Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A New Pair of Glasses

One more post and we're all caught up, people.

Since I've written about what I did, I'll talk about what I've learned. I'm sure a lot of it is going to sound super cliché and typical, but I think a lot of the time things are cliché and typical for a reason. And you know what? Because I like how simplicity makes things significantly easier, I'm gonna be really straightforward.

"If you are saved by Jesus, you are part of a global Family."

I've said it before, but it's so worth saying I'll do it again. We serve the God of the universe, which certainly includes the whole of planet Earth. We are part of a global Church, it is our global Family, we are part of the Body. All those descriptions are whole things, yet when I was confronted with my outlook before I left or the majority of those in the States (at least what I see), I see a weird, totally unbiblical apathy to/distance from our distant fellow Christ followers. It doesn't even have to be that far, I see it in comparing churches across the street from each other. When was being a part of THE Church traded for being a part of a specific congregation, like it's some fan club and you can't support another church as being part of your Family? Of course, we have to use wisdom in who we support, but this is kind of ridiculous. Let's make it stop, people.

"Never outright judge people, you don't know them."

I am so guilty of this. Not that I would hate people, or even deny them opportunity, but I would absolutely assume what they were like before I got to know them. As if I, a tiny human, could know the depth of personality or knowledge or integrity in another person. Of course, you do get a sense of what someone is like based on how they CHOOSE to present themselves to the world, because the choosing says something. Would I trust a super tattooed guy who listens to his screamo music super loud and swears like a sailor to teach a fifth grade small group? Heck no. (Sorry, potentially super tattooed, screamo listening, swearing, potential Reader.) But I can't assume that's all he is, he could possess exceptional generosity or honesty or compassion for all I know. I'm simply saying that impressions only get you so far, and in no way tell the whole story. Once again, wisdom is fantastic.

"Missionaries are just like *insert whatever your job/role/education/status/disposition/skillset/interests are here*."

This is something we hear and agree with in our heads, but we hardly ever live with it as truth. Is it something special to "be a missionary"? Sure. But what makes it special? That we would "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness" and really treat Jesus as Lord. When we say, "the Lord", that's a pretty serious deal. A lord is served with honor by his subjects of their own will, who seek to meet his purposes first, or he tells them to do something, and they do it. To be a missionary all you need to do is follow Scripture: "love the Lord your God", and obey what He's commanded. So to be a missionary really just requires that you love God and serve Him, which we should be doing everywhere.
(Side note: This is not a copout paragraph to feed how people to flippantly say, "Well, I serve in my church," and do nothing more. If you're not going, you're supporting. But if you call yourself a "supporter" and God tells you to go anywhere, even if it's just across the street, you'd darn well better do it.)

"Quit complaining."

Seriously. Let's stop it, please. It accomplishes nothing, breeds laziness and selfishness, and makes us soft. Wimps. If you complain, you're a wimp. If I complain, I am a wimp. Jesus was not a wimp. We need to stop complaining and start thanking God for what we have. Whining about things is a slap in the face to a good God who has blessed us with every good thing we have, and continues to bless us despite our ridiculousness.

"Stop looking through a screen and look with your eyeballs."

Some background about what brought it to my attention might be good, I suppose. For the first month in Panama, I decided I was going to go without any form of communication/media from back home. That meant no Facebook, phone calls, email, news, whatever. And in this time I had the purest times with God, enjoyed new sights and sounds more, and just overall applied myself to life. We waste our time on our technology and use it to escape into a cheap, laughable copy of what we want out of life, rather than striving to actually live. Bored? Get out and do something you always say you wish you did, like running, or learning an instrument, or find a solitary place to talk to God and give Him the attention He deserves. Speaking for myself (because speaking for others in this coming statement would be kind of harsh), if I don't find something to do it's either straight up can't because I'm stuck in an empty room on the bottom of the ocean, or I'm lazy. And I don't think I've ever been stuck in an empty room on the bottom of the ocean.

"Stop freaking out/caring so much about...stuff."

Really what I've been learning about this is how wrapped up we get in stupid things. Petty arguments, preferences, what whoever said about whatever and how much we disagree with it. Too often we (I keep using this word because I'm included here) take up some cause or situation as our cross to bear without stopping to think if it's really worth it in the end. There are real things to get really upset about, like when Jesus actually DID something about the moneychangers in the temple (an actual problem worth his time). Jesus did something about whatever bothered him, or else it wasn't something he needed to jump into. We need to pick our fights for the glory of God.

"The 'all things' in Romans 8:28 means exactly what it says."

That's why it says, "all things". Nothing coming down the pipe surprises God, even if it's a bad thing like war or illness (...or a lost passport), and He works everything out for the good of those who love Him. I don't know about you, but I'd sure like to be one of those who love Him, because if you believe God is who He says He is, you can bet on that promise. On our end this means (aside from loving God, as it says so explicitly) to be teachable in all things, no matter what, and to choose to remain thankful. So hang tight and take God at His word.

So there you go, the main things I've learned since flying off for Panama until today.

Good golly. That took forever. And I see I'm quite fond of parentheses, run-ons, and a blunt writing style. I'll think about changing that, but no promises.

Onward, to serendipity.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Panama in Retrospect, Part 2

I'll just start right back into it:

We needed all the peace we could get in Chiriqui because as my journal says, " is the day outreach really began." We had arrived in Changuinola. It was a unanimous decision amongst the team that this was the most trying time we had, and we were lucky it was only three nights. We left the Chiriqui base on the 28th of April in a van driven by Scott (who was the man, by the way), and after crossing the mountains to the north, we arrive in the town of Changuinola. We hopped out at a diner of sorts where we grabbed a quick meal and waited for "El Pastor" to show up. Before he did though, we unloaded, and it was here I heard what I now see was a word from the Lord. He said, "Dude, you should probably double check to see if you left anything in there." And I said, "Meh, someone else will check." In hindsight, that was a stupid thing for me to say.

We said farewell to Scott, who drove away with the van, and eventually El Pastor showed up. I have no idea what his actual name was, but he was a nice guy. Our leader Rodrigo hopped in with him in his curiously shaped, tiny van, and the other eight of us split into two truck taxis. We were told we were going to Pastor's house, but when Pastor's van and our taxis go two completely different ways, I was a little perplexed. Then we came to a police checkpoint on the road. He walked from my side of the car over to the driver's, then opened the back driver's-side door where my three teammates were and said, "Passports." It was then it was brought to my attention that was what God had tried to get me to double check for. Luckily my astute reaction was ignored by the policeman, who must not have spoken English, for I immediately exclaimed, as I stared into my backpack, "I left my freaking passport." The officer checked everyone else in the car but me, and waved us on.

