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