Notes) today. It was written by Philip Yancey and originally published as "Forgetting God" in the "Back Page" Column of Christianity Today, September 2004. May you be challenged as I was.

Why decadence drives out discipline.

Observing the modern world, French sociologist Jacques Ellul noted a striking trend: As the Christian gospel permeates society, it tends to produce values that, paradoxically, contradict the gospel. I sometimes test his theory while traveling overseas. I ask foreigners about the United States, the world's largest majority-Christian society.

"When I say the words United States, what comes to mind?" I ask. Invariably, I get these responses:

Wealth. Representing only 6 percent of the world's population, the United States generates more than a third of the world's economic output and dominates global finance.

Military power. We are, as the media constantly remind us, "the world's only superpower." Indeed, our current military budget exceeds the total of the next 23 biggest-spending nations combined.

Decadence. Overseas, most people get their images of the United States from Hollywood movies, which seem to them obsessed with sex and crime.

European nations, with their Christian roots, tend to manifest similar characteristics, which run counter to the teachings and example of Jesus, whose life was marked by poverty, self-sacrifice, and purity. No wonder followers of other religions, such as Islam, puzzle over Christianity, a powerful faith that nonetheless produces the opposite of its ideals in society at large. What accounts for this strange development?

I found a clue in the writings of Gordon Cosby, the founding pastor of Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. He noted that high-commitment Christian communities begin with a strong sense of devotion, which expresses itself in a life of discipline. Groups organized around devotion and discipline tend to produce abundance, but ultimately that very success breaks down discipline and leads to decadence.

Cosby termed this pattern the "monastic cycle"—with good reason, for the movements led by idealists such as Francis of Assisi and Benedict of Nursia repeatedly demonstrate the cycle. In the sixth century, early Benedictines worked hard to clear forests and cultivate land, investing their surplus in drainage, livestock, and seed. Six centuries later, according to historian Paul Johnson, "Benedictine abbeys had virtually ceased to be spiritual institutions. They had become collegiate sinecures reserved very largely for members of the upper classes." The abbots absorbed about half the order's revenue in order to maintain their luxurious lifestyles, becoming "unenterprising, upper-class parasites."

Dominicans, Jesuits, and Franciscans duplicated the cycle: an initial burst of devotion and discipline, a resulting period of abundance, then a drift toward indulgence until some reformer came along to revive the ideals of the founder. Protestant reformers faced the same challenge. John Wesley warned upwardly mobile Methodists:

I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.

As the Old Testament shows, entire nations can fall into the same pattern. Hebrew prophets sounded the loudest alarms during times when ancient Israel appeared to be thriving. Whenever the economy boomed and peace prevailed, the Israelites attended less and less to spiritual matters and looked instead to military power and alliances for their security. In the prophets' phrase, they forgot God.

Perhaps we should call this trend the "human cycle" rather than the "monastic cycle," because it applies to individuals as well as to religious movements and nations. Beginning with Adam and Eve's brief sojourn in Paradise, people have shown an inability to handle prosperity. We turn to God out of need and forget God when things go well.

Americans who go on short-term mission trips to third-world countries often return with glowing reports about the fervency they found among believers. Eager faith in the midst of poverty and oppression contrasts sharply with the complacency and self-centeredness in our land of plenty.

Observing this trend in numerous countries, I better understand why Jesus warned against wealth and called the poor and persecuted "blessed." Out of sheer desperation, the needy may turn to God. Meanwhile I worry about my own society, which relies mainly on its wealth and power and fills every vacant space with entertainment options. Can we, in a time of abundance, find a way to break the "monastic cycle"? On the answer to that question, our future health may hinge.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Wipeout's Top 10 Moments!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wyclef Jean Quote on Possible Run for Haitian Presidency

Found these statements by Grammy-Award winning singer and founder of The Fugees, Wyclef Jean, who is considering jumping into the race for the presidency in Haiti intriguing:

"So I would think with all my allies around the world that have loved my music, that have loved the message and the work we have done with Yele Haiti, they understand I can't just sing right now."