Let me take a moment to emphasize here: The guy checked everyone except me. Who knows, perhaps he just thought I was taking too long? But regardless of why things happened the way they did, I "lucked out" big time.

Eventually we stopped at a house and assumed it was el Pastor's, so we unloaded and wound up sitting on the front porch area while the family that lived there kind of gave us sideways glances and went about their business. I admit that I sat steaming at myself for a while, but eventually I distracted myself with hypothetical zombie survival questions with my team. Always a good fallback. Rodrigo eventually showed up and I alerted him about my lost passport, and I guess Pastor's little car was broken, because we were kind of on our own for the rest of the day. We walked down the road a short distance to the school we'd be helping at and the little general store, then came back and ate what we could for dinner. I think it was spicy noodles. By then the sun was down, and we were promptly attacked by the marauding hordes of beetles. Hundreds of them. Nights in the upstairs room we had were pretty interesting, seeing as there were only curtains for the door and windows, and a five inch gap between the walls and the ceiling. We also found out it was very unfortunate to have to use the restroom at night, as the toilet only halfway worked, and the bathroom, with its rusty metal door and leaky pipes, was reminiscent of a prison.

Daylight proved that it wasn't just the beetles that were notable. To use gaming terms, it was like everything leveled up and I didn't. The wasps, centipedes, and even grasshoppers were two to three times bigger, jet black, and had red pinstripes. I got stung by one of the wasps through my shirt, and had a small crater in my shoulder even until I got home about four weeks later. And I'm not even exaggerating when I call it a crater, it looked like someone took a mini ice cream scoop out of me.

But, onto ministry. Only being there for a few days, we applied ourself to repainting the school, as the staff simply did not have any time. We scrubbed and painted all day, every day, and got a lot of hard work in. Changuinola may have been the least comfortable place we went, but honestly, it was where we all laughed the most. The company of my team members was such a comfort and a privilege, and I really caught sight of how great they all are. If you guys from team Panama read up to this point in my quite possibly overly long post, I love and miss you all.

The last day we were there, Rodrigo returned from visiting Bocas town where we'd be heading next on the island of Colón. We were just finishing up with the painting project, and gathered around in eager anticipation. Annie asked if he found a place for us to stay over there, and he said, "No, but we'll be leaving anyway." We all rejoiced at this news and Rodrigo says, "Oh, I also found this, I think it's a passport or something," and tosses my lost treasure to me. I breathed a mighty sigh of relief and felt the calm I hadn't had since I lost the thing. After another night in "the Room" (in which we burned WAY too many mosquito coils), we were on our way to Bocas.

After a bus ride and then a water taxi, we walked out onto the main street, and clomped over to the nearby Golden Grill to get some lunch while Rodrigo found us a place to spend the night. It was here I saw that the menu was in English. Things just kept getting better when Rodrigo brought us to the hotel a very short walk away where we had both wifi, AC, and private restrooms. And the beds were glorious.

While in Bocas del Toro, we definitely had to learn to adapt and make things happen, as there were no pre-existing ministries to jump into, and we had a lot of empty time on our hands. Along with checking out the villages on the surrounding islands to gather information for the coming YWAM base, we did some street ministry and (the most interesting part of the trip) had a bible study with a guy who called himself Elwood. I've never spoken to anyone who calmed the Bible "wouldn't let him read it", and he stretched our group for sure. But even through the confusion and twisting of scripture we witnessed, I was encouraged when I saw how we could withstand the trial and draw close as we discussed the spiritual truths that had been called into question.

Being in the big travel destination that we were, however, we did get to have some fun too. We got to see Starfish Beach, Cayo Zapatilla (the island where Survivor was filmed), and my favorite, visit a missionary family, the Woods, on Bastimentos. God has absolutely smiled on them and blessed them immensely in what they've been doing with the native villages. They are a model of patience, perseverance, and joy, and a real blessing to everyone they meet. While we stayed with them, they treated us to some of the best food I've had in my life, showed us around the property the YWAM base would be on, and by far my favorite part, gave us a tour of a bat cave.

After our 18 days in Bocas, our outreach officially came to an end. We left Bocas on a water taxi and took a bus south across the mountains to a mountain town called Boquete in Chiriqui (how good it was to be back there) where we had done street ministry before, and got rooms in a hostel. We spent one day here for debrief with Rodrigo, as he was heading off to visit family when we left for Kona. And then finally, having made our way from Boquete to David to Panama City, we spent the night at the base there and rode to the airport the next morning. We bid our leader farewell, and we were bound for America.

So that's the super condensed version of Panama, and of course, I've left out a ton of names and places and sights and sounds (like the fact the number one use of a car horn in Panama seems to be honking at gringos). But, I did my best to share the events that took place, perhaps I'll go into what I've learned in my next post.

Onward, to serendipity.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Panama in Retrospect, Part 1

Holy goodness, it's been forever. I had to read my own blog to figure out where I left off. I'll try not to do that in the future.

Brace yourselves, folks, this one's a two-month long story.

Alright, Panama. What a big topic. We left Kona on March 23rd, flying to L.A., then Dallas, and finally Panama City. According to the journal I kept for the length of the trip, I didn't sleep at all on the plane, yet I somehow managed to stay awake and take in the sights and sounds once we arrived. I "could feel the moment my (assumed to be endless) sweating started."

There was just so much new, it was fascinating. For starters, Panama City was blistering hot, and the humidity was up there. But then Panama as a whole is a pretty conservatively dressed country, so we "gringos" were definitely out of place, with our t-shirts and shorts in stark contrast to the dress shoes, jeans and formal shirts of the people. And still we sweat more than they...I think. Needless to say, everything was Spanish from then on. The traffic was amazing. To me, a sensitive, pampered, American motorist, it was pretty much anarchy, and I've never been so scared of being hit by a car in my life. But then, they are SO much better with their vehicles than Americans are that I eventually came to trust them (with due reservations, I assure you.) Ah, I can't leave this out: with so many people and no sense of environmental stewardship, the place was absolutely TRASHED. Garbage everywhere. EVERYWHERE. I'm not ragging on Panama when I say that my concept of cleanliness had to take a back seat for our stay there. Next up was the ridiculous contrast between the wealth in the skyscrapers filled with offices for foreign companies, situated a mere block away from the hovels of the poor. I had anticipated this difference, but I was not prepared to see the two extremes so close to each other. The thing that stuck out most to me, however, isn't so much the clothes or the temperature or the driving, but what I saw of the people.

