My Time is Very Valuable…

November 17, 2011

From a quick glance at this title, one might conclude: “this sounds intriguing…Either he thinks too highly of himself or he has a good grasp on reality,” or “this will be a blog about him and how someone wasted his time.” Well, you are wrong (if you thought that)! It has nothing to do with me, sort of…you’ll see…

Today, I embarked on my journey from Doylestown, PA to Atlanta, GA for the National Youth Workers Convention. Convention related things don’t start until tomorrow, but I wanted to come a little earlier in hopes of making time to relax and reenergize myself before I partake in this information overload that will be thrown my way in all of the Big Room Sessions, Breakout Sessions, seminars, etc… Don’t get me wrong, those are all amazingly beneficial things, but I’m at a point lately where I need to be recharged.  I went to bed at 2:00 am last night and woke up at 5:45 am to go lead my High School students in a Bible study at a local coffee shop. After that, I took a quick nap, loaded up my truck, and hit the road. What should have been a 45-minute drive to the airport, turned into almost a two hour excursion on account of the rain and the people of Philadelphia’s inability to drive in said rain! I was frustrated! I just wanted to get to the airport, get on the plane, and sleep until I landed in Atlanta. Being that I am 26 years old, you would think I would know by now that I can never get comfortable enough to sleep on a plane. Long story short, I eventually got to Atlanta and then my hotel in the downtown area.

After I unpacked and freshened up a bit, I started walking in hopes of finding a restaurant some friends and I went to years ago when we were here for the convention (Max Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill and Brewery). I found it and the food was just as good as I remembered it being. However, the barbeque sauce was  ten times as good as I remember it being. They must have made some improvements since I was last here. For that, I am thankful!

I bet you are still wondering why this blog post is called “My Time is Very Valuable…”! Don’t worry, I’m getting to it!

When I was walking back to my hotel from the restaurant, I somehow ended up going the wrong way. I was tired, frustrated, and just wanted to get back to my room. Before I go any further, I need to give you some context of this city…

If you know anything about Atlanta or if you have ever been here before, there are a lot of homeless people on the streets. Some of them will play instruments on the side of the road in hopes of passers-by giving them some change. Some of them will just sit there with a coffee can and a sign asking for any spare change. Some of them will sing in hopes that you will give them money. And others will start walking right next to you, show interest in you, and help you get to where you are going. This latter example happened to me when I was here in 2008 and again tonight. The man that I encountered in 2008 made a huge impact on my life. We walked and talked and I got to learn a little bit about his life and why he was in the situation that he was in. As I got to my destination, God was laying it on my heart to help him but all I had was a ten dollar bill, so I gave it to him. I don’t know if it helped him very much, but that encounter really opened my eyes and gave me a new perspective on Matthew 25:35-40…

“35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

In this passage, Jesus teaches that when you help people in need, you are actually doing whatever it is you did for Jesus.

I wish I could tell you that I remembered that guy’s name and that I regularly prayed for him, but I can’t. I did for a few weeks, but then I forgot about him. Until tonight…as I was walking into the restaurant I saw a guy standing near the side of the building who looked very familiar. He said “what’s up, big man?” and I nodded my head and proceeded to go get some dinner. I can’t be certain that it wasn’t the same guy, but the odds of it being him are very low. Regardless though, seeing that man tonight brought memories of 2008’s encounter back into my mind and God renewed those thoughts of wanting to make a difference in my mind.

