The Voice, Season 7 – Top 20 Rankings

•November 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

If you know me well, you know that I really enjoy singing competition shows like The Voice and American Idol. As I watch, I am constantly ranking the performances in my head from week to week, so I thought it might be fun to do something semi-productive with that and post my rankings, along with some thoughts about each performance. The live rounds of the current season of The Voice begin tonight, so I thought it would be a good time to start.

I’ve considered everything we’ve seen so far (Blinds, Battles and Knockouts), and with that in mind, here’s how I would rank the Top 20:

1. James David Carter (Team Blake)
2. DaNica Shirey (Team Pharrell)
3. Ryan Sill (Team Gwen)
4. Anita Antoinette (Team Gwen)
5. Mia Pfirrman (Team Adam)
6. Craig Wayne Boyd (Team Blake)
7. Taylor John Williams (Team Gwen)
8. Chris Jamison (Team Adam)
9. Matt McAndrew (Team Adam)
10. Luke Wade (Team Pharrell)
11. Ricky Manning (Team Gwen)
12. Taylor Brashears (Team Blake)
13. Jean Kelley (Team Pharrell)
14. Bryana Salaz (Team Gwen)
15. Reagan James (Team Blake)
16. Taylor Phelan (Team Adam)
17. Damien (Team Adam)
18. Jessie Pitts (Team Blake)
19. Elyjah Rene (Team Pharrell)
20. Sugar Joans (Team Pharrell)

At this point, James and DaNica are, by far, my favorites. Sugar, Elyjah and Jessie should be among the first to go home, in my opinion. Positions 3-17 are pretty fluid in my mind right now, so it will be very interesting to see who steps up this week and who plays it safe.

This is just my opinion, though. What do you think? Who is your favorite going into the live rounds?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: The Recap

•December 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

It’s official: I am a terrible blogger. I had a grand plan of blogging every day during the month of November about things I’m thankful for, and I did so a grand total of TWO times.  It’s not that I wasn’t thankful, I just didn’t take the time to write about it. So…here’s the list of things I would have talked about, had I taken the time:

DAY1 – God’s Protection

DAY2 – My GPS😉

DAY3 – The “little things” in life

DAY4 – A Pastor who preaches the truth, no matter what

DAY5 – Heat and Warm Clothing

DAY6 – The Privilege of Voting

DAY7 – God’s Sovereignty

DAY8 – God’s Word

DAY9 – Operation Christmas Child

DAY10 – Creativity

DAY11 – Veterans

DAY12 – Coffee!

DAY13 – Meaningful Friendships

DAY14 – Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

DAY15 –Freedom of Religion

DAY16 – Liberty University

DAY17 – Adams County Christian Academy

DAY18 – Music!

DAY19 – God’s Grace

DAY 20 – Second Chances

DAY21 – Salvation through Jesus Christ

DAY22 – Thanksgiving Day Celebrations

DAY23 – My Mom

DAY24 – My Dad

DAY25 – My Grandparents

DAY26 – My Students

DAY27 – My Job/Ministry

DAY28 – People who support and pray for me

DAY29 – Christmas Music!

DAY30 – Christmas…and everything that goes with it🙂

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 2

•November 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Today, I am thankful for my GPS. Seriously…I joke around about being “directionally challenged,” but it is totally true. There have been many times that I probably wouldn’t have made it home without my GPS, which we’ve named “Chester.” Tonight was one of those nights. I went to see an “away” football game that one of my students was in, and I wasn’t quite sure how to get to the stadium. The GPS got me there fine, but it took me home a completely different way. I had no idea where I was for awhile, but thankfully, it got me where I needed to go! So anyway…I’m thankful for my GPS!!! Isn’t it awesome when technology is actually helpful?!?😉

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 1

•November 1, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Nearly every year, whether online or in person, someone seems to issue the challenge to list at least one thing you’re thankful for every day during the month of November. I think that’s an awesome idea, I’ve just never taken the time to do it before! So this year, I’m accepting that challenge. Every day this month, Lord willing, I am going to post something that I’m thankful for. Some of them may be pretty serious, while others might seem silly, but by the end of this, I hope to have a solid list of thirty-or-so things that I am truly grateful for. I’d love it if you’d join me, whether by leaving a comment or posting on your own page. Ready? Here we go with Day 1…

Today, I am truly thankful for God’s protection of me and my family. This is something that I’ve always been thankful for, I guess, but it has come to the forefront over the past few days.