During our time in the capital we helped with many ministries, but to start, we had to get a feel for the place. So, Andrea (our fantastic host) took us to a hill called Anćon that overlooked the whole of the City, from the Old Town to the booming business district. Looking out over this bustling metropolis she said, "Alright, so we're all gonna pray and ask about the needs of the city, and just try to listen for what God's telling us." So we prayed individually for about five minutes, and I thought the Lord was telling me about families. Specifically, the disconnect between fathers and their families. Looking back now, that really was God showing me a need: Panama as a whole needs help with its fathers. The times I saw dads investing in their kids were woefully few, and the times I saw and spent time with kids (particularly boys) absolutely desperate for attention from a father-figure were too many to count. To have such strong convictions and be upset about the state of the family in America, and then getting this wakeup call in Panama really got my attention. If you could join myself and the great missionaries and church leaders I met down there in praying into this issue, it would be very much appreciated.

So I mentioned ministries, and Panama City definitely had the most for my team and I. Over the course of the sixteen days there, we did street evangelism (called "treasure hunts", you basically just show up in the city and say, "God, where should I go?" and see what happens), helped at an elementary school (attention starved kids that speak a different language than you are extremely difficult to keep in their seats, let alone teach what "yellow" means), visited two villages (I held a man's head as two of his teeth were pulled), shared about our mission and our testimonies on two radio programs, and helped out at the Panama City YWAM base. And it was here that we learned our frequently performed skits. I gave it a fair shake, but I still loathe skits.

My personal favorite was our visit to the prison in Gamboa, El Renacer, or "Rebirth". Fitting, for a prison ministry. (Side note: Manuel Noriega, the dictator of Panama that was captured in 1989, is held there.) Pastor Bill Wilbur has been leading a ministry there for years and has a small church established among the inmates, and when he invited us along, I was definitely all for it. I thought to myself, "This'll be great, we'll show up, get to pray for these guys, share some testimonies, encourage them, and I'll get to say I've been to a Central American prison." Yes, we did all those things, but I was completely unprepared for what they did for us. After we sang a hymn together (it consisted of singing hallelujah over and over, but it was good) and did our thing, the mic went to them, and they matched us. They gave their personal testimonies, they prayed over us, they encouraged us, they blessed us just as much as we blessed them. These criminals, these who were brand new Christians, and doing time in a prison, because they were in Christ, could do everything we could do. Never assume you are more godly or competent than the newest Christian, and pray against the favoritism in you that you cannot see. Going into this ministry showed me an assumption I'd made without realizing it, and God blessed me immensely through the experience, showing me even more of Himself and of the Family I have in Christ.

So, on the ninth of April my team hopped on a double-decker bus (which was pretty cool, and nicer than a U.S. airplane), and went for an eight hour ride to the City of David, in the province of Chiriqui to the west. We were picked up at the bus station (buses are a pretty serious deal in Panama, so it's quite busy, and reminds me of a train station) by a YWAM Chiriqui van...and I soon found out Chiriqui is, geographically speaking, one of my favorite places. Pine trees and crisp, fresh air were a welcome change from the hot and hazy city, and David was suddenly the model of cleanliness. To us, the Chiriqui base was an absolute paradise. I slept in my hammock every night, and even got too cold a couple times. Looking in my journal, I described the dog there as, " actual dog, hefty and huggable". It was glorious, and my spirits soared.

While at the Chiriqui base, there were less opportunities for ministry, but we still managed to stay busy. We helped with the conference celebrating the anniversary of YWAM in Panama for a few days, visited a nearby boys home a couple times where we did our skits, played soccer, had a bible lesson and shared testimonies, visited a nursing home, and the guys built a cold-room (basically a walk-in refrigerator) for the base. Chiriqui was the perfect place to recharge, and we certainly needed it...

And now that I'm looking back at this post, it's long enough. This'll have to do for part one, and look at me, ending with a cliffhanger. As if I know what I'm doing. (In all seriousness, ignore all grammatical and/or structural mistakes here, I'm just trying to catch up at the moment.)

Onward, to the serendipities in part two.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ready for Panama

It’s certainly been a while, so I’ll just jump into it.

Since my last update, it’s been mostly routine weeks of lecture time, work duties, ministry stuff, and outreach team meetings. I love every part of this. I’ve been learning so much, about myself, Jesus, people, the Great Commission, forgiveness, all sorts of things. Aside from that, I have managed to slip one adventure in, more tame than the others, but still fun. Mikey took Andreas, Matt, and myself to a coffee farm south of Kona called Dragon’s Lair where he used to work.

The way there was pretty interesting… We got up to Walmart to wait for it, finally getting on 20 minutes late. Then, we rode around town for a while, only to see it make a stop 45 minutes later right in front of our building. Oh well. We ride on until we finally get dropped off at a town just at Captain Cook, just a few miles from our destination. We spy a pizza place, grab lunch, and walk just a short ways before we see one of the guys from around Kona next to a truck. The guy’s name is Cool Raoul, and he tells us to hop in. Always wanted to knock “Get a ride in the back of a truck owned by a guy named Cool Raoul” off my bucket list.

He dropped us off at the coffee farm, and I have to say I enjoyed that more than I’d expected I would. After a tour of the farm by Mikey, I saw the trees starting to blossom and grow coffee cherries, learned all about the process of getting to the actual bean, as well as the roasting process. The owners even invited us into their home, and we all sat around the kitchen table, drinking Kona coffee and talking about life together. It was a peaceful blessing, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Aside from this, the only other notable thing to talk about is my outreach team. As I’ve said before, I’m loving being a part of this unique group of people, and I can’t wait to get out and in the thick of it with them. It was just last night that we all had a Panama pizza party, eating as a family and just having fun. I am expecting for things to catch us off-guard in Panama, but I believe trials are a chance to grow, and I look forward to doing it with them.

I guess this brings me to the last topic, which is our “officially unofficial” plan of action. As it has been from the beginning (whether I knew it or not), this is still subject to change, but I think I can give relatively accurate information now. We fly off to Panama City on the 23rd, where we’ll stay until April 6th, helping with ministry at the YWAM base there. Then, we head west to Chiriqui to do the same there until the 26th. After that, it’s off to Bocas on our own until May 18th, which is when we’ll be working with the native villages on the island of Bastimentos, which is where the new YWAM Ships property is.

When all this started, I thought I knew what Ships was like. Ha, I thought I'd be on a ship. And when God said Panama, that went out the window, and was replaced by imaginings of wild jungle and finding villages. Now, with the new information I have, we're moving around, and visiting the already known villages, in places already scoped out by missionaries. Sure, these weren't YWAM missionaries, so we will be pioneering in the sense of building rapport for the people that will be working at the new base. But still, that was quite a change.

Seeing as change seems to be pretty common in life, it's something to figure out how to deal with. In praying about this, bringing my in-the-moment, real disappointment to God, He showed me something: my view was so narrow. I mean, the stuff I'd looked forward to was just what I'd thought of, which is never so creative and exciting as what He has in mind. I've a habit of simple planning. It's a good thing God takes it from there and throws a wrench in the works. Imagine if I went back to my home church, to my friends and family, and said, "Yep. Everything went just like I thought it would. It was great." How boring.

