Monday, December 26, 2016

What Do You Do After Waiting?

Yesterday was Christmas. Advent, the season of waiting on Christ, is over.

Or is it?

The whole point of Advent is to remind us to be "waiting" for Christ's return. But so often when waiting on something we hit that point where what we are waiting for happens. Then what?

I was thinking of the movie "Tangled" (it holds a special place in my family's hearts). There's a point where Rapunzel is worried she is about to see the thing she's been waiting her whole life to see. What if it's bad? Worse, what if it's good? What do you live for then.

And Flynn gives a great response. "Well that's the good part, I guess. You get to go find a new dream."

Too often we see living for Christ, or even waiting on Christ, as a single goal. There are so many ways you can wait on and serve Jesus. You may teach Sunday School for a season, or serve in a pantry for a season, or even be still for a season. But in each one, there is always a next step, a new way to wait on Christ waiting for you when this one ends.

So as Advent ends, and that focus on waiting is complete, how will you wait for Christ next?


Monday, December 19, 2016

Merry Christmas

It's my last post before Christmas, all these things I wanted to say have been rattling in my mind. But honestly, all I want to do is pray you have a wonderful Christmas.

So go enjoy it.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Please, Read The Story

I'm begging, for reals this time...

We don't know the Christmas Story. We don't. We know the highlights. We know the things people have added to it. But we don't know the story.

Every year we go over the Christmas story at FIRE & WATER Student Ministries. The Jr. High's do a quiz to see what they remember. The Sr. High's do something different every year, this time it was a play where when you knew what was next you jumped in.

And very few people jumped. While most Jr. High's failed a pop quiz.

Because we don't know the story.

It's really not that long to read. The first two chapters of Matthew, the first two chapters of Luke. Please, don't go off your memory of eight-year-old's acting it out in front of the church. Because you won't know the story, you know the eight-year-old's version of the story.

The perfect line came in a discussion after the play last night. "Every year we do this and I should know it, but every year I realize I don't".

Please, read the story.

(and on that note we started asking what other stories do we think we know but probably don't, there were a lot of answers realizing we know the movies or songs or children's books better than we actually know what's in the Bible)


Monday, December 05, 2016

Is This A Happy Time Of Year For You?

For many people it's not. Don't get me wrong, there's still a lot of Christmas cheer but it gets so busy and stressful we lose sight of what Christmas is all about. That brings on the "Reason for the Season" speeches that don't really help (at least not for me).

But there is a ring of truth in the idea of keeping our focus. Happiness many times is a choice. We can't choose what happens to us but we can choose how we react. And with all that goes on this holiday season there will be many things that happen we can't control or would not choose, but we can still choose to be joyful.

Dan Gilbert wrote a book called "Stumbling Upon Happiness", I haven't read it but I did see a presentation he gave. There was one line that struck me. The level of happiness after winning the lottery and the level of happiness after becoming a paraplegic is virtually the same. How can that be, one seems like the best thing that could happen to you and the other is horrible and we wouldn't wish it on anyone?

Because it's not about the circumstances, it's how we react to the circumstances. In this season we can choose to be stressed out or we can choose to be joyful. We can see a family party as something added to our schedule that we don't want to do or we can see it as a chance to visit with loved ones and let them know what they mean to us. It's the same party, but which one will allow you to be happier?

So as we start to really get into the Christmas season, choose to be happy. Choose to reflect Jesus. Choose to be of glad tidings and spread cheer. I'm not saying it will be easy, but not all choices are.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent Has Begun

Yesterday marked the beginning of Advent. I'll be honest, I don't remember much of this holiday growing up, I think we pretty much camped on Christmas Day (and Eve). But there is a season for many people in which we remember that we are to wait for Christ just as "we" waited for the Christ child to show up the first time.

I hope you will take some time this season to be quiet and "wait upon the Lord", meaning to take time and listen for God, be hyper-aware and really sensitive to who He is. In this season where we have more put on us (holidays, parties, shopping, finals, end of year projects, etc.) it's in this time we have to work even harder to carve out time to just be still, and we need it more than ever.

So in this Advent season, wait.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Be Thankful

Being thankful is a choice. It's not a reaction or an impulse, it's something we choose to do.

Likewise, it's something we can choose not to do.

