Thursday, July 30, 2009

What's next?

This is the question I have been asking every year at this time. What is next? We just went on this awesome journey to the southern state of Louisiana with bands, service and community building galore...what is next? Three years ago it was San Antonio that gave a spark to people wanting to serve. Mission trips followed for the next two years and we are back to a gathering again.

Yesterday Derek, my brother and co-worker, sat down for lunch with some of the Junior guys and talked about what they thought of the gathering. Their responses were mixed and over all good, but he also asked them the same question: what's next? They felt as though they wanted to continue serving, that the time in New Orleans was not enough. They wanted to go right back out into the community and be the hands and feet of God the next day and the next one after that. This is a great thing. So is the next step another mission trip? Where then should it be? In the United States, back to Louisiana, an international mission trip? When should it be? Spring break, summer, fall?

This may sound like a cop out answer but I really want the group of seniors this year to be in charge and plan their last event. To have ownership in what they are doing and what is going to make them grow physically, spiritually and as a community. I believe that they can do great things and with a little guidance we can accomplish great things. Now the question is where to start and how to build on the momentum we have created from this past week.

Dear Lord, be with us this next year as a youth group. Continue to help the community grow and for everyone to realize that they are a part of something so much bigger than their small group of friends and we can all serve together and change the world one person at a time. We love you Lord, amen.



Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 5 & 6: Worship and the trip home

What is worship really? Is it a set amount of time? Is it the right words? Is it when you stand or sit? Is it quiet and solum? If the worship service we attended on Sunday morning was any indication of what it is or can be then worship can be anything.

What we experienced Sunday morning was a blending of the fantastic Lutheran liturgy and the excitement of the gathering atmosphere. The house band was once again awesome and got us pumped up for worship. There was a processional of the cross but also items signifying the service we had accomplished this past week in the form of doors, cones, windows, work gloves, work lights and so on. The alter was carried in by sections: saw horses, 4 doors, and a tarp to cover it. It was the most crude and perfect alter I have ever seen.

The service itself was very familiar and the sermon was given by Bishop Hanson. He spoke to us about how we are now leaving this place and how we can take it with us. How we as a group of 37,000 people have made a difference and can still make a difference in our own homes and communities. That it is up to us to be the change in the world.

He also told us about the mayor of New Orleans, how he attended the large gathering last evening and when they entered in the Superdome he cringed a little because even though years have passed and the dome is fixed it still is viewed as a place of tragedy, sickness, death and pain. But the mayor when on. He said that this gathering of young people is a ray of hope. That it has made the Superdome a place of joy and happiness. He said that the community has seen a wonderful change in their lives and he wishes that we could surround the dome join hand and pray for the healing of this community. Well we didn't have the ability to do just that buy our service and prayer that morning was one for healing.

We also celebrated communion that morning. It is the most amazing thing to think that 37,000 people were communed in 30 minutes. It just shows that people are willing to volunteer not just for getting their hands dirty buy also for the clensing and renewal of our bodies. Every station had a yellow umbrella where we received the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We were also anointed with oil reminding us of the cross that is always with us.

The service ended and we were sad to leave. It was a time of renewal and an exhausting week. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking back to our hotel one last time, loading up the bus in a little bit of rain, and heading to lunch. We ate on canal street. Heather, Kim and I went to Mother's restaurant and had some good southern cookin'. It was fantastic.

The ride home was lots of fun too. We went across the causeway over Lake Ponchatrain which is the longest bridge over water in the world. 24 miles of water underneath us. There is even 8 miles of that where we couldn't see land.

That evening we ate dinner and watched a beautiful sunset, sang happy birthday to Tate Miller and loaded the bus for the long haul of the night shift. But I wasn't going to let this day go down easy. I broke out the glow sticks and but on the dance music and we had ourselves a bus rave! It was a lot of fun and apparently my butt called Pastor Ron a few times. How weird is that?