Bottom line, I'm totally psyched to do this new, improved trip, and I wouldn't change anything back. I've seen the Lord get me here, and the rest of the team, and then change it as we've gone, and I know He'll continue to do that while we're over there. Awesome stuff is going to happen, the way will be prepared for our futures, and we'll learn more about what God's like. And I can't wait to get started.

Onward, to serendipity.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Crazy Stuff Continues

So, I've an adventure to share. But first, a short bit about what the days since the last post have been like, and what I've had brought to mind.

This whole past week has been about identity/worldview, both of which are things I was pretty sure I'd had pretty good knowledge of, seeing as I've taken classes and read books and stuff before. Apparently I didn't have as good of a grasp as I thought I did. And I rather enjoyed it.

This week's speaker was Joseph Avakian, a very expressive, creative person, and every day at the end of class the whiteboard looked like a mix between a large scientific diagram and a colorful rendition of spaghetti. One of the things that really struck me during his teaching, and the thing I dwelt on for the remainder of the week, was that God made you and He made what you like so He must think the two are good. I know it sounds like I'm being rather stubborn about it, and I probably am, but I generally shoot down the stuff I like as trivial or impractical, a thing to be forgotten so that you can focus on better things. Yes, I spend time on it sometimes, but I always cringe thinking of how much time I've "wasted" daydreaming. But why shouldn't I daydream? Why shouldn't I come up with worlds and creatures and ruins and maps and stuff in my head? Aren't I made in the image of a ridiculously creative God? Of course one should be able to focus and be productive, but shouldn't we be able to imagine as well, and enjoy the stuff that we are just drawn to as unique people? We're all different, after all. So now that I've got that to go off of, the next question is what to do with my particular imagination. I'll let you know when I've figured it out.

Onto my adventure.

A couple nights ago, my friend Kelby comes up to me in my room and says, "You want to go camping?" Of course, I said, "Heck yes, when and where?" So, he told me of the plans he had to get out past Waimea to a place called Pololu Valley with a group of people. I grabbed a morning sailing slot early in the morning on the next day, and was good to go. Matt, Amanda, Kaden, Tyler, Sarah, Jessica and I payed $2.00 for a bus ticket, and we were off.

And then we screwed it up and got off when we shouldn't have. The closest we could get now was Waimea on a bus bound for Hilo at four. So we waited an hour in a Little Caesar's in Kmart (didn't know they had those in there) and hopped on, deciding that we'd have to hitchhike the rest of the way. According to our navigation device as we were walking down the road once we got to Waimea, it was a mere 14 miles. According to the actual route I just looked up, it was 28. Yeah...

So we split into two groups, Matt, Amanda, and Kaden in the back, Jessica, Sarah, Tyler, and myself in the front. Of course, within half a mile of Waimea, the back group gets a ride from a pickup truck. I said, "They'll stop and pick us up too, there's a ton of room in the back." I ate my words shortly, our group smiling wide as they left us in the dust. Fantastic, thank you very much, totally feeling the whole team thing. After we quit staring down the road and thinking rather indignant thoughts, we walked on. And on. And on. Finally, after the sun set and we'd been walking in the dark through the hills together, someone actually stopped. "I really only picked you guys up because it's dark. I mean, it's D-A-R-K, dark," he said as we piled into his car, thank-you's abounding. Along the way, we find out his name is Mike, he owns an internet dating site, and is all about finding your inner self and letting your inner Chi and love of the universe flow through you. Interesting guy, but nice enough. He ended up bringing us even up to the parking lot outside of our trail, and we thanked him again.

Kelby and Teddi had gotten there that morning (Kelby is the luckiest unlucky person on base, his whole weekend, every weekend, is free. My gosh.), so we headed down the switchbacks with a couple flashlights to see if we could find their camp. For how low our visibility was, we made it down the rather steep grade with pretty minor injuries. Then we went a-hunting for Kelby and Teddi's campsite. After awkwardly stumbling up two a couple campfires that we were very much not a part of, we saw a headlamp, and found it belonged to Kelby. We followed him up the hill to find that they had run into five mission builders from campus, and we all just got to hang out. There are fewer things cooler than running into random people, not even being able to see their faces, but being at ease because they love Christ. After talking for a bit, and running out onto the beach when the full moon came out to silhouette the cliffs and shine off the waves (it was absolutely surreal), we went to bed.

Kelby woke me up at 6:30 so we could hike a trail up to the ridge, along with one of the mission builders, to see the sunset. Another amazing time I'll remember. Eventually we got back down, where we found Matt, Kaden, and Amanda wandering around on the beach. By the way, the beach is made up of black sand. Super cool. Anywho, we run down there to get the story. Apparently the guy that picked them up told them he'd only be able to get them a little farther down the road, so they'd basically leapfrog us, and it wouldn't make much sense to grab us. But then the guy changed his mind, and said he could get them much closer to Pololu anyway if he just took them where he was going, which was a different route. When they reached the town, they wound up spending the night on the porch of a coffee shop. I decided to be thankful for the way things turned out for my group.

Seeing as they just got there, Matt, Kaden, and Amanda were loathe to leave with us and the mission builders (who had a truck), and decided to hike around the valley for the day while we took off. Sarah joined them, and they left as we packed up camp. Kelby said something about the waterfall mentioned in my last escapade, and they said we should go, so off we went. Three in the front, seven in the back, it took us an hour and a half before we reached the bend in the road and pulled over. Scrambling back down the fallen trees for the second time, we found the waterfall was much less powerful, but the pool was just as clear and blue and we had a great time jumping in from the rocks.

Then came the most amazing part of Hawaii yet.

Someone decided to climb up the rocks past the waterfall, and discovered there was another one hidden behind it, and yet another behind that. The second had a pool at the bottom even deeper than the original one we discovered, and was even deeper, and the third was absolutely beautiful, running down a wall of old masonry above a overhang that made a sort of cave surrounded by rocks and shallower pools. My gosh, it was amazing. We swam, jumped, stood in the falling water, and climbed around on the rocks, all completely secluded and off the beaten path. I even worked up the guts (after watching three other guys do it) to jump off the rock face about 25 feet up the second fall into the pool below. Freaking scary, but so much fun.

But, eventually we had to call it a day and climb into the truck once more. I'm pretty sure that was my favorite day here thus far, full of good times and meeting new friends, and I look forward to (hopefully) getting over there again soon.

