Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Days 46-47: Tabernacle Covenant Church

Well, we're at our last ministry site of project (not at the moment). After a wild, five-week ride, we're doing ministry at Tabernacle Covenant Baptist Church, Hopewell's sister church (you can see Hopewell from in front of it; it's easy to see why they're sister churches). It's not exactly a VBS, which is a reliefafter all that we've done in the way of VBSes; we're basically just singing some songs with the kids and hanging out with them. The woman running the program, Marcelene, had been attempting to run things herself, and our goal is largely just to give the kids one-on-one attention.

The church is pretty cool; it's in a cool semi-old building, with a big open sanctuary and library above and a fellowship hall connected with a gym in the basement where we spend our time. Mostly we read with them, play basketball, or play various board/card games, along with some songs and getting to know each other, which is as close to a VBS as it gets (they are running an evening VBS later this summer, so I don't feel too bad about leaving it out).

There are fewer kids this week than at New Beginnings or Hopewell; apparently some of the kids went to Hopewell's program, but I don't remember any names or faces. There is a 7-year-old named Ronald, which is really weird for me after New Beginnings. For reading time today, a boy named Dallas took a KJV Bible and began reading Isaiah, which I thought was awesome. (Apparently he didn't get too far after it talked about donkeys in verse 1:3) I've been playing Mancala, Connect 4, card games, and Monopoly with the kids, which is tons of fun as well. I'm certainly enjoying my time at Tabernacle, but be praying that I wouldn't get too comfortable and would really be driven to engage with the kids and have quality time with them as a light for Christ.

Besides Tabernacle, which is just in the mornings, today I went to the condo of some of our staff, which they are hoping to sell. We're helping out by giving it a new paint job and flooring. I applied two coats of eggshell paint to the bedroom by roller, which was tons of fun and very relaxing (especially with music blasting from the kitchen). Luckily I wore a white shirt today, so it's pretty much fine. Afterward, we just hung out a bit and played card games before returning. I prayed that God would restore my joy in obeying Him and fill me back up after feeling somewhat dry the past few weeks, and this week is definitely turning out to be an answer to prayer. Tomorrow we get going on the floor!

We went deeper on Philippians last night in action group, focusing on 2:1-11 and 3:12-4:1. I love Bible discussions! We also did some serious debating on the key verse of the book, which I maintain is 3:8; the "surpassing greatness" of knowing Christ makes sense of (and possible) everything else in the book! After action group some kind of grandfatherly teaching by Tim led to us constructing a family tree for project, as my floor did last year. Tim is two generations over everyone else (except me and his 'daughter', Amberham, the female version of Abraham), Bryan and Cheryl had staffer Mark Rygh as a kid like in the poverty simulation, and I adopted/begat myself. We then unveiled it to the ladies, which was...entertaining.

Somewhat spontaneously, we then got into a conversation on Spiritual gifts and our experience with them. We started on speaking on tongues, kind of the big one due to the charismatic movements of last century, but also got into other ones. I love deep theological conversations like that, and I wish we had more nights like last night. Hope Community Church, my college church, did a sermon on Spiritual gifts last year, which helped me participate. I think I have the Spiritual gift of knowledge, and I tried to put it to use by compiling a list of the gifts mentioned in scripture from Hope CC's sermon, which I then printed and gave to everyone. Note: I would love to have conversations with you, my faithful readers on this subject as well. E-mail me or comment on this post on your thoughts on or experiences with Spiritual gifts!

Tonight we had a teaching session on Spiritual multiplication and discipleship. I've been discipled the past two years of Cru and this summer, but I'm not sure how they'll handle it next year now that my old Bible study is no more and my friends are small group leaders. I think I feel called to disciple someone myself; be praying that if it's God's will, that He would send someone my way!

Now I'm sitting on the floor of the chapel making slides for the worship team. Project has never been better, but it's starting to hit me that I'm going home in less than two weeks. I'm starting to think about ways I can apply everything God is teaching me to continue His kingdom work back at home and on campus this fall.

Composed ~8:30 PM, Tuesday, July 27th

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Days 42-45: Fury of the Storm

Time for another update before I start forgetting things. These last few days have been pretty challenging, in terms of keeping going strong as the end of project is starting to become tangible. We're running another VBS for the last week of ministry, and I'll definitely need God to keep the focus.

