Tuesday, July 25, 2006

NY'06 Entry #5: Don't Stop Believin'

Got in a few minutes ago from lunch and our first session of Upward Basketball in The Bronx. Sitting here now on the bed in room 845 of the Holiday Inn Select, as Pastor Chuck--my roommate for the week--irons his shirt... in a few minutes, we'll be heading over to Encounter Church were Mark, Chucky and I will run through our lines for tonight's KidStuf skit, one that I've never done before.

The rest of the group--Both Eubanks, The Hobbits, Natedawg, Danielsahn, J-Bo, G-Ann, Tim & Anna Lynn, Cindy and K-Swiss--will be going with Landon over to Cove Island Park to do more flier passer outer work in promo of tomorrow night's Family Festival. Apparently our little Abby Lohan has a casting audition in Manhattan, so that's where she and Mama Faith will be spending the afternoon.

This morning started early, perhaps a little earlier than yesterday... I went to bed late, getting yesterday's blog finished, but also getting the pictures aligned and then talking to my wife, Stephanie. She had just finished with a crop at our home, so she was still up (which was good--I thought I was about to wake her up, and that's never good).

It was good to hear her voice, even though we could only talk a few minutes. Went to bed, woke up at 545am, showered and shaved (with the fogless mirror in the bathroom... this hotel has fogless mirrors in the bathroom! Isn't that spectacular??) then met J-Bo and Swiss downstairs. We all three walked to Starbucks, about three blocks away, and sat quietly, with the two girls reading the Word and myself running through lines for tonight, and praying over them quietly.

We came back to the hotel, and brought G-Ann a cup of coffee, and I brought Abby Lohan a cup of strawberry lemonade, to make up for poking fun at her--fine, I'll say it... I gleeked on her. No one else but her. She's come to expect now, so the free drink helped make up for it.

Tim & Anna Lynn, Swiss and the Warners (and myself) piled into one van, the others into the other van piloted by Gary Eubanks, and we made the hour trek to The Bronx and Graffiti 2...

...I can't finish this right now... but check here tonight, and I will finish it. I've got to get my Tyler gear on and go get ready for daycamp (nightcamp?) tonight... talk to you soon!

...Okay, and we're back. About, oh, six and a half hours have transpired since I blogged the above paragraphs... now where was I? Ah yes, making the hour trek to Graffiti 2 with the Warners, Swiss and Coach Tim & Anna Lynn... by the way, more and more people are starting to call Jennifer Boutwell "J-Bo". Cindy did it, as did Anna Lynn, and most of the kids are doing it. I started it! However, I don't feel so optimistic about Emily being called "K-Swiss" even after I explain it. I actually have called her "K-Swiss", "Kid Sis" and "Swiss" at this point, she answers to all. Maybe it will be one of those things where "Only you, Dave, can call me K-Swiss. No one else can do it" kind of things. That would make me feel special. That would be cool. Wait, I'm rambling...

...we arrived at Graffiti 2, and immediately starting setting up. Bjorn was there (did I tell you about Bjorn? He's the dude from Texas and is the intern at Graffiti 2, and the only reason he has the name Bjorn is that his parents were tennis fans, and fans of Bjorn Borg. I told him its good that he wasn't named Borg instead, or that his parents weren't Lendl or Ivanesavich fans. Or how about Elana Smashnova? No, I didn't make that name up) as was Andrew, so we walked the block to The People's Park, sitting right behind the Graffiti 2 location.

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G-Ann & J-Bo, along with a couple of other guys, walk the block from Graffiti 2 (around the corner) to the People's Park. You'll see the corner that I would go to in about five minutes to promote the camp

Around 845, we had seen nary a kid, so some of us each took a flier and went to the block corner. I stood with Abby Lohan, and across the street stood Mama Faith and her son (and Abby's bro) Natedawg, and we just told passing families that there was a cheerleading and basketball camp starting at 9am right there at People's Park.