And now I'm off to bed. this week promises to be abnormally busy, which is saying something. Our speaker also promises to be unique, today he scratched his topic seconds before starting because he felt God telling him to speak on other things, to offer us guidance. He said that this is totally a first time thing for him, and that the Lord must have something special for our group, which I've heard repeated over and over. It's really starting to get my attention, and perhaps even make me nervous. What could God be up to? I guess we'll just have to find out.

Onward, to serendipity.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Whatever Comes to Mind

Well, I suppose it's about time I check in this week. But, I don't exactly have anything of particular importance to talk about, so I guess I'll just type up whatever comes to mind.

The second of February marked the first full month of my being here. It's been the slowest fastest month ever. There's always so much packed into a day, but a week goes by in a flash, and you've scarce got time to catch your breath and gear up for the next. It's all fantastic, mind you, but it's taught me something I'd wondered about myself: I love being alone sometimes. I'd always thought of myself as a pretty social guy, always ready for the next group thing or conversation, and that my "quiet place" could just be in my head. A lot of analytical, uninterrupted, fearless thoughts on everything and everyone goes on in there. But I'm learning just how healthy time alone somewhere is, both to keep a good attitude and focus through the day, and to maintain depth of connection with God. He's a person too.

Speaking of people, I'm really quite impressed with those in my DTS, including the staff. I have heard multiple times that the students here this time around are just a different, solid group, and I think I agree. Perhaps it's just something that's said every quarter (I'm a wee bit cynical, in case you didn't know), but perhaps it's not. I just get the feeling that this very unique bunch of people is bound for something very important, not just as outreach teams, but as individuals as well.

Which reminds me of my ridiculous urge to do something completely trivial. My inner nerd has been trying REALLY hard to break out these past two weeks. Seriously. All my daydreamings are of The Legend of Zelda, Tamriel, places to visit in Middle Earth, zombie survival plans, what the world would be like if we were still back with swords and bows and horses, alien invasions, the works. Even the time-consuming void that is Minecraft has made it into my imagination. (Don't worry, Rachel. I count Minecraft with you as time well spent.) Keep your head in the game, Levi. Or is it out of the resolve weakens further.

And now that I've thought of resolve, I must say, it's frustrating how I've let myself slip regarding exercise. Lack of time (or poor prioritization, not sure which) makes it difficult, but I'll have to change something. Perhaps the horrible agony of waking up early is necessary. Another thing I've found very difficult is finding time to write letters and emails. It's totally new to me to have to write my family for their birthdays rather than be there in person, so I'm still learning how to do that.

Ah, I'd almost forgotten to share about my outreach location. Basically, the DTS as a whole gets split into outreach teams, all going to a different location. To make things "blog official", I'll be going to Panama, to the Bocas Del Toro area. I hesitate to say officially what we'll be doing, because everything is always subject to change until it actually happens, but I've got an idea. Being the first team into this new location, we're basically the recon. My team and I are looking at going out through the jungle to find indigenous villages, totally off the grid and unrecognized by the government, so that we can map the location, as well as find out information like leadership, health concerns, etc. This will provide the information needed for any future teams to minister effectively (which I just might be able to be a part of). This is adventure, folks, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

I suppose the last thing I have to share is the classroom topic this week. The focus has been biblical study, and we went through the book of Philemon. We were shown methods of simply observing scripture, and how to keep from any preconceived notions. It was amazingly empowering to learn how to know my God's word, to know how to come to understand characters and customs and context. There is a heck of a lot more in Philemon than you see in a single read, and my thoughts on it completely changed.

And that's what I've got. I'm excited to see what God might have for me next here, in this "spiritual greenhouse", as I've heard it called.

Onward, to serendipity.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hearing God's Voice

I suppose it's time to post on a specific topic again.

My days are pretty unique here, but they follow the pattern outlined in the last post, so it probably won't be very interesting to go into all the details for everyone. But, what I can say is that throughout this time, I've been learning and experiencing more and more of hearing God's voice. I'm seeing how true it is that this is a major theme in YWAM, that it's really how they operate. All different bases, all over the world, all run by different leadership, but all listening to the Lord. It is this last thing that brings unity not only to YWAM as an organization, but to the Church as a whole, and it's been very cool to see how I fit into that.

I've always been the hardest person on myself as far as my faith is concerned. That fight to be better and striving against my own shortcomings is super useful, of course, but it has a flip side. As with anything, too much of any one thing skews one's perspective, which in this case kept me from seeing a side of God's character: His being my Father. He does not want to be some mysterious, silently benevolent ruler, we've got a whole book from Him telling us what He's like to show He wants to be known. He wants to be our "Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15), our Daddy.

While God IS the Teacher, that's not all He is, and living like that's all He is robs me of my relationship with Him as His son. I had only thought that sanctification, which I wanted to see so badly in myself, came through lessons taught and applied. But as I lived this way, I forgot that fathers (and particularly THE Father) love to spend time with their kids. Your Dad loves being with you, Levi. Super simple. A son becomes like his father not just because his father teaches him, but because he lives with him, by watching him, talking to him, listening to him, and enjoying things with him.

This last point was made very clear to me when one of the speakers here asked us to close our eyes, and imagine we were four years old. Just a little kid again. And then he said, "Now imagine you feel a tap on your shoulder and turn around and see that it's God, and He says He wants to play a game with you. Now play with him in your imagination." I'd never thought of this before, and it was one of those moments that just made sense, like that was how it's supposed to be. Try it some time, be a four year old kid with God. It's interesting to see what you end up playing.

As I've gotten to know Him more, I've learned that God can (and does) talk to you pretty frequently, through all sorts of ways (He spoke through dreams to Joseph, and of course there's Scripture, for example). Maybe not in the way you'd like, but if you seek Him and don't "cherish sin in our heart" (Psalm 66:18), He WILL respond. We see this plainly in Matthew 7:7-8, and that is immediately reinforced in the next three verses, 9-11. Figuring this out has shown me not only the times the Lord has spoken to me in the past, but it's woken me up to how often He's spoken to me, how much I could have been talking to Him, and I didn't hear Him. And I was frustrated that He wasn't speaking? How foolish of me!

But, God is faithful, and all is forgiven. So, now that I'm on my feet, as it were, what's the real, practical difference? It's in prayer, of course. When you hear and get to know your Father, and align yourself with Him, His wants become your wants, His dreams your dreams, you love what He loves, and you hate what He hates. This means putting yourself aside, humbling yourself, and asking, "Lord, how should I pray?" And He'll tell you. It's amazing. I saw a picture of a little girl in an orphanage recently and asked Him what I should pray for, and got the urge to pray that she would have crayons. Crayons? Why would I think of crayons? I don't even like crayons, I think they're messy and the feeling of wax bugs me. But there it is, I asked what to pray for and it was given to me.

