The E-town Mission Blog

It’s been over a week that I’ve been back. I apologize for the serious lack of updating the past two weeks. I actually feel pretty bad about it. Well, I’m going to make the effort to resume posting something daily or bi-daily henceforth. And warning, this post will be long….

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1750mi. 8 states. 7 days.

Well, the E-town Mission was awesome. I really enjoyed it. We left, actually, during our church’s 10-year anniversary service. I felt kind of bad, initially, doing it because it means I wasn’t able to be there to clean and break down. I had to find people to cover all aspects of it in my absence. Well, from what I heard it all went good, so shoutout to Carly, Sam, and Phil for handling it all quite nicely.

DrivingWe drove down there making only a few stops for food and lavatory. I think the total trip, including stops, took about 13 – 14 hours. I drove the whole way to Cherokee, NC. I’ll admit the last 2 or so hours were rough. I almost fell asleep a few times. Manny was there to keep me awake, and when he saw me veering off the road, he’d be pretty quick in asking a question or something. I suppose he wasn’t in the mood to get in an accident and die.

WowAnyway, we made it there around 2:30/3am and all passed out of exhaustion promptly. The next day was filled with cultural learnings of Cherokee for make benefit glorious group of The Bridge. We went on a hike up this amazing waterfall. It was really cool. And even better was that our entire team made it to the top together. Very motivating and unity-building. I have to give special shoutout to Janelle here because, as I mentioned in a previous post, I lost my mind and left my $1000 HV20 a the base of the falls while we were sclaing the mountain. I completely forgot it was there. And Janelle ran back down to rescue the camera from certain doom, as there were significant numbers of people passing by the bridge while we were up the falls. Afterwards we went to a tourist Indian Village. It’s a replica of how the Cherokee lived 200 years ago so we would be able to learn their culture and struggle and ideas and beliefs. It was pretty eye-opening. We learned a lot about these people that we would be serving in the next week.

SpacklingTuesday began the work week. We were split into two crews, one being named A and the other B. I was assigned to Crew A. We were sent to a house not-too-far from our sleeping quarters in order to do some maintenance inside. Apparently the ceilings of this house were damaged in some heavy rains of recent weeks. There were water stains all over the place. And the roof even caved in in one room. Most of the crew was assigned to sealing and repainting the ceiling and the porch. I was sent with Sarah to the caved-in roof. We were to cut it out, install a new one, spackle it, and then create a faux popcorn ceiling design to match the rest of the house. While on the subject, I must make it public that I loathe popcorn ceilings. Passionately. The entire time we were painting it, pieces would fall down on top of us and make a mess everywhere. It seemed more paint fell to the floor than stayed on the roof. But I digress. Sarah and I spent the majority of the work-time on top of a ladder making repairs to the roof and and learning the in’s and out’s of spackle. I do believe we got pretty good at it by the end of the trip. The later parts of the ceiling did come out much nicer than the former.

Emergency repairWhile we were there we had an unexpected addition to out work. It seems that the crew that was there they year before us and re-shingled the roof did a poor job of it. There was a monsterous raining while we were working and the roof began to leak pretty badly, and, lo, the ceiling in the living room collapesed while we were working alongside it. We had to run quickly, as water was pouring in the house, to cover the roof. Luckily Brandon, a worker from the organization we were there with, showed up that very instant and just happend to have a massive tarp with him. We scaled the roof and convered, practically, the entire thing as to prevent any more rain from entering the building. And so, our work there was extended another day because we had to put another new ceiling in and try to match it to the existing popcorn ceiling. It was a lot of work, but it was really fun to do. The team worked together amazingly. There were no fights the entire week. The level of teamwork and unity was astounding. Everyone did their share and helped out with whatever was needed. Sarah was our Crew Leader and did a great job motivating and encouraging and leading everyone to accomplish our goals. And I guess I should apologize for dumping copious amounts of water into her lap while on the ladder. It was completely accidental… 🙂 But the work was great. I’ve known Sarah for at least a dozen years or more and it was fun to be able to work right along side her all week. Much laughing and fun. She’s good people.

From what I hear, the other crew did an amazing job as well. They painted the complete exterior of a house… in the rain. They also completely cleaned the gym we were staying in – floors, walls, backboards, bathrooms, showers… everything. And they did an amazing job.