Hurricane Sandy ravaged the east coast this week, and although the damage we sustained was minor compared to what many people have endured, it was still a crazy and unsettling experience. On Monday night, the storm was hitting at full-force, and we knew from the sound of things outside that something wasn’t quite right. When we woke up the next morning, we found that our porch roof had been ripped apart, and the carport where my car is kept had been picked-up and flipped over. Like I said, minor damage compared to many, but still…it was the worst weather-related damage we’ve ever had, so it seemed major to us.

Even in the midst of that, we found many things to be thankful for. It could have been a lot worse – the damage to the house was limited to the porch area, and miraculously, my car made it through without a scratch. Most importantly, we were all safe. It was a sobering reminder of God’s power, as well as His protection.

I’m thankful for His protection not only through this storm, but on a daily basis. There have been quite a few times (especially while driving) when the only explanation for why I’m still here is that God was watching over me. Call it guardian angels or whatever you want, but I believe in and am eternally grateful for God’s protection in my life.

“I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety.” -Psalm 4:8, HCSB

 

I Resolve…

•January 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

It seems impossible, but here we are at the beginning of another year. I feel like I just got used to writing “2011,” and now, it’s time to start writing “2012.” The start of a new year is a time of reflection on the old year, and a time of transition into the new. It is also a time of great hope and anticipation for many, as we view the new year as a time for a new start – a “clean slate” of sorts.  Maybe 2011 wasn’t all you hoped it would be. Maybe you did some things, said some things that you wish you hadn’t. Maybe there was a bad habit that you began or couldn’t break, or maybe you had relationships that headed south – or even crashed-and-burned altogether. Whatever the case, it seems that nearly everyone has made some kind of New Year’s Resolution.

Ah, yes, the New Year’s Resolution. The majority of humanity (or at least US citizens) has made – and broken – a few of these. The concept is wonderful at the core: a new start for a new year! Get rid of old, bad habits and replace them with new, good ones. Eat less, exercise more. Watch TV less, spend more time with the family. I could go on for awhile. The sad thing is that a few months, or weeks, or even days into the new year, many of us find ourselves already making excuses for breaking our resolutions.

What does it really mean, though, to make a resolution? If we look a little closer, I think we’ll find that we take this concept much too lightly. According to dictionary.com, one definition of resolve is “to come to a definite or earnest decision about; determine (to do something).” It’s not just a good thought or something we’d like to do. If we truly resolve to do something, we are making a solemn and serious decision to make a change or accomplish something great.

Maybe we should start calling them “New Year’s Goals” instead of resolutions. I mean, that’s what they are, after all. Some of our goals aren’t quite as serious or lofty as others, and we could argue that many of them are not “worthy” of the resolution label. Some goals, however, especially spiritually-driven ones, should receive serious attention, and do require the highest level of resolve.

It has become quite obvious to me that I cannot fulfill these resolutions on my own. The past few years, I have failed miserably with some of my “big” resolutions, which can be quite discouraging at times. Really, when it comes down to it, I cannot accomplish anything on my own. It is only through the Lord’s strength and mercy that I even exist, let alone accomplish anything even remotely worth-while. So this year, and for the rest of my life, it should be my goal to not even attempt to do anything through my own strength, because I am truly nothing without Christ.

Singer/songwriter Matthew West hit the nail on the head on his Facebook page earlier this month. He said, “New year’s resolutions fail when they start w/ words like ‘I will…’ they succeed when we ask for help.  ‘With God’s help, I will…’”

What is it that you need God’s help to accomplish this year? Maybe the best resolution is to resolve to not do anything…on your own, that is. So this year, I resolve to do everything through God’s strength, and for His glory. Will you join me?