Now, back to tonight…as I was walking around trying to bounce back from being lost, I walked past a guy who was singing something. And guess who this guy looked like?!? You guessed it, the guy from 2008 and the guy I saw earlier in the night. If it was the same guy, then God was definitely behind that beautiful orchestration. He looked at me and started walking and talking with me. He took note of my Steelers hat and started talking to me about the Steelers…not the Steelers of today, but the champions from the 1970’s. Now, keep in mind, I was lost and frustrated at the time. After a few blocks, we came to a cross-walk and waited for the signal to change that would grant us permission to cross. He asked me which hotel I was trying to find. Because of the frustrated attitude I had, I didn’t want to be bothered so I said “I’m just walking around…” But as soon as I said that, I got a gut check from God that pretty much told me that I’m an idiot and I need to help this man out. So I told him the truth and that I was trying to find the Sheraton Atlanta hotel. He told me that he knew where it was and that he wanted to help me out. Then he proceeded to tell me that besides the singing, he likes to help people like me out when they are trying to get around in the city. I reached into my pocket and gave him whatever money I had in there. It wasn’t much, and I told him that, but he said “that’s perfect!” I shook his hand and found out his name was Timothy. I thanked him and told him to go get himself something to eat!

So, you’re still wondering what this title has to do with anything, huh? I suppose it’s time to tell you. As soon as that guy stopped singing and started walking and talking with me, he went on a little rant that went something like this: “you know, I don’t have a job right now and I’m struggling, but I can sing and so I was just singing for those guys (points back to the group that had just walked away) and they wouldn’t even give me a couple dollars so that I could get something to eat. If they’re going to waste my time, they should just leave me the (expletive) alone. You know? My time is very valuable…” And that’s when it hit me. That man; although he didn’t have a job, money, or a place to live, still had an amazing grasp on reality. His reality was that even though he didn’t have much to offer, he wanted to use the little that he did have to help people. The group of guys that listened to him sing and then didn’t help him out were wasting his time. Time that he could have been using to help other people in whatever way he could.

So the questions that I want to leave you with are: Is your time so valuable to you that you aren’t allowing yourself to be tuned in to where God is leading you in terms of being the difference in peoples’ lives? Are you too busy or too frustrated to allow God to use you to help someone in need?

The reality is that our time is valuable. Not for the purpose of doing what makes us feel good but for the purpose of completing the good works God created for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We can live by our own agendas or we can live by His, but either way, we only have so much time…

 – paulg

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Making a Difference in Lynn, MA – DUMC High School Missions Trip…

July 20, 2011

This past week I had the privilege of leading my first Missions Trip with my new youth group. Five of our adult leaders and I took a group of 39 High School-ers to serve the community of Lynn, MA (right outside of Boston).  It was a phenomenal week and one that I will never forget. I was blown away (again) by the way my new students welcomed, supported, and loved me. I wasn’t sure of what to expect going into the trip, but now that it’s over I realize that I had no reason to worry. I believe that bonds were formed, friendships were strengthened, and lives were changed because of this trip and I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of it all!

The leaders and I picked up the vans the day before we left and we had the students meet at the church the night before to load the vans. This was an exciting time because we all knew it meant that we would get to leave soon! We also spent some time decorating the windows of the vans to let people know who we were and what our purpose was (to spread the love of Jesus)! Once we had the vans packed, and the names checked off on the list of attendees, we all got to go home and get a good night’s sleep before we embarked on our journey to Massachusetts. We pulled out of the church at 8:30 AM and after two bathroom stops, one of which was extremely long (on account of the Starbucks that distracted our kids), and one lunch stop, we made it safely to the church we stayed at in Lynn, MA.

On our first night in Lynn, we had a leaders meeting where we spent time assigning all of our students into the work groups/locations that we thought would best fit them. Being that this trip was my first time meeting some of these students; it was a very difficult/stressful thing to figure out where they best fit. Thankfully, I had some veteran youth leaders there with me who were able to help me out.

Surprisingly there were no problems with the groups or who the students were paired up with. A few of the students weren’t happy with the work that they were actually doing and expressed to me that they would rather have been doing something different but I just used that as an opportunity to stress to them the importance of stepping out of their comfort zones and sticking it out to make a difference in peoples’ lives! I told them that we weren’t there that week for us, but for the people of Lynn, MA. These students really stepped it up after this and I was very impressed with them.

