Thursday, June 25, 2009

yes, i'm still alive!

well, it's been a while, hasn't it? i'm sorry that i've been so out of touch--both here on the blog & also over the phone & email. i'm going to try & use my free times (like right now!) to better communicate with everyone, in addition to getting some extra rest :)

rest is one thing i definitely need. my body is learning to function on less sleep, and God Himself fills me with the energy & strength needed to make it through each 18 hour day. the beautiful thing is that while i'm tired & drained physically, i am so filled up by this work! what a blessing that is---because if that wasn't the case, there would be no way to make it through this summer. it is intense. i do thrive on the busy-ness for the most part, and love being able to serve every waking moment of the day. my servant leadership has grown in leaps & bounds in just a few short weeks out of sheer necessity. there is always something to do & someone to help. i am so thankful for the opportunity to function as a team & to serve multiple categories of people--the staff, the youth, the adult leaders, the community members. and how richly God is blessing us in that.

but on to the specifics! we are in our second week of programming here at Coastal Carolina--and I can hardly believe it! is anyone else shocked that it will be July next week? we have 6 weeks left here, and it alternately feels like a lot and a little yet to go. we had an AWESOME group last week, hailing from Minnesota, Kentucky, and Delaware. They were a great first group to start things out with--all the leaders were on board, the youth were hard-working & spirit-filled. The first week of programming is called "early bird" in youthworks terminology, which basically means that it is another week of training for us. another staff team joined us for the week & my supervisor acted as the site director. it was helpful to learn by doing finally. i was a bit nervous for the transition from 9 staff down to just us 4 this week, but it really hasn't been that tough. it feels good to finally handle things on our own. our largest group that's here this week has been frustrating, though. several of the youth did not come with hearts to serve (though i pray when they leave their servant hearts will have grown in some small way) and the main trip leader is completely doing his own thing. i've barely spoken with him all week and he chooses not to attend the daily adult leader meetings. he lets another of his leaders (a woman) handle all the paperwork & the communication & the finances. he wants to play by his own rules & really just isn't respecting what i'm trying to do for the most part. he's got a big heart for Jesus & for his youth, but he really just can't function with the YouthWorks framework. so it's been hard. the rest of our leaders are great, and i've really enjoyed the fact that my job as director involves lots of direct interaction with the adults.

here's what being on YouthWorks staff is all about: problem solving, flexibility, proactivity. there's a lot that comes at you in a day, and being anticipatory and flexible are the only ways to keep things running smoothly. what a task it is to feed 70 people for 5 days! even more so in Hyde County where you can't just run down the block to Walmart. i really do love it here, but it is hard in those situation where you just need to get to the store. i can drive 20 minutes one-way down to Engelhard & get what I need between the Dollar General & the local grocery store. but i spend a lot of my day doing that when i have to--so it's super important to plan ahead & shop well on the weekends. speaking of the weekend--we had a great first one off! it was so nice to SLEEP IN! my air mattress has been treating me well, i just haven't seen enough of it :) so we got to rest, and we spent some time in the community (eating LOTS of hamburgers/hot dogs!) and got to check email. and i registered for classes at Emory in the fall! it's been hard to get excited about that & still be fully present, so I'm definitely trying to keep Emory on the backburner until August as much as I can. the last thing i want to happen is to start egging the summer on because I'm so excited about school. our weekend also included some time with another amazing family in this community. the pastor of Swan Quarter Baptist & his wife & 10 year old son have completely taken us in--we are their children. they've fed us & offered us their home unconditionally for laundry & showers & just a place to hang out. i've enjoyed being in fellowship with them so very much, and their son Archer is an absolute riot! we spent last Saturday shooting him with nerf darts & laughing til our sides split as he proceeded to die over & over. they pastor the church where we bring our groups on Wednesday nights to services. they serve us & bless us so fully with their hospitality & servant hearts. it's wonderful to have family to quickly away from home.

things are getting better with our principal. the last couple of interactions with him have been stellar, almost black and white from previous weeks. but let me lay out one more story for you. last week on Thursday, a male youth approached our staff with a confession. 3 guys had been playing in the gym, throwing a football through narrow window slits at the very top of the gym wall. they would throw it through, then run up an off-limits staircase to retrieve the ball. well, as luck would have it, a couple of times the football got stuck in the window. so they decided to climb on top of this equipment shed/room that was a separate enclosure in this upstairs space they had been invading. long story short, they fell through the roof of the shed--obviously breaking a hole in the sheet rock. guilty consciences led them to come forward, and in a whirlwind of about 15 minutes, i was sitting in the principal's office discussing the incident with him. it was rough, but God showed me how he truly works for good in all situtation. Kyle, the youth who came forward, was so honest & mature & kind in the face of this tough principal, who had every right to be fuming in this situation. i was so so proud of him--it really displayed the content of his character. later, the boys all wrote notes of apology to me & to the principal. it's my belief that Kyle's letters, which touched me deeply, may have affected Dr. Lattimore & warmed him to our cause. it is my every prayer that this is so. i am kicking my own butt to keep the school clean & the kitchen sparkly--no sticky floors! as you can imagine, that's not easy when you're hosting dozens of teenagers!