"When I am looking back at my career, I've sung songs all my life and I've watched singers sing songs about certain changes that we want, we say, you know what, we're going to turn them into a reality." - Wyclef Jean

Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate

Just read Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang, an excellent book with biblical insight, good information, a balanced assessment of the dilemma our nation is in, and constructive criticism to inform a Christian's response to the Immigration debate and lead us toward a positive solution to the crisis. Highly recommended!


Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens & Jenny Hwang

Planet Impact Worship Band Ministering TOMORROW NIGHT!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Adriana's Birthday










Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Classic "Exploding Whale" Video

This has been around for a lot of years. It's an oldie but goodie. If you haven't seen it before, you're in for a real treat. :)


Claudia & Georgia Team Home Safely

Claudia and the Georgia team arrived home safely today. We were very excited to see her walking toward us and so glad to be able to hug her after a week apart. She's growing up so fast! During our ride back home we heard great reports about the ministry the team was involved in and some of the things the Lord was teaching Claudia during the trip. Claudia shared her testimony twice during the trip and was very active in all of the drama presentations. So proud of our girl! We also learned that she saw Joan Rivers in the airport and a former NFL football player Tito Wooten at a ministry location.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to Adriana!

Happy Birthday to my gorgeous wife Adriana. I am so blessed to be called her husband, and it is a great joy doing life with her, raising our daughters and mentoring students for Jesus. Today we will go and pick up our oldest daughter Claudia from the airport as she returns home from her first missions trip, and that is the best present Mommy could ask for. Last night we went to the Yankees' game with our friends Tommy & Naomi to celebrate Naomi's and Ady's birthdays - Naomi's on the 22nd, and Ady's on the 23rd. During the game Derek Jeter hit an inside-the-park home run, and Alex Rodriguez hit career home run #599. We had our cameras rolling hoping for #600 in his final at bat of the game, but he hit a solid double instead. So disappointing! lol! You can see all of our pics from the game here.

HILARIOUS!!! Steve Carell "The Decision" 2010 ESPYs (LeBron James Decision Spoof)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Daddy-Daughter Date

Today my youngest daughter and I dropped mom off at work then packed a picnic lunch and headed to Callahan's Beach on the Long Island Sound. She cracked me up while I was driving. She said, "Dad, you've really gotta stop all of this 'What's up with this guy?' stuff while you're driving." LOL! Such a little comedian! We had a very nice time together.





Belize Mission Photos on Facebook



Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Now Know ...

This morning I had my first youth ministry experience from the dad side of the fence rather than the youth pastor side of the fence that I have been on for the last 9+ years. I sent my oldest daughter Claudia off on a missions trip to Toccoa, Georgia with a team from our youth ministry under the leadership of my assistant Giovanni. Claudia has been so excited about going off without us on a trip for the first time, counting down the days for the last several weeks. This morning she asked me why I was listed as "Attending" the Georgia Missions Trip on Facebook. I then pulled out my team shirt and said, "Surprise! I'm going with you!" Her face dropped like a rock. I said, "Did you really think I would send you off without me?" She was in shock. She didn't know how to respond. Part of her knows I am a joker, but then I had the shirt on and she didn't know what to believe. I then quickly told her I was just joking, and that I still got a shirt as the youth pastor. The flood of relief she experienced was overwhelming. LOL! I am super proud of my girl! I know the Lord has been preparing her for such a time as this, and she is going to serve Him well and blossom in her own right. I'm looking forward to hearing the reports of what God did through and in the team when they return.

Georgia Mission Team Off!

This morning our Junior High Georgia Mission Team headed off for a week of ministry in Toccoa, Georgia with Pastor Lenny & Jackie Cannon. We are praying for a fantastic trip. This is the first missions trip experience for almost all of the kids on the team, and we are so proud of them!

On the way out of the airport I saw this sign and just had to take a pic.