Being that I am the youngest leader in our group, I got assigned to do sports camp where we played football with community kids aged 10-14 all week. I got to take 6 of my students to the sports camp to help lead with me. It was great to see my students stepping up and being a positive influence in the lives of these community kids. I saw tremendous leadership qualities in all 6 of those guys and I think they learned a lot from the experience. Some of the community kids we worked with were tough and did not want to listen or follow rules, but overall it was a great experience for everyone involved. After we were done with sports camp each day, both I and Steve (the youth pastor from the church in Minnesota who was on the trip with us) drove the community kids back to the church. This was one of my favorite times of each day because as the kids were piling out of the van and we were waiting in the parking lot, I had the opportunity to sit and watch/take pictures of some of my other students loving on their group of community kids. It is great to see true ministry taking place and the love of Jesus being shown!

Each night, after we finished our work for the day, we got to do a fun, evening activity. On Monday night we got to go to Nahant Beach. It was a beautiful beach and provided for a great group photo.

If I could do one thing differently about this beach trip, I would make sure guitars do not get left at the beach. We had an incident where a guitar was left at the beach and no one told me it was missing until three days after the fact. By that point, kids had convinced themselves that it was brought back and was either stolen or hidden in the church somewhere. Long story short, the guitar was found and turned in to the police station and the student’s father will be picking it up during his already scheduled trip to Boston in August. On Tuesday night we got to ride the subway into to downtown Boston and spend an hour shopping and exploring the city. This was probably one of my favorite evening activities that we did. I got to walk around the city with 17 of my students and see all that that part of Boston had to offer. We also got a plethora of pictures and videos of a few of my students doing “The Bernie.”

For those of you that don’t know, “The Bernie” is based on the moves of the dead guy Bernie from a movie made in the 1980’s (Weekend at Bernie’s). Apparently it is a new dance craze that is sweeping the South…and apparently it has made its way to Doylestown, PA and now Boston, MA! Our group loves “The Bernie” so much that we got all of us together for a “Mass Bernie-ing” and recorded it with an intro tutorial! And yes, it will make an appearance in church whenever we talk about our trip!

On Wednesday night we got to go have dinner with people from the community at a soup kitchen called “My Brothers Table.” It was great to see my students and leaders sitting and eating with the people we were working with all week. And on Thursday we got to go to Gloucester, MA for a cookout/hangout time at the beach. We got to swim, play football, play volley ball, and climb rocks. It was a beautiful place and everyone had a blast. I treated everyone to ice cream in Gloucester and I think I won everyone’s heart because of it! haha

After we got back from the beach cookout, we had a worship service followed by a foot washing ceremony. This was one of the most powerful things from the entire week. YouthWorks washed the adult leaders’ feet and then we washed our students’ feet and prayed with each and every one of them. After some of the students’ got their feet washed, they went around the room and prayed with their friends. It was a very powerful and emotional evening and I was blown away by it.

A parent of two of the girls in my youth group asked me if I would have done anything differently. Now that I think back on it I realize that I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a great experience and a huge trip for me in terms of getting to know the students and building relationships with them. I am so thankful that God had His hands all over this trip!

A Special Thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna!

Special thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna for providing an amazing trip for us!

Now I have the Middle School Missions Trip to Charleston, WV to look forward to. We leave this Sunday. Woooohoooo!

–          paulg


The Book of Eli…

August 26, 2010

Before I get started, I need to mention that this is NOT a movie review. I will be talking about some parts of this movie, but will not be giving away any key points to the plot or ruining the ending of the film for you. My purpose with this is to relate some parts of the movie to serving God and doing ministry.

The Book of Eli

I have wanted to watch “The Book of Eli” for a few months now and the other day I finally decided to rent it. I loved every minute of it and would definitely recommend that people see it. I’ll more than likely watch it again. The movie takes place in a post-war ravaged world and is about a nomad named Eli who is on a mission to transport the last copy of the Bible to a place on the West Coast of the United States where it will be safe; a place where people will need it and know what to do with it.