We all fell asleep to Pirates of the Caribbean part 3 and tried to sleep as best we could on a bus. Bodies were everywhere and there was not chance we in the front could get back to the bathroom because of the tangled mass of teenagers on the floor and strewn across the aisle. We did a did have a short stop at a few rest stops along the way and saw an amazing sunrise.

Breakfast was in Clear Lake Iowa at a Perkins. The look on the face of the woman when I said there were 41 of us in a group was priceless. Most because there was another group that had come in 30 minutes before us. The food was awesome and handled very well. We even saw Mari helping out with the drinks.

Then it was back on the bus for the final two hours of the trip. It went fast.

In the end this was a great trip. The youth of Word of Peace are amazing people and I know they will change the world, heck they have already changed the world. We wouldn't have trusted them more in New Orleans. They were fantastic and a joy to be with. My hope and prayer is that this experience will go with them always and they will never forget the love they felt in New Orleans.

Thanks for following this trip and this blog. Check back often for more Word of Peace youth group antics.


ps: we will be leading the worship services on August 9th and 10th with the Vacation Bible School kids sharing our experiences with everyone at the 8:30 and 10 am services. Come and check out pictures, video, the stories we have.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 4: Service with a smile

Today was our Justice day. This is something that God requires of us according to Micah 6:8. Look it up if you don't know it. It's a good one.

We started this day earlier than any other day before and we arrived at out bus right on time! This is a wonderful thing for anyone in charge of 41 people. We loaded the bus and I quickly realized that I had forgot the health forms we worked so hard at getting people to fill out. So, since we had a few minutes before we left I decided to run back to the hotel. (about a mile) By the time I got back we were ready to go and I was dripping. Wet with sweat I sat down with the papers and thanked God for and air conditioned bus.

After a rousing rendition of wheels on the bus, the hippo song and shark attack we arrived at Arthur Ash charter school. It was 2 weeks until the start of school and they just moved in to a new building. Our job: to get the place to look like a school not just a building.

I was amazed by the vigor and excitement to serve. The work was hard. We did everything from setting up rooms, leveling desks, putting together computers, painting, moving heavy objects, and organizing the library. By the time the day was done it was a change so noticeable that the people in charge couldn't believe it.

Our service time ended late because we were so into it that we didn't have time to eat dinner. We spent a little bit of time in the French Market again and then rushed back to the hotel, changed close and were back out the door by fuve so we could walk, again, to the dome.

The evening was filled with awesome speakers, jugglers, music in the form of a 7 year old accordian player that could rock out with the best of them and a 16 year old violinist involved in the IMAX film "Hurricane on the Bayou." We even had some special guests. The first was the mayor of New Orleans and the second was a letter from the President Barack Obama. Wow! The Katinas finished off the night with some energy filled praise and worship. It is truly amazing and awe inspiring to see so many people singing together.

The last thing we did was find dinner. The good thing was we had lots of time, the bad thing was we spent it all in line at McDonald's. Since we split up into groups, I was with only 11 and it still took way too long. The up side was we got to meet the 7 year old accordian player and his family and a wonderful gentleman named Ernest. The most amazing thing for me was that we had spent over an hour in line for food and we were next in line when the 7 year old and his family came in. They were in a hurry and so we let them go in front of us. Did I mention we were next in line.

We got our food and did our final Bible study for the day right there before we walked back.

What a day it was...WOW!

Bes sure to check out the pictures at my FLICKR page.

Thanks for reading and we will see everyone in Minnesota soon.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 3: Hot and Ready to Rock

Day three in New Orleans at the National Youth Gathering was once again a new experience. We began the day much like the last with breakfast and a long walk but this time it was into the interaction center. We entered a large room with a few thousand or so of our new friends and listened to a speaker talk about our service area which is literacy. We then proceeded into the massive grand hall for hundreds of different opportunities for us to learn and have hands on experience with taking action and being the change in the world.