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” – I Corinthians 10:31 (HCSB)

///MBCYOUTH 2011 Mission Trip

•August 2, 2011 • 2 Comments

This post is my recap of our 2011 Youth Mission Trip. I know it’s a bit long, but please hang in there and read the whole thing…it will be worth it, I promise!

It’s hard to believe, but another MBC Youth summer mission project has come and gone. It’s always amazing to me how much preparation and anticipation goes into something like this, and yet how quickly it seems to be over.

For the past two years, we stayed in Gettysburg for what we called a “Home Mission Project.” We felt like we should do something to help fulfill the “Jerusalem” part of The Great Commission before moving on to “Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.” It was a great time of ministry and growing closer as a group, and we definitely gained a greater understanding of the need that exists in our own backyard.

This year, we felt it was time to “branch out” a little bit more. After much research and prayer, we decided to partner with StudentLIFE and attend one of their mission camps. They had options all over the country throughout the entire summer, but after considering factors like location, dates and speakers, we finally decided to go to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  I was very excited about “going away” for a mission trip after two years of ministering at home, and I expected our students to be excited as well.

Our trip was set for June 12-17, and we put together a team of seven (four students and three adults). Now, I have to admit something here – I had a very bad attitude at times going into this trip. I was incredibly disappointed with the size of our group. We had 15-20 people sign-up for each of the past three mission trips/projects that we had been part of, and now we only had four? I didn’t understand it, and honestly, I was more than a little ticked-off at some of the reasons that people were giving me for not going. After my initial anger wore off a little, I kept telling myself and others that God obviously had a purpose for this, and that this was exactly who He wanted to be part of the team. I knew it was true, but I don’t know if I ever really completely believed it.

So, our day of departure finally arrived. Thankfully, the students were more pumped about this whole thing than I was, and after a few minor setbacks, we hit the road on Sunday afternoon. The van ride was pretty uneventful until we came upon a CRAZY thunderstorm, complete with hail and lightning. It was raining so hard that we could barely see the car in front of us. I’m not sure how he did it, but Pastor Baker kept driving, and we arrived at the hotel safely. God was definitely watching over us!

After we checked-in, we unloaded our luggage and discovered that the back window of the van had leaked during the storm. Nothing really got wet, though, except for a little bit of the interior of the van…and my pillow. I laughed it off, but inside, I was like, “God, seriously? What else?” I know it was minor, but that coupled with my already bad attitude made things seem ten times worse.

After a great breakfast at the hotel the next morning, we began the drive to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, where we would be staying.   I was behind the wheel this time, which as some of you know, can be hilariously disastrous at times. Between the GPS and other directions that we had been given, we made it – only to discover that road construction prevented us from getting on campus from the road that we were on. Driving tends to frustrate me anyway, so driving a van full of people in an unfamiliar town without any clear directions was not pleasant. After turning around multiple times, we got to where we needed to be.

When we checked-in, the students and other leaders were taken to the auditorium, and I was lead to another room to do some youth leader check-in stuff. This is when God really started to get my attention and soften my attitude. The StudentLIFE staff and volunteers were so helpful and encouraging, and it really started to put my mind and heart at ease about the rest of the week.

That evening, we had our first corporate worship service, where we got our first glimpse of the drama team (AT2AP), worship band (The Museum) and camp pastor (Clayton King). It was a great evening of worship, laughter and learning, and after that service, I knew it was going to be a great week. We left the chapel refreshed and ready to start at our mission site the next morning.

The next morning began our first “full” day, so I’m going to give you a run-down of our daily schedule here. We would wake up each morning and arrive at the cafeteria around 7:00AM for breakfast. After eating, Pastor Baker would go off to a meeting, and the rest of us would have a group Quiet Time together. I think we may have been assigned to a classroom for this, but the weather was so beautiful that we always ended up outside.