It may be easy to be thankful this week. It may be hard. It may be forced upon you at the dinner table as everyone has to say one thing they are thankful for (and you better not steal someone else's answer). But the reality is, no matter what, it's a choice. And we can always choose to be thankful.

Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Ephesians 5:20 (NCV)

Monday, November 14, 2016

It's Important How We React

I've heard it from a number of people over the years. You can't control how you feel, but you can control how you act. You can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you react when things happen.

In all that is going on in America, whether "you" won or lost, how about we try our best to control how we are reacting to everything, ok?


Monday, October 31, 2016


This week we are having a retreat where students can ask questions about Jesus, God, faith, etc.

A few years ago we did a sermon series about questions and it's okay to not have all the answers and still have faith.

Here's what I'm wondering, do people think they need to have all the answers to follow Jesus?

Or even better, what are your questions about God? And do you know someone who you can talk to about them?


Monday, October 24, 2016

"Jesus Ran"

Have you noticed this phrase is nowhere in the Bible?

I have found it comforting and something to aim for lately, Jesus was never really in a hurry. Don't get me wrong, there were still outside forces trying to get Him to move at a different pace just like there are in our lives. He felt pressure (imagine what Holy Week must have been like for Him as the celebrity in Jerusalem one crowd wants to see and the other crowd wants to kill). He had people telling Him where to be and what to do (see John 7:2-9 or John 11:1-7). He had crowds following Him staying with Him throughout the entire day (Matthew 14:13-16).

But they never forced His soul to be hurried.

There's a difference between being fast and being in a hurry. There is a difference between having a lot of tasks to accomplish and being overwhelmed by those tasks. Somehow in the craziness that was Jesus' life He was never overtaken by these things. That's why He's the Prince of Peace and can give peace to all of us that feel as if life is choking us with all its demands.

So in this season of busyness (I used to get sick this time of year like clockwork from being tired and stressed), take a moment and rest. Look to the One who is rest.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  ‎Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  ‎Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~ Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG)


Monday, October 17, 2016

Spiritual Health

This was a topic I heard a lot about last weekend (part of why I didn't blog, sorry). It was a convention of people who minister to students and part of the underlying theme (on purpose or not) seemed to be about how to know a student ministry is healthy.

To get there people talked a lot about what seems like a good measure of health but really is not. When someone asks you how your family is you don't respond with, "We're up to 4 members now", but sometimes that seems to be how we measure health. We heard a story about a student who was at everything for their four years in high school, but five years later didn't believe in God at all. So maybe showing up for everything holy isn't the answer either.

The truth is, it's a messy answer. You can't give a one size fits all diagnosis. The other night Lorie was watching a show and a young man had stomach pains, but he was trapped at a house in a blizzard. Luckily the doctor next door came in, but his answer about what was wrong was perfect. "I don't know." He could give some good guesses but without the proper medical equipment the pain could be anything from gas to a burst appendix, or even something more rare.

It is almost impossible for me as an outsider to look at you and judge your spiritual health. There are signs, like the doctor knowing the pain was in the stomach so it's not a broken arm, but to give an accurate pinpoint we need to be able to look inside, and only you can look into your soul. The key is, don't measure yourself with the wrong ruler, perfect attendance does not equal perfect spiritual health.

But you can tell what's right and what's wrong. To do that you will have to be open and honest with yourself, if you can do it...


Monday, September 26, 2016

"Are You A Criminal?"

Pastor Kevin said something the other Sunday that really got me thinking. Too often we hear stories from the Bible and it kind of passes in one ear and out the other because we've heard it so many times. Yet when that story is told in just a slightly different way it can have a whole new sense of meaning.

Like the story from that Sunday. Abram pulling up his tent poles and leaving for a new land. No biggie, it's a story they tell in Sunday School to five year olds. Nothing new. But there was something in the way I heard it that morning. The idea of just packing up and leaving without an explanation in a hurry.

All I could think about was the one time I really experienced this. It was the middle of the night and the people down the hall from me were moving out. It was the last day of the month and I just thought they were waiting until the last second to get out since they paid their rent. But no, they were skipping out on rent. They were trying to get out of their contract and disappear, as I found out talking to our building manager the next day.

So when Abram decided to leave last second with no warning and in a hurry, what do you think his neighbors thought? He couldn't even have said anything about God speaking to him, this was before Judaism or any formal religion. Even with the thousands of years of "church" if you say Jesus told you to do something today you still get weird looks, how do you think they would have looked at him then?