alright, i'll wrap this update up. send me an email if you have any more questions about what i've been doing--and i'd love to hear what's been going on in your lives! i do just have one more prayer request--something big is going to happen tomorrow. it's going to be a pretty rough weekend consequentially & some things are going to be changing. i just ask that you would lift up our site and our team tomorrow (Friday). i promise for less vague details in a future update.

i love you all! rejoice in the work God is doing!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

greetings from the end of the world

well, i may not be at the end of the world...but you can see it from here! so said one of the first people we met in Hyde County. mind you, that quip was made as my team & I ended our roadtrip from Birmingham, AL. We had spent the last few hours watching civilization slip away as the countryside grew more & more untouched. we were officially welcomed to our home for the summer by a roadsign that read "Hyde County--The Road Less Traveled." That, apparently, is their motto. But here at the edge of nowhere we have been welcomed by some of the biggest hearts in God's kingdom. We've been well-fed, showered, quartered, and informed by a cast of small town characters that we'll never forget.

First there was David & Anita, whose home we stayed at for our first two nights here. Anita fed us until we were fit to burst, then offered us more. David took us on a ride down the dirt road on the wildlife refuge & pointed out every single living creature. When we returned, he showed us his garden & we ate asparagus & broccoli & mulberries straight out of nature. David throws out more one-liners that we can write down to remember.

Next we met JH, the pastor here at Soule UMC where we've been staying & will stay until the youth participants arrive next weekend. He may be simultaneously the nicest & craziest man I've ever met. He & his wife have opened their home to us every single night to let us shower. They've also cooked us a delicious dinner & took us out to the only restaurant in town another night for dinner. This morning we heard JH preach at one of the most laid-back services I've ever attended--and yet we sang hymns and the men wore ties. JH is leaving in another 2 weeks, because Soule can no longer support a full-time pastor. We're going to miss him so much...and we've only just met him.

The community here is surreal. The may actually have Acts 2 figured out. No one's door is shut, no one's table is full, no one's shower is too personal to let a herd of sweaty kids pass through. And they love us instantly. I can walk into the grocery store or the post office and as soon as someone spots my YouthWorks t-shirt, they start talking about how excited they are that we're back & can't wait to send their children over to our Kid's Club. Or they know someone who needs help with their home. Or they can get us a connection with free produce or eggs for feeding our youth groups. The lady at the post office remembered which box the YW staff used last year, and rented the same one to me. The man stocking shelves at the grocery store stopped me because he had never seen me around before & wondered whether I was new in town. God has totally side-swiped me with this wealth of community, which I would not have experienced so fully had I been in a more urban area, as I had hoped, this summer. We are isolated, that's for sure, but we're also surrounded by people who loved us before they met us.

There is one person whose welcome was not so warm. The principal of the school we'll be staying at this summer has it out for us. YouthWorks has been in this community for 6 years, but he's only been principal for two. So basically the task of housing YW participants & collaborating with the staff was dumped on him--and he was ready to not let us come back, but the community wouldn't have it. And did he ever let us know it---that we're an extreme inconvenience for him. He was rude & sharp & ready to watch us fail. He set up hoops for us to jump through and is prepared to kick us if we fall down. After we met with him, I cried. But now that I've had some time to process along with my team, we've come to the conclusion that God has given us the task of loving this man. Loving him despite his disdain, loving him despite his lack of love for us and our mission. That's going to be a huge challenge for me. Would you pray for me as we fight to overcome evil with good? Meeting with him was the only downside of an otherwise AMAZING week. I don't want my weekly check-in with him to be the same way. I want to be so filled with the Spirit, vision, and purpose of Jesus Christ that nothing he says will affect me negatively. I believe we can love him so much that he'll have to stop and ask why. And hopefully we can speak some truth into his heart that is so clearly hurting.

We have exactly one week until our first bunch of youth show up. Some sites are starting their programming today. Though I'm ready for prep week to be over & for the kids to be here, it would've been near impossible to get everything together in just one week! Granted, we've spent a lot of time shooting the breeze with community members, and we aren't yet in our official housing site for the summer (and won't be until the night before the youth arrive, thank you again Mr. Principal)--but there is still much to be done. I look forward to sitting on the other side of this week & diving into our youth ministry. We're in for quite a ride :)