After Quiet Time, we all headed into the chapel for Celebration. This was a combination of a worship service and some crazy/fun stuff to get everyone pumped-up for the rest of the day. AT2AP had a segment called “Beak’s News” where they gave reminders and info for the day in a funny, TV news setting. Each day, this included a Youth Minister of the Day, who was determined by submissions by students, which was pretty cool. The chosen Youth Minister had the “privilege” of wearing a “medal” for the rest of the day, which was actually a bright pink flip-flop attached to a lanyard. It also included a segment called “Real America With Natasha,” where one of the actresses played a Russian exchange student who was still trying to get used to being in the US – very funny stuff.  The most hilarious part of Celebration, in my opinion, was a daily video segment called “Edwin’s Corner.” It was supposed to be like a home-made, how-to show for arts and crafts hosted by Edwin, who was a Napoleon Dynamite-esque character. One morning it had me laughing so hard I was crying. Seriously. We had some awesome moments of worship and teaching with The Museum and Clayton during this time as well.

When we signed-up for camp, we had the option of doing Mission Camp (which we chose) or Recreation. Everyone was divided into teams based on what they had chosen, and our team was Purple Craze. Each team had a staff member as their team leader, and each team also had a team cheer. This was also part of Celebration each morning, as well as Rally Point.

Rally Point occurred right after Celebration each morning. This was a very brief time when each team would meet with their team leader for a quick devo and word of encouragement before venturing out to our ministry sites. From there, we would collect our lunches, load up the van, and drive to our Ministry Site!

A large portion of each day was spent at the Ministry Site. Our Ministry Site for the week was the Winston-Salem Rescue Mission. The Mission was only a few minutes away from campus, and seemed to be right “on the edge” of the city of Winston-Salem. As we worked with the staff and residents there, we learned that they do many of the same things that the Adams Rescue Mission does here in Gettysburg, only on a larger scale. They minister mainly to men in the area who have made bad choices or who have fallen into hard times and want to get their lives back on-track. There is a program that they go through that includes working at the mission, as well as different kinds of classes, including Bible studies. If they successfully complete the first part of the program, they can move into the New Life Center, which is a much newer, nicer building that the mission owns across the street. They then begin a new phase of the program as they actively seek outside employment. This program allows the residents a bit more freedom, as well as computer classes and other avenues to help them be competitive in today’s job market. Unfortunately, not everyone in the program is successful, and many have been asked to leave throughout the years, but many lives have been changed as a result of the ministry taking place there.

When we originally received our assignment with the Mission, we were going to be doing a landscaping project. When we arrived, however, we were told that we would actually be sorting food donations, at least for the first day. We were escorted to a room that housed tables, empty bins, and barrel upon barrel of canned food that needed to be separated. It took a little while for us to get a system going, but once we got it, we were a food separating machine! That first day, we were able to get all but two of the barrels finished. We worked with a resident named Tim that day, who was a pretty awesome guy. He had a great time trying to remember all of our names, and we also found out that he is a pretty amazing singer!

When we arrived at the Mission on the second day, Charles (our contact person at the Mission) told us that we would be cleaning out a basement storage area. The fire marshal had done an inspection, and it had to be cleared by the end of the week. Marc (another Mission staff member) showed us what  we needed to do, and we knew that we definitely weren’t going to walk away from this without getting a bit dirty. We got to work right away, clearing all of the trash out and putting it on the sidewalk next to the building. The plan was to load it all into a dump-truck later in the day so it could be taken to the dump.

As we were bringing the last few pieces out, a van pulled up, and the man who was driving asked what we were going to do with all of the stuff. We told him what the plan was, and he asked if he could have the junk instead. Charles talked to him, and after a few minutes, we began to fill the van with the stuff we had just taken out of the storage area. I’m still not sure how, but we were able to cram almost everything into his van! The man’s name was Henry, and it turned out that he was unemployed and wanted to fix-up some of the appliances to sell for a little extra cash. Apparently, one man’s trash really IS another man’s treasure! We talked with Henry for a little while, and found out that He was a believer, but his wife was not. He asked us to pray for her, and we did so right there on the sidewalk.

