Blown Away: The First Five Hours In My New Ministry

July 7, 2011

I’ve had many memorable moments with students in the past. All of these youth have impacted my life in a major way, as I hope that I have with theirs. I will cherish some of these memories for the rest of my life. As some of you know, I have recently been hired by a new church after a long (in my eyes) 14-month hiatus from youth ministry. It wasn’t my choice but it is what it is and I feel that God definitely had a reason for taking me out of full-time ministry for that amount of time. I won’t touch any more on that for now but rest assured that I will definitely be writing about it as soon as I can. Anyway, I got hired at Doylestown United Methodist Church on June 12, 2011 and my official start date was to be July 1, 2011. I left Belle Vernon, PA on June 30, 2011 and headed down Interstate 76 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike) to start my new life and new ministry. On my way there, I stopped at a huge Christian music festival called “Creation” that my new youth group and leaders were attending. And when I say “huge,” I mean 82,000 people HUGE! Creation is a four or five day festival. I only planned to stop for one day to get to know some of the youth and leaders that would be my new family. Stopping at Creation was key and had potential to be an extremely beneficial way to begin my new ministry. The reason for this is that I will be taking 39 of those students on a High School Missions Trip on July 10-15 and then 20 or so more of them on the Middle School Missions Trip on July 24-29. So breaking the ice, getting to know them, and getting them to know me was an extremely important thing that needed to be taken care of as quickly as possible since there is no youth group and no other way for me to meet/get to know them before the trips. I was blown away as soon as I pulled up in front of our groups’ camp site.

Looking down on Creation Fest from overlook mountain...

As I was driving the two and a half hours it took to get there, I couldn’t help but to feel nervous. I wondered how well the students would like me, if things would be awkward because no one knew me and I didn’t know them, would they want to meet me, would they be mad/hurt that I was the guy replacing their old youth pastor, etc. All kinds of scenarios were running through my mind but the conclusion that I came to was that I would have to just leave it in God’s hands and wait and see what would happen. And that’s exactly what I did. There was nothing else I could do.

As soon as I stepped out of my truck, I got “attacked” by my new youth group. All of the kids that were there (some were at concerts or at the various other attractions that they had at “Creation”) swarmed to me around my truck and started to introduce themselves. They were excited to meet me and it was such an amazing, warm, and welcoming feeling when all I expected was shyness and awkwardness. I was so blown away/overwhelmed with joy because of this. This took away all of the nervousness, uncertainty, questions, and broke the ice. I was able to focus on building relationships with them the rest of the time since this initial part was knocked out by them. God’s hands were definitely all over this and I am so thankful for that.

A small group of my youth on overlook mountain...

There was one other amazing thing that these students and leaders did for me that I didn’t quite pick up on right away. As I was meeting them I noticed that they all had some form of a temporary or henna tattoo on them. Some had them on their necks. Some had them on their arms. Some had them on their stomachs, backs, legs. And one even had so many of them on one arm that it looked like a sleeve. I noticed it but I didn’t put much thought into it because I was so amazed at how awesome these kids were. Later that night at one of the sessions/concerts one of my leaders was talking to me and she asked me if I noticed everyone’s tattoos. Then it hit me: it wasn’t just a coincidence! She told me that they planned it and all of the kids and leaders wanted to make me feel comfortable (since I have tattoos) so they went out of their way to put all of those tattoos on…AMAZING! I ended up staying for two nights because my students wanted me to stay longer.

So if all of this awesomeness took place within my first 5 hours of being there, I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for me, this youth group, and this church. It’s going to be good!

–          paulg


Alexis is Becoming Alexis Again…

January 11, 2010

Hey Everyone,

I just wanted to take a few minutes to update you on Alexis. Alexis is doing amazingly well these days! She had the week off of chemo treatments, which was a nice break for both her and Ashley! Another nice break is that she is now off of the steroids that she was on. While on them, she was not the same little girl. But now that she is off of them, she is back to her normal (full of energy) self, and I can now call her “crazy baby” again! That’s my nickname for her, and she loves it!

Crazy Baby Alexis in "Paul's Toot Toot!"

On Thursday, I spent the day with Ashley and Alexis. We went to State College to get some new Penn State gear. Alexis made me wash my truck (which she calls “Paul’s toot toot”) before I picked them up though. She likes a clean looking truck I guess. Smart kid!!! The above picture is of her in the back seat of my truck, I mean “toot toot” being her “crazy baby” and cute self!

Here is an update that Ashley typed up for me a few days ago…

“Alexis has been doing awesome! She’s been off of the steroids since Jan. 2nd and she’s definitely back to her old self!! Her belly goes down every day; she has a belly button again!! Her face is still chubby as can be…but they said that’s always the last to go down! She also isn’t up all night eating, so we are finally getting some sleep!!! She’s been keeping busy playing with play-doh and her leap frog computer…and watching barney and kids sing praise, of course!!

