Also... feel free to comment. Okay, away we go with Thursday:
It's the middle of the afternoon, and I'm taking a little break right now. We were supposed to be passing out water bottles at the weekly concert they have here in Stamford (tonight, its The Nerds... next week, they have Hootie. We get The Nerds, we could have had Hootie). However, Landon didn't get to bed until 3am, and most of our team is just wiped out from the week's constant go-go-go, so Mark is letting us take the afternoon off.
Its 317pm, Chuck is laying on the next bed over, passed out and snoring away. I'm probably due for a nap, but I figured I would get a headstart on tonight's blog by blogging the morning.
Nothing much to tell, other than the usual... I hate to sound too blase about it, but truly, it was a good morning. (I just heard thunder outside...)
We got there late because of traffic, which was the first morning this was an issue. No Warners, Harringtons and Kid Sis for me, I rode with Gary! Actually, Kid Sis switched vans too, because J-Bo and Abby Lohan had to ride with Cindy to practice their skit for tonight. So, Kid Sis and I, Mama Faith, Natedawg, Chucky and Gary (my idol) hopped in one van, following behind Mark's van.
ReyRey gives Natedawg a little lesson in basketball
We arrived right at 9am, unloaded our stuff and hit the courts. Today happened again without incident, which again is a God thing, because we are in The Bronx. Cindy and Chuck's group of 1st thru 3rd graders were meeting in a far court, and Cindy said she witnessed several drug habits being fed beyond the fence. Thus is the city we live in.
J-Bo looks on as Mama Faith gives up the jump ball
Upward Basketball gives out gifts to the kids everyday, with Tuesday's being a Bible, and yesterday being a cool, collapsable water bottle. Today's was a Upward jersey, which was a nightmare, because unlike Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship), all of our kids here are all different sizes, short and tall, big and small, which means we needed every size from Youth Small to Adult Medium... doing registration and gift stuff was Kid Sis and G-Ann, with a woman named Brenda from Woodlawn in Baton Rouge.
You could tell it was getting frustrating because Kid Sis was getting snappy, and towards the end, G-Ann was bending over to get something when a bird dropped a bomb on her back. I had to get a bottle of water and spray the back of her shirt down (after I stopped laughing, of course). It still left a slight stain, though I got the clumps out. Pretty crappy, I would say.
Right before we left, the ice cream guy showed up... well, it wasn't quite ice cream, it was more of a creamy ice flavor stuff, but it was awesome. Fifty cents for a small dixie cup, $1 for a large cup, with cherry, coconut and lemon-lime. Coach Tim bought all the kids in the park some, and I treated J-Bo and Kid Sis, and most of us came back for second. Honestly, as much as I want to say God's glory is awesome and these kids are being blessed and so on, the ice cream guy was really my highlight of the morning. I'm just sayin'.
Here is the creamed ice man with his wares
When we met at Graffiti 2 building after it was over, Andrew shared with us about two of the kids... one was Charmin, who last summer was incredibly tempermental and full of angery. Andrew even said that he stood between Charmin and another kid once, getting pounded in the stomach and chest to keep them apart. This summer, however, he's a different kid. God has really worked in his heart, and Charmin's attitude, life, has been changed.
The other kid was Nana, a little girl that everyone loved. Last summer, the weekend after the camp, Nana was with her family at a cookout. Her uncle and another guy got in a fight... shots rang out. The uncle was shot five times, and a stray bullet struck Nana, killing her. Andrew told us this story because one of the last things this girl had ever heard was that God loved her, and she was created by Him. He stressed that the impact we're making on these children is so, so important... and I agree.
Andrew truly is the Mann... he's got a great rapport with the kids, lives in a rough neighborhood and is able to handle these kids great. God's got a great worker in Andrew.
Alright, its about 337... I'm going hunker down and possibly take a short nap. My neck and nose is sunburned (didnt know half-Mexicans could get burned...) and I would like to just chill for a while. I'll be back later tonight with pictures from the day, and the rest of the day blogged...
...a few hours go by, aaaaaaannnnddddd....
...welcome back to Thursday's edition of the New York City 2006 Blog. Six days down (has it really been six days?) and two full days to go...
I was watching Law & Order this afternoon when I dozed off. I actually woke up around 420pm, when the maids came in, and they said they'd come back (they never did--unless Chucky took care of it, we have no clean towels). Didn't have a clue where everyone else resides (I know that J-Bo, G-Ann and Kid Sis are in 736, because G-Ann is doing some laundry and I took her some shirts--oh, and Mama Faith did laundry yesterday, hence the clean shorts I'm wearing right now), so I didn't know where to go... had to be at the church at 5pm.
It's blazin' hot outside. I mean, I'm decently clean, got on some fresh clothes, toss on my backpack and sandles and am off... but have to go back and put on my sneakers, due to the blister I've discovered on my right foot. For the Glory.