On his journey, Eli encounters various thugs and rogue gangs who set traps to ambush people, kill them, steal their belongings, and eat them. However, Eli possesses an amazing ability to fight off and kill everyone that tries to deter him from completing his mission. Later on in the movie, we learn that Eli was told that he would be protected from anything or anyone that stands in his way. At first I just thought that Eli was tough as nails, but when I found out that God was on his side and was protecting him from everything that got in his way, I realized he was tougher than I had originally thought; he was tougher than nails!

This morning, I watched an online sermon from Elevation Church (in North Carolina) by Pastor Steven Furtick. His message was about betrayal and keeping your head up. He preached from Psalms 3:1-8, but the primary focus was on verse 3. And this is where I am going to tie this in to this movie, in case you were wondering! 😉 As I just mentioned, God protected Eli on his journey across North America; He protected him on every side.

Psalm 3:3 says, “But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

In “The Book of Eli,” God protected Eli (when He had the Bible) so much that even bullets that hit him did not hurt him. He provided him with amazing senses, and gave him incredible speed with his sword and amazing accuracy with his guns. If you watch the movie in its entirety, and pay close attention at the end, you will be even more amazed at these abilities that Eli possessed.

I believe that, to some extent, God provides the same amount of protection and guidance to us on our tasks, missions, and callings that He has called us to. I don’t know that He will prevent bullets from penetrating our skin when we are being shot at, but He certainly could if He wanted to. So maybe just don’t go trying to get shot at! I have heard a saying before that says, “You are safer deep in the jungles of Africa living inside of God’s will than you are in your own living room living outside of God’s will!” I firmly believe that we will be protected on every side when we are seeking God, following His leading, guidance, and direction, and living fully for Him. As Psalm 3:3 says, He is a shield around us!

Verse 4 goes on to say, “To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.” If we sincerely cry out to God, He will hear us, He will answer us, and He WILL be a shield around us!

What about YOU?

Are you following God’s leading and going where He tells you to go, and doing what He tells you to do?

Have you ever experienced God’s hand of protection on your life?

I would love to hear some feedback on this…I would love to hear your stories!

– paulg


Fear of God: The Wrong Kind…

November 9, 2009

Occasionally I will have an idea in my mind that I let percolate for quite some time before I put the words onto paper, or in this case, onto the internet. This particular story took place around three months ago and I have been meaning to write about it ever since.

As most of you know, I took my youth group to Texas to work at a camp for foster children back in August. It was a very challenging week, to say the least. You can read about some of the chaos in this post Texas Missions Trip – Day 6… ! It was a life-changing week for my students and I. We saw the hurt that is present in most of the kids at that camp. They came from a wide variety of backgrounds (financial, ethnic, religious, etc…) but they all had one thing in common: they came from broken families. Some of them came from a background of drugs, alcohol, and abuse, while others just came from a background of parents that didn’t want them.

Those kids were not foster kids; they are kids who are forced to live in the foster care system. It wasn’t anything they did, it wasn’t their choice, and they shouldn’t be looked down upon because of it. I developed a heart for those kids that week and I will never forget the relationships built and impact that was made in their lives. There was one thing that deeply moved me, and that is what I will be writing about today…

After the speaker finished his message during one of the final services of the week, each kid was to write down what they were thankful for as well as what they were afraid of on separate post-it-notes. After they were done, they were to take the post-it-note with their fears and stick it to a giant wooden cross that was in the front of the room. This signified that they were surrendering their fears to Jesus and leaving them at the Cross. Since all of these kids were between the ages of 9 and 12, they weren’t very tall, so I went up to help my campers stick their post-it-notes up high on the cross. After I got done helping some of my campers stick their fears on the cross, I went back to see the progress that one particular camper was making (I am not legally allowed to say his name) on his thankfulness and fears. The camp nurse was also helping him. He was saying things like, “I ain’t afraid of nothin’!” To this, to get him laughing, I said, “what about me? I’m way bigger than you are…and I have tattoo’s…you should be afraid of me!” He then leaned over to the nurse and said, “Yeah, that’s true…but I still ain’t afraid of him!” After this, I walked around to a few of my other campers to see their progress and when I came back, the nurse told me she needed to talk to me about something and pulled me into the kitchen…