Her next treatment is Jan. 12th. Her appt. time is 1:30 but our arrival time is scheduled for 11AM. They are going to start her on fluids that she will need for her treatment. She will also have chemo that day, and brandon and I decide whether or not to keep her in the study. We’ll find out what risk group she is in based on her last bone marrow test/spinal, too. They say that this will be a long visit, probably hours, if we stay on the study, because they will need to be on the phone with California registering her and whatever else they need to do.

we are having a blood drive through central blood bank in honor of Alexis. it will be at grace bible church in Hollidaysburg on January 25th from 12:00-6:00! 🙂   “

If you would like to set an appointment to donate at this drive, please log on to http://www.centralbloodbank.org and enter Alexis’ sponsor code ZRTN0603 or call April Harmon at 814-505-5514

I can’t thank you all enough for your prayers and support of this amazing little girl! Please continue to pray for Alexis, Ashley, and the rest of Ashley’s family. Prayer changes things, and God has been answering our prayers for this situation! Keep it up…

–          paulg


Sometimes, God throws a bungee cord at you…

September 22, 2009

Two weekends ago, my friend Ashley (ok, she’s a little more than a friend…it just isn’t official yet) took a road trip back to where I grew up to watch the Pittsburgh Steeler game, go to a concert (Toby Keith and Trace Adkins), and to visit family and friends. It had the makings to be a fun and relaxing weekend and it was, but the first night was a little stressful and chaotic.

Before we left Altoona to go to Belle Vernon (where I grew up), I received a text from my best friend Billy asking me to pray for him because he was having severe stomach pains. Some background info: He had to get a colonoscopy that morning and something went wrong that didn’t show up until later in the day. Because of this complication, he was having intense pains in his stomach, he had a high fever, and he could barely walk (due to the stomach pain). It was so bad that he couldn’t even stay to watch the Steeler game; and he is a die-hard fan like me! That’s how I knew it was serious! Billy’s fiancé (whose name is Ashley) got off of work, rushed to his house and took him back to the ER (at the same hospital she works at). I did get to pray with and for him before he left, and I was very thankful for that.

While we were waiting on the results, we hung out at his house and watched the first half of the game. When we found out that he was going to need an emergency surgery, we rushed out the door and attempted to get to the hospital as fast as we could. We were making decent time and it looked like we were going to make it there in time to see him and pray with him before his surgery!

I was driving my truck and Ashley and Rob (Billy’s cousin/my friend) were with me while Becky (Billy’s sister) and JORDAN (her boyfriend…who asked me to put his name in all capitals) were in another vehicle. For some reason (which I later realized why) I decided to pass them. No more than three seconds after I passed them, I heard this loud clunking noise that sounded like someone was beating the crap out of my truck with a baseball bat! I immediately pulled off of the road and got out to see what happened while JORDAN and Becky kept on going to the hospital. When I got to the side of the truck that the ruckus was coming from, I found a bungee cord sticking out of my tire…a stinking bungee cord! How does that happen? My tire was flat and the other end of the bungee cord was missing in action. I soon found out what happened to that though. As Rob and I were changing my tire (which was an interesting experience), Ashley noticed that my rear, right taillight cover and taillight were completely shattered. Apparently the other end of the bungee swung back and busted my taillight. All I could do was laugh, because again, it was a bungee cord…how could I get mad at that?

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Anyway, we got the tire changed and finally made it to the hospital about a half an hour after Billy went into surgery. JORDAN and Becky made it to the hospital in time to see him before he went in. When we got there, we saw that there were eight people (family, friends, pastor) there waiting for the results of his surgery. It was encouraging to see them all there. We spent some time praying, talking, and laughing while we waited. While Billy’s pastor was praying, I was thinking and asking God why the bungee cord incident happened. Then God helped me to realize that my passing of JORDAN and Becky and getting the flat tire prevented Becky’s car from getting the flat tire and not being able to get to the hospital in time. Then I realized that Billy needed his sister (who is a nurse) by his side before surgery to help calm him down, pray with him, and let him know that everything was going to be ok! He needed his sister there and God knew that, so He orchestrated my running over of the bungee cord and the events that followed! It’s funny/awesome how God works at times!

Billy’s surgery lasted over four hours and he is currently recovering successfully! He has forty-four staples in his stomach and is not allowed to go back to work for four weeks! Thank you to those of you who saw my updates on twitter and the church prayer chain and were praying for him. God answered those prayers! Please continue to pray for a safe and successful recovery with no complications!

This story happened on September 11 and I am just now finding the time to write about it. I think God wanted me to write about this today, as opposed to last week, because I needed to be reminded of how God is in control of every situation. No matter how bad things seem, no matter how worried we get, no matter what we think will happen, God KNOWS what will happen and has everything under control!

