Friday, August 26, 2005

Encouragement Classic... Stephen

Hey... I thought since I had the blogsite up, I would put my Random Emails of Encouragement in syndication. So, here is the pilot episode, called "Stephen"

So, this is it. The first. I wrote it up, erased it, and rewrote it better, went through my address book, emailed to about 28 people, and let it go. Now, through the power of God utilizing what’s been called a “talent” (I just write like I talk, so I just feel like it’s me talking), you can read what God lets me write:

(September 1999)

I go to several different places each week where the Word is shared in one fashion or another, from Sunday mornings at church, to the Bible study I regularly attend, to other odds and ends here and there where I show up, and each week there is always something said during at least one the events that makes me think, encourages me and/or challenges me, so I thought that maybe every now and then I could pass along those encouragements and challenges to you, as my brothers and sisters in Christ, to maybe..... well, encourage and challenge you....


My friend EJ was speaking and he said something that really made me think. He said one of his favorite characters in the Bible is Stephen, and EJ recalled in Acts the passage about Stephen's death. Stephen was a radical character in the eyes of the Jewish leaders, and his claims that Jesus was in fact the Messiah made the leaders angry enough to yank him outside and stone him.

Check this out, this is awesome... Its says in Acts 7:55, "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to Heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God"
We've always heard about Jesus being seated at the right hand of God. But Stephen saw the Son of Man standing, and EJ smiled and said he likes to think that Jesus was giving Stephen a standing ovation.

Can you imagine... the Son of our God, the creator of the universe, giving someone else a standing ovation? And as awesome as Stephen was, he was a sinner just the same, and Jesus was standing FOR HIM!

I tried to think of the last thing I've done, short of dying for my beliefs, that would warrant a clap from Jesus, much less a standing ovation, and I have to tell you, I came up kind of short there...

Here's the challenge. Although it seems highly unlikely that we would have to die for our faith like Stephen did, we should be vocal in words--and especially in actions--about our faith, like Stephen did. And who knows... somewhere in the background, you might hear the hand clap of His only Son.

Have a good week!
Your friend, Dave

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Dave's Superbash!

The Lovely Steph Leann threw me a birthday party for my 30th birthday last Friday! And it was awesome. I wanted a Superhero themed party, so thats what I got. We spent several days pulling together stuff like game prizes (and games themselves), decorations, she called Edgar's Bakery to get me a Fantastic Four cake, I dropped $17 bucks on a FF shirt, and the night before, my man Stan at Kingdom Comics gave me a box of cards for this superhero game called Vs. Its kind of a D&D kind of thing, so I didnt want to mess with it...

...however... had a ton of cool cards in like, like Batman, Wolverine, Jean Grey and such, that I thought I would just toss into the goody bags we were making. But these were just too cool to just throw away, so at 11pm Thursday night, I came up with this card game to play during the party. I racked my brain, even lying in bed, trying to make it work, trying to make it easy to explain and all...

So, party time came, and Michael and Ty were the first to show up. Essentially, the card game was simple. You were given four random cards at the beginning of the party, and your job was to trade, bribe and collect cards to make sets--like, the set worth the most points was Fantastic Four Set featuring The Thing, Human Torch, Mr Fantastic and Dr Doom. Other sets included Batman, Batman Villians, X-Men Warriors and others... there were extra cards scattered about worth extra points, like Rogue was worth 35, Black Tom was worth 25 and Dr. Light was worth about 30.

The key card was the Invisible Woman card, which only one was in the room... it gave you special trading abilities... anyway, I thought at first the game would be cheesy, and nobody would want to do it. But as people arrived, got the cards, suddenly, everyone was crowded around the wall where the sets & points were posted...

Making an appearance was... Meredith & Willis, James & Jessica, Tyler, Michael, Ty, Katy (sans David), Lori, Natalie & Ari, Tad & Gina, Wookiee & a different Gina, Daniel & Jennifer, Tom & Jill, Tommy & Amy, and of course, The Lovely Steph Leann and myself.

Everyone played that game for a while, then we turned to Dave Trivia... I had made up questions all along the week for Dave Trivia, questions all about me and things that interested me, broken out into five catagories... examples of questions were:

Young Dave Catagory: Dave began playing tennis at 15, inspired by who? A) Chris Evert Lloyd; B) Jim Courier; C) Jennifer Capriati or D) Ryan Frary, who lived five houses down

Troy State Catagory: Name the only sorority Dave never dated from: Chi Omega, Alpha Gamma Delta, Kappa Delta or Alpha Delta Pi

The Deuce: In the Deuce Weekly, what was the subject of the running joke in the top ten list?
Dave's Faves: Who is Dave's favorite Harry Potter character?

Potent Potables: On Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse, whats the big prize when you find the marble in the oatmeal?

The team of Tyler, Wookiee & Gina, Tom & Jill, Katy and Lori won the game, and Tommy won the card game shortly thereafter. Finally, Natalie's daughter found the special Jean Grey card in the goody bag, so she won the final prize (a cool Hulk keychain).

We probably spent way too much money on the party, but we heard from everyone that they had a great time... even the card game that I thought might be considered silly ended up being a great icebreaker, because friends I had from all over were able to meet and connect... it was like a big icebreaker, but more fun.

Happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

NYC Entry #11: Reflections of a Memory Bliss

Just for a point of reference... this blog will continue. This just happens to be my last entry about New York City...

Today, I turn 30... actually, about an hour or so ago. How's about that? No longer am I in my 20s... I'm a 30something now.

Things feel different... perhaps it will wear off soon enough, much like the tears of most teenagers at most Christian summer camps, but then again, it was the same way when I came home from NYC in 2002. And things remain different then when I went. But this is a different "different", a better "different"... a good feeling "different".

Let me first give some mad props and awards and feel goody moments to the team--these are of course from me, so others may agree or disagree, but its my site, so there....

The "White Boy Thug Leadership Award" goes to Philip. Phil to the Wat to the E-R-S. Few times have I laughed like I did when you did the big pimpin' stance. And beyond that, you led well. Even in the more unpopular decisions (leaving at 730am on Saturday morning?!?!) you led very well. Thanks for putting this trip together. And props to the wife for the notebook.

The "Tall Guy I Didnt Know But Ended Up Being Pretty Cool Award" goes to Colby. Didn't have a clue who this guy was, but he was quite fun to be around. Very solid guy. Enjoyed you being there.

The "Most Likely To Be the Team Mom in the Event of an Emergency Award" goes to Geryl. Happy birthday to you. You brought an incredibly gentle and sweet spirit to the team, and I thank you for that. Nothing against you, Philip or Paula, but had I contracted lyme disease or something, I probably would have called on Geryl.

The "Will Be Breakin' Hearts While Daddy Loads His Shotgun in Seven Years Award" goes to little Anna Lynn. You've got a great head on your shoulders, kid. Keep it up and you'll definately be a Barlow Girl. And with those big blue eyes, you'll have to be to keep the boys away.

The "Hippychick Award" goes to Staci. If you were to have grown up in the 60s, I can totally see the flowers and beads on you. Stac, leading the dribbling session was, seriously, awesome, and I just enjoyed being around you to hear you giggle at your husband and call him "big 'un."

The "Playa to Playa, Pimp to Pimp Award" goes to little Brandon. Though I wasn't there, he apparently was playing basketball with some of the Big G's, even though he's a lowercase g, and someone yelled out "Throw it to the black guy!", to which he responded "Which one?" That's classic. You know, you could have gone either way... either really annoying, or really cool on a trip like this, and you were the latter. Mad props. Enjoy your kabuki mask.

The "Big Sister Award" goes to Paula. I figured it out this morning... you weren't a team mom, you were a big sister. Thanks for your sleeve to dry on and your willingness to be there. You made a difference. Plus, you were just fun to be around, and that says an awful lot.

The "Holy Mother of Pearl Award" goes to Big Josh. You rock. I'm happy that this trip allowed me to hang out with you some, and get to know what a cool guy that Mark said you weren't. Even when you felt like crap, you kept it rollin', which is very admirable. Oh, and you can't beat the comedy when it comes to Big Josh, who shared a bed with Little Josh, paying said Josh $10 just to sleep on the floor one night.

The "We Gonna Make It Do What It Do Baby Award" goes out to Little Josh Blackburn. You my cracka. You were a definate source of comic relief, even when Jordy slipped past you grabbing basketballs because you were stuffing your face with a sno cone. Oh... stick your tongue out and wiggle it. Thats what I'm doing right now. And laughing. Funniest moment for me: Josh, Mark, Brandon and I are sitting in one of the rooms, me next to Josh. Philip comes in and says, "Hey Josh, I need you to give your videocamera to David for filming tomorrow." Josh, with all the sincerity in the world, says, "David who?"

The "Pied Piper Award" goes to Tim. Big man had kids flocking behind him all the time, like they were moons and they were orbiting around the Planet Tim. Truly, though, in my mind, he was the heart and soul of the team--besides God, of course. His passion for the kids, and his "i'm friggin' pumped!!!" attitude was just inspiring, and the bling provided mucho laugho.

The "Did I Just See That? Award" goes to Larry Long. Funny story... he said he was in the bathroom, getting ready for bed (or for the day--either way, he was sweating) and he looked out, and across the way, about 30 feet away in the next building, was a woman standing in a t-shirt and her underlings, and she was cutting a watermelon. He says, "Its like a train wreck... you dont want to look, but yet, you think 'did i just see that?' so you have to look." Larry was the man when it came to the older kids, which for some, the fact that there were no knife fights and gangsta leans meant it was a successful week. He was also a good, quiet, non-snoring roommate.

The "Least Annoying Rugrat Award" goes to Daniel McCammon. Good kid. Great source of entertainment. And also, good knock-knock joke teller.

The "Big Daddy Award" goes to Chuck McCammon. He's a good dad, too. And a great guy... you can see why he's the children's pastor. From what i've been told, he's not good at basketball, but hey, who needs Upward when we're already Home? Thanks Chuck, for being cool, and I'm glad you and I got to spend a little more time around each other.