As soon as we got out of sight of the campers, she started bawling and told me that she got that little boy to tell her what he was really afraid of. He told her that he was afraid of God and that God was punishing him! I saw her heart break right there in front of me for that little boy, and mine broke too. My heart broke because of the unfairness that these kids face everyday due to the poor decisions of their biological parents. As I mentioned earlier, it is not their (the kids) fault that they are in this living situation, but it is the cards that they have been dealt and they have no choice in the matter. It’s just sad to hear that they blame God and think that He is punishing them.

The nurse asked me to please talk to him and let him know that God is not punishing him and that He loves him! I gave her my word that I would and later that afternoon, I pulled the camper aside and did my best to talk to him. He wasn’t very willing to talk, but I know that Jesus’ words, spoken through me, got into his heart and his mind. I pray that they did and that he learns that God is the only person that can fill any void he has in his life!

The organization that we worked for (Arrow Child and Family Ministries) sent me a poster that contained some of the post-it-notes that the campers wrote. Some examples of what they wrote are as follows…

“Afraid of losing my brothers and sisters.”

“Hope to see you in next two months mom. I miss you! And hope you get better.”

“I want to go back home to my mom.”

“I want to go home with my real parents.”

“I want a new family who can love me more.”

“I want to be adopted.”

“My biological father abused my mom.”

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These are just a few of the things that these kids wrote. Please pray for the camper I wrote about, as well as the millions of other children who have concerns like the ones listed above! Thank you!

–          paulg


Texas Missions Trip: Day 6…

August 17, 2009

As I anticipated, I wouldn’t have any time to write for the remainder of our trip. We have now been home for two days and I am finally able to write these last few posts about our time in Texas.

Thursday (Day 6) was another long and tiring day. The cabin that both Jordan and I were in went from activity to activity, and broke up fight after fight. At this point in the week, the campers were tired and getting on each other’s nerves (worse than the day before). They were insulting each other, starting arguments with each other, hitting each other with whatever they could find, and various other things. The thing that set all of the chaos into motion was Mother Nature. Due to the thunderstorms that lasted all afternoon, our group was forced to stay inside at a place called “Grace House.” Grace House is a cabin type structure where games are played (board games, group games, etc.). The kids were so upset that we couldn’t go to the pool to swim. They couldn’t grasp the concept of why we can’t swim during a thunder and lightning storm for some reason!

What made this particular day interesting was that our girls (Abby, Katelyn, Kristen) were there running the games. So they got to experience the chaos of our group of campers. At first it started out as fun and games, but then it became an all-out brawl! The kids started wrestling with each other, and then it progressed to pushing, and eventually hitting. The counselors broke it up but it was still a bad situation with everyone mad at each other and still trying to fight. Some of the campers were playing games and having fun, but there were about 7 or so that were involved in the royal rumble! One of my counselors had to step out for an hour or so to try to calm down (that’s how stressful it was working with these kids at times). Some of the campers got upset to the point of crying and not talking to anyone. I had to call in back up (the main case worker lady who was there that week) to get through to one of the kids.

After the storms passed (weather storms…not the storms of the kids), we went to the sports pavilion where we played basketball, hockey, and rolled around on scooters! This activity was mostly a success. I say mostly because we had a few incidents here as well. One of our campers slashed another in the leg with a hockey stick. When the case worker from our cabin and I tried to find out what actually happened, we got conflicting stories from everyone who “saw” it happen. The kid who got hit said that the hitter did it on purpose. The kid who did the hitting said that it was an accident as he was going to hit the hockey puck. And another kid gave us two different stories of what he thought he saw happen. Long story short, we concluded that it was an accident and that others were blowing it out of proportion to try to get the hitter in trouble.

