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


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

Texas Missions Trip: Day 1

August 8, 2009

It is now 6:46 AM and I am about 12,000 feet in the air going anywhere from 300-500 miles per hour. Some of my youth group and I are en route to Porter, Texas (near Houston) where we will be working at a week-long camp for foster children. We left Altoona, PA at 2:15 AM and drove 2 ½ hours to the Harrisburg Airport. Our plane took off at 6:00 AM and we are flying to Cincinnati and then to Houston. Everything has gone smoothly so far, well…except for the flight attendant yelling at me for trying to turn my computer off (which is what she asked everyone to do).

I attempted to get my computer out to write this (when it was ok to do so) but there wasn’t enough space in between me and the back of the seat in front of me to open it fully, so I resorted to pen and paper. Then my pen died and the guy next to me came to the rescue with a new one. Thank you, guy next to me!

I’m very excited about this trip for many reasons. The first being that this is the first missions trip I have ever been on…and I am leading it! It’s an awesome opportunity that forces me to rely fully on God! Another reason I’m excited is because of what we will actually be doing. We were originally supposed to go to Reynosa, Mexico but thanks to the extreme violence and swine flu, I had to pull the plug on that trip. So our plan B missions trip (this one) is actually something that I know all about (camp ministry). I worked at a summer camp in Massachusetts three summers ago and I believe God put me through that to prepare me for this. Isn’t it awesome how God does things? (The answer is yes!!!) Another reason I am excited is because I was born in Texas (24 years ago) and I have never been back since before my first birthday. I am nowhere near where I was born, but it’s still cool to be back in Texas! And the last reason, and probably the least significant reason I am excited to be here is because we are going to get authentic barbequing lessons from someone related to Keith (one of my leaders). If you know me, you know I love BBQ, I’ll write more tomorrow about how the BBQ lessons went!

We had some troubles finding the camp due to TomTom’s (my GPS) inadequacies (it didn’t know a lot of the new additions done to the roads around here. Oh well, we made it. Upon arrival at the camp, we had to sit in front of the gate for a good 20 minutes or so while I called around to find out who was going to come and unlock the gate for us. Eventually, we got in. The cabin/house/mansion thing we are staying in for the first three nights is AMAZING! It is extremely nice and well decorated, and the AC keeps it nice and cool in here! It definitely feels more like a vacation than a missions trip, but that will change once the campers arrive.

Here are a couple pictures of the kitchen (to illustrate how nice this place is:

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Our original plan for the day was to go to a sweet water park around here. But after we got unpacked and situated, I called the park to find out what time they close. The lady said they close at 7:00 PM. If I was a water park, I would definitely NOT close at 7 at night when the sun is still out and it is over 100 degrees outside. That doesn’t make much sense to me. Good thing I am not a water park. Anyway, I proceeded to ask the lady about pricing and if they gave a discount if you come later in the day. She said no, you still have to pay the full $32.99. So, our group made an executive decision to avoid paying $32.99 for only a few hours of water park fun! Instead we went to the swimming pool here and then hung out at our sweet cabin thing. The girls also went canoeing while the guys sat in the nice, cool air conditioning!

Next on the agenda: I am taking everyone out for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. They don’t know that they don’t have to pay yet either. Surprise, surprise! Ok, I’m rambling on now and I should probably end this. But that’s what usually happens when you only got about 2 hours of sleep in the last 24 + hours.

Until next time…

– paulg

Seeing a Need and Filling It…

May 5, 2009

I have been doing a lot of thinking about serving as of late. This is mainly because my youth group has gone on two service projects over the last few months: one was a weekend serving opportunity to a nearby Christian camp and conference center and the other was a clean-up day at a local park. Both of which gave us a brief glimpse of the much larger scale service project/missions trip we will be going on this summer!

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During the lesson on one of our service projects, I showed a video clip called “Get Service,” (which can be found by following the link at the bottom of this page). This video depicts a young businessman who is very impatient and angry with the world. It shows different scenes where his impatience really comes out. In one cheesy scene a “men in black” kind of secret service guy walks up to him, says nothing, and hands him an eye glasses case. “Get Service” is written on the case. When the man opens them and puts the glasses on, people’s needs are made known to him with convenient little captions that pop up for each person. One lady has a caption that reads “avoids relationships for fear of pain!” Another young man’s caption says, “Discontent with life.” A middle aged woman is seen with a “struggling with sense of purpose” caption while the man at the table next to her has one that reads, “has never known true friendship.”  Some of the others are: “recently lost his job,” “struggling with addiction,” “just needs a hug,” “works 2 jobs to feed her kids,” “grieving her best friend,” “fighting with her husband,” “could really use a ride,” “ran away from home 3 days ago.” The last one, which I feel is the most powerful, is a kid on a skateboard who the guy got mad at in the beginning of the scene. The kids caption reads, “Just needs someone to care!” To me, serving is simply seeing a need and filling it!

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Serving is a wonderful thing, and I am currently in the process of planning more opportunities for my students to gain more exposure to this type of ministry, but I wonder if we really grasp the importance of it! What are we really gaining from doing local, short term or long term missions trips? Do we just go to have a weekend away with our friends, or are we there for something more?

Yes, youth group missions’ trips or service projects can be an opportunity to get away and spend time with our friends, but I believe that there is a bigger purpose and something to be gained from serving. Take a look at Matthew 25:34-45 with me…

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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, 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.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothes you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

In this passage, we see the righteous people (or the Christians) being judged before they enter into Heaven. Jesus tells them that they gave him something to eat when He was hungry, gave him something to drink when he was thirsty, and invited Him in when He was a stranger among them. He goes on to say that they clothed Him when He needed clothes, they looked after Him when He was sick, and came to visit Him while He was in prison. We then see that these people were confused by Jesus’ words and didn’t quite comprehend what He was talking about. They thought that they had never done any of the things that He just credited them for doing. They then asked Jesus when they did these things and what Jesus said next completely blows my mind. I believe Jesus sums up the main purpose of serving with one simple statement when He said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Jesus was saying that whatever we do to try to help someone else, we are actually doing for Him. Whenever we help a Christian Camp with varnishing a dorm hallway or raking leaves, we are serving Jesus. Whenever we clean up trash at our favorite disc golf course and park, we are actually serving Jesus. Whenever we help that elderly couple with their yard work, we are actually serving Jesus. Whenever we volunteer to serve as a leader in a ministry of the church, we are actually serving Jesus. Whenever we go to another part of the country or another country on a mission’s trip, we are actually serving Jesus. Simply put: We are serving Jesus by serving others!

Although we can’t all be given magic glasses that let us see the needs of those around us, we can still do our part by seeing a need and filling it!

– paulg

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