And yes, its hot. I'm already sweating by the time I reach the end of the block the hotel is sitting on... and so by the time I've walked the four or five blocks to the Unitarian Church where Encounter meets, I'm pouring sweat. I'm looking around, wondering if its 2005 and we're staying at The Palace again. Immediately I go inside, toss my bag down and stand in front of the big fan (you know how you can position yourself where the air is going directly up your sleeve and blowing across your chest? Yep)
Random picture of Landon Reesor, the Encounter Church pastor, and his lovely wife Christy
Abby Lohan and J-Bo are onstage practicing their skit for tonight's KidStuff drama with Cindy, while Coach Tim and Kid Sis were going over their part of tonight, which is the Good Book Look (the Bible study). I'm dragging like crazy, because I took a nap... Stephanie, whom I miss dearly, can take 20 minutes and is recharged to go another few hours. I take a 30 minute nap, and it takes me seemingly hours to get going again, so I'm sluggish at this point.
One of the fun things about blogging a mission trip in a bar is that you see alot of the same people. The au pairs have been au paired up with their au family earlier, so they're all gone, but I met a guy named Tom who has come through here every night. He asked me about my iPod on Monday night when I was blogging, Tuesday night he came through, shook my hand and said hello, and I told him what we were doing here in Stamford (to which he replied "well, God bless you for that"). I missed him last night, but tonight he walked through, saw me, changed directions and came straight to me. I said "Hey Tom" and shook his hand, and he smiled big, cigar and wine glass in hand, saying "Wow. Thank you for remembering my name!" Seems like a good guy.
I also met the location director for a movie that's in pre-production called "In Bloom". The only member of the cast at this point is Uma Thurman. I only noticed the woman because she had a big stack of papers in her hand, one of which was a script titled "In Bloom". I asked her about it, she told me her name was Noreet (sp?) and she scouts locations for movies, including this one. Apparently, there are alot of them here, because Stairstep just came down saying that she and her family (Alan, wife Missy, and Courtney the Stairstep Child and brothers Justin, Nathan and Brandon) had just been kicked out of their rooms... a movie production group have just rented out 50 rooms for 100 days. So they've been moved to a different room. Ah, money and the things it will buy for you.
Where was I? Ah, blazin' hot, yes. For dinner, we had lasagna and salad, which I just inhaled. Starved, and plus, it didn't cost me $9 for a chicken sandwich. Tried Coke Blak too, by the way--good stuff. After days of doing prayer journals and painting sailor hats, tonight I just got to color. I had a stack of pictures to pass out, and so when the kids came up, we all just colored for twenty minutes.
Now comes the part of the show when God teaches me a lesson... bear with me... this story is pretty much half the blog, but I feel like it's important to tell.
So, remember Julissa? She came to VBS, she's 16 years old, she's the older sister of Kevin. She was also helping out last night at the Family Festival, and talked to Landon about possibly helping to translate the sermons in Spanish. Could be a tremendous part of the ministry, though I don't know if any of us know where she is in her relationship with God, or if there is one.
Okay, so she wants to come with us on Saturday to Coney Island. From the outset of the trip, I knew I was going to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone... my history with this coaster goes back to the 2002 mission trip--quick synopsis... I wanted to ride it in 2002, but gave up my chance in order to connect with a local kid who needed to be loved and ministered too. So in 2005, when we went back, I made it my mission to go ride it, which I did.
So, I decided even if I had to go alone, I would go and ride The Cyclone, and then meet up with everyone. Well, imagine my pleasant surprise when Kid Sis, J-Bo, Mama Faith, Natedawg, Abby Lohan, Anna Lynn and even G-Ann all wanted to go. Well, party on, we'll all go have a good time. But then Julissa said she wanted to go. And I'll be honest with you... I wanted to connect with her, I wanted to give the girls a chance to love and minister to her, but I didn't want her to go. I mean, its our free day, right? We've been exhausting ourselves spiritually, emotionally and physically all week long, so can't we have one day when we don't minister or connect?
Of course, as Christ Followers, we should ALWAYS be ministering, but I'll get to that. So, I've been dealing with this all night last night, all day today. I even asked Landon about whether she should go or not, hoping he'd say "Oh, no, that's not a good idea" and then I could tell Kid Sis that Landon frowned on it, and it was a good idea, but out of my hands. What did he say? "Yeah, that shouldn't be that big of a deal. I mean, she's 16. If something happens, it won't be on you."
Thanks, Landon. I mentioned we were coloring with the kids, so the coloring time was up. The kids left, and I just stayed coloring, thoughts running through my head. And God was really coming down on me hard...
Dave Busby was a renowned pastor and Christian speaker who died a few years ago in a plane crash. Well, one day Dave was speaking to several thousand college and high school students. One morning, he was not feeling well, didn't want to talk to anyone, basically in a really bad mood. He was sitting and eating his breakfast, alone in the corner, not wanting to be bothered, when a youth pastor came up to him. "You the guy speaking, right?" he asked, in a heavy southern twang. Dave looked up, saying and thinking two different things. He said "Yes, I'm Dave Busby", thinking "Leave me alone". The pastor was a young guy, and said he was from some podunk town in the South, and said "Hey, man... you think maybe I could get you to come to speak to my kids one day?"