There's only one reason I can think of someone moving in a real hurry and not wanting to explain it.

Are you willing to let people look at you like that if God asks you to do something...?


Monday, September 19, 2016

Relationship Fatigue

We talked a little about this with our high schoolers last night. It's when you get so tired you just can't care anymore. Spiritually tired, emotionally tired, even just physically tired. The relationships around you aren't as important and you can't put into it what you should.

I realized this on Facebook the other day. I just couldn't care. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I hate people or anything. But I saw post after post from people I haven't talked to in a long time, some I hadn't even met but were shared by friends or in groups I'm involved. And some of them were people sharing stories of hurt or requests for help and I honestly just couldn't read any more. Or do anything. So I just quit.

There was a moment of self-reflection after it. Am I a bad person? Why don't I care more? Why am I not a compassionate person?

In that moment I was reminded of something Pastor Jared said a few weeks ago.

Jesus traveled around through all the cities and villages of that area, teaching in the Jewish synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And wherever He went He healed people of every sort of illness. And what pity He felt for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn’t know what to do or where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. ~ Matt. 9:35-36 (TLB)

There are a couple of verses where if mentions Jesus having compassion on the crowds. Someone who could have been doing so many other things that we would see as significant or more important and instead He took time to be with people in their pain and heal them.

What if we all had a little more compassion? Maybe we wouldn't be reaching out to people we hadn't talked to in a decade on Facebook, we wouldn't need to...


Monday, September 12, 2016

Slow The Story Down

This is something I've been thinking about the last few weeks. Last night we talked about a story with our students that many people have heard before (John 13, Jesus washing the disciples feet), but it seems like we go by it so quick we don't take the time for the little details and nuances that make these stories amazing.

A perfect example is in our new way of telling stories, movies. There are so many tiny little details that people will watch them over and over, find "Easter Eggs" and connections and post them on social media. We pour over something trivial like fuzzy dice in the Millennium Falcon (yes, people noticed the dice were in the original movies and the new one) because those details make the story more amazing, more alive, more real.

When was the last time you read a story in your Bible and instead of skimming it because you've heard it before you slowed down and thought about all the details and all the weight they carry like fuzzy dice?

Try it, you may be surprised what you find.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Desperately Thirsty

The other day I was mowing my lawn in incredibly hot weather. I mean hot. Sweat was literally pouring off my head. One of those days that's so hot that you take a shower when you're done and you still continue to sweat because your body is just used to producing it.

After an hour of mowing I went inside and needed water. Our fridge has one of those nice little water purifiers that pours out at the speed of molasses. And there I am standing holding a glass watching it fill up so incredibly slowly. All I could think was, "HURRY UP!" You know what's in the glass is too little to really quench your thirst but how much longer do you want to wait, is a glass half-full okay? I was just so desperate for water I didn't want to wait. It hurt to wait. I needed it now.

As I was downing the water after what seemed like an eternity the verse in Psalm 42 came to mind, as a deer pants for the water so my soul longs after You. Too often we like to drink a little bit of Jesus, we don't really need it, we aren't super thirsty, but it's nice to have a little just to feel good. But are we desperate for Jesus? Do we thirst for Him in such a way that we know a little won't do and it's hard to wait for the depths of His love that we need? Are we willing to yell at our spiritual refrigerator, "Where are you? Hurry up!"

Are we really thirsty for Jesus?


Monday, August 22, 2016

1.5 - 2.5 Seconds

That's how long the average teacher waits after asking a question.

Notice that's not the average person. That's a teacher in a classroom purposely giving a question for students to think about and actively waiting for them to process it and come up with an answer.

1.5 to 2.5 seconds.

When that time has passed, either because they can't wait or the silence is too awkward the teacher will burst in, give the answer, change the subject, elaborate, whatever they do that derails allowing the student to keep thinking about what the answer would be.

Years ago I wrote about how we seem to prize being first over being right, be the first to report the news before fact-checking and making sure it's right or be the first to put up your hand with the answer maybe even before you've had time to think about it. Because we have to be quick. We need to have the answer now. We need to be Google.