The "Snugglebunny Techno Geek Award" goes to Mark. I didnt sleep in their room, but he had to share a bed with Josh B a few nights, and Brandon a few nights... and from what I gathered, both boys liked to wiggle and spread out. Mark is a big kid--and I hope to be such when I get 37, which is what he turned this past week... I'm only 7 years back. And he is also a master when it comes to children, and it showed this week. He's on KidStuf with me, and I'm better for it that he is.

The "Dave and Nat, BFF Award" goes to Natalie. Not sure about the "B", or the second "F", but I do know the "F" in the middle makes me smile. She was like my sister-in-arms on the trip (I think I really connect with people who are my age, so that might have something to do with it) and she provided much laughter (even when she didnt think stuff was funny). In leui of my lovely wife not going, Natalie made a decent date. =)

I also have to give props to the Williams Grocery store for their 50 cent water, Twin Mountain Springs, and no-tax 20 oz soft drinks. And their flypaper ridden bathroom. You may hit a swarm going in, but once inside the bathroom no flies for you.

Props to the sno-cone guy, for actually heeding our calls and coming back later in the day instead of right in the middle of our camps. Leche was the popular flavor, though I enjoyed the coconut cream.

Props to Duane Reede, not too shabby of a drug store, open late.

Best cheesecake? Carnagie Deli, definately--of course, I only had that, and cheesecake at Henry's, and the latter wasnt very good.

Best meal? Carnagie Deli's five inch high roast beef sandwich. It was awesome. I wish I had gluttoned myself to eat it all.

Best Moment for Me on the 2005 NYC Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) Trip That Did Not Include Prayer, Salvation or Anything Important Like That? The Coney Island Cyclone rides. I'll do it again, too, one day. Perhaps not in the back car, though.

Hardest Part? The Infernal Stairs at PS 63. If given a choice between no fan for the week and not climbing the stairs, it would be a tough decision to make.

My final thoughts really... God is amazing. God uses who He wants, when He knows it will glorify Himself the best. Who knows, had this trip been two weeks later, perhaps Cindy would have come and not Mark, or Colby not coming and both Philip and Jill would have come... but God ordained this trip for this week for His purpose, and I love Him for His plans.

Those kids are amazing... they just want love. Even Gaby. Even Jason. They want someone to make them feel important, they want someone to let them know that someone cares, and I think for a week, we did just that. Would I have liked to stayed longer? Only to build stronger relationships with them... but thats not what He wanted. Our job was to plant seeds, it will be someone else's job to lead Jordy to Christ. To lead Darrin ("Bob") to Christ. As someone said, Christians are not in the business of sales, we are in the business of advertising.

I hope we go back next year, and I selfishly hope that its in God's purpose for me to do so. I also hope The Lovely Steph Leann comes with me too. Thanks to all of you who went--I can't imagine it being any different, and I can't say that I'd want it to be. Even with AC.

And that's all I have to say about New York City for 2005.


Monday, August 08, 2005

NYC Entry #10: Finality

Well this is it. The final morning. No subway rides, no trips to West Way Cafe for some french toast, no adventures at Crotona Park, nothing. God seemed to bless us a little extra after a long week, as when I woke up, I was only partially covered in sweat, not completely, due to the breeze slightly blowing through the open window.

The time was 5am, and we were to be outside with our luggage at 545, so we could catch the bus. I had cleaned up most of the room last night, but Larry picked up a few things I didnt get. We had about seven half filled water bottles just laying around the room, so I poured those out the window, and dumped them in our garbage bag. He got a quick shower, then I did right after. The last time to use the cubby hole shower stall... didnt feel bad about it. The water was actually kind of cold, and it felt really good.

I put on my ESPNZone shirt and threw on my backpack, put my drivers license in my pocket, grabbed my celly and was ready to go. Just a sidebar: When doing missions anywhere there will be heavy walking, like NYC, take luggage that has a handle on it. Not a 'pick up' handle, but one you can roll the suitcase with. Learned this lesson the hard way. Just a tip from your ol' Uncle Dave.

Larry was sitting outside when I came out with my luggage. I told him I was going to walk up and find a 24 hour drug store or something for something to nibble on, but when I did, there was nothing open. The City that Never Sleeps, my booty. When I came back, standing outside was Terry (he introduced himself), smoking a cigerette and drinking a beer. Mind you, this was in fact 530 in the morning. Mark was out there as well, and we talked to him for a little while... Terry, and his pal Keith that joined him soon after, were from Dublin, Ireland, and they played soccer. They had to end up in LA in two months, but until then, they were going to see the sights of the USA. Mark mentioned to me that he was thirsty, and I relayed my fruitless search for beverage, but Terry came through with a solution. "You guys wan a coupla birs? I can git them for ya if yuh'd like et" in thick Irish. We both decline, saying that we dont drink this early. Or ever.

Had a black dude come up and say "So, I see you guys are drinking early in the morning! I got one thing to say about that..." and then he began to rap some jibberish that ended with (paraphrasing) "I ain't got no money, I'm hungry, can you spare a buck?" Terry gave him a few bucks, and Tim, who had just come out trying to pawn off some extra food, gave Rapper J (as he called himself) a big bag of BBQ chips. (You cah't fult tha guy fer tryin, Terry would say when Rapper J walked away).

A cab then pulled up, and another guy got out... and I promise, be it my magic or immaculate beer conception, Terry immediately materlized a beer out of thin air and it was in the new guy's hands before he fully was out of the cab. It happened in about 1.25 seconds. This new guy was Trevor. They all stood talking to us for a minute, dropping the "f" bomb a few times--Terry said cursing was so normal in Dublin no one thought about it. Daniel and Chuck were out there by now, and everytime the "F" word came out, he'd turn to Daniel and Chuck and say "oh, I'm sorry", then continue on. "So, my and my boys ur travelin the stits, and for f*$&--oh, i'm sorry--goodness seck, we try to f$&%--oh, sorry mate--do what we kin to..." and it cracked me up.

Terry said he and his guys would love to visit Alabama, so I gave him the number to Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) and told him to call and try to contact someone on the NY trip. Really, I just wanted to envision Lori or Donna Land taking that call--that thought alone amuses me to the point where it would be worth it, but if they actually do call, thats a 100 out of 100 on the unintentional comedy scale. Finally, the time came to walk away from The Palace. Sadly, no more un-airconditioned rooms, no more jacked up showers, no more money hungry internet computers that barely work... of course, the sweat was still there. We went a block out of the way to our stop, which was okay for everyone with handled roller bags, but me carrying my suitcase by its handle.... not good times. Bad times.

Our team was the only one on the bus for a while, though by the time it passed Shea Stadium, it was pretty full--our luggage probably took up 1/3 of the bus room alone. We unloaded off the bus, got in line at the Delta desk at La Guardia (where Mark swears he saw Jake Gyllenhaal a few people behind us in line. Natalie and Paula disagreed. I was torn.)

I had a breakfast combo at the airport Burger King that cost me $6, when in B'ham it cost me $3.02 (joke of the week... what does Jackie Chan order at BK? a Whah-Pah! Do hand chopping motion for full humorous effect). Then I bought a $4 Sports Illustrated and a $3.50 People Magazine. Thats really it. Then what happened?

We came home.

Nothing more to tell, really. The flight was uneventful, and I got to sit next to Natalie again. Neither of us really said a word to each other or anyone else on the way back, but it wasn't an uncomfortable silence--it was more of a "hey, you're tired, i'm tired, we're friends enough now that we won't bother each other" which was good. The plane lifted off, then two hours later, landed in Birmingham, Alabama. After a week in the big city, our town seemed small and definately different.

Ken Mackey (Paula's hubby) was there to pick us up, along with another guy (Dave Harris?) that I dont really know... Philip's wife was there to get him, as was Colby's wife. Everyone else got off at the church, just in time for the 11am service. When we got to the church, everyone grabbed their luggage and went different ways--we'll say our "thanks" and "see yas" another time, I'm sure, because I didnt see anyone else after I went inside.

And up in the choir was my love, Stephanie, singing. I could tell when she spotted me, because a big smile came on her face, and it was sooooooo good to see her.

Well, thats all she wrote. Our New York City mission trip has been blogged, and is over with. I know I've written a lot (trust me, my extra money was pinched for it), and I appreciate you reading even some of it.

I'll have one final blog for NYC to write, which will be more of my thoughts and reflections on the trip, but this blog site will continue on, so don't forget about me. I plan to continue doing thoughts, prayers, movie reviews, encouragement and other fun things here... check back in a day or so for NYC Entry #11--The Conclusion.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

NYC Entry #9: The Bling of Jesus

Welcome to Saturday, the last full day of NYC-dom. Started early, this time meeting at 7am for breakfast... of course, I was wrong in thinking of the departure time. I thought it was 745, it was actually at 730, so I learned of this when Mark banged on the bathroom door. The shower I had used all week was in use by someone else, so I walked around the the other shower on the floor, one that some of other team had used. Let me just tell you how jacked up this shower is... the faucet is on the left side of the shower, where the showerhead is located. The drain, however, is on the right side of the shower. So, as you turn on the water to get it just the right temperature before you turn on the shower, the hot scalding water is draining around your feet, burning you. Or freezing you if you start with the cold water instead.

Made it to the West Way Cafe, where this time, Larry and I were joined by Colby, Geryl, Daniel & Chuck, Mark and Philip--so even though we were supposed to leave at 730a, Philip the fearless leader was with us, so it was okay. Most of us got the Belgian Waffle, which looking back, I liked the french toast better.

Our plans were to travel down to Ground Zero, do some touristy type things, then meet back at Crotona Park by 3pm to set up for the Block Party that was being thrown.

Oh, come to find out, the man who was murdered while we were in the Bronx was a cabdriver from Senegal. It seems a homeless man walked up, and asked the cabbie to buy him a cigar. When the cabbie refused, the man pulled out a knife and simply slit his throat... then just walked away. The cabbie was DOA at the hospital. Very sad and scary... we've been approached probably a dozen times collectively for money, usually without incident even with rejection, but to know that something like that could have happened makes me shiver.

