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.