Some of things I saw the youth doing included: letter and post card writing to our state representatives about poverty and the environment, painting, learning what it's like to be in a wheel chair, making masks, decorating murals, and signing petitions. But that wasn't all there was to do...oh no my friends. There was ping pong, beach and hard court volleyball, soccer, dodgeball, ultimate Frisbee, mini golf, karaoke, and a parade New Orleans style.

I could go on and on about all the awesome things but it is late. After our time at the interaction center we decided to head to the dome early to get floor seats for the evening program. Our path took us down some side streets and as we were rounding the corner for the dome a women approached us and told us that we didn't have enough beads. She proceeded to open up a box and pull out some of the most amazingly huge strands of beads for us as a gift. She even had the exact amount for out group. This was an amazing moment for our group. One comment made this evening was how we haven't even done anything yet as far as service and people are already thanking up for what we have done or will do. Amazing.

Our group and the woman who gave us the beads!

As we walked in the mid day heat I knew we were going to have a difficult time because the door we wanted to enter from was on the sunny side of the dome. Luckily, there was some shade we could share and the time went fast. One of the coolest things that happened while there was at 4:24. Every day we stop and pray at that time, so we did and people must have talked to God about the heat because the wind picked up and two frozen lemonade vendors came around the corner right after we said amen. Wow God is good.

The doors opened and we made a mad rush for the seats hoping to be on the floor. Not only did we make it to the floor we had great seats. The speakers were awesome and the music was powerful and rockin! Skillet played and lit up the stage with fire and amazing songs.

The night ended with a fantastic pool party where most of the chaperones were thrown in to the pool. I love it when the youth do what I tell them to. We had the nightly Bible study in the pool and it was off to bed.

Tomorrow we go out and serve!

Pictures are up on my flickr page so check it out.

Also, the national press for this gathering is amazing and you should read some of the articles that are out there. Here is one I ran across.



Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 2: A unique look at New Orleans

Today was a day of learning and understanding more about the culture of New Orleans.

We began the day with a trip the one and only authentic Voodoo Museum in the world. It was quite the sight. I was introduced to John who is the only white man to come out of Africa as a full fledged Druid Priest and Voodoo leader. This guy knew his stuff. We went on a twenty minute tour of the little shop and two back rooms filled with different things t do incantations with. There were petrified cats, and bones and alligator heads and blowfish on the walls. We talked about hexes and how they work and that the voodoo dolls are a but sensationalized by Hollywood but are really used differently that what we would expect. It was a great experience and lots of new and different things were seen in that place. Thanks John for the great tour.

Then it was on the French market and Farmers market area. It was great and everybody bought tons of souvenirs, including myself.

Then it was off to lunch. Rick, Heather, Lauren, Cally and I went to Margaritaville for some virgin margaritas and good food. i had a cheese burger.

After that it was off the the hotel and then to the Krews Learning center for out Jesus day. People could choose from over 30 different workshops, self guided, and craft activities that brought them close to Jesus. It was a crazy but good afternoon.

Next was the whirlwind dinner and a brisk walk to the Superdome. Unfortunately we were a little late and our seats were not the greatest, but it was an awesome night once again. Each night gets us more excited for the next.

Afterwards we went separate ways in groups (with chaperones) and went to dances, concerts and well more dances. It was a great night that closed with some time together back at the hotel and prayer to close the day.

There was so much that happened it's hard to tell you all about it. But we will try when we return.

Thanks and keep up the prayers,


be sure to check out more pictures on the flickr page.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No Busting for Us! We made it!

After a fantastic start to the trip and a wonderful sendoff from the parent in Rogers, we made it safe. We stopped in St. Louis for a wonderful tour of the Western Expansion Museum and a trip up the Arch. Man is that high up! Most of the youth and people who are on the trip hadn't been there before so I enjoyed watching people enjoy the incredible view. Check out the pictures.