This is all great, and I sure hope it excites someone out there, but I need to be sure to emphasize the reason why I can call myself a child of God. After all, my sin made a rift so big between the Father and I that nothing I could ever hope to do or say could save me from the wrath I so rightly deserved. It is only because of Jesus, who loved me so much He left Heaven to pay my crushing ransom while I was yet a sinner, that I am saved and remade and adopted into God's family.

So please, people, don't do what I did. Don't miss what God wants to say to you, don't miss all the times you could be riding your bike or drinking coffee or reading a book with your Father. He's right there, all the time.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

Onward, to serendipity.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Life at Kona

To be honest, while it's all very interesting and I love pretty much every minute of it, there's so much going on during the week that each day is very difficult to remember completely. But, perhaps there are those who are interested? I suppose I'll share my weekly schedule.

Sunday is really totally free, with no obligations or plans, and is very relaxing. Not much to share about it, other than it's one of my favorite days of the week.

Monday starts with breakfast and Ship Shape (quick chores for everyone at Port), then worship at Ohana Court up on campus. Speaking of Ohana worship, someone prophesied over me last week. Not quite used to that yet. After worship we come back to Port for the morning class, followed by lunch, then a sort of class given by a Steps of Justice representative on some justice issue (such as poverty). After this is work duty, then dinner, and then Ministry Night. This is basically a night of worship with no definite end-time, either up in the prayer room on campus (with a loud band and a ton of people), or one here at Port. By this time my bed looks oh so comfortable, so I go to sleep.

After breakfast on Tuesday is a time of intercession for specific needs of YWAM ships. For example, praying about the status of the ships, of the weather, and the crew. Then we have class until lunch, with nothing going on until our work duties. This free time is glorious, though I quickly fill it with stuff I have to get done. After work is dinner, then Skate Night, a street ministry for the skating culture here in Kona. Personally, I've yet to go, but I hear it's cool.

Wednesday morning I wake up early as part of the coffee ministry team. Basically, a handful of us grab a pitcher of coffee, some sugar, straws, creamer, and pastries, and go for a walk to share coffee with the homeless as the sun's coming up. We get back in time for breakfast, then have a bible study as a DTS on what we've read through the week. For example, this week will be the book of Mark. Then comes class and lunch, followed by small groups, then work duty, and the rest of the evening is free. But, like I said, I always find myself doing something.

Thursday's morning class is preceded by a time of intercession for a specific justice issue. After lunch is work, then dinner, then what is called the "Ohana Gathering." This is a two hour seminar of sorts given by a key speaker, and so far I've seen Loren Cunningham and Susi Childers. After this, I can almost guarantee I come back to our kitchen at Port and try to find something to eat. Because I'm an exciting person and there's such variety here on Hawaii, I generally go for peanut butter.

Friday's after-breakfast event is a time of worship and prayer, then class, then lunch. My schedule says "electives" after that, but for the life of me, I can't remember what that would be. Work duties come after, and then dinner, followed by whatever I need to do. Like laundry. Clean clothes are nice.

Saturday is definitely my favorite day of the week, because yesterday I got to go SAILING. Oh my gosh, it's my favorite thing ever. I know several knots, the sails, the rigging, how to be the helmsman, all sorts of things. I cannot fully describe how much I loved it. At one point, after I felt comfortable with it all (I went everywhere on the boat, just to see what it was like, from the bow to the stern), I asked, "So...what's it like to go overboard?" The instructor looked at me, said, "You want to jump overboard?" I, of course, said yes, and she grabbed a buoy-like thing from below, along with a line. I tied the line to the buoy, and the line to a kleet on the stern, and threw the buoy overboard. "You'd better hang onto the line, it'll surprise you how fast we're going," said the other instructor, and I jumped into the perfectly blue water. I grabbed onto the line, let it slide through my hands until I got to the end, and then it drew taught. Just like the instructor said, the boat was moving much faster than it seemed.

I still can't describe what it's like on Hawaii. The feel of the water or the wind, or the sight of Mauna Loa covered in afternoon clouds in the background, or the fact that geckos on the walls are normal, is amazing. The crystal clear, blue ocean doesn't even make you cold. It's definitely an experience I'll treasure.

Having had my fill of the water (and wanting to learn even more about the boat), I pulled myself along the line, back on board. Everyone else had their turn, and then we made our way back to the port, where I learned how to moor the boat, and what needed to be done to maintain it. Even that I enjoyed. And through it all, incredibly, I didn't even get sunburned. Awww yeah.

And that really fills everyone in. Today I've been taking a break, reading my Bible, writing this, and just being quiet, which is good. I find Jesus is pretty fond of calm places.

Onward, to Serendipity.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Apparently I Can Do Some Crazy Stuff

So it's been my first full week in Hawaii, and I think I made the most of it.

I left off on Thursday night, so I'll pick up on Friday. Started out with breakfast as usual, which is awesome. Then, a guest speaker came in, the pastor of the nearby Mokuaikaua Church, the first church in Hawaii, along with the church secretary, and they shared the history of the island with us. The history and culture of the people here, along with the timing and "coincidences" of the first missionaries, made for an immediate, joyful reception of the Gospel. It's truly interesting, and I would suggest further reading. Christianity is so woven into Hawaiian culture, it's incredible. After this was lunch back at Port, followed by a testimony, then work duty. Then, after a couple more testimonies, was the night we decided on our outreach locations.

Basically, we were told the three official location choices for the first time: the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Panama. We were shown a few pictures of each location (like four per), with a brief description of the place, the people, and the work we'd be doing. Total, that took about five minutes. Then, we were given fifteen minutes to pray about it and come to a decision. Fifteen minutes, people. For whatever reason, the Marshall Islands wasn't even an option for me. Which, I'll admit, was disappointing. So, I was left with Palau and Panama, and just couldn't come to a decision. So, I wrote "Panama or Palau, I don't know which," on my slip of paper, and trusted my leaders to place me where they felt I should go. Once I head inside, the staff had their meeting. After a few minutes, Rodrigo (awesome Columbian guy) calls me out for a moment to ask, "Panama or Palau?" In the four seconds I had to decide, I just didn't have peace about Palau, so I picked Panama. Later on, I learned that Jordan (she's another really cool staff member) was really feeling that's where I needed to be, to be with a specific team member, though we can't say why. So to wrap it up, I'll say that I've definitely got peace about my location, and I'm super psyched to get out and explore the jungles and grow close to my team.