Let me just say, this is a really nice park. From what I've seen, there are two sections (there may be more adjacent to it, I just didnt see it.) The first section you come to, if walking from Graffiti 2 to the park is a handball wall, which can also be used for tennis and other bouncy ball games. Why there is a handball court in the middle of The Bronx I couldn't tell you.

Right past the handball courts is a play area, with jungle gymy type set up (you know, the big metal things with slides, ladders, hooks, holes and all other things kids somehow never get hurt on, but you and I would crack a rib on in about four seconds?) and right in the middle is this giant metal daisy. This daisy shoots water straight in the air, and water also shoots up from holes all over the immediately daisy area floor... its quite cool. Cindy and I both have joked about taking up Upward Sprinkling, especially when it gets hot.

There is a small building next to it, for bathrooms and such, and then you go up a ramp into a large fenced in area where there are about six or seven basketball courts. I think The Bronx has made an effort to revitalize some of the parks in the area, because some of them look really run down, while some, like this one, just look great.

We set up our registration table near the entrance ramp, and some of us spent time on the corners advertising. One of the most random things I've ever seen/heard... this lady--she seemed Puerto Rican, came walking by with one kid in tow and another in a stroller. I actually heard her before I realized it was her, but I heard Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" blaring somewhere... looked around, here comes this lady with a stroller, two kids and a giant boom box shoved in the back pouch area of the stroller. I looked at Abby Lohan and said, "Do you hear Journey? What the crap?" She was on her way to take her kids to the park. Just weird. I told Cindy later that then and there, "Don't Stop Believin" had become the name of today's blog.

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My idol, Gary Eubanks (read yesterday's post), with one of our kids, with Coach Tim in the background

Like any camp such as this, including last year, the kids came slowly but surely. The one difference is that this time around, Andrew from Graffiti 2 said a parental signature was mandatory, whereas last year, it was come one come all--we just took names and would give them to local churches for follow up (though I explained yesterday how that didn't happen until this year...) Anyway, with parents and/or guardians coming up, it gave us a chance to talk to the parents as well as play with the kids.

I was really a rover, as was Swiss, there during camp. I walked from area to area, taking pictures, helping do stuff like grab more basketballs or set up drill cones or whatever. Swiss was working with G-Ann and a lady named Brenda to do registration, which was really complicated... not only sign the kids up, but some had pre-registered, plus you had to figure how who got what prizes, ask for t-shirt/jersey sizes for prizes later this week, and keep it all straight on a table sitting on a court that had wind blowing through it, which meant that papers liked to fly a lot.

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Here's Abby Lohan, named so for her weird resemblance to another Lohan of a skankier form. Personally, I think Abigail Pierson is much prettier than Lindsay Lohan, but that's just me. Anyway, this is some of the kids she was actually schooling in a pick up game before the camp started.

Swiss later told me later that she really wanted to spend more time with some of the kids instead of the registration handle she had dealt with. Specifically, a girl named Ashley came up to her today... Ashley is the brother of Matthew, who was also at the camp. Ashley said she wanted to help out and volunteer tomorrow, so naturally, Swiss is excited about the idea of being able to talk to her. It'll be listed in requests as to what to pray for in that.

My camera was running out of battery power (the lithium batteries I bought at Target the night before? Yeah, I left them in the room. Duh.) So I stole away to the corner market next to Graffiti 2 to buy some batteries... thinking "Oh geez, they are like, five bucks for two at the Shell station... I can only imagine what they'll cost here." I asked for AA batteries, and he handed me a pack of Duracell AA's. I had my hand on a $10 bill in my pocket, cringing at how much it could be... he said "Two dollars." I was like "What? Two bucks?" I paid the man, and walked out. I looked at them, thinking for two bucks, they probably expired in March of, I don't know, 2002... no, they are good through 2012. The Bronx rocks!

We had about 35 to 40 kids show up, including a few kids who came late. Coach Tim, Cindy and a Woodlawn guy (Rhett Baker, I think. Yes, yes, he's heard the Butler joke, cause I made it) coached four or five of the young kids, while Mark took on the really young kids, and Gary helped with the older guys. None of the Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) girls were on with cheerleading, but as far as girls basketball goes, they had J-Bo, Coach Tim, Mama Faith, Natedawg, Abby Lohan and Anna Lynn all helping with the three girls that wanted to play... this turned out really well, because all of the above mentioned people were able to start some really good friendships and relationships with the girls they worked with.