Dog Climbs Tree for Her Toy

Belize Bible Center Before & After

Here's the Before and After pic of Belize Bible Center which we worked on during our missions trip.



Sho Baraka's "Oh Well" Video Featuring After Edmund

Friday, July 16, 2010

I Write Like ...

Ran 5 different writing samples on I Write Like and came up with 4 different results. David Foster Wallace came up twice, so I suppose that's I guess probably the best comparison. I guess it also probably means that I have multi-personality disorder as an author! LOL!

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




I write like
William Shakespeare

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




I write like
Mario Puzo

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




I write like
William Gibson

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


Belize Day 10: Thursday, July 15, 2010

2:30pm - This morning I was awake by 5:45am. After getting ready, I woke the boys up around 6am. Both the boys and girls got ready, got their suitcases staged up in the chapel, swept, scrubbed the bathroom, and mopped. all before breakfast at 7:30am. I was really proud of them! Unfortunately, Rachel was not feeling well this morning, and was having some major stomach issues. After breakfast we walked over to the worksite to get our final pic. After our pic we returned to the camp, got Rachel some medicine, had her drink some tea, and made her some Gatorade. It was a really tough go for her this morning, but thankfully we were able to get her through security and onto the plane. We were also able to secure a wheelchair for Nicole, so that was good. Thankfully we got everyone onto the plane. We are currently about 45 minutes from landing in Miami. Just praying we can get Rachel through Immigration and Customs without incident so she can get home.

6:30pm - Got everyone through Immigration and Customs without incident, and we are grateful to the Lord that Rachel seems to have passed whatever was causing her to be sick. My guess is that it was the food we ate yesterday. Ady was a bit skeptical, but we were assured it was fine, and for the most part everyone handled it well. Such is the short-term missions experience.

I just did something I have never done before on a missions trip ... I gave everyone the chance to call home and let their parents know we were safely back on U.S. soil. I let Nicole call her parents first, and it was good for them to hear from her. I also spoke with her dad, and thankfully they already have a doctor’s appointment set for her. Praying that it is nothing serious, and I'm just glad to have her back at home where she can get some quality health care. Looking forward to being home!

1:40am (Friday) - Finally home! We arrived into New York about 45-minutes late, but made it safe, and for this we give the Lord thanks. It was really great to come out to the cheers of our families. The feeling of love and support was fantastic! It took a while for our bags to come, but the eventually did ... all except one. Bummer! Mike Troche’s suitcase was missing, and finally he had to report it. Hopefully he will receive it tomorrow. Another great trip serving Jesus around the world - impacting the planet with His love! - PK

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Belize Day 9: Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This morning we had the same routine. Christine led us in devos and prayer. Ron picked us up at 8:15am, and after a quick stop at his church to change vehicles, we loaded into a van, and a pickup truck and drove another 15-minutes to our worksite for the day - a home Ron is building for Jose Cruz - a man with kidney failure who has become an advocate for getting dialysis machines into Belize. We mixed cement and poured a ramp for him, as he is an amputee and in a wheelchair. We also hung masonite in several rooms of the house. We worked quite hard. At noon we changed then drove to a town where we ate tacos, panadas, tostadas, etc. Very good! We then went to the Xunantunich Mayan ruins and climbed the pyramids. Was really amazing! I almost caught a 3-foot iguana. I got a finger on his tail as he dove into his cave hole in the side of a ruin. Would have been icing on an otherwise perfect trip. lol! We came back to camp, cleaned up, had dinner, then were off again to Step of Faith Church where we ministered. Adriana taught in the Spanish Bible study, I taught in the English Bible study, and the rest of the team did the children’s program. It was a very good night! After a bus ride back to camp, we were treated to ice cream by Craig and Jadine, and had a team debriefing meeting. Was really great hearing from everyone about their experiences and learnings. We are now packing, cleaning, and showering so we can get out right after breakfast tomorrow. Can’t wait to get home! Thanks for your prayers and thoughts!
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Belize Day 8: Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Same routine this morning. Dylan led devotions and prayer time, then we headed off in four different directions. One team went to Pastor Craig’s house to work on his internet tower, another team worked on running the electric lines in the Bible Center and installing windows, another team went to Pastor Ron’s place to work with children, and another team went to the church to mix and pour cement. I cut the grass of the entire lot of the Bible Center. All of the rock-clearing we did paid off, but it’s funny how when the grass is cut you realize how many you missed. lol! Anyways, it is a scorcher today, and we are all drenched and sizzling! Lot’s of sunblock used today. After lunch we continued our work projects, and then came back to camp to clean up for dinner. This evening we went over to Pastor Ron’s house for a time of fellowship. He had caught a scorpion under his television before we arrived and had it waiting for us in a bottle. Very cool! It was fun to just chill on the hammocks, eat snacks, play games, and for me ... catch a bunch of geckos. Good times! Back at camp we had a team meeting. Tomorrow we will do our final work projects in the morning, change, then go to see some Mayan ruins.

