Monday, July 24, 2006

NY'06 Entry #4: Moments

My, my, my... its three full days into the trip and I can feel God working in me. I almost hate to start out this blog, usually light hearted while informative, with such a deep statement, but God is moving. I'm excited, I'm joyous, I feel the Spirit just tugging at me to pay attention and watch Him just go Jesus Crazy on our hearts, on this city, on what we are doing. I just spent the last hour talking to K-Swiss, and you can't help but be pumped up on how on fire for God she is... she's crazy for Jesus, ready to take on Hell with a water pistol.

Leslie is a worker with New Hope New York, and today in orientation she went over some things we needed to know--and then she said simply, "you are here for a reason. don't miss it. God has you here for one moment, for one moment this week, and it may be at basketball camp, or at your day camps in Stamford, or maybe it might happen on the subway or in a store or hotel or wherever. But if you aren't prayed up, tuned into what the Spirit has, you will miss it. It will be August, and instead of saying 'Hey, remember so and so, and his uncle that we prayed for, and how awesome God worked', you'll be saying 'Hey, what's that kids name that I prayed with? The one that we led to Christ? Didn't he have a sick uncle?' Don't let it be August and you miss that moment."

As she spoke, it sent chills up my spine and I got goosebumps. Coach Tim was sitting beside me, and he rocked a little bit back and forth, I could tell it had hit him too. So I pray to God that it won't become August and I don't remember anything.

I told her later how encouraging it was, but that it made me think of Whitney Houston's "One Moment In Time." She laughed. I did too.

Well, I guess we could start with this morning... we left the hotel at the crack'o'dawn, like around 630, because we had to make it out to The Bronx, notably Graffiti 2's ministry, and Mark wasn't sure of the way. Mark, Cindy, Coach Tim, Anna Lynn, K-Swiss and I piled in one van, Gary, J-Bo, Nathan, Abby Lohan, Mama Faith, G-Ann and Chuck got in the other one. Margie was taking Danielsahn and The Hobbits elsewhere, as young children were'nt allowed to be down with Graffiti doing the basketball camps.

Had a great discussion on politics on the way, as K-Swiss asked about Republicans and Democrats... I am sure only Stephanie and perhaps Ty Coffey would understand how quickly I perked up and was like "Well, let me tell you..." And I did.

Oh, and as we made our way down the subway steps, K-Swiss noted an older woman (she didn't get her name) handing out tracts on one of the upper levels. She stopped, talked to the woman and just encouraged her, letting her know we were here for the same purpose. Good little conversation.

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K-Swiss and a Moment on the Subway

Also on the Subway, Coach Tim got to talk to a lady named Barbara. She's got an 18 year old son named Anthony, and she asked for prayers for health, her son, and for both of them to be hooked back into church. Sounds like a great request to me.

Andrew Mann is a short white dude with short reddish hair. He runs Graffiti 2, which is the second location of Graffiti Ministries, an outreach community ministry that helps kids and adults in their areas with... well, issues in life. Reading, sports camps, chapel, fine arts camps with dance, music and drama, and other things are taught all during the year. I think he said Graffiti 1 was located in Manhatten, and 2 is in The Bronx in a neighborhood called Mott Haven. Andrew listed off the five roughest neighborhoods in NYC, and he said the hope is to put a Graffiti 3, 4 and a 5 in the rest of those areas.

He also has "Proof", which is a "canine assistant dog". This catagory also includes search & rescue dogs, cadaver dogs, seeing eye dogs and others, but Proof is a... well, I don't really know the term for it, because the book that I have is upstairs in my backpack, but he's a dog that helps kids with anger issues, emotional problems and other things.

From Graffiti 2, we walked down to the subway station and took the 2 train to the New Hope New York offices down on 72nd street. I remembered the walk from the station down the block to the offices, which also shares space with the Mandarin Chinese ministry. Also arriving at the same time was a group from Woodlawn Baptist out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We'll be working with them, plus a few other guys, on this week's Upward Basketball camp.

We got upstairs, did introductions and Andrew ran down the list of information that we needed to know... stuff like "don't be alone with any child for any reason" and "some of the children have been sexually abused, so know the places you can touch a child safely" and stuff like that. You know, all the stuff that we should know before working with a very poor community full of children who don't have anything but need only Jesus. I'm just sayin.