Thursday at Eastbrook was very laid-back; not many students came again. In the morning I worked with a bright young man named Brandon on grasping math word problems. In the afternoon there were no students, but we instead worked on compiling a database of clinics, adult education centers, shelters, etc. that a woman was putting together. So I got to use my Excel skills for the kingdom! Hallelujah! It was pretty much pouring when we left, and though it cleared up for a bit, that night we had a HUGE thunderstorm. There was a tornado somewhere or other and plenty of lightning, but the main thing was the rain. So much rain. The city got 5 to 8 inches of rain that night, causing severe flash flooding and soaked basements. Apparently subterranean erosion opened up a huge sinkhole that swallowed an SUV, and one of our project members was stuck at Bayshore Mall for a while because the streets were flooded. My friend from the U who lives in Milwaukee has been following news of the flooding of his high school. City on a Hill wasn't really affected, but definitely be praying for the people of Milwaukee in the aftermath of this crazy storm.

Friday we didn't go to Eastbrook since it closes at noon; instead we walked over to the Hoffmans' house to help them clean up in preparation for a trip to Madison and the Twin Cities(!) It was nice to serve them, as we were all thankful for their leadership of the project. It was also great to see their kids; Seth is a little genius who I'm sure would remind my parents of me at age 8, Thad is tons of fun and loves to play with the neighborhood kids, and 2-year-old Hannah is just adorable. In the afternoon we hung out with the neighborhood kids, singing them some songs and reading Bible stories. I really enjoyed the chance to read to the kids, especially from the Jesus Storybook Bible, which one of Hope CC's pastors read from in a recent sermon and is awesome for all ages. Still, the lack of structure was difficult for me; it was hard to know what I should be doing and I have to trust that I was part of God's plan for the day.

That evening was an awesome social, the No-Talent Talent Show! We all dressed in extremely tacky clothing (the women much more than the men) and had dinner in a meeting room, then exhibited various random talents and zaniness. We had skits, song-and-dances, jokes, cruel pranks, and one of those routines where someone stands behind someone else and pretends to be their arms. My act consisted of reciting pi to 50 places, making a deck of cards magically disappear (ask me to show you later), and writing John 3:16 with both hands, at the same time (I may not have mentioned it, but I've been practicing writing with my left hand for almost a year and am trying to become ambidextrous). After this was a dance party and movie, neither of which I felt inclined to; instead I spent some time with God and watched the two-part finale of Star Trek: TNG from the DVDs my dad gave me.

Saturday we got to sleep in before an outreach at Liberty and Truth, last Sunday's church and the other team's ministry site this week and next. Apparently this consisted of sitting in on a seminar on proper nutrition where the volunteers vastly outnumbered the kids. Apparently it was quite informative, as everyone is now insufferably obsessed with vitamins and calories (I hope it wears off). I, along with a few others, was down in the basement, which was still damp from the Thursday storm, sorting out L&T's clothes closet. I know very little about clothes, so after a while of asking one of the women whether something was for men or women I decided to sort the enormous, overflowing bin of coat hangers instead, which took up most of the rest of the time. I think we did a pretty good job, and the other ministry team can continue next week.

This morning we went to a Lao church on the south side. It was in a small building not much bigger than a house; we initially drove right past it and had to turn around. The English service was at 11:30; apparently there was a Lao service before that. We approximately doubled the size of their congregation, which delighted them. Everyone was super friendly; we even met a few young people visiting from Minneapolis! Worship was really nice; it was great to sing songs I knew, which was a first for the churches we'd visited (Eastbrook should be like that next Sunday). The sermon, on King Jehoshaphat of all people, was a great reminder on giving our problems to God and trusting in Him.

This afternoon, I watched the last 2/3 or so of X-Men 3 upstairs and got to put my computer skills to use at last. Will, one of the COAH staffers living with us, had contracted some number of computer viruses/malware; it was not pretty. I'm still working on diagnosing it with the limited materials at COAH, but it will turn out alright. This week we're running a VBS at Hopewell's sister church, which I'm not as excited for as I should be. Honestly I'm getting kind of tired of VBSes, so I'm praying that God would remove this attitude and get me excited to serve one more week! Also be praying that we would get some one-on-one time with the kids, a new goal of ours, and really model God's personal love to them.

Composed ~10:10 PM, Sunday, July 25th

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Days 38-41: Happy Birthday?

What a crazy, crazy four days it's been. Between a last-minute ministry site change, my 21st birthday, and losing everything in my checking account...I should elaborate.

On Sunday we went to Liberty and Truth, a small church where the other vocational team is spending the last two weeks of ministry. It was clearly converted from a small office building, with chairs ringed around the slightly raised stage in a small sanctuary. I was strongly reminded of Broken Chain; the pastor was again on fire for God and interested in seeing the Spirit move to bring healing and reconciliation. It was awesome to see how he subordinated his own preaching to the work of the Spirit throughout the service.

