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"
"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.