Kendall Phillips also came in... I just love Kendall (and we're all pretty much decided that K-Swiss will follow Kendall's footsteps in about five years), as does everyone on the team that went last year. She is working at her church in... Pine Top? Pine Bluff? Wherever... its the same church in Mississippi that Matt Lord went to when he left Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship).

Anyway, we got our orientation about that, Lesley then came up, introduced herself, talked a little bit and then gave the moving speech I mentioned at the beginning. Talk about firing up a crowd. Another two churches worth of people came in, filling the room up, and Kendall came up. She let us know that 23 churches had approached NHNY to work with and follow up with kids who had made commitments.

To understand how big this is, understand that we had NO church helping us out last year... so when we had decisions made for Christ, be it our team or another team that went up last year, there was no one but NHNY to turn their information to. And Leslie informed us she still had about 250 decision cards to deal with and is working on passing them out to churches. So this is HUGE for there to be TWENTY THREE churches that came to NHNY... not Leslie and Kendall calling them all up, no, the churches came to them. God is AWESOME.

It was time for lunch and so we all walked together back to the subway station from 72nd Street to take the 2 train to uptown Bronx, at 149th & 3rd Avenue.

So a huge gaggle of women just came into the lobby where I'm sitting. Earlier, we were walking through, and there was this massive crowd of men and women in the lobby--found out it was an au pair convention. They had all come here to Stamford to train the ways of the Au Pair (I guess there's a seminar on "Not Shaking the Baby") and they'll train until Thursday when they leave for their Au Pairination. I only mention this because to my right, there is a huge stack of luggage now... when the Au Pairs left their luggage, the bagboys worked hard to get it up to their rooms... now they have to start all over.

Anyway, we get off on 149th & 3rd, then hike to Graffiti 2, which is located in partial space of the Evangelical Garifuna Church, which, if I remember correctly, is an African culture. Andrew lets us know we have three choices for lunch... McDonald's, about a block down, a sandwich shop nearby that he says is the best in NY, and a pizza place next door. I vote for the pizza place.

Remember that rectangle pizza you got in high school, the thin one that was a sorta yellow, sorta red, all greasy? Imagine that in a big triangle shape. My man behind the counter slaps it on a round thin paper plate, with all corners of the pizza sticking out, and just curls the plate to fit it into a paper sack. Then he hands me the Dr. Pepper bottle I bought, complete with a straw that is about three inches shorter than the bottle.

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Mmmm... a moment to remember high school pizza... rolled up in a paper sack

The pizza was... well, remember that rectangle pizza that... yeah. K-Swiss had bought some "garlic knots", simply garlic bread wrapped in a pretzal shape... I was knot impressed. Knot. Get it? Ha! I slay me.

The Woodlawn group was there as well, as people began to trickle in with their pizza slices, garlic knots and McD's meals, and though they had to wait forever to get it, others came in with their sandwiches. Also joining us was Richie and Scott, from North Davis Church of Christ in Arlington, Texas. Two big guys, Mark immediately put them dealing with the older kids. We spent the next two hours hashing out details of who would do what tomorrow. After a while I looked at Mama Faith and whispered, "Is it bad that I'm bored?"

As the discussion wore on of what we'd do, who would do what and so on and so forth, I spent time studying a world map on the wall, complete with country info (population, economy, info, flag, etc) and let me say that there are a lot of countries I have never, ever heard of. Djibouti? Its a small country east of Ethiopia. Cote D'ivoire? Between Liberia and Ghana. Burkino Faso? East of Niger. I don't remember any of these countries existing when I was in school taking the Africa Continent Country exam. What happened to Zaire? That was a country once, I know it. Oh, and I have no clue where Lesotho is. Not a single idea. While things were being hashed out, I looked for it... didn't see it.

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Kendall, Andrew, G-Ann and a North Davis guy

We all walked out to The People's Park, where we'll have the camps, and the churches came together to pray for the park. Afterwards, North Davis and Woodlawn went to pass out fliers in the neighborhood, while our group had to scat quickly. It was approaching 330, and we had dinner at 5... it took about an hour to navigate through traffic back to the hotel where we changed, then met to go to Encounter Church.