When it comes to faith do you allow time for others to think and contemplate and wrestle with the question before you burst in with the answer? For your own questions are you willing to wait for an answer or are you impatiently waiting for God to juts give you the answer to the question He's asking?

Sometimes an answer that has taken time to come up with is far superior to the one that was just shouted it out in less than 1.5 seconds...


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"We Love Seeing The Youth"

This is a phrase I have heard a couple of times from many different people over many different places in the last few days. It seems our church loved the service Sunday, the stories, the singing, etc. which is great! And I've heard people say they would love to see more.

Well, you can.

It's simple, come to a Sunday night and see. Join us for a trip. Be with them in worship. Choose to go and see them where they are.

It's unfair to anyone to say "Hey, I like what you're doing but I don't want to change what I do to see you so instead you change what you do, where you do it, when you do it, how you do it and do it for me when it's convenient for me." These students are amazing and if you really want to get an even better glimpse into who they are, go to where they are. Yes, that means you may have to change your schedule, go to a room you normally don't visit, maybe even sing songs you've never heard before. But you will also get an even truer picture of what Jesus is really doing in the lives of these young people.

Plus, you may realize you like some of the things they do better than you thought you would.


Monday, August 08, 2016

More Stories

It's always fun to see everyone who has read this blog during the weeks of the mission trips. But what makes those blogs so great is all the students sharing their stories.

First, I'd like to invite you to hear more stories. This Sunday (8/14) at Fishers United Methodist Church at either 8:30, 9:45 or 11:00 in the Sanctuary we will be sharing stories from the mission trip and other times we have experienced Jesus at FIRE & WATER. We'd love for you to come out and be a part of that.

But also, be sharing your story. Let's just be honest, we aren't that good at it. Even for myself as a youth pastor, when you ask a youth pastor about their ministry usually the first answer is how many students attend or a rundown of our schedule/what we offer students. You know what would be a great answer? Stories of Jesus moving in people's lives. After all, wouldn't you be way more interested in that over how many seats were filled last Sunday night?

Jesus never wrote a book of instruction. He never wrote a word (that we know of). When God commissioned the Gospel writers they didn't write how-to manuals either. They shared Jesus stories. Maybe we need to start living life the same way.

(No really, you're invited to join us Sunday. We hope to see you there).


Monday, August 01, 2016

Is It Still A Miracle?

The other day in staff meeting we were talking about the nation of Israel when they were wandering through the wilderness. You may have heard that story, under Moses they had to wait 40 years to enter the Promised Land that is now Israel and as they were wandering God took care of them. He provided food for them, manna from heaven and quail to eat. Every morning this food would just appear and be ready for the people to take and eat.

So here's where the conversation got interesting (for me at least). At what point is a miracle no longer miraculous? I'm sure the first day when the people are hungry and this food just appears on the ground they were thanking and praising God for all He has done for them. But after eating manna for 39.5 years, was it still a miracle? Did they go out in the morning praising and thanking God for once again giving them manna or was it simply expected? Was it even hated ("I wish we had something else to eat")?

A few months ago I wrote about a quote from Charlotte's Web, saying yesterday's amazing is today's ordinary. This story got me thinking about that once again. Do we start to take God for granted? What if we saw each breath as a miracle? What if we entered church on Sunday looking out to experience God, realize we are going to sing and worship Him together (and that He's actually listening), that we are going to read Holy Words given to us by God Himself for us to learn more about Him so we can be in a better relationship with Him and that we will have a chance to show love to everyone there by serving them today? What if we thought about what Jesus' sacrifice of love really meant and what He really gave up for us?

Or is it just the same old bread from heaven we ate yesterday and the day before that?


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Leech Lake - Wrap

It's been a few days and we have been home, slept in actual beds, taken nice showers, eaten home-made meals, life is somewhat back to normal. But there's a big takeaway from the trip that I saw and hope others did too.

It's all about understanding people's story. Everyone this past week was put in a place where it was easy to assume what was going on or be upset that people didn't act like we do (or thought they should). Children should have been better behaved. There should have been less yelling. The homeowners should have been a little more appreciative of all the work we did on their house. And since they didn't act like we thought they should have we judge and speculate.

But for some of our students, understanding the whole story helped deal with these feelings. When you see the tiny house that eight people live in it's easy to see why children yell, they've learned it's the only way they can be heard. When you find out that the five foster kids are mad at the world because their father is in jail and CPS just took them away from their mother to live with grandma who really can't take care of them, we understand a little better why they are so upset and take it out on anyone, even those helping them.