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Pastor Chuck, Cindy and Shannon (from the Woodlawn group) handling their kids.

As I said before, G-Ann was doing registration, while Swiss & I both were roving around, helping out. Andrew was overseeing, going from group to group, talking to the kids. Kendall had actually arrived early in the camp (around 915 or so) and we unloaded all the Upward balls and a small goal for some of the smaller kids.

This camp is far and away different from last year. I hate to say better, because that's to imply last year's wasnt good--and it was very good, even if just for our learning experiences. Anyway, this camp is more structured, and falls under the guise of Andrew & Graffiti 2, which most of the kids are aware of, and know the rules and what will be tolerated. Last year, as Mark put it, "we were just a bunch of bumpkins saying 'Hey, come play some basketball with us!'" I mean, this year we have a permit to do this at The People's Park, which means we have power to actually remove someone for bad behavior (Andrew said he called the cops on a 4th grader who was refusing to cooperate--don't worry, Andrew and this kid still talk all the time). Last year, we didn't have any such permit, so really nothing (but God) was stopping anyone from coming and playing on the court.

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Love this sight... the kids praying.

I could spend the rest of the column discussing the Upward Camp today, but that was really only half of our day... so I'll just let it go and say this was great first day of camp, and we're all pumped about tomorrow's camp. We're all figuring around 50 or more tomorrow... though we know that God will bring us what He wants us to have.

We loaded up and began the journey back to Stamford, again, with The Warners, Swiss, Coach Tim and Anna Lynn... now the smart thing to do would have been to whip out my script that I had to do tonight, because unlike last night where I had done it before, and just had to remember a few lines, this one I hadn't looked at but twice, ever. EVER. I didn't even really know what it was about. So what happened? Swiss took a nap, Mark and Cindy sat in front, Coach Tim and I chatted a bit here and there, Anna Lynn was just being Anna Lynn.

Since it was a little after 1, and we had agreed to be ready to go to Encounter Church for set up at 3pm, we decided to go ahead and just stop for lunch, instead of going to the lobby and dispersing. Mark parked the van on level 3 (this will be important in a minute) of the Target parking deck. He declared "This van will be pulling out at 2pm. Anyone who wants to ride, be here. Anyone who wants to walk, see you at the hotel." The hotel is only about four or five blocks, so we aren't talking a long way.

Mark & Cindy went to get Mexican food, while Swiss, Coach Tim, Anna Lynn and myself walked down the block. We found a sandwich shop called Cafe Maestro, so Swiss & I decided on sandwiches, while Coach Tim and Anna Lynn walked across the street for Chinese. It was a pretty good lunch, though after adding pickles and olives to my sandwich, it ended up being a $6.50 sandwich, plus the few bucks for the portion of pasta salad I ate. Somehow, Swiss talked me into walking with her to Dunkin' Donuts, so I complied. I mean, its Stamford, Connecticut. I can't let a 17 year old girl walk the streets by herself. What was I to do? We each had a single donut, but we both felt guilty afterwards--me especially... mine had Bavarian cream in it.

Our original plan was to walk back to the hotel, but seeing as my room key was in the van, Target was two blocks away, and it was right at 2pm, we just walked back to the van. I wasn't sure what level we were on, but Swiss knew it was L3. It was. A few minutes later, Mark comes walking to the van, without his lovely wife. "Where's Cindy?" we ask. He smiles and says "She's on the elevator. She was convinced that we were parked on L4, when I knew we were on L3, so she stayed on the elevator to go to L4 just to prove me wrong." He said all of this as he was cranking the van. A phone call came a few minutes later. Cindy was downstairs with Anna Lynn and Coach Tim. And when we picked her up, she didn't have much to say, other than "Well, at least I was downstairs waiting on y'all." I laughed and said "No, Mark, its not that you were right, its that she was downstairs waiting." Mark agreed.