At 5pm, we had dinner. In the van ride over, Abby Lohan, Cindy, J-Bo and I went over our KidStuff skit (anyone remember the skit with the Tylertron 3000? I sure didn't), but we were all pre-occupied to practice any before 6pm. Our dinner was simple sandwiches, cookies and chips, which was just perfect, and around 6pm, we started. A few kids trickled in one by one, including a mom named Anna and her two kids Natalie (a tiny little girl) and Frederick (her not-too-much-older-older-brother) who were both just sweet kids. Of course, Danielsahn, The Hobbits, Landon's children (Lauren, Lawson & Layton) and Lauren's friends Allyson & Leah were there, adding to the crowd, but we got a few kids in.

Notably, we saw a kid named Kevin, who was in 7th grade... I was afraid he would feel too old or "too cool" to enjoy himself, but he seemed to really like it all. They had a Bible story time, sharing the "throw down your nets" story, and I led crafts in decorating a sailor's hat. I love mine--I think its cool. In addition to writing verses and other fun Jesus things on it, I've got "Gary Eubanks Is My Idol" on the side. He said it warmed his heart.

Abby Lohan led the recreation, Mark and Cindy tackled the little kids, G-Ann and Coach Tim worked with the older kids, Faith led crafts, K-Swiss took video and was a rover, Gary was Snackman, I roved and led a craft, and so on and so forth. Margie, Cindy and K-Swiss also led the music, which was funny.

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A Moment with Margie, the Infamous Air Leg Guitarist

And Tebe, Barnie and the Lattas will appreciate this... Landon gets up, starts talking to the kids, and leads them all--Valleydale, Encounter and local visiting Connecticut kids--in a cheer. He shows them how to put their arm up, make a circle and say "Rooooollllllll Tiiiiiiiiiddddddeeee....." which they all did. Made me laugh.

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A Moment for Every Bama Fan

So, the skit about the Tylertron 3000 was a hoot... we blew through the first part alright, but we got mixed up in the second part, I said Abby Lohan's (Cammie) and J-Bo's (Julie) lines accidentally, confused them both, Cindy (Mrs. F) caught up and we finished it. Loved it.

The poor luggage guy just loaded up two massive luggage carts with all the luggage of the gaggle of chicks that just came in. Couldn't get it all.

It seemed as if all the kids truly had a good time with it and they all said they wanted to come back... the parents that were there really liked it too, and seemed like they wanted to come back. Let's pray they do.

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A Moment with Mom Anna with Frederick & Natalie

Finally, after it was all over and most were heading back to the hotel, K-Swiss, J-Bo and I walked over to Target to get some stuff. In Target was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen... a shopping cart escalator. You push your cart in the "shopping cart" door, it picks it up, keeps it level and you just step on the regular escalator, and meet your cart at the top. I was wide eyed and amazed.

We tried to stop at Starbucks, but it closed at 9pm. Sickening, I know. The three of us are actually planning on going over there early in the morning, all three just to have some time to read the Word before we head out for another day.

  • The kids I just mentioned at VBS: Mom Anna and kids Frederick & Natalie... 12 year old Kevin... another kid named Kevin... a little girl named Heaven... pray that these kids will come back, bring friends, bring parents and be receptive to God's word.
  • The camps start tomorrow (Tuesday). I hope we have a great turnout, and pray that when the schedule changes (and it will) that we can roll with it easily.
  • Pray that none of us will miss "the moment" or "the moments" that God will give us this week.
  • Pray for the lady that K-Swiss met in the subway station will continue to glory in Him and His work
  • Pray for Barbara (in the subway) and her son Anthony, and that both will be brought back to church
  • Pray that I will continue to be open to the Spirit and let God move through me as He will

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Had to take a moment to show you the Target Shopping Escalator... How cool is this?

Just asked the bellhop who the new gaggle of chicks was... more Au Pairs for the convention. And he said 25 more to come. That's alot of nannies.

Alright, its late, I'm going to leave now, because the three guys behind me who love to use the F-word in their manner of describing everything is starting to grate on me. I think I'll still pray for them as I'm going up the elevator. You can do the same.

Next... NYC'06 Entry #5: Don't Stop Believin'

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