Wednesday, July 26, 2006

NY'06 Entry #6: Popcorn for Jesus

HOLY SMOKES. When we--and you back home--prayed for our Family Festival to be a success, I somehow knew it would be a success. I didn't know, however, that it would be... well... A SUCCESS. God was absolutely amazing in all aspects of the day today, showing his favor and love and grace to all of us... we'll get to that.

First, I'll shoot through the morning... I mean, I could go through minute by minute (which Paula Mackey loves, but that's unfair to just ramble, even if it is my website) but really this morning was kind of like yesterday morning... I was actually going to go to Starbucks this morning, but I couldn't get myself up. Not after getting to bed last night around 1230. Hey, I do it for you people. =)

We got to Graffiti 2 on time, and started setting up for the morning... yesterday we had about 35 to 40, this time around we had about 50 or a little more... so many that the question "at what point will be cap the number of kids in here? 60? 100?" We decided around 80, if we do in fact have that many tomorrow.

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Cindy taking the kids through Upward Sprinking Camp

Kid Sister's girl that she talked to yesterday, Ashley, didn't come. But alot of the other kids did come back. Some of the things to mention:

  • Chuck & Cindy & Shannon from Woodlawn have one kid named Aubrie. Apparently, last year, he did nothing but roam the courts and hang out at the fence all day, never participating. This year, however, he's been all about playing some ball.
  • Speaking of Cindy, remember the "Upward Sprinking" joke I made yesterday? Yeah... Chuck and Cindy let their kids do basketball drills through the Daisy Sprinkler. It was hysterical.
  • Gary, my idol, asked later what we figured kids in Birmingham would ask for in prayers... we said stuff like "cars" or "latest (blank)". He said yeah, thats what most kids would say. He said in his small group, however, one kid said he prayed for "friends" and another said "for justice". Sure there is a story there.
  • Met two of the park guards, one named Yvonne and the other we didn't get a name for. I was talking to Yvonne and she was telling me about her family. She mentioned she was 50, and that she had several kids, the oldest being 38. She just kept talking about the rest of her family, so I didn't do the math until a few minutes later. I was a little taken back. Maybe I shouldn't be.
  • Funniest part of the day for me was when I had to get some info for a chick named Angie from Woodlawn in Baton Rouge. We had a kid get a small scrap on his knee, but for our safety, every injury has to be documented, no matter how small. So, I walk over to the Upward Cheerleading area where Angie is, and ask her to step over to me. I smile, and say, "So, like, I know we're on a mission trip... but like, can I, uh... can I have... can I like, maybe have your phone number?" She gave me the strangest look that I've gotten in a long, long time--and that's saying something. I did explain to her what I needed, though. Worth mentioning.
  • Gary also had another kid in his group named Justice, who right before scrimmaging with the group, asked if he could pray first. Gary said "Yeah, man!" Justice then prayed "God... help us win this game. But if you don't... then I guess that's okay too."
I'm sitting in the hotel lobby, and it just occurred to me that they are about to have live music, as I see one guy with a guitar. I guess that's what I get for blogging the mission trip in the hotel bar. For the glory, baby. For the glory.

We packed our junk up and headed back to Stamford, where we all grabbed a quick lunch wherever. I ran upstairs and changed clothes... as much as we talk about how hot it was last year, its now starting to get just humid enough and hot enough here (and is supposed to get progressively hotter as the week goes by) for the people who didn't go last year to actually have a legit argument when they say "its hot!"

I ate at the Daily Grind (cost me $9 for a sandwich and a water, and another dollar for a Mounds bar) and waited for everyone else to come down. Around 230pm, we piled in the vans headed for Cove Park Island--I actually rode with Gary & Margie and one of the Hobbits, and Tim & Anna Lynn jumped in too.

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Oh Chuck... you think you're hot, sweaty and tired now...

Landon was already down there, as was Alan, his wife, and the stairstep children. Landon was driving a big U-Haul truck, with a trailer attached to it, and Alan had his van, all full of stuff. We began setting up little by little, putting up collapsable tents, setting up tables for food, unloading all the food, the grill, hauling out the moonwalky things (they're called bouncies or bounce-houses, which actually makes more sense than "moonwalk") and all the other fun things needed to put on a festival.

It took well over an hour to set up, and we still weren't quite done when 4pm--the start time--came around. Give you the picture... we've got two big tarp/metal frame tents side by side, with three tables running across the front, and one on each side. BBQ grill in the corner. About twenty yards to the right and up of the tents is another tent, our "registration tent". Directly in front of the two big tents, about twenty yards, is a row of chairs, each with supplies for games set up in them... games like "ring toss" and "hula hoop challenge" and other stuff. On the left side of the tents is the two bounce houses, laying flat on the ground.