That night we learned a bit of a shocker: Debi Godsey, the woman who runs God's Kidz in the Hood, had apparently been in and out of the hospital and was suspending her ministry for health reasons. Please pray for her. Anyway, we had to change ministry sites at the last second. Half of us would be going to the Hoffmans' house to minister to neighborhood kids again (like the Jesus club), and the half that had been at Eastbrook would be going back! My wish came true!

Monday was my birthday. It was pretty awesome from beginning to end, starting when I got a birthday call from the women at 12:03. We we're going to Eastbrook until Tuesday; today we were all going to the Hoffmans' house to pick up trash in their neighborhood. Not what I had in mind for my birthday, but again it was nice to serve God in such a tangible way and show His love to the community. We did this for three hours and filled four garbage bags with trash from the streets between me and Anna. My back is still pretty sore. We had a few nice conversations with neighbors, including some kids who had been to the Jesus Club! Two people on the team that ran JC actually returned in the afternoon to play in a nearby park, so they had a nice reunion.

That evening, as planned, we all went to Buffalo Wild Wings to celebrate. It was a delicious time; I ordered my usual honey BBQ and medium wings, along with six blazin' wings for the brave to sample. (Which became eight after the server dropped two on me and brought four more) I had one right off the bat and one at the end; I think I'm building up a tolerance to them. The reactions of the ladies who tried parts of them (only Tim and I at entire ones) were humorous, to say the least. We brought some back and tricked Jacob, who was not there, into eating one. I wasn't there, but Bryan says it was pretty funny.

They also made a chocotastic cake featuring the tricycle I was hoping to get for my birthday (to ride around campus and befuddle people!), which was nice. I finally got a package from my parents just in time with a bell for said tricycle (or maybe my bike) and a huge collection of TV shows my dad has recorded to DVD. (Note to people at the U: I now have the majority of Star Trek TOS, TNG, The Office, and quite a few Simpsons and Numb3rs episodes to watch. We can talk.) It was a great birthday of loving on others and feeling loved myself. And no, I did not consume any alcohol; apparently I signed some agreement not to drink on project so I couldn't even if I wanted to.

The next day we returned to Eastbrook! Alice, the woman I had worked with much of the time, was no longer there due to getting a job, so I get to work with Mary Ann on math, which has been wonderful. Attendance is down a bit since last time; we might go flyering tomorrow to hopefully bring more people, and in the meantime we're working on other jobs for the learning center like making a poster for it and compiling a database of other places for people to get help.

The afternoon was kind of ruined when I checked my E-mail and discovered a bunch of receipts in iTunes for roughly $1700 worth of prestige points for some games I had never heard of. Apparently someone had gained access to my iTunes account and used it to completely drain my bank account twice over. I'm still working on remedying that and yesterday was pretty stressful; luckily my mom, who is a co-signer with my bank account, has been working tirelessly to get this resolved, for which I am very thankful. I've spoken with fraqud prevention and she went to the bank today; I tried to see if Apple could reverse the transactions, but they had the worst customer service I have heard of (a robot you have to talk to that tells you to go to their unhelpful support site). We're hopeful I can get my money back, but it could take a while and until I can resolve this and get a new debit card, I'll have to ration the money in my wallet.

That evening we went back to Eastbrook, into the church building proper for a prayer service. We all went over prayer requests praises, praying for them immediately. (Kind of a relief for me--my mind can wander pretty far during extended prayer sessions, so I'm glad it was broken up) I'm glad I went in the midst of dealing with this fraud; I think God was challenging me to put others above my own needs even in the middle of such a crisis. After the prayer session the pastor gave us a fascinating talk on racial reconciliation, packed with stories about interesting connections he's made by reaching out to people of diverse backgrounds. One time a Chinese man apparently met him in an airport asking to be discipled, which led to them later sharing the gospel and praying for one of the most powerful men in China.

Today has been relatively uneventful. I worked with Mary Ann again today, and in the afternoon typed up a spreadsheet of neighborhood resources for people in need, like adult education centers and clinics. I've always wanted to use my computer skills for the Kingdom! Tonight is another weekly meeting, which should be pretty sweet now that I've worked out a way to comfortably use the technology at Genesis. Friday is the No-Talent Talent show, which should be tons of fun. (I'm going to recite the first 50 digits of pi as well as an act I won't post here in the interest of keeping it secret from my project friends) Be praying that God would keep us on fire for and obeying Him these last two weeks of ministry; also for Debi Godsey's health and my fraud situation.

Composed ~3:30 PM, Wednesday, July 21st

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 37--BBQ Time!