I got to the hotel, changed and laid back. Chuck was already in there, and as I walked by his bed, he just half-smiled and slightly waved. He's in tonight's skit and like me, he kinda sorta kinda knows his lines, but not really. Mark knows them pretty well, apparently. Anyway, I pulled out the computer and had enough time to blog the opening paragraphs to this blog, but then had to change and head to the vans. I got in the van with... you guessed it, the Warners, Coach Tim and Anna Lynn and Swiss. Cindy made the comment that we seemed to have given ourselves van assignments, and I said that tomorrow I'm getting on Gary's van. Gary's van is full, so when I get on, someone will be without a seat, and it will be funny to see them confused... "Uh... where do I sit? What do I do? Who moved my cheese?"

Encounter Church was open, and we all trumbled in. Of course, instead of immediately going to work, we just lazed it up a little and started chatting with Landon. Finally, about 4ish, the group headed out to Cove Island Park to pass out more fliers for the festival tomorrow night--Margie & The Hobbits and Danielsahn have joined up by now. Swiss came back in the room, saying that the van was full, so she didn't mind just staying and relaxing. Chuck, Mark and I started running lines, while Cindy directed... I got the first part of the skit down easily, I was money (pun intended). It was the second part that kept throwing me for a loop... lots and lots of loops. But I figured we'd get it eventually... of course, we were going to do it in three hours, so "eventually" didn't encompasse a whole lot of time.

We ran through it several times while Swiss dozed in a chair. Eventually Alan's family came in, with oldest daughter Courtney the Stairstep Child and the boys, Nathan, Justin and Brandon. Sharon followed soon after, and Landon brought in dinner... taco salad. Right now, Steph is laughing, saying "oh no..." because I'm not a fan of taco salad... well, its not so much that I don't like taco salad, its just that I don't like the lettuce, tomatoes, onions and salsa that go in it... so basically, I'm diggin' on a meat, cheese and sour cream piled on a tortilla. I had one taco for dinner. Sigh.

The Cove Island group came in, as did Abby Lohan and Mama Faith soon after. Hail, hail, the gang's all here. And we ate pretty quickly, finished our set up, and now I had two things pressing on me... this dreaded KidStuf skit that I was in no way even remotely prepared for (I told Chuck if some kids go to the bad place because of this skit, I was putting it on the teachers for leaving it up to me to begin with)... and I had to do the group activity... I had to do "prayer journals". I had to spend 20 minutes or more teaching kids how to keep a prayer journal. I had a group of younger kids at 6pm, and another group of 4th and 5th graders at 640pm... and a skit script staring at me, its bold yellow lines marked mocking me as I moved about. It taunted me.

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Gametime for, l-r, Justin (one of the Stairstep children), Natedawg, Heaven, Frederick, The Hobbits, Danielsahn and Lauren, Landon's daughter

Anyway, I made it through. I worked with the younger kids, including the Hobbits, first. I told them what a prayer journal was, and why we needed it. I then asked them to write down first three things they were thankful for, which most did. Margie and Mama Faith were also hanging out, though I don't know if they just wanted to be there, or they heard me stressing about doing prayer journals for 20 minutes, but either way, I'm glad they were there. Then I taught them to write down a few things they wanted to pray for. Some said "job for mommy", some said "feel better", while little Meagan Eubanks wrote "i want a baby sister". I laughed. I then told her, in front of Margie, "We'll make sure that we all pray for you to have a baby sister." I won't tell you what Margie said, other than to reveal that will probably be an unanswered prayer.

Later, when I told Gary, he said, "You know, I should deck you for that." He laughed and then confirmed that another baby would be an unanswered prayer.

Anyway, that group left, I studied lines for about ten minutes, and then in came the second group of a little older kids. I went through the same schpeel, but this time asked them to write things they loved about God, and then told them how they could go back and compare their journals and see when prayers had been answered. There was this tiny kid named Kevin who is in 5th grade, though I'm wondering if there is some sort of disability there with him. Anyway, I made it through.