Then came the adventure. Saturday morning I woke up, and Kelby was trying to figure out how to do something with our day. In the end, he, Tyler and I walked up to base to check out the bulletin for a car for rent. We called the guy, and are disappointed when he tells us he's all out of cars...and then he mentions the Bronco. We jump at the chance and wait at the Plaza of Nations (a big flag circle with a fountain in the middle) until a rusty, blue beater rolls up and a big soft-spoken guy gets out. The car is steaming a bit, and he says it's the carburetor. We're pretty excited in spite of this, and drop fifty bucks to take it back to Port. We pile twelve people into the thing, including myself, and we're off to Waimea. The car smoked the whole way, and the steering wheel was off-center because apparently the pin was missing (we figured that out when we got back), but we make it through the country and up a steep road to our destination. A super steep hill called "Buster Brown", or "Hok'uula", I think. We ran around on there for a while, then hop back into the car and head off for Waipio Valley (where they filmed Jurassic Park), and Hilo, on the direct opposite side of the island from Kona. We got within a mile and a half of the park, on a road overlooking a gorge...when the car broke down.

Of course, this was great fun. We pop the hood, and wait for the smoke to clear so we can see that, wonder of wonders, we have no idea what we're looking at. But, it doesn't have oil. So when an elderly woman comes to a stop next to us (as everyone munches on lunch, which I'd completely forgotten...), she says she'll go get some for us. In the meantime, Kelby, who is an avid photographer, wanders off for a bit back down the road. When he comes back, he says he wants to explore some running water he heard, so Kaden, Amanda and I join him. We climb off the side of the road, through a bunch of fallen trees, and come out on the other side to an awesome hidden waterfall, with a clear, blue pool at the bottom, a small cave behind, and a stream flowing from there down the rocks below. It was amazing. We all jumped in, and I had the best time I've had on the island yet. But, we had to get back home.

Getting back to the car, which we were able to start again, we turn back towards Waimea. Unfortunately, we didn't make it very far before the bronco, dubbed Beater Bruce, finally gave up the ghost. Tyler, thankfully, had 200 free towing miles with AAA, so he and Andreas stayed behind. The rest of us, however, had to thumb it back home. That's right, I'm a bonafide hitchhiker, folks. We split into groups of three, spaced ourselves out, and hoped for the best. A mere 10 minutes or so in, a local drove up in a pickup truck and let five of us hop in: Kaden, Amanda, Rochelle, Jason, and myself. We make it to Waimea, and dash off to catch the $2.00 bus back to Kona. And it never shows up. So, we walk for about an hour and a half down the road home, when two army guys in another truck gave us a ride in the bed all the way back home. After such an eventful day, I ate a ton and went to sleep.

Sunday was pretty calm comparatively, so there's not much to share. I went to church, called my family, and read all day. Then there was a "pool party" of sorts. Mrs. Sonja, a German woman on staff, made a big lemon cake and a ton of waffles. She said, "Sunday is meant to go to church and spend time with your friends and family and eat cake," all in a thick German accent that made it way better. Naturally, I've adopted this tradition of my own, because I love lemon cake. After this, I went for coffee with Mikey, Kelby, Euan, and Siranda (she's not in Ships, but she might as well be), and came back to catch the end of a movie. Being sore from the day prior, my bed was pretty comfortable that night.

Monday we woke up early, so we could eat breakfast and head off to Ohana Court for what I shall call the "beginning of the week worship thing." After this was the beginning of our first true lecture week. A local pastor who has done a lot of work with YWAM with the name of Derek Schoenhoff spoke on "The Character and Voice of God", and I really got a lot out of it. Then came lunch, followed by a lecture from a Steps of Justice guy on poverty, what it is and where. It was suggested we fast for a day, and break it by eating a meal with a homeless person the following evening, so I decided to take part, which meant no dinner for me. I fought with picture syncing on my computer instead, and went to sleep.

Today was breakfastless, so I got to sleep in a bit, then head down for Ship Shape, our quick chore stuff. My duty is the trash, oh the nostalgia. Then was a continuation of Monday's lecture by Mr. Schoenhoff, and after that I filled my lunch time with a shower (you've really got to fight for time to get those), and packed a spaghetti dinner for myself and the homeless person I would eat with. The next session was a classroom style lesson in sailing, given by a couple women living here in Kona who have worked with YWAM Ships ever since they came to Hawaii. Learning the terminology and hearing lessons from the mouths of experienced people was very interesting to me. After the lesson, I trudged through work duty, and spent an hour writing, as well as hopping on Facebook to speak with a couple friends back home, which I greatly enjoyed.

Having dinner was an interesting time, and gave me something to think about. I heated up the food, put it in the boxes, and headed out onto Alii Drive. I saw one of the people in the DTS, April, sitting with a group of three people. "Well, she can't have fed all of them," I thought, so I headed over there. One of them had already eaten, the other was covered by April, so I asked the last guy if he was hungry. He only whispered a response I couldn't quite make out, and the girl next to him whispered, "weed", so I decided it was best not to press. I sat down with him though, and participated in the conversation between April and the other two.

I had eaten my bread rolls when spotted a kid sitting on the sidewalk next to a building, set back from everything. I asked if he had a place to eat tonight, and the people there said no, so I headed over. I asked him if he was hungry, and he said he was alright, but I pressed a bit. "Are you sure? You can hang onto it until later, if you want." He gave in and said he'd hang onto it until he could keep something down, and I noticed he'd been crying. I asked what was up, and he told me he has stomach ulcers, and I was taken aback. I wasn't mentally prepared for it, but I decided I needed to pray for him. I'll be the first to say it wasn't a very eloquent prayer, but I sure was genuine about it. He wasn't too keen on conversation, so I wished him well and left. But I just can't get it out of my head. So, I'll make  would really appreciate it if you prayed for him with me (his name is Ben) in the coming days.

After finishing dinner with April and her group, I headed back home, stuffed my face, and jumped on here. Perhaps we'll figure out how to watch The Count of Monte Cristo later. And I'll probably make a sandwich. And then I'll sleep. Sleep is a wonderful thing.

Well, that's it for now. A full few days, I must say. (Insert clever parting here, for I've run out of words.)

Onward, to serendipity.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Spare Moment

So apparently life in this DTS is pretty busy. I suppose I'll fill everybody in.

My week started this Sunday (why I say it starts on Sunday is yet another topic I could go into some other time) with another morning eating breakfast with everyone on the patio. This is how almost every morning starts out, and it has fast become one of my favorite times. Tyler, a buddy of mine, asked if I wanted to go to Living Stones Church a couple miles down the road, so I decided to join. Apparently we were ignorant of the fact that there was a shuttle, and that there were also bikes we could use, but the walk was enjoyable. There's something about Hawaii that makes me feel like I could just up and walk in one direction and it be enjoyable. The church's worship is led by a big YWAM guy here at the UoN, by the name of Andrew West. Apparently Mr. West had a TV show with Discovery Channel, called "Hogs gone Wild", where he filmed wild pig hunts here in Hawaii. Pretty cool guy. I've a feeling I did something scheduled the rest of the day, but as we all ought to know, I've terrible memory.