Crew AThe entire work portion of the trip was quite inspirational. At the beginning of the trip, the woman who owned the house we were working in was quite distant to us. She wouldn’t really say anything. She stayed in her room the entire time. By the end of the trip she would hang out with us while we were working. She was talking to us. She was sharing her life. She told us of her pain and struggles. Both her and her adopted son are very sick with pretty serious illnesses. We really felt for them. And she showed emotion… completely opposite of the start of the trip. Our simple acts of painting and spackling broke down the walls and barriers and really helped us connect and show love to a soul who needed it. In the end she let us pray for her and take a picture, which I need to process and send over to her. It was a great experience.

PlasticThe ministry time was great as well. Every night we gathered before bed to discuss our day and how we saw God moving in and through us. We spoke of lessons learned and what was on our minds and hearts. There were times of worship and prayer every night. I have to confess that I may have passed out during worship a once or twice throughout the week because I was so tired. But it was still good. One night I ended up talking to Jenn until 3am. I love talking to Jenn. We understand each other. We’re both thrust into this position of leadership, and yet are still trying to figure out what that exactly means and how we do it properly. We share many of the same fears and doubts and strenghts and hopes at the same time. It’s comforting to know that you’re not alone out there in your role and your thoughts… that you have friends who are going through the same things, and the fact that you can just sit and talk and share what’s on your mind and heart with someone who completely understands is an amazing thing.

Group shotAfter the work section was done, we drove from North Carolina to Virgina and stayed in a hotel in Richmond (beds had never felt so good). We went to King’s Dominion on Friday and spent the day in the amusement park. It was pretty nice. I got to spend the day with Michael, Romulo, Janelle, Ali, and Manny. I admit that I’m not too big a fan of amusement parks. They just don’t do it for me. I’m not really a ride person. But I went on all the roller coasters (that’s all we went to) with everyone for the simple fact that I wanted to hang out with them. I need more hang out time with friends. The glow of the computer screen, as pretty as it is with OS X on it, doesn’t compare with actual human contact. Anyway… It was a pretty good day. Quite enjoyable. After the park, we went to Cracker Barrel (thank God it wasn’t fast food again) and then into Maryland where we stayed at Janelle’s friend‘s house for the night. Thanks to the Wolff family for allowing a bunch of strangers to crash in their basement for an evening. You are braver folk than I.

Abraham LincolnOn Saturday we spent the day in Washington DC. We went to the Spy Museum. It was ok, but I wasn’t too impressed. Perhaps this is due to the fact that there were about 100,000 people crammed in there like sardines. Ok, I exaggerate, but it felt like that. Then we drove around DC a bit and ended up at the Lincoln Memorial. I loved it. Lincoln, in my opinion, is the greatest President we’ve ever had. I love his story, and so this monument was right up my alley. We spent an hour or two there and then headed back home to NJ to complete our voyange.

I forgot how much fun road trips were. This is the first one we’ve done with The Bridge and I hope we can do many more in the future. I’m sure there are more stories to share. If I think of them perhaps I will post appendix posts to this one. But it is 2am and I am tired and need to sleep for work starts at 7. And so I bid you adew. Fare thee well, and may peace be with you.

If you have questions or want more, please comment me and I will share in greater detail. If you went on the trip and have a story, I’d love to hear it, also in a comment.

You can see hundreds of pictures of the E-town Mission on my Flickr account.

At the National Archives

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Happy Birthday

Today, July 21, is my friend, Brian Tobias’ birthday. He would have been 26 years old, but was involved in a fatal car wreck some years ago. I hadn’t reallly seen him much before he died. It was actually a few years, but it is still tragic and sorrowful and makes you realize just how fragile life really is..

Make sure you hold your friends close while you can because you never know what may be lurking around the bend.

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Under the indigo sky, just breathe

i’m tired of running for the train
tired of these streets and days
tired of the go go go
money on my brain
i see myself piece by piece…
slipping away .
tired of the have-to-have parade
daunting is the task of getting ahead
look out for number one, then back to your shell

separation is our expense

there’s an urgency to breathe
there’s an urgency
to be …

under an indigo sky

met by a beautiful rain

over the simplest of terms
we will converse
with a new frame of mind

our heads are clear now

and our hands are untied

we’re free to roam …

in the indigo .

accumulate more or want less
the question i pose is heavy on my mind

simplicity is my necessity at hand

so take me to where i can be

where i can be

under an indigo sky

met by a beautiful rain

over the simplest of terms

we will converse

with a new frame of mind

our heads are clear now
and our hands are untied
we’re free to roam …

in the indigo .

words & music by amy seeley

There has been much weighing heavy on my mind and soul as of late. So many things trying to push in one direction or another. So many choices and opportunities and risks. So many frustrations and questions. Life can be hard. In fact, life will always be hard. The world is functioning and flowing at a pace that can drive anyone mad. Society holds unrealistic expectations of all within its grasp to perform and perform and perform. This, coupled with internal turmoil, whether it be your own or in the shared pain of a friend, can seem altogether unbearable and destroy one’s self from the inside out.