Charles brought the dump-truck around, and we loaded the few remaining pieces of trash. It turns out that Henry taking the majority of the trash off of our hands was actually a blessing to the Mission, because they apparently have to pay to take stuff to the dump. Then he took us on a tour of the building which housed their thrift store and donation center. They accept donations of your typical thrift-store wares, such as clothing, furniture and other odds-and-ends, but the thing that really surprised me was that they take mattresses. At first, I was a little grossed-out by this, but they have this huge machine that uses extreme heat to sanitize them, and they have a license from the state to be able to re-sell them. Very interesting, indeed.

After the tour and lunch, we went to another storage room. Here, we got rid of a few things, but mainly we did some re-organizing so that more items would fit in the room (you would not believe how many banana boxes we moved that day…). We finished doing this fairly fast and asked if there was anything else that we could do. Honestly, I think our speed and work ethic surprised the staff, because they seemed truly shocked that we had finished so quickly. So, they thanked us and sent us home early.

On our last day at the mission, we were back to sorting food donations, this time in a different room than on the first day (we were hoping that we would get to go back to the first room and finish the last two barrels, but that never happened, unfortunately). This time, there were barrels, boxes, and huge bins (like the big watermelon bins that grocery stores have during the summer) that needed to be separated. We were working with a guy named Jeff that day, and he really seemed to appreciate the help. Like the first day, we were a little slow until we got a system going, but things were great after we figured it out (we even had Amanda down in one of the bins, handing cans up-and-over to speed things along). Tim, who we hadn’t seen since the first day, was back, and he remembered all of our names, which was pretty great.

At lunch, Sam, our Purple Team leader, came by to see how we were doing. We also were able to tour the New Life Center (which was quite impressive – the Lord is really blessing their ministry) and meet the director of the Mission, as well as a few other staff members. Then, it was back to the food room.

We worked for awhile longer, until we only had one bin left to sort. About that time, Charles came down to observe our progress. When he saw that we only had one bin left, he said that we could stop, because he had another group coming in a few weeks, and he needed something for them to do. So, we prayed with Charles, Marc and Jeff, said our goodbye’s, and left the mission for the last time.

I am so thankful for our time at the Winston Salem Rescue Mission. It was truly a blessing to see what they are able to accomplish for God’s glory in the lives of the men who come to them for help. It was also a great reminder for us that no matter how small a task may seem, it is vitally important to God’s kingdom if it is done for the glory of the Lord. Even though we were “just” sorting food and cleaning up messy rooms, we were being used as a piece of the larger puzzle of the amazing work that God is doing in and through this ministry.

Each day when we returned to campus, we were scheduled to have an hour of “free time.” By the time we showered and rested for a few minutes, it was time to move on to the next thing, but that was totally fine with us.

After we “freshened up” it was time to go eat supper. We normally took our time after we were done, and sat around the table and talked. From there, I headed off to a daily Youth Pastor’s Meeting, and the rest of the group had Family Group Time.

The purpose of the Youth Pastor’s Meeting was really two-fold. First, it was very informative. We were given announcements and information each evening about various aspects of camp, from schedule changes, to reminders about certain things…you get the idea. Also, Clayton King and the guys from The Museum were often there to give us a heads-up about what they were planning on doing during the evening worship service that night.

I just want to take a moment here and say that the more I was around Clayton and the band, the more impressed with them I became, and the more respect I had for them. It was clearly evident both on and off the stage that their purpose in being there was not for their own selfish gain, but for God’s glory. You could see their heart and passion for proclaiming the Gospel and reaching students in everything that they did. Many times, bands and speakers will retreat to some undisclosed location after their duties onstage are fulfilled for the day, but not these guys. They ate in the cafeteria with us, they participated in recreation and free-time activities with the students, and they made themselves available to anyone who wanted to talk with them. All of this was done, willingly, joyfully, and with an attitude of service and humility. I want to be like them “when I grow up.”🙂

The second purpose of these meetings was to have a time where all of the youth pastors and leaders could connect. Many burdens and prayer requests were shared during this time, related both to student ministry and personal needs. It was a great time of sharing and lifting each other up in prayer. I think I can safely say that it was a great reminder for many of us that we are not alone in the things that we face in life and in this ministry that we have been called to.