Every day we encounter people that we don't understand or who rub us the wrong way. We can't control how other people act, but we can control how we react. By taking time to realize we don't understand everything that is going on in someone's life, that we don't know their story, it becomes a little easier to be compassionate and patient, even loving.

It was a hard week, but hard doesn't mean bad. It was a great week with hard lessons. I hope as FIRE & WATER Student Ministry we learn them and work our best to reflect Jesus to everyone we meet.

But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.  ~ II Corinthians 3:18 (TLB)


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Leech Lake - Friday

We're on our way home! We have stopped for the evening at Lake Street United Methodist Church in Eau Claire, WI (it's the same church we stayed at four years ago on our way home from Minneapolis). A huge thank-you to them for opening their church to us. We're all tired, we've talked about our trip and our stories today help us look back at what we've done. We've had lots of stories of kids, tonight we have a couple of hard working guys. Thanks for all your prayers and support, we hope to be home tomorrow!

This mission trip has been a very great experience. I was placed on the work project group and it was some of the most satisfying work that I have done on a mission trip. We were tasked with the reparation and refurbishment of an old house which involved tearing down old boards and repainting the shutters, window frames, and other wooden paneling and walls on the exterior of the house. On the first day of working, one of the five children that lived in the house with their grandma came out to spend some time with us after some coaxing. She was probably around four or five, and very soft spoken. In fact she never even told us her name. Towards the end of the day she and I played a small little game of hide and seek, which involved me going to the opposite side of the porch and standing in the corner to have her immediately turn around and yell “Found you!” Well, after a couple of rounds she noticed the small purple bead that I had tied to my shoe laces. Earlier in the week we had put these beads on our shoes in order to represent how God always loves us. She asked me what it was for and I told her it was to remind me that God will always love me, and I asked her if she knew that God always loved her. She answered me yes, and even though it was a very small answer and very short exchange, it really had a large impact on me. This short conversation and her recognition that God always loved her really showed me that what we are doing in this community was actually having an impact and a lasting effect. This little girl who wouldn’t even tell us her name was able to recognize that God would always love her, and that was really cool to me. This week has been full of fun, but I am glad to be coming home tomorrow and looking forward to sleeping in a real bed. -Jacob

This week was quite impressive, going in I didn’t really understand what an Indian reservation was like. When I got there I was shocked, the Indian reservation was not anything different than any other small rural community. In fact if I wasn’t told we were going to a reservation I probably wouldn’t ever know. I could tell the community was hurting. Many homes on the outside were falling apart and were in desperate need of work. I knew that we would need to work and work hard. I was assigned to a crew going out to do manual labor. While out there we saw a school that was just sad looking, we saw houses rotting, and kids with no respect for anyone. But one thing I learned was it can be very hard to do the right thing. At one site we didn’t have the right tools for the job and we had to make things work rather than simply give up. I also had to deal with working on someone’s house for two days and then on our way out the occupants came outside as if to thank us or say goodbye but instead presented vulgar gestures at us and went back inside. That upset me but I knew I did the right thing by taking care of those young men’s house and can only pray they will learn to be better people. -Ben

Going into my first sr. high mission trip I was honestly expecting it to be like the junior high mission trips that I did before. It wasn’t. The first thing that was different is that this trip took place in a small reservation instead of a big city. The community on a small reservation of 770 people also had a different culture witch made it even harder to adapt.

The first culture lesson I received was that wearing my Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo hat was probably not a good idea. Luckily I realized this before I hopped off the van and was able to hide my cap in my bag. The second thing I learned is that we were on the hook for harder work projects. During the week we were moving, painting, and tearing apart bleachers at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig school. Fortunately for us the office-staff were nice and gave us doughnuts and candy, the blue tootsie rolls were the best. We worked hard Monday and Tuesday and honestly the people there were surprised that we got so much done. Later in the week we moved on to Mrs. Connie’s house to do some painting and repairs. We were highly underequipped, but we did what we could. The fact that we were able to make do with what little we had, and that we were optimistic about it was refreshing. Our group the “Mystery Moose” had great fun. At Mrs. Connie’s house we played with a hen, Matt gave her granddaughter endless piggyback rides, and while painting Mr. Henke and I talked about old classic movies.