Monday started off with breakfast, then a meeting the rest of the morning to share a bit about ourselves. Starting with the A's, we shared a bit about ourselves and answered some questions: our name, how we got to YWAM, why we're here, what we're hoping for, our passions, and our dreams. After this, we listened to a guy I'm surprised I didn't know much about, Phil Cunningham. He's with Steps of Justice, a Christian non-profit dedicated to serving the poor and oppressed of the world through promoting and "doing justice". I can't actually do it justice (what an unintentional play on words that was), so I would highly recommend you head over to their website and spend some time thinking things over. To wrap up the day, we checked out our work duty stuff, went to dinner, and went to sleep. I think...

Tuesday's morning ran the same as Monday, except it was my turn to speak. I told a bit of myself, but what really surprised me was the prayer time. Another buddy of mine named Mikey (who officially has the most awesomest mustache I've ever seen in person, and what's more, pulls it off with smashing success) said he'd never read it before, but he felt like he needed to share Psalm 45:2-4 with me, and it runs like this:

"You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.

Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.

In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds."

I'm unsure how to explain why this was so meaningful on here, but it spoke right to my unsure longing to face conflict. I don't mean just conflict internally, or financially, but to go to geographic locations with great suffering. Let me be clear when I say this terrifies me. I'm not naive to the fact that's a really, really scary thing. But, I can't ignore that part of me, which I really believe is true and God-given, and this verse, a surprise for everyone involved, really got to me.

The second half of the day we did work duty, then all went to a thing called Dinner With Friends, where we fed the homeless. This was interesting, and I'm glad we did it, but my thoughts are a bit more complicated than that...the future blog post topics sure are coming thick. After dinner we all climbed in the back of a flatbed truck with wooden walls and rode through Kona up to base, to watch a film called The Pink Room. It was made by Steps of Justice, to expose the horrible crimes of sex trafficking, but tells of the hope and the ministry that has been established there. It's not kid-friendly, but I would definitely recommend it if you're ready for it.

So after being upset from the movie, I went to bed, and woke up at 5:00. Not a fan of waking up at five, even in Hawaii. A group of us got some coffee and pastries together to go out and say good morning to the homeless, and came back for more testimonies. After this, we did work duty again, and I took the hour and a half I had left to jump in the shower, do my laundry (a surprisingly pricy venture), and write a letter to my mom for her birthday. So, mom, heads up.

Tonight has been relatively relaxed, with an "ice cream/journal decorating" party. Of course, being "creativity challenged" as I am, my friend Jessica strong-armed me into letting her decorate my journal. And, I must say, she did very well. So, kudos to you, Jessica.

And now that I've been sitting up late with some of these awesome new friends, I should probably go to bed. Goodnight all.

Onward, to serendipity.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Whole Lot of New

So. Apparently I'm actually in Hawaii. Not sure how I could've prepared for this.

I'm still taking in a couple things. It's always warm/hot, the only "cool" is when it's raining, and that's still seventies. Mauna Loa is behind me. That's a volcano, people. The water is blue and clear and there are dolphins and turtles and colorful tropical fish and birds everywhere. A guy in my DTS went spearfishing this morning, just yards from our place. Hawai'i is the farthest island from any continental mainland on the planet. And I'm here.

I suppose I'll just start from the beginning of my trip, a whole three days ago. I left on a plane for Dallas at 8:50, (this is where the security guy said I look just like Scotty McCreery) then from there to L.A. While on the plane, I was seated next to this super cool couple, which was a refreshing change from the total neutrality and dead silence of the previous flight. But, what's most remarkable about them was their generosity. Within the four hours I knew them, they learned of my YWAM trip, and just decided to give me $100. Should they read this (I shared my blog address with them), I have to say again how ridiculously grateful I am, I can already see a need it will meet. I had only ever heard of that kind of air travel generosity happening once before, in a book, written by a REAL missionary with experience. Just another way God has said, "There's no difference between you and the heroes in your head if I tell you to be like them." Anywho, when I landed in L.A., I got to meet one of my very close friends and hang out for an hour and a half or so. Favorite part of the day, I had so been looking forward to it. And from there, I went straight to Kona, and got in around 9:30. That is to say, 2:30 at night back home.

And then I got sick. Just a head cold, luckily. Orientation day, on the third, was definitely cool. I woke up and actually met my DTS folks I missed the night before, and we ate breakfast on the patio right in front of the ocean, right above Alii Drive. After this, we headed over to the Plaza of Nations via bus (my DTS is not at the campus, but right next to the water, a sort of motel complex owned by YWAM) There we were directed to the Ohana Court, where we got to hear from all sorts of people (including Darlene Cunningham, the wife of Loren Cunningham, who is the founder of YWAM) all about the history of the base and what our time here will be like. Of course, since I decided to show up this year, it poured. I'm finally getting used to people saying, "Huh. That's never happened before," whenever I'm around. But, I digress.

The rest of the day seems to have been a blur, I think we just ate and talked. But in the end, we all wound up back at the Ohana Court, where we saw Loren Cunningham speak, a team of Hawaiian dancers perform (I'd always dismissed this sort of thing as something everyone but me thought was neat, but it was actually rather cool, so I was pleasantly surprised), and then had a time of worship. My DTS then returned to our place (hereafter referred to as "home"), and I walked from there to Walmart with a group to buy goggles. Overall, and in spite of being sick, a rather enjoyable day.

Today is much shorter to write about. I woke up, read my Bible for a bit, helped load a truck with stuff, then we headed off for a beach. The water was blue, the breeze was warm, and the waves were tall. I enjoyed it very much, and to be on beaches I've only read about, to see my feet standing on places that belong in pictures, is still amazing me. And, what joy, I didn't get roasted. Huzzah.

We had a barbecue, then took the hour bus ride home around 2:00. I took a shower (glorious) hung out with people, and I found myself roped into buying a sushi dinner. Turns out I like it, which is awesome. We ate next to the water, and for the last hurrah, we went to the B.I.G. Island Grill and ordered mud pies, basically huge chocolate oreo coffee ice cream cake slices. This concludes my egregious spending for a while, I would imagine.

And now, to bed. I'd offer some thoughts on things I've seen and wondered about, but being so foggy, I've not partaken in coherent thought very much. I'm sure that'll change in a couple days, of course. But for now, I'm gonna lie down in the two foot clearance I have between my top bunk and the ceiling. Being such a small guy, I figure it's only fair to pick that one. The guy below me is like, 7 feet tall, on a six foot long bed. I won't complain.

Onward, to Serendipity.