Friday, October 8, 2010

Off to the Island...Take 3

Church of the Redeemer's youth group and young adult fellowship are headed off to Catalina Island this weekend. Like in previous years, we are joining with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship students from Cal State Northridge, Pasadena Community College, UC-Riverside, East Los Angeles College and a few others to worship, learn and play.

This is our third opportunity to attend this retreat with our high school students. The first year we brought three students and one of them made a clear decision to give his life to Jesus. The second year the group grew – 11 youth and young adults attended and learned of God’s fatherly love for each of us. This really hit home as 9 of the 11 grew up without their fathers in their lives and many began to process this pain and trauma for the first time.

This year 15 youth are coming and the theme for the conference is “Real Power and Real Purpose Thru Jesus.” Even though we had no part in the planning process, the theme is a perfect fit. This summer during our first ever missions trip I had the opportunity to witness our youth in action – serving and giving of themselves to further the Kingdom of God here on earth. It was a beautiful sight that has motivated me and our youth staff team to create more opportunities for our youth to serve and lead. Like the disciples who actively participated in Jesus’ ministry and, as a result, grew much in their faith, we hope for the same to be true of our youth.

And so October has been all about Making A Difference, or M.A.D. opportunities. Corny, I know, but I kind of like corny =). Last weekend we attended a conference at Biola University challenging youth to make a difference on their campuses through evangelism and service. Next week we will serve with our church to put on a Health Fair for our community. Finally, on the weekend of Halloween night, the youth group will be staffing the church’s “Light the Night” carnival and helping to provide a safe place for children and families to enjoy the evening. “Real Purpose and Real Power Thru Jesus” seems extremely relevant, as it is only in him that the Kingdom of God may come to earth through our service.

We’d love for your prayers this weekend:

- Please pray for all 15 youth to show up at 3 pm at our meeting spot tomorrow afternoon. Their names are: Anthony, Jamal, Karla, Carlos, Jamilah, Phillip, Ciara, Damio’n, Joseph, Jordan, Kimberly, Gladis, Karina, Gabriel and Justin.

- For 9 of the youth this will be there first time to Catalina Island. For 5 of the youth this will be there first ever retreat with our youth group. Please pray for good, healthy friendships to develop and that all would feel the love of Christ in our group.

- At least three of the youth have not made clear decision to follow Jesus and give their lives to him. Please pray for the Spirit to work in their hearts and for new faith to form over the course of the weekend.

- For the many others who have been a part of the YG for a while and have been following Jesus, it’s my prayer that there would be a deepening intimacy in their relationship with God over the course of this weekend as well. I don’t think retreats are some magical thing, but there’s definitely something powerful about going away to a quiet place, away from the distractions of the city and home, to meet with God.

- Finally, please pray for me and the two other adult leaders Heather Fong and John Hernandez. We need the Lord’s wisdom and love to pastor and relate to the youth well over the course of the weekend.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Youth SLAM Trip - Back in LA

This past Sunday we arrived safely back in Los Angeles after spending 5 days serving and learning in Washington on the Yakama nation. It was a really great time. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers over the last two weeks - the adult staff, the youth and I are all really grateful. For a photo and music filled summary of our time on missions, check out the video below.

After our week of service and during our 3 day road trip back down to Los Angeles, we took a little bit of time to reflect on the SLAM trip experience. The youth wrote "30 second Highlights" testifying to how God blessed them in our time together. Here are a few of those testimonies:

- From Joseph, "It was awesome because I learned that I didn't complain when I worked around my friends and they were my encouragement. They made me want to try my hardest and I did and it wasn't easy but it felt like something I should do..." This was really cool because at the trip's outset I challenged Joseph to have a good attitude in our service project. Throughout the week he hardly complained at all!

- From Anthony, "We worked hard at Johanna's house. It was fun because I got to use the weed whacker and every one worked really hard. I learned that it's better to serve even though you don't get nothing in return." Anthony is a generally quiet and easy-going 9th grader. On our trip he demonstrated an amazing dedication and focus in our times of service. He was downright ferocious. During lunch breaks he'd finish up his sandwich in 5 or 10 minutes and declare his readiness to continue weeding or chopping wood. For my own sake, I encouraged him to rest just a little bit longer.