Again, Dave said, "How many kids you have?" and he thought "I don't care. Leave me alone." The pastor smiled and said something like "about fifteen or so." Dave grimaced. He said, "Sure. Here's my card, you can call my office and we'll talk about it." He thought something entirely different... he thought "Fifteen? Fifteen? Don't you know who I am? I'm Dave Busby, and I'm speaking in front of 4,000 students this weekend, and you want me to travel to Nowhere, Georgia, and speak to your fifteen kids?" They shook hands, the pastor went on, and Dave said in his sermon "The Holy Spirit came crashing on me like a ton of bricks. The Spirit grabbed me, and said in a plain voice 'You aren't worthy of speaking to 4,000 students, and you don't deserve to speak to those fifteen, and don't you ever, ever forget it.'"
And I say all that to tell you what I was feeling at that exact moment. We're here to minister to kids, to the community, to each other. If its in a planned arena like Upward Basketball camps, or Encounter's VBS, great. But its our jobs to minister ALWAYS, on the subway, in the hotel lobby bar... and on Coney Island with a kid that God is putting into our lives and is seeking love and attention. It was as if God, in a semi-stern voice, was saying to me "You are only here because of my Grace... you don't deserve to be ministering my Words to those kids. You don't deserve to be ministering to a single child, but by my Grace. And don't you EVER forget it."
Kid Sis came up to the table and said, "Can I color?" I told her sure, and I passed her some crayons and a sheet. In silence, we both colored our papers, when I put my red crayon down, looked down at the bear I was creating, and asked, "Can I share something with you?"
"Yeah, sure," she said, putting her crayon down on her drawing of fisherman. I then told her what I was thinking of, tolding her how God was dealing with me about my selfishness and how I dared to tell God that Saturday was my day of not ministering to anyone. I then told Kid Sis that I wanted to figure out how Julissa could come, and if it was money, we'd figure it out. I felt like the Spirit was telling me that if I can spend $9 on a sandwich, money that was donated for His work, I could definately spent $21 to pay for a train ticket for someone to be shown the love of Christ. I finished, apologetically.
I truly expected her to be disappointed, saying "Oh my gosh... this is our one chance to do build a relationship with her... maybe J-Bo and some of us should take her somewhere else and do something different."
But she didn't say that. Kid Sis sat back in her seat, half smiled, and said "Yeah... I'm dealing with that too. I've been thinking about not wanting her to come, like, all day today." She confessed to me that her mindset was like mine, that Saturday was a Witness-Free-Zone up until now. She even said that she wasnt sure she wanted Julissa to even come tonight because she'd have to deal with what to say to her, and she was afraid with what she was thinking, she might not be friendly to her, and it was good that Julissa wasn't there.
I laughed, and said, "Well, let's figure out how to get her to come with us. Let's get it down where if she doesn't come with us, its because God shut the door and it was out of our control." After a few minutes of logistics and things, we both sat back, almost relieved that we were answering God's correction with humility. I smiled and said, "You do know now that God's dealt with us both, she's going to come in now, right?" Coach Tim was standing at the window, and we both heard him say a big "HEY!" to someone outside. And we knew it. She and I both looked towards the door, and in a few seconds we saw little Kevin come running through the room, followed closely by Julissa. I looked at my new Kid Sis, she looked at me, and we both exploded in laughter.
God's been doing this to me all week.
So, to finish up the night, it went really well. The drama was good, all of our kids came back, and you can tell by how much they love what we are doing as Heaven's family came in towards the end. Margie asked Heaven if that was her family, and Heaven shook her head no, grabbed Josh the Hobbit's hand and ran out of the room. Turns out it was her family--she just didn't want to leave. Another kid told his parents not to come pick him up, because he wanted to stay.
We had a great de-brief & sharing meeting later on tonight, then I came to blog. I would have been done long ago, except for my conversation with Stairstep, then her dad Alan for a little while, plus other distractions that keep me from completing my task.
So here's the song lyrics for tonight... I thought it appropriate, as He's left me speechless many, many times this week:
Words fall like drops of rain... Your lips are like clouds. I say so many things trying to figure you out
But as mercy opens my eyes, and my words are stolen away with this breathtaking view of your Grace
I am speechless, I'm astonished and amazed, I am silenced by your wonderous grace
You have saved me, you have raised me from the grave
I am speechless in your presence now, I'm astounded as I consider how
You have shown us a love that leaves us speechless
So what kind of love could this be, that would trade Heaven's throne for a cross
And to think You still celebrate over finding just one soul who was lost
And to know You rejoice over us, the God of this whole universe
Its a story too great for words
I am speechless, I'm astonished and amazed, I am silenced by Your Wonderous Grace.
You have saved me, You have raised me from the grave
I am speechless in Your Presence now, I'm astounded as I consider how
You have shown us a love that leaves us speechless
Oh, how great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called the sons and daughters of God We are speechless...
We stand in awe of Your Grace, we stand in awe of Your Mercy
We stand in awe of Your Love, we are speechless