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.

Fluid.

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.

Fluid.

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?

Fluid.

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.

Fluid.

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!

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