At Ground Zero, they have put up a new memorial fence around the entire area, with pictures, plaques and timelines in various places. GZ is very difficult for me. The last time I came, I knelt in front of the make-shift memorial fence at St Paul's Cathedral and prayed until I cried. This time, I walked down the fence a few times, and read and observed the things that had been placed on the fence. Two stood out at me... a picture of Chris Amoroso, a Port Authority Police officer, and Moira Smith, a NYPD officer. Both pictures showed them with people who appeared to be hurt, and both captions had basically the same text--officers who helped people, and went back inside the towers and never came out. After a little while, while other team members were taking pictures and reading, I had to walk away before I cried. I couldn't help it... it just tears my heart to read and see what happened here, though I personally think we should all be reminded of what happened on a regular basis. Four years later, much of the country has forgotten that yes, we were in fact attacked unprovoked.

Okay, I'll stop before I get on a rant, and this isnt the time nor place for it.

So, we moved on as a group, walking down to Wall Street, seeing the financial exchange building, the Trump Building (making me wonder if thats where the Apprentices get fired--though that could be just a movie set), and other various and assundried money-related building type things. From there, we walked on down to Battery Park. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the NYC area, let me see if I can draw it out for you...

New York has five boroughs, or sections. Coney Island is a part of Brooklyn, on the right lower section--its huge. On the left is Manhattan, it is a long "Florida without the panhandle" looking section. To the southwest of that is Staten Island. Right above Brooklyn is Queens, and right above Manhattan (and next to Queens) is The Bronx. Looking at Manhattan, Central Park's southern border is pretty much right in the middle of the Manhattan island. Of course, it extends up for 60 something blocks, so it ends close to The Bronx border. We were staying close to the upper west side, only a few blocks from Central Park, and from the Hudson River on the other side. Funny story--Paula was so jazzed she went to Central Park, only to find out, she actually had visited Riverside Park, which is right on the beach of the Hudson River.

At the bottom of Manhattan is Battery Park, and you can catch a ferry here to go down to Staten Island, past the Ellis Island location of the Statue of Liberty. Right above Battery Park is the Financial District, where you'd find Wall Street, Trump and the World Trade Center, not to mention the big hole in the ground that is currently the former WTC Tower site.

Geography lesson over.

As we walked to Battery, we met a gentleman sitting with his suitcase on the corner, selling his wares--bootleg dvds. The Dukes of Hazzard was one (which had actually hit theaters yesterday, August 5th), and Lil Josh bought it. Bigger Josh bought Batman Begins, but he had a number of dvds for sale. Mark and I both agreed that we didnt want a dvd that might not play in our player, or would have the back of someone's head in the picture.

We entered Battery Park and we were bombarded by guys selling three things... dvds, watches and sunglasses. Oh, there were purse salesmen too but mostly "Hey, we got Oakleys!" and "You need a Rolex!" and "come and see my movies for sale!". Our team went to wheelin' and dealin', and Tim ended up buying a silver Mercedes logo pendant on a large silver chain for $10. I'm not sure what is funnier, Big Tim with this Mercedes hood ornament hanging off of his neck, or all the really white people on our team using the word "bling" over and over again, like it was a common white word like "Condo" or "Volvo". Geryl negotiated with one guy for something, got him down to $5, then walked away because she was annoyed. I think had she kept going, the man would have paid her a few bucks to take it.

One guy had the little bottle caps with some paper under it, hiding the paper and sliding the caps all over the table, wanting money to gamble to see where it was. We watched for a minute, and one lady there kept winning. A couple of times he turned to me, held out a few hundreds and said "if you got a hundred, you can make it five" or some crap like that. I kept expecting him to say "hey, i am a Nigerian prince with millions in the bank, and all I need is a bank account number to transfer it over--can i have yours, and you can have half!" I told him no over and over, though he kept holding his money out for me to play. We just walked away. Though I think that the winning woman was in on the hustle, this con man was a God blessing, as you'll read later.

Everyone walked down and took pictures of the Statue of Liberty that you could see in the distance, though personally, I would have loved just taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. Here's the thing... I've been here already, I've seen this stuff before. I have seen Chinatown, Little Italy, Central Park, FAO Schwartz, The ESB and so on and so forth... really, what I wanted to do was go to Midtown Comics and maybe take in an afternoon at the Metro Museum. However--this wasn't about me. This whole trip wasn't about me, it was about Him. And many people going had never seen this stuff, so hanging out with them made it fun.

Philip and Josh told everyone that we could all split up, go in smaller groups and such, and visit, just be back in Crotona for the Block Party set-up by 3pm. I decided to go with Paula, Josh, Brandon, the Herringtons because they were headed to Chinatown, and also with Natalie, because, well, she's my homegirl. =)

Everyone departed their own way, going to various places and such, so we took the train up to Canal Street where Chinatown was located. We got above ground from the subway station and found it was packed out. A little while later, Geryl, Tim and Anna Lynn decided they would meet us at the Park, because keeping up with all of us was too difficult with the swarms of tourists and Chinese selling their wares.

Josh B had a just a little bit of money, and wanted some cologne. He wanted a big bottle of Ralph Lauren Polo Blue, retailing for $50, but the vendor wanted $18. He said "how mucha you got?" and Josh said "I have ten dollars" and the guy replied "Issa eight-teen dolla!". From out of nowhere, Paula firmly said, "Ten." The guy looked at her, looked at Josh, and defeated, said "Gimme ten". Josh handed the last of his money over, and he got his cologne.

We were all getting hungry, but let me say I don't dig on chinese. Actually, I don't dig dog and cat, so I tend to stay away from the oriental food (Japanese I can handle sometimes) which presents a problem for Steph, because she loves chinese food. However, being the selfless guy I am, I told Paula, the B-Boys and Nat that I would go and sit wherever they wanted to eat. They chose the Hon Wong Restaurant, and to me, it was pretty sketch. I ordered a Coke, and got a can with a big hair on top of it. Needless to say, I drank it with a straw.

After lunch, we walked through C'town, and they ended up buying various things there and here. I bought a pair of NYC Socks for The Lovely Steph Leann (she loves decorative socks) but that was all for me. Natalie got her a Louis Vitton purse, while Paula bought some random stuff as well. We strolled on over to Little Italy from there, where I went in and had some not-very-tasty-for-the-twelve-bucks-i-spent spaghetti at some hole in the wall "authentic" Italian joint while everyone else shopped.

And finally, it came time to head to The Bronx. Our plan was to get on the subway at 2pm, so we'd have a full hour to travel to Crotona Park, but none of us figured into our brilliance that we were on the bottom of Manhattan, and Crotona was on the other side of the top of Manhattan. Didn't help that we got on the wrong platform waiting for the wrong train. When we finally got on the right one, it was 230pm and we had 14 stops to make before arriving at 174th Street station, where we needed to be. Yeah, we walked off the platform at 174th around 310pm. I called Josh & Staci, who were already there, and told them we were almost there. After a quick stop at the Williams Grocery, for some 50 cent water and other assorted items, we walked up to the park.

Philip and Colby to meet us to walk us to the Block Party location, which seemed strange to me until I discovered that not only were we on the other side of the fairly large park, the block party we were to tend to was being held on the same day that the neighborhood did their monthly block party, complete with dental screenings, doctor check up booths and other needed things. "Hmm.. popcorn maker, check. Cotton candy machine, check. Lots of drinks, check. A day when nothing like the monthly neighborhood party is planned... hmmm." Just my thoughts. Didn't feel bad being there at 320 either... Geryl, Tim and Anna Lynn got lost, as did Mark, Chuck & Daniel, on the subways, and the entire group wasn't there until at least 4 or 415pm.

Fluid, baby, fluid--pardon my cynicism. It worked out, though.

The block party was being thrown in conjunction with a local church, Lighthouse (which Pastor Kitchens headed up) one guy said it best: "Pastor Kitchens is a great man. I just wish his congregation was like him." That is to say, there werent a whole lot of Lighthouse people there. The other church that was working on it was Hepsibah Baptist from South Carolina, who was just beginning a five day mission trip in the area, where they'd be doing VBS and Bible camps on a different side of the park.

Josh C started working on the sno cone machine, I took a hold of the popcorn machine, and Satci did the cotton candy, until she decided to be with Josh on sno-cones, which was good, because that was definately a two person job. Nat took over cotton candy then. Slowly but surely, kids and parents came. There were hot dogs and chips available, as well as games and one of those big blow up inflatable jumper-mabobs. Mark ended up doing that with Leslie, one of the mission directors, and became an Inflatables Bouncer. So many kids wanted in that thing they had to let them in depending on size for a few moments at a time. I saw one kid go running and diving in the opening, but before he could get through, Mark grabbed his legs, yanked him out and dropped him on the ground. Quite priceless.

Some of the kids we had worked with all week showed up to help, and before long, we had kids taking our places on sno-cones, popcorn and cotton candy, which was fine with us. I wandered down, got a hotdog, had a cheap (re: free) dinner and then got to watch three girls throwing down on some double dutch jump rope. They told me how, but when I did it, I managed to get in about four hops before the rope (which was a long piece of phone cord, I noticed. Had I money, I would have immediately gone and bought them a proper rope) tangled around my legs. I think Staci got in about six jumps, but neither Josh did much.

Kendall showed up a little while later. I also noticed Tim sitting with another little girl, Vernalisa, whom I recognized from camp. It was her 11th birthday, and turned out to be another birthday as well... her first spiritual one. She accepted Christ right there in the park, and it was awesome. She was the cutest darn thing. Later, Kendall got to pray with another little girl, Arelis, who was probably about eight, maybe younger, to recieve Christ. I only envy that they got to pray with the kids, but I think its AWESOME!

I have to tell you this part though... the coconut shells. Some of the games were set up around the food, and I dont mind telling you, they were a wee bit cheesy. Throw the hackeysack into the hole in the wood, and toss the plastic ring on the plastic dolphin... no, I dont know that I could have come up with better stuff, given the time constraints, but its my site, so I can say that yes, they were cheesy.

Anna Lynn was running one booth that I can only call "Guess Where the Shell the Ball is". It was like the street hustle game we saw in Battery Park, only the small object to find was a blue foam ball, and the cups were plastic coconut shell cups, the kind you'd slap a lid and a crazy straw on, sipping pina colada in a hammock, kicking back, enjoying the... wait. Lords work. So, she was having a hard time with this, and finally asked me to do it because she was tired. Not really wanting to, I stepped in and said "Sure."