Another thing I wanted to mention ... There are a few things that I really care about on trips of this nature in terms of our witness. One is that we eat all of our food as it is offensive to others in many cultures when food is not eaten, and insulting when it is thrown away. So, on this, I am a self-admitted stickler. The team has been absolutely fantastic in this regard and I really have appreciated their good attitudes and their willingness to just suck it up and eat it - which has not been difficult as the food has been honestly very good. Another thing is that we be flexible and respectful of our hosts. Yesterday I received compliments from both the other team that has been staying here and from Mr. Joe - the camp director.

The leader of the other team said that usually on trips like this when teams find themselves together, for the most part they just keep to themselves. Well, most of you know me, and I push the issue of inclusiveness and friendliness. Our kids were terrific at befriending and reaching out to the other team. One night the arrived home late and needed to walk through our team meeting. Rather than just ignore them or tolerate them walking through, I told the guys to give them a crazy applause when they got off the bus. We did, and the leaders came to me later and said they were floored and so touched by our gesture in cheering for them, and that it really boosted the morale of their team. And, of course, our night of worship and prayer together the other night was great. Mr. Joe came to me yesterday and apologized that our living conditions aren’t all that great. They have a nice dorm in the back, but the other team has been staying there. He thanked me for our patience with him as he was trying to get to little things like making showers (yes, making showers) and things to improve our stay. He then said, not once has any one of our team members complained, and that all have been helpful and had exemplary attitudes. He said he hopes we will come back when he has the place up and running nice (he and his wife, Piper, have only been here a year or so), and that it has been a privilege having us here. Now that’s the kind of memory I want people to have of our teams!
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Belize Day 7: Monday, July 12, 2010

Today was more-or-less our day off. After breakfast Nicole led the devotions and prayer time, then the boys and Adriana went over to do a little work before leaving to Belize City. Ady and a couple of guys finished hanging the sheetrock (Ady’s awesome at it!), and the rest of the guys worked with Bob to get Craig’s internet tower back up as it came crashing down the other day during a storm. Craig and I went into town to pick up some supplies. At 10:45am Ron came and picked us up in the bus. We drove to Belize City and dropped off the team from New Jersey at the airport, then we headed to Bacab Eco Park - a water park where we had lunch and an awesome time swimming for about 3 hours. It was a gorgeous day and we even got to see a really nice Iguana hanging out by the pool. The ride home was one of the quietest yet. Everyone has been working so hard, and a nice afternoon of playing in the pool did the trick. :) This evening some of the boys went with Bob to try and finish fixing Craig’s internet tower. Other than that, we are just chilling and shooting to get to bed by 11pm tonight. Thanks for your continued prayer! The time has been flying. Just today everyone was like, “Woa! We only have 3 more days?”
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I am currently trying to get photo albums uploaded, but I have to have uninterrupted connection to the internet for them to save. Working on Day 3 pics now. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be able to be caught up. We'll see. :)