- From Karla, "It was great because I met these wonderful people that are really into their culture and they always love giving and teaching about what it means to them to love God. It was fun and we all worked together in a lot of things. I would love to do it again." At first Karla seemed a bit unsure how to receive the Native style of worship and asked our adult staff for prayer. By the end of the week she grew more comfortable with new ways to worship our God and even went to learn some Native style worship songs on the drum.

- From Phillip, "What I learned in Wapato is that Native Americans were treated very badly and had most of their land taken away. The treaty of 1855 wasn't really fair." I was really glad for all the time I had to spend with Phillip this trip. He's been a relatively consistent youth group member the last couple years, but has never fully committed to the youth group. It was great to bond with him more deeply and to see him bond with the others as well. I'm praying that he'll develop into one of our student leaders in the coming year.

- Finally their was Chryshanda. Prior to the trip Chryshanda was very new to our group and shy by nature. In fact, the night before our departure she made up her mind to not come - but at the urging of her mother, decided to come after all. Boy am I glad that she did. During our time away she really wrestled with the injustices done to American Indians by the US government and Christian groups. She remarked, "It's good to have a week to stop thinking about ourselves and help out people whose lives are also pretty hard." She even spoke up in the 75 person worship circle and praised God for the opportunity to be in Wapato.

Even with no paintballing or zip lines or swimming pools (well, I guess we did get to swim in a river in Oregon!) our youth are excited to serve on missions again in the near future. In fact the primary complaint was that the trip wasn't long enough. I'm not sure if my aging body could have handled much more, but maybe a longer trip will be in the works for the future.

Peace to you,

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Youth SLAM Trip - Mid-Trip Update

Just a quick little update. We've now been on the Yakama reservation here in Yakama for 3 days now. We've had two great days of service weeding 8 foot tall weeds, chopping rock hard wood and battling dozens of wasp nests at the home of an elderly woman named Joanna. She's a Jewish holocaust survivor who has been a member of the Yakama nation for years now - and she's also diagnosed with cancer. Two of our youth, Joseph and Phillip had a chance to speak with her and discovered that she only has 3 months to live. It was sobering and inspired some searching prayers from the two young men.

Praise the Lord, we've been safe and relatively healthy even though we've been wielding axes and loppers and other potentially dangerous gardening equipment. The youth and the adults have also been giving themselves to the service faithfully. The before and after pictures of Joanna's yard are pretty striking. We have another two days of service and the work is hard - please continue to pray for us to have strength in our physical bodies and willing hearts/minds to serve.

I've been asking and praying God to show me what he's doing in us on this trip. I've been hoping and praying that our youth would come away transformed and I believe God's doing this. But the transformation isn't immediate. Some nights in the the teaching or debriefing times it's hard to tell what the youth are taking away from the experience other than a fun time or tiring time working away from home. I know God does great work in the small and unseen things in our lives and I'm praying that this would be true for us. Please be praying for our hearts to be of the good soil that Jesus describes in Mark 4, soil that bears good fruit in great quantity in the days and months to come.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Youth SLAM Trip - Day 2

We arrived safely in Oregon last night and had a far less eventful drive. Thank you for your prayers! A combination of audio books on tape, FM radio surfing, sleeping (youth not drivers) and silly car games helped us through our 12 hour journey. I also rapped in Chinese a couple of times to the howling delight of the passengers in our car. I don't think I'm up for a recording contract anytime soon.

The drive from Stanford to West Linn, Oregon was beautiful. We crossed over several bridges, entered through mountain passes, saw a snow capped Mt. Shasta that according to one youth "looked plastic" and passed by beautiful blueish green lakes as well. After a stop for lunch at Cost Co, a gas stop at Fred Meyer (Oregonian Super Market) and a stop for dinner at Subway, we had arrived at the home of Don and Faith Carter - our gracious hosts for the evening and parents of Casey Taylor, one our youth staff workers.

The girls slept inside and the guys outside in a tent. Phillip, one our youth, became a little concerned about sleeping in the tent as we approached the house because of the woodsy setting.

Another youth, Anthony, replied, "Why, people aren't going to do anything to you out here."
Phillip responded, "I mean, in terms of animals and what not."

It brought me back to another time when we were on retreat and the youth thought for sure that Sasquatch was going to come out of the woods to eat us. I'm not sure if I've captured the hilarity of the moment, but trust me, it was funny.