After St. Louis it was the night time portion of the drive. We had dinner and then left the driving up to the bus drivers and we did the best we could to fall asleep. Some got a few hours some got a few minutes. After a short stop in..actually I have no idea where we stopped because it was very early and very dark and looked like any other gas station out there. Rick and I threw the football and the students went into the bathroom and connivence store. Then back on the bus for another 5 or so hours. Let's just say that New Orleans was a welcome site when we could get off the bus and stretch.

When we arrived we saw lots and lots of water. it's no wonder that there is such a flood problem. There is tons of water. When we hit land again we arrived at Grace Lutheran Church. Word of Peace and Grace are partnering through our Vacation Bible School program and we stopped because of their amazing story. Check out their website and come to VBS in a few weeks to hear their story. We met their pastor and a few members that told us some stories. It was truly Amazing Grace.

We were still very hungry because we ended up a little behind schedule and so breakfast was the next stop. We found a great grocery store and purchased our milk and other perishables. Then to a park not far from our hotel for a much needed meal.

Finally it was on to the hotel and a free afternoon. The students took naps, swam and hung out at the hotel while a few of us went t register everyone at the convention center. While we were there we found out an interesting fact that the work that is done in New Orleans over the next three days will equal 3 years of work for normal volunteering efforts. Wow this is going to be amazing.

The walk back was interesting because we got caught in the rain. One second cloudy sky the next downpour. No wonder people carry umbrellas all the time. But after the typical five minutes it was done and we were on our way. I gathered the group when we got back to the hotel and we left for the Superdome we took a walk down Bourbon Street. The best way to describe the walk was an "eye opening experience," for most of the passer-bys.

The dome event was awesome and full of speakers, music, giant conga lines and the Bishop of the ELCA arriving to the gathering in a motorized bathtub and bathrobe. It was a night full of special moments and it seems as though everyone is looking forward to a great week.

I am tired as is everyone else so I think this is about it for today. Keep us and New Orleans in your prayers.


check out more pictures on my FLICKR page

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Orleans or Bust!

Tomorrow we leave for New Orleans. But I write this looking at the clock on my computer realizing that we actually leave today. Which makes me even more glad that we decided to leave at 8 in the morning rather than 3am...yuck!

We will be off on many wonderful adventures learning about God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and ourselves and the relationship we have with them along with 36,000 other youth who are presently descending on New Orleans. I am really looking forward to see the youth and how they grow over the next week.

Stay tuned for daily updates, pictures and stories from the road and our soon to be awesome trip!


dain and the word of peace crew!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Last Day

Tomorrow I return to Word of Peace to prepare for our trip to Louisiana and the National Youth Gathering. I still have a month of sabbatical left but this was a trip that I could not miss. This return also marks the beginning of taking what I have learned and been taught by the Holy Spirit and putting it into action or at least of plan for action for the next years of youth ministry at Word of Peace. To be perfectly honest, I am really freaked out about what I have learned. How in the world am I, an individual working for the Lord going to effect the lives of the thousands of youth in the Rogers area? Well, one thing I did learn is that it is not about me doing it all. It is more about a community raising up and providing a safe environment where youth are able to be themselves, where they can forget about the pressure for one minute placed on them by their peers, society, coaches, and parents. I can't tell you how important it is for kids to be kids and youth to be youth. To not grow up so quickly. To hold on to that child-like faith we once had because before we know it parents will be placing their kids into advanced classes, higher level sports teams, and confirmation just so the accomplishment of achieving something can be held and had and shown off to everyone around. To me this seems like a very publicly lived life where the teens and twenties are being put in the spotlight while everyone else looks at them and says "wow, aren't they amazing".