I have found solice in this song in recent times as I face the natural, and some unnatural, pressures of this world. The way it speaks of the pain and frustration and pressure on all of us and the losing of one’s self to the madness of the chaos that surrounds is all too real. And the solution… to simplify. To escape the deafening noise and to embrace the simplest of terms. To enjoy the seemingly mundane things all around us that speak to us and reconnect us with the reality of who we are and what it means to be human. To embrace the truth all around us. To be free… clear heads and untied hands. It is the plight of us all, isn’t it? The words of the bridge are so profound. There is an urgency to BREATHE. Ruah. Nooma. To reconnect our souls with the source of peace. To find shalom. Healing. Restoration. We need it. I need it. And so I seek solice in the simplicities of my existence and my own humanity and the reality of who God is and how it all relates, and I breathe and rest under the indigo sky.

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PostScript Area begin:If you happen to find yourself interested in the breathe link listed above and click on it you will be magically transported via the wonder of hypertext to a YouTube video that contains a preview of a larger video aptly entitled, “Breathe.” Now, you may watch the 2 minute preview video if you are so inclined, but may I suggest, if you trust me that is, to foregos the watching of the YouTube preview and make your way over to Nooma.com and purchase Nooma #014 “Breathe.” Don’t ask questions. Don’t hesitate. Don’t even watch the preview if you can resist. Just buy it. It’s that good. It is a 15 minute video that has changed my life and my perspective on a great many things. You shan’t be disappointed. In fact, if you truly understand and listen to the video, you will be blown away by the reality of it all and you will never look at your life, or breath for that matter, in the same way.

PostScript Area the second begin:And as for this song, Indigo Sky by Amy Seeley… I want you to find the peace your soul craves as well. And so I offer this incentive. Comment this blog post and let me know why your soul is in disrepair and in need of shalom. For the first 10 people who do so, I will gift you this song via iTunes. This is not the album version but the EP one, which is my personal favorite between the two. The words are powerful. The music transcending. And Amy’s voice is soothing. This, especially coupled with the Breathe video if you choose to go that route, I think, may help you find what you are looking for. Just make sure you put your name and email address in the fields where they are requested so I will know where to send it.Thank you, and may peace be with you.

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Heavy

There are times that come along when you begin to question why you have been given a certain position of leadership and if you have what it takes to really carry the full mantle of the responsibility. Questions, when everyone around tells you everything that is wrong with what you are doing and that there is a better way, yet they rarely offer useful suggestions for remedy or (even better) a helping hand to make it better.

There are times when it feels as if it is all too much. You are too tired. You are beat up on all sides. Where saying, “I’m done,” would be a quick and easy end to the frustration.

Or would it?

But in these times it helps to also know that God did in fact call you to do this job, right here and right now. That he has no intention of letting his mission and will fail. That he has this funny way of even taking the mess we find ourselves in and turning it into something beautiful. And no matter how hard things are, how much people complain, and how messy things get, God is still in control and you do, in fact, have everything it takes to accomplish the mission. And so we push forward.

But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)

That is all.

The hardest, and largest, substance known to man

Seems astronomers have found the largest diamond known to exist… Not deep in some mine on earth, but at the core of a star 50 light-years away (that’s 293,284,800,000,000 miles away if you’re interested… a relatively small distance). It’s really a pretty facinating story as we understand even more of the universe that God has created and we have the honor of living in.

They named the star “Lucy” after the Beatles’ song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. You’ll find it in the Centaurus constellation.

They value this diamond at 10 Billion trillion trillion carats, but sorry ladies… I don’t think you’ll be able to get this rock for an engagement ring… unless, of course, your finger is as large as the sun.

BBC News has the full story.

Speaking of virgin births…

Trogdor's cousin.It seems a komodo dragon named Flora, from Britain, is expecting some wee baby komodo dragons.  And yet, Flora has never “known” a male dragon.  Could this be the komodo Messiah?  Or perhaps more amazing natural happenings as we understand more and more what it is God has created for us to live amongst.

CNN.com has the full story.