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The making of a prayer journal. Kevin is the kid in the blue with his back to you

The KidStuf portion of the show began, and we did the first part of our skit... I actually only missed one line, and I really didn't miss it... I just stalled and made something up until the line came to me, and I flowed right through. The second part of the skit was pretty good too... I had warned Chuck that my last five lines were really tricky, and I kept getting them out of line, so I might just end up monologing all those lines together. And you know what? I did just that very thing... and it did sound a bit rough, but it worked. Sigh. My last lines as Tyler and I can't nail it. Perhaps I shouldn't have said that. Just ignore it, its off the record.

The evening ended quickly after that, and it turned out well. Most of the same kids came back, and they just seemed so loving, and they took to all of us. G-Ann told me that young Kevin, the kid in 5th grade who looks like he's five, was picked up by his mom, and placed in a stroller (clue that made me think something is a different), and she said she saw him open up his prayer journal and just stare at what he wrote the entire way down the sidewalk. Made me smile.

Swiss' fear is that she won't be able to connect, and I kind of have the same fear. I don't mind doing what I'm asked, and fitting in where I can, because its not about warm fuzzies for me, its about salvation, but we all would like to come home and talk about that one kid or two kids that just filled us with joy and all. Perhaps I'll click in eventually this week... if not, I hope that I can just be an encouragement to the team at least.

The night came to a close, and everyone headed back to the Holiday Inn Select--of course, this was after I had to retrieve Danielsahn from a tree, where I almost dropped him. We considered a Starbucks run, but tomorrow is going to be our busiest day so far--early morning wake up and in the Bronx by 815am or so, immediately after camp is over, we have to come straight back to Stamford, grab a quick lunch, then go to Cove Island and help set up... then we actually have the Family Festival to tend to. Then de-brief and clean up after. Then add about 90 minutes to anything I do during a day just so I can get you fine people to read and pray about what you read... not that I mind at all =)

Prayer requests:
  • The big one right now is the Family Festival tomorrow night... pray that it doesn't rain, pray that many, many, many families show up and that Encounter Church can make a huge impact on this community.
  • Rest. Right now, everyone but me should be sound asleep, getting ready for what is to be our busiest day yet. We've got a long day, so praise God in advance that by the time you read this, we'll be rested and already moving through the busy day.
  • Julissa. She's 16 years old, and I talked to her tonight in our prayer journal discussion. She's looking for a job and has not been feeling well the last few days. Pray for a job and for health. This is big, because I told her I would pray for her (which I will)... imagine what she'll think when I reveal to her that dozens of people in Alabama are praying for her by name.
  • Carina. She's a girl who was in Faith's & Abby Lohan's group during camp. Carina is 15 or 16, and is suffering from sort of skin disease or rash she's had since birth. Pray that God would heal her of this, if only to demonstrate the power of prayer to her and her family.
  • Ashley. She's the girl that Swiss talked to, and wanted to volunteer. Pray that she comes back, and that she can help fit in, and if God so wills it, that Swiss can make a connection to her.
  • Obviously, continued prayer for the Upward Camp. More kids. More parents. More connections.

Tomorrow is a long day, as I've said, like, four times. There is a chance that I won't blog tomorrow night, or I'll blog only a little because I might be... well, dead on my feet. So don't be shocked if you see a blog about three paragraphs with promises of more to come.

Remember, God has us here to serve... and he has asked most of you to pray, and I think we all can say THANK YOU for doing so! I know God will address all of these concerns in His time--so don't stop believin'!

Next... NYC'06 Entry #6: Popcorn for Jesus


  1. Hey Dave and Gang- Just wanted you to know I'm praying for you and thinking of you all DAILY! I'm excited about what the Lord is doing through all of you on this trip!
    Hey- does each day have to be SOOO long to read? Hit the highlights...
    You're a great writer though and I've enjoyed it.
    Blessings to you ALL
    P MACK & the B Team

  2. Yeah, unfortunately, it does end up being long--because as much as i love people reading about it, ultimately, this is a site that i can look back and remember details, not just names and highlights... so perhaps i'll just make the highlights in red letters... there's truth in the red letters =)


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