The rest of the day went well…until bedtime! I’m not sure how it first started, but at one point, when most of the cabin was asleep, one of our campers started flipping out. He was swearing at kids and leaders, hitting kids and leaders, trying to start fights, insulting everyone, making kids cry, and going nuts. The case worker said that it’s best to not give the kid an audience because it seemed like he just wanted attention. So we ignored his shenanigans for over an hour. During that hour, he still didn’t calm down. He was pounding on the wall, swearing, and yelling at people. My insult that he was calling me was “pork-chop head!” Tyler’s was “messed up nose.” And one of the other counselors was “nerd.” The funniest one though, was the name he gave Jordan. He was calling him “Jordan Head.” I guess he really couldn’t find an insulting thing to say to Jordan. Ha-ha.
During this whole situation, we had to have two other case workers come in to talk to the kid, and eventually, we had the person running the camp come to take him away for the night. After he was finally gone, our next task was to calm the kids down who he upset. The whole process from when he started flipping out until when we had the last kid calmed down was about 4 hours. It was a long ending to a long day. The kid that was causing the problems came back the next morning and was calmed down, but that was only temporary.

It was a chaotic experience for some of the counselors and campers. Although it was a bit much, I was glad that two of my students (from my youth group) were there to experience it and learn about what to do in situations like that. It was definitely shocking and a learning experience for them!

So, after reading all of this, I think you can see why I had no time to write about Day 6 on Day 6!

Until next time…

– paulg


Texas Missions Trip: Day 5…

August 13, 2009

My mind is not working properly right now due to nearing the point of exhaustion. I don’t know how long or how good this post will be, but I’m going to try my best. I can’t speak for the girls, but I know that this was a very long and stressful day for the guys! It was our first full day with the campers, and was non-stop busyness going from activity to activity. We had breakfast, went swimming, went on the ropes course, had lunch, had a lesson/worship time, went to arts and crafts, and went to play ultimate Frisbee. After ultimate Frisbee, the scheduled plans changed for the day. Thunderstorms appeared out of nowhere and we were forced inside. My cabin got sent inside to watch a movie. I couldn’t tell you what movie they watched because I laid on the floor and fell asleep until we were allowed back outside again (about ¾ of the way through the movie). After that we went to our evening activity/dinner time (Mario Kart racing on the Nintendo Wii). Dinner was pretty good too (chicken strips, macaroni and cheese, corn, and salad). After that we had campfire songs inside (because it was raining again). Then we took the kids back to the cabin for devotions and bed time. Surprisingly, we were able to get everyone in bed and to sleep by 10:30 PM. That’s two hours quicker than we did it last night. We should have received a reward!

I saw nastiness and cruelty today amongst some of my campers, and it was not pretty. It’s sad that kids pick on people that are different than them. But I was glad that they seemed to stop after the other lead counselor and I had a serious talk with them and took some of their privileges away! I can’t put names on here, but I would like to ask all of you to pray for my campers this week…pray that the nastiness, name calling, bitterness, and cruelty would not resurface and that these kids would get along, learn, and show love to each other!

I didn’t have much to write about today, but there is one more thing that I would like to mention. For a while before this trip, and even the first day or two into it, I was wondering if this was really where God wanted us to come for our Missions Trip. I wasn’t sure if it actually was, or if it was forced because I thought that I had to find something to replace our Mexico trip. But God keeps confirming to me that this is where He wants us to be at this time! We’re building relationships with people and campers, we’re showing the love of Jesus to them through the way we live our lives, and we are making an impact here in Porter, Texas!

For the last few days, I have been thinking about the benefits and blessings that making this place a place where we come back every year, or every other year would bring, but I haven’t mentioned it to anyone yet. Tonight, before the inside campfire song session, the girls asked me if we would be coming back here again next year. I told them I didn’t know about next year because of LIFE. Then I asked them if they wanted to come back and they all immediately said “Yes!” This made my day! I think it would be great to come back to minister at this camp again, instead of just leaving this year and never looking back or finding out what’s going on in the lives of the kids we ministered to! We started building relationships this week, and it would be great to continue and strengthen those relationships again in the future.  Nothing is set in stone, and these are just the beginning stages of thinking about this possibility of coming back. God knows what He wants, and He will make it known to us in His timing!