My mad skillz at doing such a game, moving the upside down shells around quickly so people lose track of the ball, aren't so much skillz as, well, incompetence. I learned quickly, however, that you dont have any problems guessing when there are price tag stickers on the bottom of the cups, all placed in different places. No wonder they were killing Anna Lynn. "The ball is in the cup with the sticker in the corner. Hmm, I will just pick that one." So I peeled off the stickers, and went to work. I'm a show-off, really, so thats what I did. I started flipping the cups, moving them around quickly, I'd pick them up while moving the cups in a circular motion so as to keep the ball in the cup, I'd pick up two of them together, move the ball between the two then slam the cups down, still moving them... yes, this might sound impressive, but I dropped the ball half the time, or the ball would fall out of the cup when I slammed it down. Still, it made for a good show, and the kids all enjoyed it. One kid was talking smack, and I burned him seven straight times. Felt good. =)

When we were about to leave, I suddenly announced that my time was up, I took a bow, and left the cups... only I had to come back, because one little girl starting crying, saying "I dinna get to do it!". So I did an encore performance, cutting my right hand middle finger in the process somehow. Bleedin' for Jesus.

A few minutes later, Arelis joined the faith family via Kendall's lead, and we all began to walk back to the 174th Street Station. We walked by the Williams Grocery store, and I shook the attendants hand and told him we were gone for good. He looked and smiled and said "see you tomorrow?" and I replied, "no, we're heading back to Alabama." I dont think he understood anything I said. That's allright, though. He was a blessing to us all with his 1/2 a dollar water and no tax 20 oz Cokes and for Colby, cheap pecan spinwheels.

Tim still had his bling on, and I was still getting a kick out of hearing white-bread Paula and white-bread Geryl saying the word "bling" all the time. As we stood awaiting the train, Josh B put Tim's bling on Philip, and made him turn his hat cockeyed... Philip then did this rapper pose that was simply priceless... you can't make this stuff up. Hence, P-Wat, or as I call him, P to the Wat to the E, R, S was born.

And finally, we said our goodbyes to Kendall on the train and walked away. Staci, Josh and Mark all headed back to Times Square for a few more purchases, while we were just too tired to do anything else. I went back and began to pack my junk, finding it strange how I had more stuff than I came with, when all I did was flippin' eat while I was there. Larry and I encouraged each other in that we only had one more night of sweaty backs and wet mattresses to endure for the Glory. We kept wondering if we'd see The Naked French Guy, or if I'd get one more chance to turn my head from Foreign Chick in a Towel, but it didnt happen.

So the plan is to be outside with our luggage by 545am, so we can catch the M60 bus to La Guardia by 6am. Early, once again.

I've got one more day... or morning, rather, to blog, and I'll tell you about Trevor, Terry and Keith, the Irishmen at the Palace, and also about the ride home. Then I think I'll relay to you my thoughts of the trip, my favorite moments and wrap it up. Thats coming Wednesday, so stay tuned.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

NYC Entry #8: Fluid

Can you believe its Friday? Okay, its actually Saturday night, but bear with me here. I'm going to tell you all about Friday... it seemed like a normal day--or normal for us in NYC--but we learned about one word this day, and this week: Fluid. Not just being flexible... being fluid. Ready to go with the flow, because we know as Christ followers that most things never work out as we planned them. John Lennon once said "Life is what happens when you plan". Nice man. Shot in the back, very sad.

We woke up early Friday morning, Larry and I, dripping in sweat again. My thing now is in the middle of the night, I change pillows. One pillow becomes too saturated with persperation to continue its purpose, so I swap it out for another pillow I have on standby to get me through night. Not so with the mattress, which is damp with Davesweat by 3am.

Larry, Chuck, Daniel and I headed out to the West Way Cafe to see Beatrice, our waitress, and have our regular breakfast meals. Tomorrow is Belgian Waffle day, and I think its on our list of "things to look forward too".

Once again, as always, we met up with the gang in the lobby of the West Side Inn, and prepared to lug off to the 103rd Street Sub Terminal. This day, however, proved to be a little different, as we got word that the #2 train, the train we always take up to 174th Street in the Bronx, was temporarily out of service. This posed a problem as we didnt plan on this at all... but we quickly regrouped, and Philip, our fearless leader, worked with Josh Caldwell to come up with a plan. So, we took another numbered train up to another location (I dont remember what it was... something like 145th Street, or something), and when we got off, we had to get on a bus. I called it a "flexi-bus" because its like they chopped off the front of one bus, chopped off the back of another, and connected them with the accordian type material that makes it easier to take corners.

We got on the flexi-bus (which took us by Yankee Stadium! Go O's!), got off at another stop, got onto another bus and arrived at the park at 850am... about 30 to 45 minutes after we had planned to do so. Oh, fun fact. Kendall beat us there because the #2 was working a little after we'd make the decision to go another route.


Josh C had planned a little different schedule this time around, with more scrimmaging and games, with the devotion and the sharing of the gospel in there closer to the beginning. Plus, all the kids got free basketballs today, so we had to be prepared for anything.

Many kids came today, but not the hordes of kids we thought might come. Again, we want what God wants us to have, be it 4 kids or 376 kids... though somewhere in the middle was the selfish preference of all of us, I think. We probably had about 70 or so, most of which we knew, and knew us. Many returns today, like Jason, and Coach of the World Ray, and Juan, and ball hungry Jordan, and helper Mehlaydy and helper Jenny and a number of other kids.

Steve from Montgomery gave the gospel, and unlike the day before, there weren't as many distractions. Staci had misplaced her bible the day before and was frantic to find it, while Paula and Natalie had misplaced the grey folder that held much of the Upward info we needed, plus info about the block party on Saturday at Crotona.

Come to find out, Coach of the World Ray had picked it both up on Thursday, saying he didnt want anything to happen to them. From what Josh said, we might have still been around, but either way, I was picked to go with Ray to his house and retrieve said items. Sure, I replied. So Coach of the World Ray and Dave head down the streets of the Bronx to an unknown-to-me destination. Ray tells me how he's from the area, but he visits Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Mexico several times per year to visit family. We get to a 15 or 20 story complex, take the elevator up several flights, and I follow Ray into the hallway. Very nice and air conditioned, to be honest with you. Also being honest, I was little timid, because I had no idea where I was going, who I was going to see, and what to do if anything happens. Paranoia, of course.

CotW Ray knocks on a door, and it opens to see his uncle there... was that Phito? I dont even know, I can't remember his name. We go in to a very cold apartment--which is AWESOME--and I get a look around, and really, it looks quite nice... the layout would be something Steph and I would approve of for our own apartment down in B'ham.

Ray runs down the hall, through a door, and reappears a minute later with the folder, Staci's Bible inside. I say bye to Uncle Phito, and we're off. Back to camp, without incident, and Ray hands the folder to Paula, grabbing the Bible to run off and give it to Staci.

The camp went without a hitch, really, and at the end, we worked out a pretty good system of giving out basketballs to each kid. We stopped giving out wristbands at 1130a, ensuring no one would walk up at the last minute to register just to get a ball, and when they got their ball, we cut their wristband off, to ensure that no kid would double back to get another one. We also wrote their names on the balls, and made the point of saying "if you lose this, you dont get another one". I dont even think anyone lost theirs.

I saw Gaby at the end as well. He rode up on his bike and I walked up and smiled, "Hey dog, we missed you this morning." He just shrugged. I replied, "Shoulda been here, you could have gotten the basketball." He smirked and said "I've got 13 of them at my house." Quickly, I added, "Really? From camp last week?" He nodded and I asked, "Well, did you learn anything?" He shook his head and said "No, I aint learned nothing". I said, "Thats because you didnt listen, man. You spend too much time trying to be cool and front for your friends." He then got defensive and said, "I listen. I'm good at listening. Man, I listen better than anyone in this park." I replied, "Not sure about that, but I..." before I could finish, he rode off on his bike.

Lunchtime came, and Geryl had organized us getting sandwiches from a local place (the guy at the cafe didnt speak lick of English, but Juan would translate for us). Before I got over there, though, the sno cone guy was up. Everyone got theirs, and Mark even bought mine, a few others and a couple of kids he didnt even know. So , I had a couple of bucks in my pocket, and when Manny came up, I bought his (he looked surprised, almost touched over a sno-cone. I thought it strange, but I dont know his story). Then Jason came up, and I bought his too. The popular flavor is "leche" (sp?), which is some sort of creme/cinnamon concoction. Over ice. Bleeech. I had some of Natalies, and needless to say, I stuck with my coconut. A few other kids came up, and asked me to buy them a sno cone... well, not really asked, more like told. "Hey man, buy me a sno cone!" "I aint got no money, man, gimme one!" Mind you, these werent kids I had seen or even knew their names. I said "No more money, guys, sorry". They called me names. I walked and smiled.


We had lunch, and then the nine of us--Colby, Philip, Tim, Larry, Mark, Staci, Natalie, Josh C and myself headed to PS 63, via the bus stop that Juan had pointed us to the day before.

Song playing right now as I type this... "Be My Glory" by FFH. You oh Lord are a shield about me, You, oh Lord are my refuge. You, oh Lord, are a shield about me, You, oh Lord, lift up my head, be my Glory. Be my Glory. I dunno... I just felt like typing it. Sometimes i go on rabbit trails, good and bad, and I just felt like someone could use it right now.

On the way to PS 63, a man got on the bus, seemingly very upset, talking to the driver about something or other that I couldn't understand. Tim got it, though, and as we got off, he shared with me the man's story.It seems that the man, Sandy, was a cab driver, and a fellow cab driver had been murdered there at a local gas station hours earlier... that being, the same time we were having camp, at a location barely a mile from where we were doing Upward. We knew that God's protection over us was there, but when you sit and think about how there could have been drive-bys, or we could have made one of the kids just mad enough to do something stupid, or any number of unthinkable possibilites, we have been soooo lucky this week that its gone without incident. We haven't even had any fights to speak of.

We made it to PS 63, ready for the final day of The Infernal Steps. Up the flights we went, huffing, puffing and blowing our lungs in. Before we began, we said a prayer for the cabdriver and his family, and a few other things, and afterwards, Jimmy came in and said that the asbestos crew was gone, and that he wanted us to prep and paint that room in the corner, the one that Philip, Colby and Tim had started.