Today we had another excellent outreach, as usual on Saturdays. City on a Hill hosted a huge barbecue fair in the parking lot, featuring live music, tons of food, and activities for all ages. Being conveniently around, we had been roped into helping. Before actually getting ready for the outreach, we had breakfast together on a patio behind the part of the building where we live. It was a great and relaxing way to start the epic day; great fellowship and impromptu worship music as Jack brought his guitar.

After breakfast we went down to the ground floor where the preparations for the event were well underway. Everyone was signing up for various volunteer positions; this was made more complicated by the fact that the Summer in the City students were manning a prayer booth in shifts, trading off jobs with the people we replaced at the booth. I signed up for groundskeeping--keeping the tanks of cold water full and the garbage cans empty. I didn't expect that this project would involve working with people, particularly kids, so much; though I welcome how it's been stretching me, it was nice to do something less personal for once.

So, most of the four-hour carnival consisted of me walking around, checking garbage cans and water coolers. It was a hot day, so the job was pretty draining, especially with carrying heavy garbage bags and five-gallon tanks. I did get to see the whole fair quite a few times, which was pretty cool. During my 45-minute prayer booth shift not too much happened, except a woman named Tasha stayed for a while and we just talked. She was pretty nice and shared some prayer requests with us. Apparently a later shift talked to a guy about life for over an hour, which I hope to hear more about for my record-keeping duties. I also got to rest while filling in on security duty for a while. This involved sitting at the entrance and greeting/directing people as they came in--not keeping out the riff-raff, as I joked. Only project friends signed up for security, so I got to hang out with them for 15 or so minutes.

It was a very busy carnival, with face painting, gospel bracelets, kids' games, board games, ball games, ridiculous amounts of food, and a fire truck. But the focus of the whole thing was the big tent in the middle, where a group called the Captive Project was doing live music, a mixture of rap, gospel, and contemporary worship music. It was all about God; they did powerful, original Christian music interspersed with a presentation of the gospel and talks about what it means to be a Christian. It was glad that they were turned up loud enough to be heard from pretty much anywhere in the fair; they were really gifted at proclaiming the gospel and I'll be praying that people come to know Christ because of it.

The fair ended at 5:00, after which we spent a while cleaning everything up. I was out picking up trash until 6, one of the last to return. I was exhausted, barely able to walk, and covered in salt from all the heat. One shower later, it was time for a chill evening of hanging out that hopefully has yet to happen. (I fear everyone is too tired) Praise God for His working today!

Composed ~8:45 PM, Saturday, July 17th

Friday, July 16, 2010

Days 32-36

Well, I've just finished our last day of ministry at New Beginnings Are Possible. I'm sad to be leaving all my friends there behind, but excited for what the rest of project holds!

I started the week off by staying home with a cold for two days. This was better than it sounds, as the long weekend gave me time to recharge and prepare for the other three days. I felt bad about leaving my team, especially as we would be working with the kids all day today. But the service at Broken Chain actually addressed this, talking about how God has a purpose for us wherever He's put us in life. It was humbling to see that I wasn't needed for our ministry, but that God has been using me anyway. In the meantime, I found other ways to contribute. Most of Monday was spent getting to a clinic to verify that I didn't have strep throat; on Tuesday I spent a lot of time in prayer for everyone on project and cleaned our floor and the social lounge. By Tuesday night, I felt like the last two days had been well-spent and eager to return to ministry, whereas on Sunday night I had been apprehensive about the week at New Beginnings.

We'd prepared a new schedule for the week; most of the mornings were taken up by group time, where we split the kids up by age and gender and had them spend half an hour at stations: music, reading (the Chronicles of Narnia), board games, and math. I, of course, got to do the math station. (It somehow got done the days I was at home) This mostly consisted of either having them perform math using the numbers on cards I dealt them to make certain numbers, or playing "Around the World"--kids would answer basic math questions to make their way around a circle of chairs. This one was pretty intense and it was nice to see them get into it--especially when staffers decided to compete against the kids, and often lost. (Even I lost once to a kid who knew 7 x 5 before I could even start processing it)

The rest of the day was taken up by the Bible lesson, Jeopardy, and just playing with the kids. I led the older boys' Bible lesson like at Hopewell in much the same discussion-based format. Once again, some of them were more into the gospel than others, but I think I delivered it pretty well (the last three days are the most important) and I'll be praying that God would grow the seeds I planted. Due to my cold combined with allergies I mostly stayed inside, playing lots of cards and air hockey during free time.