Please continue to pray for us as we minister to these kids. Pray for safety, patience, gentleness, and understanding. These kids come from a background we know nothing about, so we need God’s help to know how to get through to them.

Until next time…

– paulg


Texas Missions Trip: Day 3…

August 11, 2009

We have now successfully completed day three of our Texas Missions Trip. We started doing actual work today and there was lots of sweating done by all. It was another hot one today, as are most days in Texas. We spent a few hours getting the camp ready for the campers to arrive tomorrow. We spent time getting their material and paperwork together. We spent time setting up the sports equipment and what-not. We spent some time setting up the cafeteria and main lesson area. And we got all of the cabins ready to be lived in by a bunch of crazy 7-12 year old boys!

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After we were done doing all the pre-camp preparations, we came back and got cleaned up and tried to put a stop to all of the sweating. Then we went out to a highly recommended Mexican restaurant called “Chuy’s” (pronounced – chewies). I’m not sure how you get “chewies” from “chuy’s” but I wasn’t going to ask questions, I was just there to eat some good food! This was no ordinary lunch though; my students and I (along with Betsy (Keith’s wife…for those of you who don’t know who I’m talking about) back home in Altoona) were secretly planning all morning how we were going to surprise Keith by taking him out to lunch for his birthday. We purposely neglected to tell him happy birthday the entire morning, in hopes of making him think we forgot. Then when we got to the restaurant, we all text messaged him at the same time a happy birthday message. Mine said “happy birthday brother man, your lunch is on me!” He was surprised and happy that we all wished him a very happy birthday. Also worth mentioning about our lunch trip was that Jordan, Tyler, Keith, and I got sweet t-shirts from the restaurant. They had a lot of cool ones to choose from!

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Keith looking surprised the moment he got six texts at once wishing him a happy birthday...

Keith looking surprised the moment he got six texts at once wishing him a happy birthday...

After we got back from lunch, we all just hung out for the afternoon. The girls went for a run, the boys played video games and listened to music on their iPods, I attempted to nap (but was very unsuccessful), some of us played volleyball, and then we all went swimming. Some notable things worth mentioning about our swimming excursion was that Abby threw a ball and hit me in the back of the head, Katelyn and Tyler got attacked by fire ants, and we all went down this awesome blow-up water slide a bunch of times!

After we got back from swimming, the girls cooked us dinner (spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and garlic bread). The girls cooked while the guys sat around on the couches watching TV and hanging out. I felt bad so I helped a little bit (by cooking the meatballs in the microwave). So I was not entirely lazy, just a little bit! After dinner, Tyler, Jordan, and I went to put gas in the van, to rent a movie, and to buy candles for another birthday surprise we had for Keith. The girls baked brownies while we were out and when we put the candles in, they started to fall over from their bottoms melting. The brownies were still too hot! So if there is anything you are going to learn from this blog, it should be this: allow your brownies to cool down a lot before sticking thin, wax, candles in them! We then decided to put the candles in the ice cream and let Keith blow them out that way….and that was a successful plan! Now we are all relaxing and watching a movie.

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Tomorrow is our first full-day of ministry here in Porter, Texas. We have training all morning and part of the afternoon, and then the campers arrive at 3:00 pm! It will be non-stop busyness from that point on! I’ve done camp ministry before (as I mentioned in one of the previous blogs) and it is extremely tiring, but very worth it! Please pray for strength, knowledge, perseverance, stamina, and whatever else God leads you to pray for us. We will definitely need the prayers!

I have a strong feeling that God is going to use us to make a difference in these students lives, so pray that we are willing and open to be used by Him!

Until next time…

– paulg


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