I stayed for a minute in the room that I, Josh C and Larry, with major help from Caulking Tim, had finished to put on a second coat on a border, while Mark and Staci went to their room to clean up a little. Everyone else headed to the other room. When I got in there about 30 minutes later, major prepping had already been done, and some painting had begun. I sat and rolled plastic over stuff, and we worked until about 4pm... and we got the darn room done, save for a few trims spots. We rocked the hizzouse. Off the chain. Jimmy prayed for us before we left, and we headed back down...

You know, after spending so much typing time on camp, I wish I could say more about the school painting, but really, there isnt much to tell.. we just worked our tails off, hard labor, trying to "make it look good, its the Lords work". So there's the reason you dont see a lot of painting stories. Um.. Staci cut her leg slightly. We had cold water in ice (we had sorta cold water on Thursday). We had paint all over us. Priming is crap. Larry and I rolled the heater pipes, while we, plus Natalie, did chalkboards. Boring you, aren't I?


The plan upon returning back to The Palace, or the West Side Inn as its commonly known, was the showers we all needed, then head out for the church office where Kendall would meet us with a couple of ladies to do some praise and worship. After that, whatever time, we would head to Times Square and eat at ESPNZone (boo yah).

We took the train downtown, turning left instead of right this time, and made it to the office (Its also a church, Mandarin Chinese I think, and a few other things, not to mention the fact that Kendall lives on the sixth floor for the summer). She came down, and with her came two ladies she had spoke of...

...let me set up. Kendall was traveling through the subway one day not too long ago and came upon a trio of black women singing some gospel music that blew her away. She immediately approached them and found out one of the ministries of these women was to just go down into the subway and sing about Jesus. Kendall asked if they would be willing ot come and worship with us on this very Friday night, and they agreed to do so.

And here they were. The third sister couldn't make it, but Tamika and Nikki did. They began to tell their stories, and let me just say that though she was little loud in talking, Tamkia has one of the most gentle voices I've ever heard. She spoke of horrible things that had happened to her in the past, including a severe battle with depression and losing children along the way, but she spoke softly of her Jesus, and how her Jesus loves her, and loves us, and by the end of her speaking, we were all in silence and I know I was secretly praying for these two women that God would just bless them beyond measure. They are in a group called New Generation (with some other people) and they said that from singing in various places, they've gotten to do things like sing at Carnagie Hall, and open for Mary, Mary. Kendall, please correct me if I've missed any of this, since I know you are reading this.

And while we are on Kendall... I wish you people back home had the chance to meet her. She's got this huge heart and this huge passion and this big smile and this great desire for doing God's will and you just know when you look at her that God is doing something special in and through her, and though I know that God's timing is perfect, and all of us crossed paths with her at just the right Time, I still wish I had met her before, because I just know that Steph and I would love to have known her since before Sunday. Alrighty, done with that.

Nikki also talked a little bit, and she too had a strong, yet gentle voice, and after a while, they both got up to sing. The room was filled wit the Spirit as I felt like God was ushered into our hearts fully and we prayed and we sang along and we were so encouraged just by the 30 minutes we were there. They were truly amazing.

After Nikki and Tamika left, with hugs and encouragement from all of us, Kendall sat to discuss with us the week. She told us of Manny, and his struggles (of which I wont go into here, but just know he's leading worship at a brand new church, and he and his wife are struggling with jobs and such...) and then told us of another camp that she had done this week in Brooklyn. She told us of one kid that was simply a troubled child, and how he told her that when he acts up, the pastor tells his grandfather who then takes him home and literally bangs the kid's head against a glass wall. Another kid didnt know what to think of the gospel of Jesus, as he mentioned that we all came from monkeys.

As she spoke, I saw myself in her words. She spoke of how easy it can be to get discouraged here... in Birmingham, or in Mississippi where she's from, its easier to wrap our minds around the size of the city, and the enormity of the task of winning souls. Yes, Hoover and Vestavia and Homewood are big places... but we have an idea of size, of population and of values there. Wrapping your mind and heart around the city of New York City, with its five boroughs is almost incomprehensible. But the same grace that saved me and you saves one person at a time here just like anywhere.

I think this is why I have such a heart for NYC... I can understand it, ot a point. So many lost people, so many unloved people, so many people misguided, apethetic, or whatever... just heartbreaking.

I looked down and realized I have 12 minutes left, and no more money, so I'll get through this as quickly as possible...

We prayed for Kendall, and said our goodbyes, as she was headed off to a "buh-bye" dinner with other summer missionaries (though she said she would join us at the block party) we agreed to go to dinner. We took the subway to Times Square, which is just enormously different at night than in the daytime.

It would take a while to get our table, so we all split up into different groups to kill the time. Josh B, Brandon and I made like little boys and headed for the third floor game room, though my joy was killed when I saw how it worked. You buy a card, the cheapest being $5, and it has points on it. The $5 had 15 points, but the $15 had 60 points, and the points went up more and more as you bought more. The games--though all looking high tech--cost different points amounts. Some games cost 4, some cost 21. There was an actual mini bowling alley that let you bowl... 16 points. I had $10 in quarters, but I just held onto it.

We went down to the first floor gift shop, and there I saw my shirt... this crazy looking smooth shirt filled with ESPN logos and such, and I found out it was onsale. Now, two years ago--even maybe a year ago, I'd have bought that puppy in a second, with the "i'll figure it out later" attitude. Not now, though. When the salesman asked me if I wanted it, I told him I'd think about it, and I spend about ten minutes thinking "okay ,where is this coming from? starbucks money? clothing money? okay, if i deposit this, then we can move that and..." as I ran scenarios in my head over and over. I decided to think about it over dinner.

I walked outside and looked around at hustle and flow of the city life there in Times Square, and called my best buddy Wookiee to tell him where I was. Got a voicemail. Called Reverend Ty to see how his stressfilled day went. He had to take another call. Called Tebe. Voicemail. There was no one to brag to. I was disappointed.

Got into ESPNZone after about a paltry 30 minute wait, and though we thought to get seated, we'd have to sits in 2s and 3s and 4s all around the restaurant, she actually seated us all together. The bathrooms rocked... they had small, flatscreen tvs above the urinals and in the bathroom stalls (at one point, Josh B suddenly turned to me, as if awakened by a epiphany and said "Wait... you mean I can sit on the toilet and watch the XGames (what was on currently)? I'm doing it! Not cause I have to, but because I want to!" and he ran off towards the lavatory.)

I had a simple cheeseburger and some fries, and then this wicked toll-house giant cookie sundae. I actually planned my meal around that sundae, so I wouldnt eat too much. Josh C and Mark sat eating, but torn because of a $32 ultimate tailgate appitizer tray that had every appitizer on it. After dinner, I ran inside the gift shop and picked up my $36 ESPN logo shirt. It rocks. This also solves the problem of what exactly I was going to wear home, because my count, everything I had brought was going to be a) dirty, b) funky, c) dirtyfunky.

It was getting late, and some of us were ready to head back while others still played on the 3rd floor game room. Natalie, Josh B, Geryl, Tim and AnnaLynn and myself all caught the subway train back to The Palace known as the West Side Inn. On the way back, as we usually did, we staggered the line a bit... as in, I would be leading with Josh, and about ten feet back, there is Tim and Anna Lynn, and then a few more feet back there would be Natalie and Geryl chatting. Well, along the way, a guy who looked to be in his 30s or so stopped Josh and I, saying, "Can you please help me, I just need some money for a trip back to Jersey." Usually, I dont give money straight-up to people who beg, I'd much rather buy him a meal and send him on his way, not knowing what he'd do with the money I gave.

He said his name was Ed, and he told us that he wasn't a bum (said it several times to make sure we understood he wasn't). Josh gave him a few bucks, and I told him at first that I didnt have any to spare. But something told me to keep on with him, so as he started to walk away, I put my hand on his shoulder. I asked, "So Ed, tell me man, quickly, whats your story? How can we pray for you?" He had a funny look on his face, and said, "Pray for me? You want to pray for me?" I said, "Yes, we do. Josh and myself are up here on a mission trip with some other friends, doing some work in the Bronx, and I want to be able to tell them about you, and how we can lift up your name."

He had a puzzled look on his face, and said,"You're Christians?" I smiled and said, "Yes. Well, I'd like to say we're Christ Followers. The word 'Christian', its bandied about so much that sometimes it doesnt carry the proper meaning." He told us that he was also a believer, and that he lived in New Jersey, and that he was a vet of the Gulf War who just had some struggles. He was hoping to collect $10 to take the train home.

I said, "Man, let me pray for you." So Josh and I did. After we said, "Amen", I started to shake his hand and continue on, but he put his hand on my shoulder and he prayed for both of us, and our team. He invoked Jesus' blessing on us, and God's name several times (I say that because someone later asked me about his prayer, making sure he wasn't praying for The Earth Spirit or some junk like that). I handed Ed a ten dollar bill when we were finished, and he had a surprised look, and I told him we'd pray he makes it, and may God bless him. I was glad Josh was there too, because he seemed to enjoy the whole moment.


After Ed walked away--hopefully not to buy beer (though his pickins were slim because The City that Never Sleeps apparently has nothing open after midnight) we walked back towards The Palace. Tim, Geryl, Anna Lynn and Natalie were waiting on the corner for us, and we relayed our story, which pumped Tim up.

We returned to the Palace, and all climbed in our beds, ready for one more early day... in the lobby at 745am was what I understood, and don't forget... at the West Way Cafe, tomorrow is Belgian Waffle Day!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

NYC Entry #7: Cyclone Salvation and My Favorite Valentine

Lots to tell, but only 32 minutes to do it in. So lets dive in...

Early morning again--545am simply is crap. Back home, my clock actually skips 1am to 6am, and goes directly to 7am, so having an alarm (this morning it was California Dreamin') that early is just ghastly.

Breakfast at the West Way Cafe, this time with both Joshes and the rest of the regular crew. They serve belgian waffles on the weekend, so guess where we'll be eating on Saturday?