When did this life become about becoming the best the earliest? Is it really that important that we get kids potty trained, walking, speaking, reading, and going to school before they are 1 year old? Or is it really important for youth to be married, have two kids, a PHD, a house, a nice car and be the boss of their own company by 25? In the same vein is it necessary for youth to be so mature in their faith that they can debate with the greats and understand what God thinks by the time that they are done with confirmation and/or high school? I personally can't believe that youth are ever done. The learning, questioning, discovery, wonder and imagination of youth should never leave any of us. But it does. We begin to settle realizing that we will never be able to grow any more than we have, that our efforts will be in vain and we best be happy with where we are. This never got anyone anywhere.

The idea that God can somehow be fully grasped understood and even predicted is a load of bull. God is by far the most confusing thing I have come upon and I believe that God is fully present in the youth of today. (Maybe that's why they are so confusing). And that God is working in ways that we will hardly understand until we are years down the road and can look back and see His guidance along the way.

God is in all of us and until we loose ourself and realize that fact we will never be able to be used in a way that is truly pleasing unto our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Think about it, really think, what is the ultimate goal in your life, in my life? Is it to make money, grow old and retire, invent something amazing, have a historical marker somewhere with my name on it, or is it to live this life as best I can loving everyone, caring for the least of these, raising wonderful children, loving my wife and family, and loving God? In my mind these things can't be measured or compared, they don't need to be because it is not about the accomplishment it is not about what we can do to please God or getting into heaven. It is taking the grace God has given us and turning right around and giving it away to someone else who needs it. It is forming and being a part of a community that is working for justice on earth and praising God. It is loving Jesus in the wonderful times and in the dark times. Using Jesus instead of relying on our own strength . It is loving Jesus from the inside out, loving others, praising God with others, worshipping Jesus with others, helping others, being the light of Christ to the world. Stepping out even when it may seem like you are alone. It is about loving everyone.

I love youth. I care more everyday for their lives and the decisions they make hoping and praying they do so with so much love in their hearts that it can't help but overflow to everyone they know and even to strangers they don't know. I pray their lives are examples not only Christ when it is convenient but in everything, everywhere, everyday.

My prayer is that I can effect one person in my lifetime, and that that person may effect someone else and they would also do the same. I pray that my goals and focus are not dictated by the pressures of the world but of the one and only Savior of my life, Jesus Christ. That my life would be lived from the inside out.

There is nothing stopping us, there is nothing that can tear us down, there is nothing that Christ has not overcome. Bring it on. Here WE go!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

More on "Hurt" by Chap Clark

It's really amazing to think that someone can write a book and basically say the obvious and have it be so poignant. Really, all the things that Chap is saying are very true and it all makes sense. I can see everything he is talking about in the youth that I work with. I can even see a little bit of it in me as well. Most likely because I am at the end of my adolescence myself. But I also feel like a bridge between the adult world that "just doesn't understand" and the new generation of youth who are redefining so many of the standards the older generations hold so dear. For example, the word "stress" is something that is well understood by generations who grew up with fewer commitments as adolescents than the current generation. So if a thirty-something says they are stressed it is most likely because there is more on their plate than they can handle and responsibilities are being piled upon them. The difference, as noted by Clark, is that adolescents of today are already so busy, so involved and so stressed that it becomes their version of normal. Imagine a life where stress at very high levels is normal.

There is another side to all of this as well Adolescents who don't think that they are stressed, who think that life this way is normal believe they are doing are going to run themselves into the ground. I am in the ministry of helping youth understand that Christ our Savior who takes our sins, burdens and even our stress and gives us salvation and rest in the arms of love. But there is a disconnect. Why would someone that fees like life is normal, that being tired being overcommitted and not getting enough sleep ever want someone that would give them rest? This is a huge dilemma. I find huge value in retreats and moments where we can have time one on one with God. Where we can experience God in the small and and the large. But to minister to a a generation that doesn't think they need something like that makes for an interesting time and quite a bit of trial and error.

It is going to take a lot of prayer, research and error to know what is going to work and help the youth of this generation and how to let them know what they need. Pray for the youth ministry of Word of Peace and the world that we may do the best we can and make Christ real to them.