Belize Days 5-6: Saturday & Sunday, July 10-11, 2010

Well, after 2 more days without internet we are back up again. Here's the scoop on Saturday and Sunday ...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Same morning routine today. When the teams went over to the worksite, however, I stayed behind to finish up my message prep for this evening’s youth service and tomorrow’s church service. I joined the teams around 11am. They got the roof of the veranda finished today, got sheetrock up in the upstairs, and ran a lot of electrical wires. We also got the Fritzler’s fence painted for them, and did more Christian Education prep. After lunch we went back to the camp and changed into our swimming suites, then headed about 10-minutes away to a resort. There was a leopard there, a couple of monkeys, and gorgeous exotic birds. After checking them out, we swam for about an hour-and-a-half, then stopped by the Belizian version of 7-11 for some drinks and snacks. Back at camp we cleaned up and then had pizza for dinner. At 6:45pm we were picked up by the bus and taken to Ron’s church where we participated in the youth service. I preached, and the students joined in all of their games and activities. Good times! Back at camp we did a run-through for tomorrow. The majority of the team will be running the children’s service. Jeff, Mike, Ady, and I will do worship and I will preach in the adult service. Two other teams that are here right now will also be at church with us, and the team from Oklahoma (staying here at the camp with us, called World Impact, coincidentally ... really cool people!) will be doing some dramas and sharing a couple of testimonies in the service as well.
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

2pm - Once again same morning routine. Sam led devotions and prayer, and was quite good and funny. At 8:45am Craig picked up six of us - the worship team and two of the girls to go get set up for church. The rest of the team was picked up at 9:15am by the bus. Our team led the children’s service, and also led the worship and I preached in the adult service. After two opening songs, the team from Oklahoma did two dramas and then we did more worship before the message. The service went really well, and we could really sense the presence of the Lord. The team did a great job with the children’s service as well. They led songs, did some of their dances, shared some Bible stories, and gave testimonies. I was very proud to hear that they went all out and held nothing back. Pete and Dylan even did aerobics with the kids, which I heard was ridiculously hilarious. During the bus ride home many of the children had their balloon animals in hand with smiles on their faces. We had lunch at the Fritzler’s home. Our afternoon plans to do a Spanish service were changed, so Bob went with Craig to a church about a half-an-hour away to see if they wanted to help them at their evening service.

11:45am - This afternoon we enjoyed some free time, so a few of us got to catch a nap. At 5pm we had dinner, and at 6pm we were picked up and drove to a Spanish church where we did two of our dramas, I preached, and Adriana interpreted. It went very well, and the church was very grateful. Back at camp we had a team meeting to debrief, several of us had tea as our voices are shot, and Mike Fenimore and I started working on writing a song. He wrote the music, and I am working on the lyrics. At 10pm the other team staying here at the camp joined us for a night of worship. Mike, Mike, and Jeff led with two of their students and it was really awesome! Everyone really engaged with the Lord. I then had everyone partner up with someone from the other team and pray for one another. It was really cool to see them encouraging and ministering to one another.
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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Belize Day 3-4: Thursday & Friday, July 8-9, 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

11am - Cold showers feel excellent here. So hot! For breakfast we had cereal, bananas, and muffins. Abigail then led devotions and prayed for us. I also collected money from everyone to convert at the bank. At 8:30am we went over to the worksite. Ady’s group went up to Craig’s house and worked on children’s ministry stuff. Bob worked on a toilet in their home, and the rest of the teams were at the construction site where we finished the deck. We stopped work about 10:30am and cleaned up. I caught a monster toad today, so everyone got a kick out of that. Ren then went to get a broom, and there was a lizard on it, so I caught that as well. Good fun!