The ending of today was a bit different. After lunch an impromptu talent show happened--and "happened" is the best description of how spontaneously it seemed to come together. The younger girls had apparently been practicing a sond and dance routine, after which they started chanted staff and volunteers' names to make them get up on the stage and do something. (Luckily they never chanted for me) It was entertaining, and all their excitement was contagious. At the end of the day it was really hard to say goodbye; we all got mobbed and hugged repeatedly. We hope to see the kids again sometime before heaven!

Besides New Beginnings, things have been pretty good this week. After a power outage kept us from having our weekly meeting at Genesis Church last week, we returned there this week. Technically, things went much better; my computer can't connect to their projectors, but I used it along with the media computer to keep track of slides so I knew what I was doing. I also finally gave my testimony at the meeting, which I'm told went quite well! (I didn't trust my judgment on that)

Last night we finally played Telephone Pictionary again, for the first time in weeks. It was tons of fun as usual and it was great to just hang out with everyone, which our ministry schedule made it hard to do. I'm feeling pretty much recovered from the cold today, in time for either roller skating or laser tag tonight (our overly secretive social team hasn't revealed it yet). Tomorrow we're helping with a barbecue outreach COAH is doing, and next week we're finally going to God's Kidz in the Hood to help with a Bible study and mentoring! Be praying that this weekend would be restful for our team, and that God would give us strength and courage for our last two weeks of ministry.

Composed ~4:45 PM, Friday, July 16th

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Days 30-31: Praise God!

It's been a pretty sweet weekend so far. The park outreach yesterday went amazingly well and was a real faith booster for me. We split into five cars and went to various parks to share the gospel and invite people to nearby churches (all the churches we'd visited plus the one we went to today). The park we visited was in a somewhat nicer old suburb that reminded me of south Minneapolis and Richfield; it was huge, but mostly taken up by a deserted disc golf course and finding people was slightly difficult. Fellow project-goer Anna and I paired up based on everyone picking a number from 1 to 10 (my idea for eliminating indecision) and walked around for a while looking for people to talk to.

Our first attempt at talking to a couple was unsuccessful; after that we met two older guys and went through the Soularium survey with them like last weekend. We had a decent conversation and Anna quickly ran through the Knowing God Personally booklet (which is a guide to going through the basic gospel) with them before giving them each one; they were both from church backgrounds and hopefully it was helpful to them.

But the best was yet to come. We saw a group of older guys fishing in a rather scummy pond. Thinking they were too busy we were about to walk away, when one of them, Dante, stopped us asking what was in our binder (Soularium). We happily showed him and went through the survey; after this I somehow managed to transition to going through the KGP with him, after which he prayed to accept (or possibly re-devote his life to) Christ!! No sooner had we finished with this and were preparing to walk away when another fisherman (Willie) asked to see the books, so we redid Soularium with him after which Anna went through the KGP with him and he also prayed to accept Christ! Meanwhile everyone else was catching fish and pond scum (and a snapping turtle at one point) and hopefully listening.

Until two or so weeks ago it had been one of my life goals to lead someone to Christ. I'm glad God taught me that trusting and obeying Him is more important than what I accomplish, because I would definitely give the credit for what happened at the pond to God. I was basically just along for the ride trying to listen to his questions and explain things clearly. I'm amazed how calm I somehow was considering how exciting it was! I also thought it was kind of cool how it was fishermen we talked to, considering Jesus' first disciples.

After this we returned to the car and decided to call it a day well spent. The plan for after the outreach was to get takeout lunch and bring it to Lincoln Park to eat. Luckily we decided to eat at McDonald's; right as we were reaching the park it started pouring in all of 30 seconds in true Milwaukee fashion, so we headed back to COAH to debrief.

We had great fellowship and basically just chilled until all the groups were back. As we debriefed, I was astounded to hear that nearly every group had a story as amazing as ours! One pair talked to a 75-year-old man for an hour and a half; others heard inspirational stories or saw people (even kids) accept Christ. I'm proud to be the one to gather all these stories and let others know! After that I played Plants vs. Zombies for a while to relax (great game; check it out on Steam) before watching O Brother, Where Art Thou? (I received a shiny office key so I always have access to our media equipment)

This morning we met up to walk to Broken Chain worship center (it's pretty close). It's situated in a small building across the street from a huge Catholic church, which makes it seem even smaller, but the surprisingly roomy first floor is almost entirely occupied by an impromptu sanctuary. The service was full of surprises; great gospel music set to recorded accompaniment (I think the live musicians were on vacation or something), prayer time for peoples' struggles in the middle of the sermon, even interpretive dances about God's power to set us free. The sermon, on God guiding the Israelites out of Egypt, had a lot of stuff God has been teaching me about trusting His path and plan for us; it was great to hear it from someone else. It was a powerful, Spirit-filled service and possibly my favorite one yet.