While this trip was different it was great, I guess on my year off I forgot how fun these things are. I also felt like I grew deeper in my faith and I learned a lot that I’m ready to take home with me. I’m definitly glad I went, and I’m kind of sad to leave. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible, Troy, the adults that went with us, and yes and even my mom and dad who woke up at 4:00 on Sunday to take me to the church. -Jacob (not the same one as above)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Leech Lake - Thursday

Hey everyone, today was out last day of serving. We went into the wee hours of the night with our footwashing and praying for each other so cleaning up tomorrow morning should be exciting. Thanks for all your prayers and support and we'll see you soon. Until then, a few more stories from the day.

After learning I would be in Kids Club this week Sunday night, my first reaction was frustration.  Even though I had done a week of it before in Newport, I only wanted to go to service projects, but continued to put a smile on my face to try and seem happy about.  Looking back, I realize why God put me there, despite my prayers beforehand to put me anywhere else.  At the beginning of the week, I met a girl named Mia who captured my attention by trying to take my glasses on the first day (don’t worry I got them back).  Over time, I learned along with Sabrina that she wanted to be a singing, ballet dancing, cheerleading gymnast.  God knows I’m not any of things but my attempts to sing and dance always put a smile on her face and demonstrated I was where I was supposed to be.  Later that week, I had the pleasure of meeting Gavin who was about the opposite.  We played Super Mario around the park all day and I was excited to find out he didn’t want to participate in water day, saving me from being drenched like the rest of my crew.  The thing that stuck out to me most was his genuine curiosity in how the world works and his constant questions, which I was happy to try and answer.  Overall, both of them were extremely difficult to say goodbye to today, and I was silently hoping that the next group will give them the same love and attention.  Both reminded me how God, even when we feel uncomfortable, bends us so that we can still make an impact in another’s life.  In theme with the lesson this week about God’s love for us and our response, I would have to leave saying thanks to Troy (and God) for putting me in this group where I know I made a difference in two kids’ lives and making two new friends. -Evan

Looking at the job list on Sunday night, the only thing I could think was that I am NOT a physical labor kind of girl. But just as I always try to do, I aimed to go into the first day with a smile. God treated me well this week to say the least. The heat index was supposed to be between 95 and 103 degrees, but we ended up with breezy clear skies with plenty of shade. As I spent the time scraping paint off of old wooden posts and painting the ceilings of smelly boys locker rooms, I started to realize that the company I was surrounded by and the positive attitudes of everyone I encountered was going to make my week fantastic. I started to realize day by day that this trip and this job was exactly where God wanted me to be. It pushed my comfort levels and patience but I made the most out of it. One of the houses I had been painting, edging, sanding, and scraping for a few days was finished today and sitting back and seeing how far that house had come was so rewarding. As hesitant as I was when Troy placed me in this group with this work, I am so thankful that God placed me here. -Lauren

My day started out at the Outrageous Sports Camp where we played basketball with the older kids and tag and other outdoor games with the younger children. While I was disappointed to hear I would have to interact with other human beings at the beginning of the week, it turned out okay in the end. I ended up becoming good friends with a girl, Alaina, and that was a good thing to know leaving the site today.  When coming into the site I had feared that I would not be able to have the patience required to handle children, especially those who were around my own age. But my friendship with Alaina changed that. I am no longer fearful of working with kids. This is one more reason why I am grateful for what this trip has provided me with. Once we left the site we went to our work project where we pulled weeds so that the carrots could grow for the Bemidji Food Shelf Farm. The work we did there was very visible, so it filled us with a sense of accomplishment when we finished up. Once we came back to the high school we had free time and an afternoon activity and then we went into the foot washing portion of the evening. The foot washing ceremony is one of my favorite moments of the year because I can talk to my friends while I feel at the peak of my closeness with God of the week. It is a great feeling to interact with your friends at this time because it is the end of the long week of hard work and you experience a closeness which our time together and with God has brought about. I am so very grateful to have come on this trip, however I am very happy to be coming home soon. -Rachel

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Leech Lake - Wednesday

Another great day of serving. Enjoy the stories and we hope to see you soon!