Thanks for reading!

–          paulg


It Is What It Is…

February 23, 2009

Worrying has been something that has played a huge part in my life. I’m sure I have worried about everything there is to worry about at some point in my life. It is a huge problem and something that I work on every single day. I know what the Bible says and what God commands about worrying, yet I still do it. It’s like the argument that Paul has with himself in Romans 7.  Paul basically says he knows what he is supposed to do, yet he doesn’t do it. We see how much of a struggle it is for him. This is essentially how it is for me with worrying. However, I think God is really trying to assure me that He has everything under control and that I shouldn’t have to worry.

As most of you know, the day after I moved to Altoona PA to start my new job as a full-time youth pastor, I was in a bad automobile accident. I was towing a U-Haul trailer and I hit some ice on Route 22. The trailer swung out of control and threw my truck off of the road. I think the U-Haul both hurt and saved me. First, if I weren’t towing it, I probably would have been able to stay on the road. But if I did go off the road, without the U-Haul, my truck probably would have rolled. I’m fairly positive that the weight of the U-Haul prevented my truck from rolling. My truck was completely destroyed yet I came away from it all with only a broken thumb. I should have been severely injured. My truck was airborne at one point and I think (though I’m not 100% sure) the U-Haul landed on the bed of my truck. I felt like I was rolling and everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Whenever all of the chaos stopped and I had a second to stop and realize what happened, I was devastated. I had just moved to a new city and a new state, and I was excited to get things started on a good note. Then that happened. The first thing I thought about was my girlfriend Meghan. My moving away from New York was so hard on us and now, one day after leaving, I would have to let her know that I was in a bad car accident. I knew she would feel helpless and even more uneasy with my being over three hundred miles away from her.

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Whenever I built up enough strength to climb out of my truck (which was very hard to do considering the angle I was stopped at on the hillside), I paused for a minute before looking at the damage. The first thing I noticed was that the gas cap door was open, which kind of gave me a little bit of comedy in that chaotic time. I thought, “hmmm…that doesn’t look like too much damage!” But oh was I wrong (as you can see from the pictures). The next thing I noticed, after scanning over the twisted and jagged metal of the bed of my truck was the U-Haul trailer. My heart dropped because immediately I remembered that I declined insurance on it when renting it. I thought that nothing would happen and I wouldn’t need it. Whoops!img015

As soon as I saw the damage to my truck, I hoped that it would be totaled. If it were to be fixed, it would never run the same again. My biggest concern, however, was the U-Haul. It was flipped onto it’s side and it completely snapped the ball off of my hitch and twisted the steel of the receiver. I thought for sure that there would be a lot of money in damage to it. I worried about this for the rest of that day and part of the next. Eventually, I was able to get the pastor and an elder from my church to pick up the trailer and return it for me (since I no longer had a truck). Later that day, my Pastor called me and told me the damage to the trailer was going to cost $5,000. He let me be shocked for a few long seconds, then he told me he was just joking and that it only cost $48 ($20 something of that was because it was one day late). That was a huge relief.

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The next obstacle to overcome was getting another vehicle to get me around in until everything was settled with the insurance and auto loan companies. By Sunday of that week, I had four offers from people from the church who would let me use a vehicle until I found one of my own. By Tuesday, I had a car to use (that came with a full tank of gas).

The next obstacle to overcome was a shock to me. I found out that the insurance company would only cover a little over $10,000 for my truck. But I still owed a little over $13,000. I thought that I would be able to tack this onto my next auto loan or make smaller payments. But I found out that my auto loan company doesn’t allow roll over, and that I am responsible to pay off the remaining $3,000 plus within a month after they receive the check from my insurance company. I was upset when I found this out, but shortly after, through the help of my girlfriend, I felt like God was telling me it was going to be ok and that He would provide for me.

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And  God has been providing for me ever since the day of my accident. During the accident though, God provided me with safety. I shouldn’t be in as good of shape as I am today. God definitely had His hand there protecting me. He provided me with help from the firemen, police, and tow truck drivers at the scene of the accident. He provided me with my parents being able to come and pick me up. He provided me with them being able to take me back to the hospital my mom works at for x-rays. He provided me with a way to return the U-Haul. He provided me with protection to the U-Haul (because it should have been damaged more than it was as well). He provided me with excellent help from the insurance company. He provided me with a car to use temporarily. And I trust that He will provide me with enough money to pay off the remainder of my loan and that He will provide me with another truck of my own.img014

God has been extremely good to me so far in my journey with Him and there is no reason for me to believe that He will stop. Although I have struggled with worrying for as long as I can remember, this accident and the events that followed have strongly helped me realize that God WILL provide for me and that there is nothing to worry about.

It happened and there is nothing I can do to change it. It is what it is!

I have been blessed!

– paulg


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