Today we don't have much else planned, mostly just a meeting to plan our ministry at New Beginnings this week. We have six and a half hours(!) to spend with the kids each day, and we're not entirely sure what to do yet. Pray that God would show us the way, soothe nerves, and reach the kids at NBAP this week through us; also for Willie, Dante, and everyone else we talked to yesterday. And praise the Lord, for He is good!

Composed ~12:45 PM, Sunday July 11th

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Days 26-30: New Beginnings Are Possible

This week has been pretty crazy and scary, but also pretty awesome. We did a week of golf camp and VBS at new Beginnings Are Possible, a Christian youth center, went to a Brewers game, and said goodbye to our staff on Thursday night! I definitely feel like I've had to trust God and been stretched every day.

New Beginnings is a similar deal to Hopewell, but with a bunch of staff and interns who help us maintain order (sometimes). The mornings are occupied by golf camp, where we get into some huge vans and drive way out to a suburban golf center to teach the kids how to golf. Activities included mini golf, the driving range, and chipping and putting. They would split the kids up into groups of 3-5 and put a staff/intern/Here's Life volunteer in charge of each one. I didn't get to play too much as I was pretty occupied with keeping the kids ruly, but that's okay as I seem to be pretty terrible at golf anyway. (I also realized that I golf left-handed, which made getting set up for the driving range tricky) The sight of a bunch of African-American inner city kids learning to golf was bizarrely awesome; our group drew quite a few stares from the golf center's regulars. Additionally, the two Christian staff members at the center running the golf camp were great; they taught the kids not only the particulars of the game, but also some important lessons about following Jesus. Yesterday we had a mini golf tournament followed by a pizza party and rubber duck race down the artificial river; it was tons of fun for the kids and for us.

In the afternoons we've been doing a VBS similar to Hopewell. We're trying to be more organized in how we go about it, delegating responsibility; I was put in charge of the Bible lessons, which have been surprisingly fruitful despite my difficulties; it's really encouraging to see how much some of the kids love Jesus. One kid in particular, Ronald, has been a huge joy to me. He is without doubt the smartest nine-year-old I have ever met; my parents tell me I was pretty bright at that age, but Ronald is just something else. He was reading a book on dinosaurs when I first met him, and since then we've had quite a few conversations on awesome stuff. He's really into astronomy stuff, constantly reading a book on space that New Beginnings owns, and thanks to the astrophysics course I took last semester I was able to bring up all kinds of stuff to interest him. He also knows a ton about God and after some spiritual conversations with him I can tell he has a genuine, if somewhat immature, faith.

The other kids have also been delightful, of course. One girl, Lai Janique (or Lala for short), is intensely interested in spiritual stuff; we sometimes have to keep her from answering all of my questions in Bible lesson and upon hearing about the fruits of the Spirit she made me promise to teach everyone the fruits of the Spirit song from my church. On the way to golf camp yesterday, a little boy named Jay Sean (I'm guessing on the spelling) went on a hilarious ramble about color-coded families of trees and their drag races, among other things. In retrospect I think he was describing a dream he'd had, as it was too crazy to come from anywhere else. For all their craziness and occasional aggression, these kids can be a genuine joy to work with.

As mentioned earlier, the staff are gone. The second half of this project is all up to us, to see how well we work as a team without relying on them. Everyone was given responsibilities for various areas of the project. Some took over the four committees, others are running actions groups or overseeing the vocational and marketplace ministries. My job title (besides my unofficial job of technical director) is "project archivist"; basically I'm in charge of records and keeping track of what God is doing on the project. My co-archivist Erica has taken charge of pictures, gathering them from our photographers and putting together an awesome slide show of the project so far. Not to be outdone, I'll be gathering interviews, stories, and statistics to see how the Kingdom is being advanced this summer. At first I was skeptical about being given this job, but I'm increasingly appreciating it as a chance to answer questions I already had and struggled with. I can't wait to hear from my fellow project-goers!

The official turning over of the project from staff to students took place at a banquet at Buca di Beppo Thursday night. After eating, they brought us up to announce our new jobs and commission us. The most memorable part of the evening was when they laid hands on and prayed for us, followed by the three new directors of the project. When we finished praying and opened our eyes, the staff were all gone! It was a pretty powerful and symbolic moment; from then on it was our project. (We still got to say goodbye to the staff they were all still around COAH packing up when we got back) I miss them, but I'm excited to see how we handle this project ourselves. Plus two of the staff were Twin Cities metro staff who I'll certainly see next fall; additionally my discipler Dave works for Here's Life in Minneapolis so I'll get to hang out with him when I'm back at the U.