Today we have a short 3 1/2 hour drive to the Yakama Reservation in Wapato, WA and will make the transition from relaxed road trip to focused service project. Please pray that Jesus would give us willing hearts to serve and love as he did. I'm hoping and praying that we would learn much about Jesus and that we would grow in our faith as we serve this coming week.

There are also a couple of specific prayer requests to ask you to pray for:
- please pray for Justin as he's coming down with a little cold
- please pray for Karla and Sara who have had upset stomachs
- please pray for Chryshanda - she's newer to our group and I hope for her to feel at home with us
- Several of our youth have been made intensely aware of their relative poverty in the last week or two as we've interacted with friends, Christians and supporters from more affluent backgrounds. Please pray for God to give us wisdom to make some sense of this.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Youth SLAM Trip - Day 1

The Church of the Redeemer youth group is off to its first ever short-term summer missions project. We'll be serving, learning and building relationships on the Yakama reservation in Washington State. We're all really excited!

We left my house yesterday with a team of 8 youth and 3 adults and began our long road trip up to Washington. Last night's stop was in the Bay Area and the drive had several dangerous incidents - two cars flaming on the freeway, an 18-wheeler turned over on its side and another semi that had a tire explode right as we passed by. Praise God, we were safe and all the kids and staff had a great spirit about it. We also got a chance to stop at In-n-out burger =).

In the evening we visited Stanford University and had a great time exploring campus. Even though the youth are all staunch USC Trojan supporters, they admitted that the campus was "alright." Not bad.

Today we're headed up to Oregon. The drive is 12 hours, nearly twice as a long as yesterday. Please continue to pray for safety and good attitudes. My prayer is that our team would have the mind of Christ described in Philippians 2 and be servants of others and each other. Thanks in advance for your thoughts and prayers!


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Adventures Ahead -- Clausura Friday

It has been a busy and fun-filled summer at Adventures Ahead! We can't believe that in three days it will already be time for our annual "Clausura" (Spanish for "closing ceremony"). The last month or so has been filled with lessons about the water cycle, the earth's crust, and volcanoes. Children have avidly learned songs about the difference between metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary rocks, traveled to an aquarium, and searched for worms at our community garden's compost pile as a neighbor taught them about compost. Lauren and the LAUP interns have kept busy hosting volunteer groups, leading reading and math classes, and walking over to the park to borrow buckets of sand for their latest experiments.

We hope to post more stories of the summer soon. For now, we'd like to invite your prayers for our closing ceremony, coming up this Friday! Please pray:

1. For the event in general -- that logistics would come together, all the children and families would be able to come, and God would protect our party.

2. Connections -- This year we have seen some families who have been connected with adventures ahead in the past start to become more connected with our church, which is a great joy and answer to your prayers! Please pray that this event would especially be a time when parents can connect with each other, new friends from church, and other opportunities to continue to be involved in what God is doing here.

3. Closure -- Pray that these last few days would be a time to send our LAUP interns off well as they return home and consider a longer-term calling to the inner city. We also hope to end well with our students and have them remember the skills they've gained into the next school year.

4. Continuity -- Let's ask God to bring many of these children and families back to classes at Adventures Ahead this fall!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Adventures Ahead!

For the 36 kids who will enroll in our Adventures Ahead summer program there is a lot of excitement. Frankly, I am excited too!

Our six college interns from UCLA and CSUN have arrived. They have completed an intensive week of training with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Los Angeles Urban Project. Lesson plans for the coming week are ready. Monday, the program begins.

The summer program is a life-changing experience for many kids. They crave the love, nurture, and attention that our staff, college interns, and volunteers will lavish on them. The hands-on science experiments make learning fun. The field trips outside the neighborhood expand the world and fill young minds with new possibilities.

The small (6:1) class size and individual instruction often leads to academic breakthroughs, toppling limitations and low-expectations as kids discover that they can read or that they have a special aptitude for science or arts. For many kids, the Vacation Bible School that follows the summer program will be their first introduction to a heavenly Father who loves them.

Please pray for

· great love, joy, wisdom, and stamina for our interns, staff, and volunteers who will daily seek to welcome, love, and teach the children in the name of Jesus,

· the 36 children, that they will thrive in this love, make significant advances academically, and come to know that they are deeply loved by their heavenly Father,

· safety, protection, and provision for all that is needed.

· several boys from especially difficult home situations—that their experience would be especially transformative this summer.