Typical morning, we all met again at the lobby of the West Side Inn, and headed out to the 103rd street station to taek a ride up to 174th street in the Bronx. This time Josh B got off at the right stop. We all stopped into our favorite $1 20 oz coke & 50 cent water place, Williams Grocery, though someone commented that they didnt think there were too many Williams in there. Maybe a few Juans, or some Chavezes.

27 minutes left. My problem is that i have to stop and correct typos, b ecause i just cant stand the thought of you people thinking i cant spell correctly. Plus, this computer is really slow. It took me 1 minute & 9 seconds to type that last sentence.

Kendall showed up a few minutes later and we began to set up for Upward, day three. We didnt expect a huge crowd today (though tomorrow we may see 150 kids, all wanting their free basketball) and we were ready to scrimmage twice, especially to get the big kids to do something besides mess with the smaller kids. Little by little, they trickled in, many more older kids than we had seen before. Jason came in again, and Gaby, the "F" word kid, came back. Ray, the proclaimed "coach of the world" because he like to steal our clipboards and draw up random, ridiculous plays, showed up for a third day, and there were some kids actually waiting for us when we got there, including Mylady, Jenny and our own Spanish translator, Juan. All three of the latter kids were huge helps over the course of the morning.

The day began running smoothly enough, with your typical problems from some kids... there is this one kid named Jordan--I was actually asking myself that "If i promise to repent later, is it bad to shoot a kid in the butt with a bb gun for mere enjoyment?" This kid is about 11, maybe 12, and everytime I turned around, he was going for the basketball pile. We learned after the first day to round up the balls between drills, devotions and other times they werent necessary.

(there is this foreign chick staying in the room next to where the computers are located, and this is the third night this week shes come out in nothing but a t-shirt to go to the showers. She seems a bit hairy, so the thought of looking doesnt really cross my mind, but i find it strange. I only mention it because she just came out again... in just a towel. Between her and the naked french guy, its like we are staying in the Cinemax hotel. And i have 16 minutes left)

Jordan... so, anyway, this kid is always leaving his coach and running to the balls to try to get one. I've stopped him everytime, and so he's resorted to anything he can think of, leading to this exchange today:
Jordan: "Gimme a ball!"
Me: "Jordan, I told you... you cant have a ball. All you will do is shoot hoops and not be in your group"
Jordan (pointing): "But I brought that ball there!"
Me: "Dude, that ball says 'Upward' on it, in ink"
Jordan: "But... um... coach told me to get a ball!"
Me: "Who's your coach?"
Jordan: "I dont know his name"
Me: "Right. Go back to your group before i give you a wedgie, man."

Okay, I have 7 minutes left, and I have to tell you about two things before I go...

I walked up to Jason, and shook his hand, and said "Hey, Jason. I want you to know that right now in Alabama, there are about 100 people you've never heard of praying for you right now, by name."
I understand that by saying "100", I am grossly overestimating the popularity of this site, but bear with me...
He looked funny, and said, "They know my name?"
And I said "Yeah man. They are all lifting your name up to God."
He said nothing for a second, and then for the first time, I saw him smile. He simply said, "Cool". The first time I saw him smile... cool indeed.

One minute.

Pray for:
Eric who prayed to receive Christ today... his story later...
Tomorrow, and the crazy day it will be...

(Everything you read from here until the end of this post, Im writing on friday afternoon, after camp and our last day painting... before i tell you about it, though, i really want to finish thursday...)

Where was I? Okay, let's pick up about the middle of camp. Everyone has come together, and Josh is presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Right smack in the middle is Gaby, and "Bob", who's really named Darrin. And during the presentation of the gospel, they did everything they could to distract Josh, the other kids and basically get some attention. Oh, there were other kids too, but these two stood out. Really irritated me that they didnt have enough respect to sit for five minutes, or even just leave... I know, they mimic what they are taught, either in the home or on the streets, but that didnt make it any less irritating. At one point, Gaby even called me a few names, mostly in Spanish (one of which meant"white boy", which makes me think young Gaby ain't too bright... after a week in the sun, I'm darker than many of these black kids, including Gaby). Anyway, Josh prayed at the end, and a few made a few jokes at his, and our expense. When finished, he walked away seemingly very frustrated.
The kids broke up in their teams to play basketball (of which I had the aforementioned short conversation with Jason) and I noticed Tim talking to one guy who looked in his late teens. Shortly after, camp was over, kids got thier t-shirts, and most went home. Juan stayed to help clean-up, when Tim came over and said that they guy he was just talking too was named Eric, he is 18, and a few short moments ago, Eric accepted Christ. After Josh's talk, Eric and Tim ended up talking, Eric asked questions, Tim answered them with Truth, and Eric took the next step. We were all pretty excited about it, to say the least.

We had our lunch, and then Juan walked us to the bus stop--we had looked for it the day before, and ended up at a stop several blocks down, waiting for a bus that never came... we missed the stop we were supposed to be at, because the sidewalk was covered in high scaffolding, and the bus stop sign was beyond it. Juan was the man.

(so now the time is 536p, on friday, EST, and we are headed out in 45 minutes... this post will be finished tonight, I promise!!)

(Now its 1238 on Saturday morning... I'm going to do my best to get through the rest of Thursday and all of Friday, though Friday is a long post with lots to tell... so bear with me. And thanks for reading!)

Where were we? Ah yes, we had just finished with camp, and was leaving Crotona Park. We caught the bus at the bus stop where we were supposed to be, and then rode over to our other stop, which was about 50 yards from PS 63.

We got up to the school, and began to long walk up The Infernal Stairs. 26 stairs per flight... 4 flights... you do the math (because I'm too tired to). When we get to the top, everyone just plops on the floor for a minute, legs quivering, eyes bulging, all short of breath. The stairs are evil in concrete form, there is no disputing that.

Jimmy came in, and let us know that the asbestos room still had asbestos in it, so we should finish up what we were doing. So, Tim, Larry, Josh C and I started to finish the room we were in by painting and doing trim work, while Colby, Philip, Staci, Natalie and Mark continued prepping their room and getting ready to paint it. Within an hour or so, we were both almost finished... and then something we had not heard since we'd been in Alabama. Thunder.

It began to rain. Then it began to monsoon. Then the winds picked up, rain starting coming through the open windows, which we promptly shut making it extremely hot in there. By the bathroom, there was a cage over the window, and the window was open, allowing for rain to flood in. At one point, the rain started coming down completely horizontal, and for a few minutes it was very ugly. Tim swore it was a tornado, and though i have my doubts here in NYC, I can imagine winds like that in trailer-park filled Alabama.

We finished up the rooms, and cleaned up after ourselves. The nine of us trundled down the steps around 345p, over an hour earlier than we had planned to leave, and out into the rain, which had slacked up considerably. We hiked to the bus stop, standing under a few awnings, and got on when our bus arrived. Everyone was thinking of what the plans were for their different groups, and knowing how wonderful this extra hour was going to be.

Oh, how the silly dream.

The bus took a detour from the street we usually go down, because for some reason, that street was closed. And we hit traffic. Colby said "so is this what a New York traffic jam is like?" Slowly but surely, we inched down to our stop, but by the time we got on our train, our extra hour had vanished. It was decided that this time, we would all just hit the showers and get with whatever group was going.

Chuck had managed to procure cheap Broadway tickets for Beauty & The Beast, and that was the plan for he, Daniel and Larry. Larry commented later that it was worth the price of admission just to sit in an AC filled room for three hours and not have to walk anywhere.

Philip, Colby, Mark, Josh C and Staci were headed to Carmine's, apparently a very good Italian place that Josh had been too before and was salivating about on the bus.

It was Geryl's birthday (happy 32nd!) so she and her husband Tim went out for a nice evening of dinner and dessert at Carne's, just down the street.

Me, however... CONEY ISLAND. And I took Paula, Josh B, Brandon, Natalie and Anna Lynn with me. I cant remember if I told you this or not, but lets just say that when I was in NYC in 2002 doing missions, I had a chance to ride the Cyclone, which is the old rickety wooden coaster there on the Boardwalk of Coney, next to Astroland. Astroland is basically NYC's version of Miracle Strip Amusement Park...

And can I briefly rabbit trail and say that it bothers me that Miracle Strip is gone? I mean, come on... it didnt cost THAT much to keep it running, did it? The Starlighter Coaster alone was worth the price!

...and anyway, I was going to ride it. However, I gave up that chance to do something for Him, so I missed my chance, and for three long years, that coaster has haunted me. Its called to me. Its spoken to me. It wants me to come to it.

And as we boarded the train to ride to Coney Island, I was almost giddy. Of course, in my glee, I read the subway map a little wrong, and instead of taking the same train all the way down there, I thought I would be quicker and have us transfer to another train... turns out, once we transferred, I realized my mistake. We didnt have to backtrack, and it was about the same time to get there (just a different track) but we had to get up, sit down, get up and sit down again.

We got to Coney, and we decided to eat at Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs there on the beach. Natalie went to the ATM machine, and discovered that her ATM card was jacked up, so I let her have money for food. Though she is my friend and I wouldnt change a thing, this would come back to haunt me later...

Anyway, we all ate hot dogs and fries, and Anna Lynn had a 2nd dog, and after dinner , we took a stroll on the Coney Island Boardwalk. You know that song "under the boardwalk, we'll be falling in love, under the boardwalk, blah blah blah blah..." Yeah, this the Boardwalk that its from. (hate that song), Incidentally, there will be no falling in love under the boardwalk anymore, because several years ago, they boarded up the bottom of the boardwalk because so many homeless people lived there.

Let me tell you about Coney Island. I met a man in 2002 who had lived there on Coney for about 35 years. All his life he did the same thing... he collected aluminum cans and galss bottles off the beach in shopping carts, turning in the cans for money and taking that money to buy beer and food with. The next day, he did the same thing. He lived under the walkway for a long time, and when they shut that down, he "moved" into an old, abandon building. This is his whole life... no purpose, no meaning... no knowledge of God or even a caring attitude about it. Very sad. Coney is a very "the poor is poor and the rich come and visit, then go home to be rich" kind of place. Paula said later that she felt very out of place there, and that something about the place just bothered her. I can understand it, but I think Coney Island is where I would want to minister if I lived here full time. Thats not a hint, God, so please dont take it as such. The Lovely Steph Leann gets cold in 92 degree weather, so she wouldnt like it.