Last night was also pretty exciting. Since I first saw it coming in to Milwaukee, I was pretty much blown away by Miller Park. When I heard that the latest social event would have us going there, I was more excited to see it than the Brewers and hoped it would rain so I could see them retract the roof. (Sadly it didn't) We had a tailgating party before the game, which was tasty and fun (and hot). Approaching the stadium was pretty awesome; it had a capacity of over 50,000 and everything about it was enormous. We originally got cheap seats high about left field, but later moved down to much closer above right field as the stadium was only about half full. The game itself was pretty exciting, I suppose; the Brewers got a double run in the first inning, only to be led by the Pirates 4-2 by the eigth. They then proceeded to get a home run in the eigth and another run in the ninth, then managed to score the win in the extra inning. Except I apparently missed the winning play because I didn't notice the runner reaching home, which was pretty disappointing. I'll stick with watching baseball on TV.

We helped train some summer missions students on evangelism again on Thursday; this time I took some coolers to help pass out free vitamin water and information on COAH. The briefing took a while and we didn't have as much time for the actual outreach, but we still had plenty of positive responses and I hope we brought people to COAH. I felt kind of bad when I realized that not only was the vitamin water we were giving out expired by several months, but it also tasted terrible. (I'm not sure if this is because it's expired or because of the tamarind pineapple flavor) Today is another outreach; we're splitting up to go to several parks around the city and share with Soularium similarly to last Saturday. I'm nervous as usual and don't really feel like confrontational evangelism is my calling, but since God brought me to it I have faith that He'll bring me though it. God has a plan for today that is going to happen no matter what; He's been graceful enough to let us participate in it. Be praying that our team would be the body of Christ to Milwaukee, united in obedience and trusting in Him absolutely! Also for health; several of our team members have been sick and I woke up this morning with a sore throat...

Composed ~9:40 AM, Saturday, July 10th

Monday, July 5, 2010

Days 23-25: Amazing Weekend

After the great week at Eastbrook, I've had a wild but fulfilling weekend. (Which continues into today!) Saturday was a big outreach at the lakefront as around 100,000 people turned out for a July 3rd fireworks show. It was pretty crazy; people would arrive early in the morning and claim a plot of land for the day with stakes and ropes. Veterans' Park was pretty much completely full. We sent some guys at 6 AM just to get a not-too-good spot; it's quite a hectic land grab.

Today we were mostly using Soularium, an open-ended picture survey that is supposed to start spiritual conversations. People are given 50 pictures and asked to choose ones that represent their life, God, and their spiritual experience. I partnered up with Tim this time, figuring that I needed to go with someone a good deal more talkative tham I am.

We walked around through the mass of tents and folding chairs for a while, looking for people to talk to. Finally we found Mike and Dan, two twenty-somethings who seemed pretty interesting, though not really spiritual. Sadly, they had to go get some more supplies and our conversation was cut short. After a lot more walking (and gaping at the sailboat-like art museum), we met Roger, a deep-thinking 13-year-old who was pretty keen to take the survey and reflect on it. We were cut slightly short again as his family came to get him, but we made it through Soularium and gave him a booklet on the basic themes and story of the gospel; Tim figured that he would definitely read it and take it in.

We then talked to Phil, who it turned out had been a born-again Christian for 30 years; we had a very interesting, meandering conversation with him on the Christian life that was pretty encouraging. There were a few other conversations, but we never really got past the survey again. Soularium is pretty extensive, as is the booklet that was to come after it; it really seemed like a lot for a random person to take in all at once, even someone as pensieve as Roger. Once again I didn't see any dramatic on-the-spot conversions, driving home the point that we need to trust God completely to bring people back to Him.

After this we basically got to eat dinner and hang out in the park for several hours until the fireworks. Great food and fellowship were had, along with games. (I played a ridiculous game of Hearts in which Tim 'shot the moon' twice, in a row. Unbelievable.) The fireworks were pretty cool, being launched from two barges out in the lake, but sadly both sets of fireworks were obscured by trees. It was pretty cool, but I wish we'd had a better few. (And that they'd shot off the top of the U.S. Bank building as they apparently have in previous years) After the show ended, we had to be shuttled back due to the parking mess, which for us meant walking literally halfway back to City on a Hill before being picked up. We were pretty exhausted.

On Sunday the 4th we went to Jeremiah Missionary Baptist Church. It reminded me of Berean, in its layout, style, and welcoming atmosphere. One of my main problems with African American churches, though, is the lack of hymnals or projected lyrics! The worship was bursting with energy and praise for God, and it was frustrating not being able to participate beyond clapping along. (Especially since they had reserved seats and I was literally front and center, three or so meters from the pulpit) The sermon, on 2 Kings 6, was on seeing things as God sees them and was quite Biblical and good. The only problem was that during the course of the service we learned (for the first time) that their VBS, which our other ministry team was supposed to help run the next day, had been canceled. Plenty of time to find another ministry partner!