I grabbed a hand truck and walked around the main field--and this is a huge, huge field, mind you--and gathered garbage cans to place around the perimeter. Though its good to be safe, apparently the health department had given Landon and Encounter Church a big list of stuff they had to abide by, like no food sitting on the ground, even in its packaging, coolers had to be drained of melted ice water at all times, that water itself had to be dumped in bathroom sinks and not just on the pavement or grass, people couldn't get any food for themselves, we had to hand them the hot dog and bun on a plate and so on.

Just looked around and saw a chick from earlier in the day. I saw her on an elevator earlier, very attractive, very classy, going to a business meeting. Now, seven hours later, she's being held up by a guy in the entranceway because she seems like she's too drunk to stand on her own. Such is the world we live in. Sad.

We set up the food stuff under the two big tents, and Tim took over the grill. I was elected to do popcorn, because somehow I slightly remembered how to do it a year ago, while Cindy was doing sno-cones. J-Bo, Mama Faith and G-Ann were manning the hot dog buns next to Coach Tim's grill, and Gary, Margie and Abby Lohan were going to do registration to begin with. Kid Sister was doing chips and Natedawg was doing the Oreo cookies (we had to serve people both of these normally accessible items). Landon wanted everything done by the book because we wanted no room for anyone to say anything.

Across the field, there is a guy who runs the Cove Cafe, which sells drinks, hot dogs, burgers and other beach type foods, and he's not happy. You can imagine, because he makes his money selling $3 dogs, and here's this bunch of church folk giving food away for free. Landon talks to him for a while, and he seems to disappear for a while.

So, 4pm rolls around, and we've got a problem. The bounce houses are still flat on the ground. The generator provided for us isn't working, and not only can we not inflate the inflatables, we can't run the sno-cone or popcorn machine. I look around, and we have maybe a dozen or so people who have shown up. Truth be told, I'm praying for 100. We'll see.

Another generator arrives, they hook it up, they still can't get it to work. I walk over and watch what's happening, then I take a step back and utter these exact words: "Father God... I pray you bless this afternoon and everything that walks within our sight. In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, I banish any of Satan's demons from this area, that these generators will work." And when I said the word "work", instantaneously, I saw Landon leap up with his hands in the air, I hear Mark yell "Yeah!!" and I hear the roar of a generator engine. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my life. God rocks my face off.

So we got the extension cords stretched, plugged in the sno-cone and popcorn machine, and we were off. I poured in the oil and kernals and waited for it to pop... then the plug came unplugged. So we plugged it back in, and a few minutes later, the generator somehow was switched off (Cindy was yelling across the field for Chuck or Mark, as you could see one of the inflatibles come uninflated with kids in it... it was kind of funny), and when it was switched back on, I finally, FINALLY, had my popcorn. And we rolled.

And the people started coming. And coming. And coming. And coming. And coming. And coming. Then, more came. It was absolutely unbelievable. G-Ann and Mama Faith are trucking out buns as fast as they could go, Coach Tim was putting on dogs by the dozen, J-Bo was over there helping, Kid Sister and Natedawg were tossing those chips and Oreos, I was filling popcorn bags like crazy, and Cindy was throwing down on the sno-cones. She had a line like you'd see at a movie theater concession stand, about ten kids deep, for about ten or twenty minutes... it stopped when we just ran out of ice. So a few guys went to get ice.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Here's the field from a distance... I had to walk back a bit to get everything in. Right about now is when the people really started pouring in.

It was amazing just watching this area just fill up. Even things that seemed to be bumps in the road, like when the Cove Cafe guy came back, ended up working out for God's glory. The guy said that he normally makes 300 to 400 in a typical afternoon, but he had made $15 since 4pm (it was around 630ish when he came back). Landon told him he'd write him a check for the difference. The guy said that wasn't necessary, but Landon said "Look, man... we want to come back, and we want to keep favor with you, so whatever we can do to establish and maintain a good working relationship, we want to do it." They talked for a while, and seemingly came to an agreement that they would work out when Encounter came back. Landon said later that he plans on sending the guy a $500 check.

I finally took a break, leaving the popcorn in the capable hands of Natedawg, and had a dog myself... actually, two. I went and sat in the middle of the field, looking all around me, and had tears in my eyes. It was so amazing, all of our prayers, all of your prayers, God's plan, God's wonderful, beautiful plan to give us a gorgeous day with the breeze blowing, a team that was put here for a purpose one by one, it was so joyous and beautiful to see it all come together.