When I heard Monday that I was going to be at Outrageous Sports Camp all week I was pretty excited. To say the least I’m pretty exhausted with one day left. But most of all Monday I didn’t expect to leave the camp today with makeup on my face. There’s a first for everything in life, and this is one of them. The kids there are so fun and energetic, and it’s overall just a great time. While I wasn’t the happiest to have makeup put on me (they held us down) they just seemed to be having the best time. I guess I managed. –Adam

So it’s my job to work with kids. I thought it would fun playing games and sports with them. Well I was completely wrong. The kids are 5-16ish years old and that is a big age gap. Adding on to the age gap problem the kids we were working with were complete nightmares. They would scream, hit, bite, etc. to us. They didn’t seem to know the word NO. Then Troy took us on a detour on the way back to our living space. We saw where the kids were living and only a portion of what they had to go through at home. There would be over 6 or 7 kids living in one tiny home and they were all either cousins or siblings. Maybe there would be a parent to take care of them but the majority of the kids are taken care of by their older siblings or a grandparent. We now could understand why the kids were acting that way. They just wanted attention. A thing that they craved and much needed. So we gave it to them and they calmed down and listened. We had a rough start but now the games are going much smoother. Oh, did I mention the game of the kid’s choice was basketball? (Matthew you would love to be in my group.) They had some pretty sick moves and broke at least everyone’s ankles twice.

Ok, back to the parent situation that the kids were going through. We spoke to a person that was part of the native tribe there. She explained to us that the parents drink and do drugs because the things the white people did to their ancestors. It makes so much sense to me now. She told us this was the seventh generation and the children should be better and spread their culture. I hope the children do.

Today we had a cookout and some of the community came out to eat with us. I decided I wanted to sit by 2 elders of the tribe. They had a lot to share. They shared their view points on the world and the TV shows they watch. Did you know they know who Gene Autry was? If you don’t know pour ice water on your head to wake you to the world and look up on Google the greatest cowboy who ever lived!!!!! At the cookout the “people” (that’s what the Natives want to be called) got into a drum circle and sang songs in their language. Earlier in the week we learned a Native dance and we danced to the music. I was dancing the shawl dance but without a shawl so I just looked like I was flinging my arms around. It was so much fun (we got in trouble because apparently we disrespected the dancing circle. I found out it was because one of the girls picked up a child and was dancing with her in her arms and that was a big NO NO). On our way back we stopped at Dairy Queen and the ice cream cones where payed for by the church. So I made sure that I got a large cone. When we finally got back we did our usual Jesus time but at the end of it all the worship leader told us that he would sing more Christian songs for us and it was awesome.

Sorry, it late and I’m just not that coordinated but I’m going to tell one more story about our trip. So I swam in the Mississippi river in my clothes. It wasn’t planned but I was like when will I ever get another opportunity to swim in the Mississippi. I of course was the first one in then everyone followed me. I regretted my choice as soon as I had to ride to our sleeping area in wet cloths. Not only was I wet we were battling a major storm. I couldn’t see the road and lighting was all around us. I thought I was going to die! I finally couldn’t take it anymore and I passed out. Which is what I am about to do now so Goodbye and wish us good luck for our trip back home. (sorry for my spelling and grammar right now it’s 11:30 at night and lights out was at 11:15) -Emily

Hi. Day 3 of service is over. Today, as a part of the Mystery Moose crew, we went to a woman’s house and did various remodeling that all was to come together to paint the areas we had scraped, washed, and replaced. It was supposed to be much hotter than it turned out to be, so with a breeze, it was perfect (Yay God!). We started out scraping away loose paint on the shudders, deck, and basically everywhere paint was chipping. Some of the boards just beneath the roof were decayed and rotten so Russ (the adult from another church) and I nailed in new boards.

The best part of the day of service was probably this little girl. She was one of the five grandchildren Connie (the lady whose home we were working on) takes care of permanently. I never learned her name but she was probably about five. Anyways, I gave her a piggy back ride. It lasted for about 45 minutes and consisted of me sprinting around the house and yard and hearing her squeal with excitement all while everyone else was busy doing the work we were more sent to do. It really made me feel good to make her so happy because, living in a one “parent” home with five other children, I am sure she doesn’t receive significant attention. I am very excited for tomorrow because I am hoping she remembers me because even though I was very exhausted after running so much, I was very happy.
Finally, tonight we had a little bit of extra worship time. Russ had brought his guitar and has been the worship leader all this week. We sang about 6 more songs and it was a very uplifting experience. Everyone sang like they didn’t care who heard and in between songs we had times of praise and silent confession, and overall it was just a very freeing moment.