The park, Astroland, is a basic "pay per ride" kind of place. You buy your tickets, and then go on the ride you want. Anna Lynn wanted to ride the go-carts, which cost $5 to ride, and Josh and Brandon were going to go with her, while Nat and Paula found a bathroom (which, they learned, cost 25 cents to use). The go-cart guy looked at Anna Lynn and said "You're too showt... (looked at Brandon) you even showta... (looks at Josh) You wanna ride et?" Josh said no, and we left.

We ended up riding this 3-D virtual reality similator thing, one of those deals that rocks and moves while you sit in it. It was a roller coaster ride, and we all got on (Natalie, with no cash, was my date for the night, so I bought hers) except for Paula. The ride was crap. Thats all I got to say about that.

Finally... it was time. Years of waiting had come to this. I was going to ride the Coney Island Cyclone. I had heard that if you ride it over and over, the rides get cheaper, so I was ready. I was even preparing myself for the slight chance that, at 9pm, it wasn't open... no matter, I told myself, I would have ridden it, and thats the point. Though I would have been crushed.

Brandon was too short (again) and Anna Lynn actually made it (though it was the heels she was wearing) through... Josh paid for his, and I bought mine and Natalie's again. And we made our way up the ramp to the coaster. I couldnt wipe the grin off my face for anything in the world. The coaster looked beautiful, this grand concoction of metal and wood, the tracks lined with old boards, chipped white paint and lights that would have flashed "CYCLONE" if they all worked at the same time. Someone was in the front car... no matter. Josh and I got in the second row, while Anna Lynn and Natalie got in the row behind us.

A simple padded bar would keep us in our seats, though if the coaster collapsed like I thought it might, no padded bar would have saved us. But please, I prayed, dont let it collapse until I've ridden it once. And the guy didnt even pushed a button... no... this guy had a big red lever he pushed from one side to the other. And we were off.

I was on the Cyclone, and I closed my eyes and couldnt think of anything I would rather be doing. Perhaps my beautiful wife beside me instead of Josh would have made it better, but there wasn't much room for improvement from where I was at the time. The coaster hit the top of the first drop, and then plunged.

The ride was great... it was one of the longer coasters I've ever been on, and I was giggling like Stephanie was the day I asked her out the whole way. When the train pulled into the station, the sign said "ride again for 4 bucks", so as Anna Lynn made her way to the exit, Josh and I both jumped in and headed for the back car.

I dont know how much you know about roller coasters, particularly wooden ones, particularly wooden OLD coasters, but the back row tends to have some "whip appeal" to it. Think of the Georgia Cyclone... that Cyclone is a tricycle ride around the Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) parking lot compared to this Cyclone. This ride was rough. Very, very rough. And when we got done, they said "Two people ride for $5!". And I would have done it... except I had one dollar in my pocket, because Natalie and I had shared the evening's expenses. Josh had none either, so we made our way to the exit.

Anna Lynn actually rode it again by herself, while we waiting. There I was, covered in sweat and dripping with the joy that can only come in third to Stephanie's Love (2nd) and Christ's Love (1st... duh), the joy that is a three year anticipation of a roller coaster that has reached finality. I love my life.

Its 124am, and I'm going to write up Friday's blog tomorrow, because frankly, there is too much to tell...

So tune in tomorrow night, when you'll read about:
--The New Generation with Tamika and Nichole
--Kendell's prayers
--Manny's story
--The final day of camp
and finally... being fluid.

ps... The Lovely Steph Leann... I love you, baby, and cant wait to see you in a few days. Get your long PJs out, however, because we are cranking the AC down to about 65 for the night when I get home.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

NYC Entry #6: Lots of Things to Caulk About

First, let me clear up a few things that I missed...

The reason all the kids were gone today wasn't a church event, it was a nonprofit org. called Childrens Aid Society. They had something going on today (and will have it tomorrow) that prevented the kids from coming back.

Also, it was Jenny, not Monica, who was only here because her mom made her come. But Monica is still "too cool for school".

Finally, something I missed yesterday in telling, and when I remember it, I was in bed, so I wasn't coming down again. When we were on the bus yesterday leaving the Bronx school we were in, Staci sat next to a girl who was also working in the school with us. Turns out her group is staying in the hotel we had orginally planned on staying in... and its a real hostile, not just a "sorta" hostile like the one we have now. What I mean is, this girl said she and the only other girl on the trip are staying in a large room with eight other women they dont know, all in bunks. She said the night before, people didnt stop coming in and out until around 5am, and she had to be up an hour or so later. There is a good chance our girls would have had to stay in this large room had we stayed there... so praise God for the West Side Inn. Did I just say that?

So, this morning was so difficult to get going. I have the alarm on my phone set for 530, but somehow hearing "September" by Earth Wind & Fire just sucks that early. I rolled out of bed, got a shower... this shower tub thing going on... Its got a sliding door to get in the shower, but the top of the door & the rail barely touches my head (meaning Larry had to duck under it). The door also doesnt really close from the inside, so you have to pull it as much as you can leaving a slight crack big enough to get your fingers in to open it. And after looking at it today, I'm estimating the opening to be about two feet wide. No kidding. The toilet is also by a window that people like to leave open, and if you aren't careful, people in the windows about twenty feet away can see you, sitting or standing...

...and then got ready. I met Chuck & Daniel, Larry and Mark, and this time Staci joined us for breakfast at the West Way Cafe. Paula and Brandon came stumbling in a few minutes later. Breakfast was good, and we met everyone in the lobby at 7am to leave (except for Natalie, who overslept and came down about 705a), then trundled off to the 103rd Street Station.

I have two blisters on my right foot, and they hurt like crap. I walk with a limp at this moment. Yes, I've treated them. They still hurt. But I digress.

The most exciting thing about the morning--other than the fact we're in NEW YORK CITY BABY!!!--was that little Josh B let Staci get off in front of him at our Bronx stop, upon which the doors closed on him and the train left, Josh still on it. We all had previously done a plan, however... if you get left on the train, you get off on the next stop, and someone will come to you and you come back together. Paula hopped on the next train, and a few minutes later, they both showed up.

Im tired, so I'm going ramble. There is this Mexican grocery store right around the corner from Crotona, and for whatever reason, all their stuff is really cheap. I can get a bottled water there for fifty cents, and 20 oz Cokes for $1, no tax. Their bathroom is a little sketch, with the fly filled flypaper hanging down from the middle of the ceiling, but other than than, its cool.

After I got my water, we all joined up at Crotona, meeting Kendall there again. Manny arrived with his big truck of supplies, and we unloaded and set up for Day Two of Upward Basketball. Most of the kids that were here yesterday are with the Children's Aid Society, so we only had about 40. It could be considered disappointing, but know with that few kids, we can build much more personal relationships than if each coach had, say, 12 kids of their own.

One of our coaches didnt even have any of kids show up, but a few more had all of theirs and then some. From 10 to noon, kids just showed up and signed up at random, which was great. We had two guys, however, that you have to know. Carlos and Sammy. Carlos is a special needs kid that, to look at him, looks perfectly fine. I think Natalie said "he's a little slow". Anyway, this guy has won several special olympic medals in swimming and basketbal, and his little brother, Sammy, who has down syndrome, also was there. Their mom, Beatrice, said that Sammy hates the summer and the hot weather, and has refused to go play outside all summer, until this morning.

Carlos asked Staci, "Does my name sound english or spanish?" and before she could answer, he said "cause i know more english than i do spanish." Good for a laugh, I thought.

Pray that Carlos and Sammy come back, with their mom, so that we can go a little more in depth with them about God.

We had a few troubles this morning--Devon and DeAngelo come to mind (they kept coming over to get water as an excuse to not participate, and then proceeded to make fun of the other kids--these guys are like, 12 or something)--but mostly it was a very smooth morning, as you would expect with 40 kids and not 110.

Jason, the 16 year old, came back. He wandered around again, jumping in here and there. Pray for us that we'll have a chance to break through to him, and get him involved somehow.

Another kid, Juan, was kind of a punk at times, but he speaks fluent spanish, and we used him to talk to some other kids. We are hoping that by making him feel needed, we can keep him around.
Also, some of the girls wanted to have their prayer requests known... Lorin (sick godfather); Mylady (said "meh-lady") and Jenny's dad (needs a job).

Around 12, we handed the kids their prizes (an upward watch) and said bye, and settled down for a lunch that Geryl had gone and gotten us. Turkey & Ham sandwiches, with cold soft drinks and chips, and the sno-cone man coming around made it just perfect.

While Chuck and Daniel departed (headed off to the Bronx Zoo with Anna Lynn, Josh B & Brandon) because they couldnt be in the school, Geryl & Paula graciously agreed to do laundry, which I needed very badly. The rest of us went to PS 63. After waiting at a bus stop for a bus that never came, we continued on the several blocks, then up the 5 flights of steps--each flight had 26 steps to it... it was evil.

Philip, Colby and Tim had worked together on a room, but Jimmy told them that their room was being treated for asbestos, but they could still go in. They made the call to work in the other classrooms with us, Tim with me, Larry and Josh, and Philip & Colby with Mark, Staci and Nat. Our room was farther along then there room, having done much prep work yesteday. Their room needed more prep than ours, so halfway into the work time, we had gotten to the point where we could paint. Tim started off by doing nothing but caulking cracks and spackling holes in the wall... yeah, it was that bad. We primed a few areas, taped off some more, and then Josh and Larry grabbed long arm roller brushes to work on the top of the walls, while I poured some paint into a small bucket and began to do trim work.

Tim was still caulking.

I ended up climbing on top of a high cabinet, taking short steps as I was unsure of how steady the cabinet would be, and whether I'd fall through or not, and painted up high and around corners.

And Tim was still caulking.

Josh and Larry put two coats in many places, getting all the wide open spaces on the walls, and then did some trim work too.

And Tim... yeah, still caulking. Actually, he did that from around 120pm to about 430 or so. His hands were gross. However, the group I mentioned before, staying in the real hostile with the large women's sleeping quarters? They were working on the other side of the building, with no air conditioning (we had two of the large metal fans and two box fans blowing full strength) and their room was twice the size of ours, and the walls were in much worse condition.

