Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ramblings on NYC 2007

Ramblings about Nazarene Youth Conference 2007 in St. Louis, MO

What a typical day looked like:
Wake up at 8-8:30am and grab breakfast
General session from 10am à 12pm
1 - 5pm Tracks (Football, painting schools, topical, film, music, sports)
2 - 3pm small group time within tracks
5 - 6:30pm dinner
7 - 9:30pm general session
10 - 11:30pm free time (Jimmy Johns)
11:30pm District meeting
12 - 2am Bedtime (hang time with Kory and Dylan in hotel room)
Sleep was very welcome at this event because you were exhausted by the end of the day!

The messages:
First message was the best. It was Greg Stier talking about what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. He made several good points about Jesus and what it means to really know Him. Toward the end he asked if anyone wanted to know Jesus in a personal way. Those interested he asked to stand up (one of our students stood proudly too her feet).
Friday morning’s message with Reggie Dabbs was second best. He focused on letting go of our past and not letting it dictate our future. He had a powerful testimony to this. He was created when his mother slept with a man for $20. He was honest with us and serious.

The theme for the week was Water, Fire, Wind
Water = God’s grace (baptism) poured out on us (we literally felt this!)
Simulated by snapping of fingers
Fire = God’s power (burning bush) at work within us making us holy
Simulated by shaking our NYC books
Wind = God’s Spirit leading us to serve others and put our faith into action
Simulated by rubbing hands together

The last service we took communion together (10,000 students). Services were well balanced with audience participation and the hearing of God’s Word. The last service was similar to a Catholic or High Church service order. We were constantly on the move. We would stand to sing, sit to listen to a short homily, and then stand to read God’s Word. There were a few times during the week when the service order made things really hard to follow, but overall it came together nicely in the end.

Saturday morning’s message by Princess Zulu opened our student’s eyes to the hunger problem around the world. The real icing on the cake moment came when they announced that all 10,000 students would be eating pourage (ground corn similar to grits) for lunch. Our students were pretty surprised and a bit upset. That was there meal for the day. During this time everyone was given a story (we had Ruth from Africa) about a person suffering in a 3rd world country from malnutrition and their struggle to survive. Ruth had been diagnosed with HIV. It was a sobering experience. Our experience made us eager to do something, so we signed up for 30 hr famine as a youth group activity. We put our faith into action.

How NYC challenged us:
It forced us out of our comfort zone. I kept reminding our students that NYC is about breaking barriers and getting a person out of their comfort zone. What are some of the ways this happened? Everyone from our District was split up and paired with others from around our District they didn’t know. They were also in rooms with others from our District they didn’t know. They were also in different tracks with others students from all over North America they didn’t know

The results of this were amazing! I witnessed leadership from our students that I have never seen before because they were forced out of their comfort zone.
We all made some great new friends because of this. Which is one of the things NYC is about. Meeting new people, making new friends, and doing new things.
We also had the awesome experience of sharing our faith with others and worshipping God with 10,000 students. That was powerful!

NYC asked us to do something about our faith. To put our faith into action. Several of our students did this. Beth brainstormed ways to help the homeless. Dylan felt God calling him to start a worship band. Kory, Brooke, Sarah, Becca, Beth want to put on a retreat for the junior high students of our church.

Our student’s responses and actions:
Worship time was awesome! All teens in the Edward Jones Dome (where the St. Louis Rams play) and adults got into and it and were worshipping God with all their hearts and minds. It was an incredible experience to worship God with so many people.
All students (especially ours) adapted nicely to the challenges (e.g., being grouped with others teenagers they didn’t know) presented by NYC.
Students enjoyed small groups with people from around the country. Small group time was during tracks, which took place in the afternoon. Our students opened up and shared with others struggles and how God was working in their lives.

Our students were eager to lead in prayer (normally I have a hard time getting them to pray out loud in front of others) but I noticed towards the middle of NYC they were all about praying in front of others. Several times I hadn’t even closed my eyes before they started praying. They prayed for meals out loud. They prayed for children growing up in Africa with AIDS and little food out loud. They prayed for communion out loud. They prayed during the services out loud
We did a lot of praying!

God was really working in our hearts collectively. The Nazarene church, as a whole, gave so much food we had enough to feed double what we expected! Our students participated in the feeding of 10,000 families. How did we help with this? We gathered in a very large line, grabbed a box, filled it with cans of fruit, vegetables, pastas, bread, meat, and some snacks. Each student was asked to write a special message to put in the box of food for the family. I was impressed at how serious they took this and the messages of encouragement they wrote down.
One of the things I noticed in our students was a change from focus on self to focus on others (the group that went is eager to serve and do something for God)

Their minds were opened and challenged and they responded. Our students agreed to commit to a 30 hr famine for World Vision and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (which for the 1st time ever teamed up and now work together. This happened at NYC 2007!)
NYC helped us get closer as a youth group

Fun activities:
Exhibit Hall
RC cars
Jimmy Johns
Horse and buggy ride downtown St. Louis
Visiting the park and walking around
Meeting new people
Acting silly and hillbilly
Sitting in the hot tub together for one night
Going to a mall as a District to hang out and shop
Bus ride (fun for some!)
Going home (missed my wife and daughter)

Friday, July 06, 2007

An Eerie Moment

I decided to take the dog for walk last night around 9:30/10pm. We walked through downtown Bluffton to the Wabash River. This is only about a half mile from my house. There’s a part of the Wabash River off to the east of Main Street (Highway 1) that people fish and sometimes camp out at. There’s an old trail, big enough for a car to get through, which leads back to this area. So, I decided to take my dog (Boston Terrier) and hike back it a little. I found an old fire ring where somebody had camped out. I stopped to check it out and then started looking at the Wabash River (a natural thing for a fisherman to do). I took a few steps toward the river when something caught the corner of my eye.

Turning around I cringed as my eyes made contact with the outline of what I thought to be a big mountain lion. I saw a big round head and pointy ears with hair on them looking right at me. The beast was about 15-20 ft away from me and when it noticed I had looked towards it, it crouched behind some dead trees like it was trying to hide from me. It appeared the creature was moving towards my dog and I and my look had upset its stalking (if that’s what it was doing). I immediately thought to myself that I needed to get out of here and fast.

My first instinct was to tighten my dogs leash and walk briskly back to the trail. I did just that, but when I got to the trail I literally ran for my life (I didn’t scream). It probably looked funny, but I didn’t care. I ran up the hill I had walked down and up to a lady reading a book in her car. I probably scared her a little. I told her about what I had seen and she let me use her phone to call the cops. The cops arrived and asked me some questions and used their big car spotlights to shine down the trail. They didn’t see anything (I’m sure my call will be in the police notebook in today’s paper if you’re interested).

This morning I woke up and wanting to be sure I wasn’t a crazy lunatic or seeing thing, I drove back down to the area to look for tracks. After looking around for several minutes I came across some bizarre tracks. I sent a picture of them to my cousin (Silas) who has hunted mountain lion to see what he thought. He said he had seen some mountain lion tracks and this looked just like what he had saw out in Idaho when he was hunting for them. I looked up some cougar tracks online and sure enough they matched the tracks I found. It was an eerie moment to think a mountain lion/cougar/puma was possible stalking my dog (which had no idea what was going on the entire time) and me. I’ve never been this creeped out before. I’ll try and post the pics of the tracks I took pictures of sometime soon. So, if you live around Bluffton be careful!