Just one more day of service tomorrow! Praying that it goes well and that we are able to keep doing God’s work. See you all in a few days! -Matt

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Leech Lake - Tuesday

Sorry for the delay, we had quite a night last night. Upon leaving the headwaters of the Mississippi River we encountered a small storm with torrential rain and 60 mph winds that wreaked a little havoc on our big bus and trailer. So we drove a little slower and got home a little later meaning the students didn't get a chance to tell their stories until the next morning. But here they are, enjoy and we hope to see you soon.


First I’ll tell you the story as to why this blog is happening this morning. Youthworks is doing something a little different this year with one of the evening activities. One night a week, the churches are free to do whatever evening activity they would like to do, with only their group. We decided we would go to the very beginning of the Mississippi River! It started out so innocently, picking up pebbles from the bottom, climbing over rocks and taking pictures. Needless to say, we all ended up drenched, and had a 45 minute drive back to the high school, in the midst of an immense thunder storm. When we got back, the youthworks staff members were kind enough to let us use the showers again, but it was also 11:00, which is lights out time. No time for blog! Wasn’t that a fun adventure?

Okay now for the real stuff. This week started out as a challenge for me and a few others. I found out what I was going to be doing for the week, and was excited to see that I would be working at the kid’s club! I’ve always loved hanging out with and loving on the kiddos in the places that I serve, but this time it was a bit different. The first day, a lot of them weren’t open to building new relationships with these people that they knew were going to leave them at the end of the week. I felt like I just couldn’t do it. I prayed and prayed that God would help me figure out a way to give these kids the attention and love that they need, without making them upset or uncomfortable. Luckily, the second day, the kids were much more accepting to our presence! I got to play with more kids and when we lead the story time, they were extremely attentive, and could even answer 2 questions after! It just goes to show how much God has been working in Cass Lake these past 13 years. The children know that God will protect them and that He is the one we rely on in times of worry and stress.

Yesterday, I also had the opportunity to work in a garden that serves fresh foods to the community. This is really great because at a lot of food pantries they get canned and processed foods, but here they can receive locally grown greens and veggies! We had the job of laying down hay to keep in the moisture and smother the weeds for the plants. It was really satisfying to physically see the progress that we made. I’m excited to see what the rest of the week has in store! (Today is water day at kid’s club! yeet) Thanks for reading the blogs and keeping up with our adventures in Cass Lake!

Halfway done! -Grace

P.S. Mom we get back around 5 or 6 on Saturday.

Hey friends!

This week I have had the opportunity to work at the kid’s club. Having worked with kids on a mission trip before, I expected it to be just like last time and for it to be a breeze, but I was so wrong. On the first day, it was difficult to get any of the kids to open up to us and hang out with us; they mostly just wanted to hang out on their own and had no interest in anything we had to say. Going back on our second day, I was slightly discouraged, expecting none of the kids to listen to me. It was the exact opposite though; the kids were so much more willing to listen to us and play with use! Yesterday, they were willing to hear the Bible story and answer two questions about it afterwards!

Getting all of the kids to open up was great, but the most exciting part of the day yesterday was when one kid willingly started a conversation with me about God. This little boy had talked to me for at least half an hour about a video game he plays. Of course I had no idea what he was talking about, having never played this game, so I was smiling and nodding. At one point though, he mentioned how he had built a castle in his game that he said no one was able to see, except God who could see anything. This sparked a conversation with him about God as he began to ask me questions, such as why does God get to see everything and talk about the amazing things he knows God does. It was amazing to hear such a young boy, no older than six, already have so much faith and knowledge about God! 

I am so excited to go back to the kid’s club, especially since today is water games day! Thanks for reading our blogs! -Katie

Yesterday I worked at both the outreach sports camp and a food pantry that grows their food on site. It was the second day that I worked at the outreach sports camp and on the first day the children and teens we worked with were trying to act out and not listen on purpose. But, on the second day we worked there we figured out they were acting out for attention so if we ignored them when they were doing things they shouldn’t they would stop and we could go and talk to them later. After figuring that out things went significantly better after we figured that out. -Alex