8pm - Drove to Pastor Ron’s place and picked up another team from New Jersey and together we drove about an hour-and-a-half to Rio Frio Cave. It was an incredible beauty of nature. It had a massive entrance and inside the roof of the cave was about 150 feet high. There was another opening about 150-200 yards on the other side, so there was sufficient light to see. There was a river running through it with a sandy beach inside the cave. A couple of the kids could not wait to swim ... no, actually, they slipped into the water trying to cross the river for pics. It was quite comical. We hiked around and took lots of pictures. After that we went to the Rio Frio Pools where there were small rapids and water falls and spent about an hour swimming, sliding down the rapids, and playing in and behind the waterfalls. We did have a few bumps and bruises from people slipping on rocks. Nicole slipped and other girl slipped with her, hitting her ankle on a rock. She was able to move it, which was a really good thing. We got ice on it right away, and as of this writing, the swelling has subsided quite a bit. I ended up carrying her back up the mountain trail about a quarter mile on my back. I got a very good work out you could say. We got a pair of crutches from Pastor Ron for her to use, so pray that she will heal quickly. I also whacked my head pretty good when one of the Belizian boys challenged me to go down under the water and grab a rock from the river floor. With hands in front of me I went down cautiously. Then, out of nowhere, Wham! My forehead slammed into a bog ole' rock. I got myself a nice little memory wound. Ha Ha! Anyways, we had a very nice time mingling with the other time and aside from the minor injuries, had a wonderful time. When we got back to camp we had dinner and are about to have a team meeting.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

This morning I woke up at 5:30am. It was raining and I actually pulled my blanket out for the first time since being here. Went back to sleep and got up for the day at 7am. We had breakfast at 7:30am and Travis led the devotions and prayer time. We then headed up to the worksite, trudging through the rain and mud puddles. Ady’s team worked up in the house again at Craig’s request on the Christian Education stuff. Nicole was switched to Ady’s work team so that she could sit and work, and Dylan traded down to another team to work on the construction site. I got all of the teams organized and working, but with 20+ people a good bunch of them were quickly out of things to do while boards were being cut, rafters were being built, etc. so I sent them out into the fields for more rock duty. They had fun out there with their raincoats on and they worked hard to remove several very large rocks using sledge hammers and a pick axe. Around lunch time the rain let up and the sun came out. We had an awesome, authentic Belizian meal - rice and beans prepared in coconut milk, chicken with a delicious sauce, and cole slaw. It was super delicious! After lunch we got back to work. We got the entire worksite plot mowed. Then it really hit home that all of their work clearing rocks had been important. We got one of the gutters hung - a major project! - got the frame lifted, and the rafters in place. We then really cleaned up the worksite, and could begin to see how far it has come since we started on Tuesday night. We then took showers before going down to the market to do our major souvenir shopping. They also had a nice little cafe, so many of us got some coffee and ice cream. We are now back at camp where we bought some more things from a local woman - bracelets, necklaces, etc. and are about to eat dinner. Good day! Nicole’s ankle is looking much, much better today. Please continue to pray for a quick and complete healing.

At 7pm we went up to the Fritzler’s home for games, fellowship, and Bethany made us Orange Julius's. She is raising money for dance camp by selling drinks and snacks, so our team has been getting things from her. I jumped in on the Uno game. The first game lasted almost a half-an-hour and Ady won. The second game lasted almost an hour-and-a-half. It was becoming an endurance game, and after all that, Ady won again! What a woman! lol! When we came back to camp we had a team meeting. After the funny things of the day were reported, we all shared deeper things we are learning. It was really good! We then had a time of worship followed by partnering people up to pray together. It was really awesome!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Belize Day 2 - PART 2: Tuesday, July 7, 2010

10:20pm. This evening we went to Pastor Ron’s church. We led worship, and Adriana taught the Spanish Bible study. Another team from new Jersey did the kids’ ministry, so our team sat in on the English Bible study. Our team then rode back to our camp on a packed bus, all of our team standing in the aisles. We then had a good team meeting and enjoyed a little free time. After our meeting, some of the boys spotted a small tarantula on the side of the patio, just feet away from where we were sitting. We got some good pics, several of the team ran away screaming, and I played with it, putting it on my head for fun. Such a cute little guy; how could I resist. Plus, I needed to see what I will look like with a toupee. lol!

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