After church I eventually managed to get lunch, after which we headed to the house of one of the staff's parents for more fireworks! (I cannot overstate the generosity of all the families who have opened up their homes to us on this project) Upon getting there we had several hours to kill; luckily the fact that the house had ROCK BAND 2 made this pretty easy. I'd been dying to break out my drumming skillz since soon after leaving home; much fun was had. They also had a competitive cup stacking set, foosball, and darts; it was a fun, fellowship-filled evening.

We walked a mile or so to a nearby park to watch the fireworks. There were a few hundred people there; much less crowded and busy than yesterday, and our view of the fireworks was unobstructed by trees. It was a good 4th of July.

Today we get the day off as our next ministry site, a Christian youth center called New Beginnings Are Possible, is closed. We're meeting at 12:30 to plan the VBS. (luckily we don't have to worry about mornings, as we'll be doing a golf camp!)

One other big thing this week is that on Friday morning, the staff are leaving and turning the rest of the project over to us. They're meeting with us this week to pass on various responsibilities to people. I'm not supposed to discuss my job yet, but suffice it to say that I think it will be an eye-opening experience for me and a lesson in humility. Pray that God would prepare us to take over the project, and that He would work through us to build up the kids at New Beginnings and build relationships in the two weeks we'll have with them. Also that He would bring another opportunity for the other team, soon!

Composed ~10 AM, Monday, July 5th

Friday, July 2, 2010

Days 20-22

The rest of the week at Eastbrook has been pretty sweet. We just had our last day today and I was genuinely sad to leave; I wish I could stay longer and develop more relationships with the students. Today the center was only open in the morning, and only two students came: two of my favorites, Mary Ann and Alice. Mary Ann is an older woman and one of the sweetest and most sociable people I've ever met. She's a delight to talk to, bursting with stories and good wishes; Gloria has been working with her on fractions. Alice has been the most regular attender, coming in every day to work mostly on math with me. We had other students on previous days like Natalie, who works more on her own in the saide room, James, who is studying math to get into MATC, and Melodie, who brings her 8-month-old son Cameron in with her. (We call him the learning center's baby)

It's been a joy to work with these people and more this week, helping them develop their math and reading skills. It's hard leaving after only a week since I didn't get to see anyone make huge amounts of progress, but I know they show promise. Even if I didn't really get to initiate spiritual conversations, as Dave put it I'm working as the hands of Christ for people who came to a church for help getting on their feet. Bob Brock makes sure we pray several times a day over the center's work as well as problems students are having in their lives; Mary Ann's attempts to get a job, Alice's granddaughter changing custody in a bit of a difficult situation, and others. Their daughter Cara turned out not to have serious complications with her back, which is a big praise.

With Eastbrook done, we go to New Beginnings Are Possible--a Christian community center for inner city kids--for the next two weeks. By random luck, one of our workplace ministry teammates (Heidi) got a job there, so it will be cool to work with her. We'll be doing another VBS there, but it should hopefully be less crazy than Hopewell.

Things back at COAH are pretty good. Their staff are on vacation this week; yesterday, on our staff's day off, the girls all went to celebrate Jessi's birthday by watching the new Twilight movie and the men joked that since we literally had the whole building to ourselves we should prank the girls' floor somehow. (I don't think we ever got access to a key; I would have felt bad anyway) After getting back from Eastbrook early today (they close at noon on Fridays) I had mac and cheese for lunch (making enough to share with the Miatke family's kids, who live on our floor) and watched Robots with them while doing dishes. It's a very chill afternoon.

Tomorrow is a big outreach; there will apparently be tens of thousands of people on and around the beach to watch fireworks, and before a barbecue there we're going sharing again with a fancy new ministry tool booklet. I'm still kind of nervous, not really being the type who enjoys walking up to strangers and getting into deep conversations with them. Pray that God would manifest 2 Corinthians 12:9 in me tomorrow and open peoples' hearts to His good news! (Also that I'll obtain a copy of O Brother, Where Art Thou? for movie night tonight)

In other news, has anyone else noticed the rising popularity of those funny-shaped bracelets? They're shaped like things (mostly animals) and hold their shape even if you stretch them and wear them. I thought I was the coolest kid on the block after finding 16 of them on the table, until I saw Isaac Rygh wearing enough of them to literally cover his entire forearm!

Composed ~2:00 PM, Friday, July 2