Finally, around 430, we stopped and began to clean up.

Okay, its midnight right now... let me tell you what happened in short form:
--Came back to hotel, where Paula handed out our clean, folded laundry, which in my bag included two pairs of Hanes tighty whiteys, which I dont wear, and no other guy will claim, making me think they are lying or some strange guy left his laundry in the dryer and I ended up with it.
--Rode to Rockefeller Center as a group, with plans to see St Patricks Cathderal.
--Cathderal plans nixed, smaller groups form to go eat dinner.
--Josh B, Paula, Brandon and I go eat at Carnigie's Deli, where I have a roast beef sandwich that literally was four or five inches thick, and a piece of genuine NY cheesecake that would just make you slap your memaw and ask for more gravy. Good times, good times.
--Our planned return subway station was closed, but we made it back around 11pm. I'm tired now.

Now, let me conclude by saying this... thank you for your notes of encouragement. I've read Steph's, Tebe's, Daniel & Jen's, Mrs Lynn's, and this morning I read Amy's and this evening I read Mikey's. You guys rock. You dont know how much I look forward to reading them and how I've fought the urge to open them all up. Thanks for praying for us, and for me, and thanks for diligently reading this like I know many of you have.

Until tomorrow, I say...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

NYC Entry #5: The Gospel of Matthew Modine

Okay, so I have lots to say tonight... so much so that with 13 & 1/2 minutes left on this stupid computer, I already have another 5 bucks out, ready to feed it to The Man, so you fine people will know whats up. I do it for you, cause I'm swell like that.

Hey, Mackey. Paula loves you, and misses you immensely. I promised her I'd say that. And for that matter--I love you The Lovely Steph Leann, and miss you immenselier.

On with the show.

I got up this morning at half past five am. In the morning. I get up for work around 7, maybe 730 on some days, but this time it was five:thirty. I met up with Chuck & Daniel, Larry and Mark this morning in the lobby for some fine breakfast from the West Way Cafe. I again had Challah French Toast with freshly squeezed OJ... that place rocks my face off.

After our meal, we met back with the group in the lobby of the West Side Inn, and gathered our stuff. We then headed out to the subway station, headed to the Bronx to meet Kendall and set up for our first day of Upward Basketball. After we got off the train, we saw Kendall in front of KFC (Kennedy's Fried Chicken... two locations I've seen so far) and we all walked together to Crotona. We did our devotion, set up tables and put things out like we liked 'em, and waited. Nine came, a few kids came in. 9:15, 9:30, we had about 20 kids. We're thinking, okay, God sends us what He wants us to have...


Here come about 20 kids, at once. Kendall, Paula and Natalie are signing them in as fast as possible, getting contact info and such, when a few minutes later, here comes a block of about 50 kids, all at once. Me and a few other people are in the line, handing out name tags, getting names and such (it got so crazy I couldn't even spell, and when one girl said "sally" I actually said "spell that for me") and they all came flooding in. We played some games with them, and began to break them up into teams according to ages... we had a few younger kids, but about 20 5th and 6th graders, and some that were even higher.

I met Jason, a tall kid who came in. After talking to him, I discovered he was 16, and according to him, could school everyone out here.

I met Gaby, a 12 or 13 year old who liked to use the "F" word and the "N" word more than anything else, so after Colby told him it was unacceptable, he ran off (he came back).

I met Bob. Actually, his name was Darrin, and simply put, Josh C schooled him. Bob was acting up, so Josh said "you think you so bad, lets play a little one on one". Surprisingly, Bob took him up on it, and lost to Josh. Josh then explained that he didnt beat him to show him up or embarrass him, but to let him know that yes, we might know a little about the game we're coaching, so please, pay attention. Later, when Josh was showing defense to a group of younger kids, Bob showed up and starting making fun. Josh confronted him, and Bob was quiet. I asked him what his name was, and he just shrugged. I said "you dont even know your name?" and he shrugged again, defiantely. So I said, "fine. i'll call you Bob." He looked at me and said "Bob? My name aint Bob." And I smiled and said "it is until you tell me. So Bob..." and I began to just chatter away.

Staci was teaching dribbling on one court, and Gaby decided to speak his mind a little about how unfair it was he didnt get to shoot basketball, using a few words. Marty, one of the fellows from Montgomery, pulled him aside and said "Listen, I'm goign to be straight with you. I'm a correctional officer, and if you curse in front of this lady again (pointing at Staci) I'm going to snatch you up right here. I dont care what gang you might be in, or who you think you are, but dont do it." Gaby ran off again. I saw him riding his bike through the court a little while longer.

Staci grabbed Jason and got him to help her teach dribbling, which was awesome, as Jason was just wandering around the court.

All in all, there were a few bad apples.. but many, many good ones. The young kids were great, and amazingly--thanks in no small part to your prayers, I'm sure--during devotion time, and sharing of scripture, most of the kids were very quiet, even the big guys. What didnt help, though, was the snow cone seller guy showing up halfway through our camp, taking the attention of half the kids. Paula, through an interpreter, asked him not to come tomorrow until noon, but we'll see if that happens.

Turns out that many of the kids are involved in a local organization (i think a local ministry works with them, but dont quote me) and about 40 will be gone tomorrow and Thursday, but I'm sure we'll have many kids tomorow too.

Some of the kids you can pray for...
Mattie, a little girl who seems to be very open to the idea of Christ
Jordan, Jason, Gaby and Bob, who needs a stirring in their hearts... you can pray for us that we will approach them in just the right manner, in His time.
Monica, a girl who seems to be "too cool for school", and only came because her mom made her.
Mercedes, Margaret and Maria Calverez, three sisters who also seem to be open to the gospel.
Finally, a praise story... Josh was talking to this kid named Yaniel (dont even ask me how to pronounce it) and asked him what he learned so far. Yaniel then replied that he knew he was a sinner, he knew that Christ died for him, he knew that God loved him and he knew that he could have eternal life in Heaven. When Josh picked his jaw from the ground, Yaniel said he accepted Christ already. Yaniel is about 7, maybe 8.

With Kendall's guidance, the leadership of the whole team, God, and Manny, the supply truck driver, we made it. Around 12, we shut everything down, and handed out Bibles to all the kids. Everyone seemed to take it, and the courts cleared. We met Pastor Kitchens, the pastor of the church who was supposed to be helping us this week. He showed up around 12 with 200 bottles of water in his van. Didnt help us today, but we will need it tomorrow, I am sure of that.

Tim bought us all ice cream from the ice cream guy, and we began walking to PS 63, the school we were schedule to work in. From what we saw in walking, the neighborhoods looked quite nice, but as we walked, we watched the stereotypical Bronx from the movies begin to take shape around us, complete with ghetto, hooptys and all.

When we got to PS 63, soaked in sweat, we met up with Karalee, a summer missionary from Mississippi. She's been in NYC since May, working in schools since June, and she led us around. Turns out, due to it being a construction site, no one under 16 is allowed to work in the school now. So, Josh, Brandon, AnnaLynn and Daniel were out. Paula, Geryl and Chuck left with them, taking them back to the hostile.

The remaining 9 of us broke into three teams: Me, Josh C & Larry; Mark, Staci & Natalie; and Colby, Philip and Tim, and each team was to take a classroom and do prep work. It was not nearly ready to paint, according to Jimmy. Jimmy is the lead worker there, and he informed us of these pearls of wisdom:
"If its got paint on it, we gonna paint it again"
"It it aint got paint on it, we aint gonna paint it"
"Drink all your water, dont leave a bottle with two sips sitting around to be thrown out"
and finally
"This is the Lords work. Make it look good."
When he left, Larry smiled and said "fun old coot, ain't he?"

PS 63 is an older school that has been painted a few times before... you can tell from the thick coats and multiple colors in some places. Josh got a ladder and some pliers, and began to remove staples from the walls--alot of them. As in, dozens that were stapled, painted over, left and have just been there forever ("dont paint over them staples or tape!" says Jimmy). While Josh staple-pulled, Larry and I began to wrap plastic over some old chalkboards. Thats what we, the entire group, did in our classrooms... we scraped paint, we primed, we pulled out staples, we pulled off paint, we put down painters tape around windows, we cleaned moldings, we put plastic over everything we could... for two hours. Also, it was on the fifth floor, and there was no elevator. Oh yeah, we had to go up and down a few times to help Jimmy unload some stuff. Did I mention there was NO air conditioner. For the glory, baby, for the glory.

After that was all well and good, we finished up what we could (ready to pick it back up tomorrow) and we caught a full bus to our subway stop. Have I mentioned how hot it is down there in the subway tunnels? Unbelievably swealteringly hot. Our plan had been to go back and take showers, then go to a service somewhere, like Brooklyn Tab or Times Square Metro, but it was decided we needed the downtime.

We got back, and we ordered rotissarie chicken from a place down the street--it was very good, and after we all had our showers and cleaned up a bit, we all went out for a stroll in the busy streets of the Upper West Side.

Geryl, AnnaLynn, Mark and Josh B and I all ended up at Henry's (right next to Carne's, where we went the first day) for some dessert. The blueberry cheesecakse was okay, and AnnaLynn's creme brulee was pretty good, but the highlight of the evening came when right down the street, none other than Matthew Modine was filming a movie. Modine was in And the Band Played On (a great flick), and also in Vision Quest, but he's most famous for his role as Jokerman in Full Metal Jacket. After dessert, we walked out, and saw Paula and Natalie there with Brandon, so we all got to watch several takes of the movie...we found out its called "A Kettle of Fish", and it stars Modine and Gina Gershon in it... its a romantic comedy, but some no-name first time director who was seemingly pregnant.

I was wearing my fun shirt that says Satan is a Poo Poo Head, with all sorts of verses on it. I know that he saw me standing there (how would you miss me?) and honestly, I feel like I am somehow in a small part responsible for sharing the gospel with him. Hey, the great commission spreads to B-movie actors too! =)

So here I am, back in the hotel. Its really hot down here, and I'm going to go to bed soon. You can continue to pray for the kids I mentioned above, and for the many other kids we have seen. Also, pray that the school project goes well. Tomorrow, I'll try to have some personal requests from the team up.

Have a good night, and a pleasant tomorrow.