In order to eat, all people & families had to do was fill out a registration card, sort of like a communication information card that Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) has. They got a green Encounter Church rubber wristband and were free to do whatever. Around 7pm, Gary said they had a stack of cards several inches thick, and Landon told us later he estimated at least 300 cards with about 500 or 600 names on them.

What's more, all through the evening, I could overhear people asking about the church, where it met, what it was all about, the location and so on. Remember Julissa? She was in the prayer requests yesterday--she lit up with a smile when we told her we prayed for her. And tonight, she ended up helping run some of the games and such, and later ended up serving popcorn.

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This is the food tent... at around 745pm, when were running out of just about everything.

I helped Landon's wife Christy do some face painting, but not for long. My hand was too shaky, I felt too jumpy and excited to sit still. Besides, I've face painted before... the early requests are "stars" and "hearts" and "rainbows"... by the end of the night, its "can I get a puma perched on a bedrock of slate, waiting to pounce on a gazelle, with ravens flying in the background?"

Through the course of the evening, we all switched places doing different jobs, though Coach Tim stayed with the hot dogs on the grill and Mama Faith and G-Ann kept with the buns and condiments.

If I can be personal for a minute... I needed to see this happen. Not that my faith was lacking a miracle to make it click, but I am so revitilized by tonight! I teared up three different times, first in the field, then talking to Todd and Sharon and Kid Sister, then later talking to Coach Tim, just at the amazing blessings God was pouring out on us. All of our work passing out fliers, which most of us didn't even want to do, all of our prayers we gave to Him for this one night to go decent came to frution in dozens of connections made by Encounter Church to the community, tons of good will built up with the people there, further connections made by us to some of the VBS kids and other adults, hundreds and hundreds of information cards, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and more names that Landon now has to work with... I just smiled for hours and hours on end.

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Me and Kid Sister (named so because everyone else on the trip has family, so I claimed her as my own)... We're both wearing smiles we can't get rid of. She's starting to enter the pantheon of "love this kid" kids that before only Garrett, Kourtney, Laura Posey and a few select other have approached.

By 7pm, we were already out of ice, and had to send someone else for more--making this the second time we were out. We loaded up all three coolers full of the last drinks we had, that being a few cases of bottled water, a few cases of Cokes and some Diet Coke, and by 730ish, before they even had time to get cold in the little ice we had, they were gone. At 740, the mustard was all gone. The ice arrived, but the drinks, save for a few Diet Cokes, were all gone. I spent much time running all over the field trying to gather garbage cans with a hand truck, because all the ones I had gathered were overflowing. People were still registering at 8pm, when we were shutting things down. I saw one family sitting in the grass, eating hot dogs and sipping watered down sno-cones... as I passed by, I smiled, and both said "Thank you for doing this. Thank you so much."

Of course, then we had the fun part--the tear-down process. Didn't matter... I was so happy and overjoyed, I could have loaded that truck by myself... it might have taken a while, and eventually stolen some of my joy, but it was awesome anyway. Across the bike trail, in another field with a covered area, they were having a clambake (I know this because when Courtney the Stairstep Child and I took water that was draining from the coolers to the bathrooms there, I saw the clams). I was so thirsty, I just walked over there in the middle of their party and asked for water. Saw a granny shaking her jelly and throwing down on the dance floor. If you still can move it, then do so, I guess. They gave me a bottle of water.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty for Jesus, as Abby Lohan, Cindy and Justin the Stairstep Child found out... notice the big red stain on Cindy's shirt as well... it's all sno-cone syrup.

I wasn't going to blog tonight, but I told Chuck that I couldn't keep from blogging... no matter how tired I was, I had to write about this night and its glory... God's glory.


  • We'll have a chance to talk to Yvonne and the other park guard tomorrow
  • One of our kids, Darnecia, has tonsil surgery tomorrow. I don't know if we'll see her again, but I hope it goes well.
  • That Cindy, Chuck and Shannon will have more success dealing with their 1st thru 3rd graders.
  • Even though Ashley didn't come back this morning, my new Kid Sister (Emily) spent some time talking to a woman during the festival... I didn't get any info, but pray that that connection will lead to something God-filled.
  • Finally, that Landon will have some support and help in following up with all of the new information leads he has to work with now.
And appropriately for the night:
There's a stirring deep within me, could it be my time has come?
When I see my gracious Savior, face to face, when all is done
is that His voice I am hearing, "Come away my precious one"
Is He calling me? Is He calling me
I will rise up... rise up...
and bow down
and lay my crown
at his wounded feet.

Thanks to Brooke, Ryan & Melissa and Jason T'bow for the encouragement. Good night.

Next... NYC'06 Entry #7: Speechless

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