While I was in that meeting, the rest of our people had Family Group. This was a group devotional and Bible study time led by Pastor Baker which covered a variety of topics related to the week’s theme, “Devoted,” based on Deuteronomy 6:5.  I can’t give too much detail about this since I wasn’t actually involved, but it sounds like it was a great time of studying God’s Word and sharing together.  Apparently Anakin Skywalker ended up being the topic of conversation at one point, so I’m not really sure about that, but it really seemed to be a great experience for everyone! I have to say a huge “thank-you” here to Pastor Baker for being willing to lead this study each day!

After our separate meetings, we reconvened in the chapel for the evening worship service. Most of our group agrees that this was the highlight of the day. AT2AP, The Museum and Clayton King once again led these services, but they were much more serious in tone and deeper in message than the morning Celebration services.

Following the camp theme, Clayton’s sermons all dealt with how to be devoted to Christ. On the first night, he preached from John 11, and the topic was passion. We often confuse passion with excitement or being “fired up”, but the two are NOT the same. He explained that our English word “passion” comes from a Greek word that means “a willingness to suffer or endure pain.” He shared so many great, thought provoking points, all to remind us that “real passion is following Jesus no matter where He takes you, no matter the cost.”

He followed that up the next night with a sermon from Mark 8 called “Take Up Your Cross.” Talk about a powerful, convicting message! Clayton took us through the historical implications and origin of the phrase “take up your cross” to show us what that should mean in our daily Christian walk. That night, one of our students (along with a few hundred others!) surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. For me, that was the ultimate highlight of the week! All of the disappointment that I had about having a small group, and all of the wrong attitudes that I had about the trip were all swallowed up in that moment. I had been saying all along that God had a reason for the people who were on our team, but like I stated earlier, I was having a hard time believing this. That night, it was like God was saying, “See? I have this all under control – trust Me!”

Over the next few days, Clayton also preached about where our treasure is (Matthew 6), as well as faith and risk (II Kings 7). Every message was full both encouraging and convicting truth.

One of the nights, there was a special emphasis on Compassion International. A girl named Selena spoke to us during that time. She is from Kenya, and was sponsored by Compassion when she was a child. Now she is in college and is touring with StudentLIFE for the summer. I’ve heard all about Compassion and similar ministries throughout the years, but it really has a different kind of impact when it is coming from someone whose life was literally saved by the ministry.

We ended each evening with Church Group. This was a “debriefing” time where we talked about the day and prayed together. It was neat to see the day from each person’s perspective – we all learned and experienced so much throughout the week, but it wasn’t always the same for each person. It’s cool to see how God works in our lives individually and as a group.

All too quickly, our week came to an end. On Friday morning, we had one last worship service before heading home. We cheered for our teams one last time, tore the roof off the chapel while worshiping through song, and heard one final message from Clayton King. Then we turned-in our keys, grabbed some Starbucks, and hit the road.

I am so thankful for the things that we were able to do, hear and experience on this trip! StudentLIFE Mission Camp gave us the unique opportunity to both serve and be poured into all at the same time, and it was truly a wonderful experience. The Lord used this week away from our normal routine to speak to each of us in a special way, and I am so thankful for how He had every detail perfectly orchestrated.

On the way home, I asked everyone to share their favorite part of the week as well as something that the Lord taught them. Personally, my “favorite” part of the week, besides seeing one of our own come to Christ, was the evening worship services. Sometimes when you’re “in ministry” as your “job” you get so caught up in doing things and pouring into others that you neglect to make sure that you are being spiritually fed yourself. That is definitely where I find myself often, whether from business, laziness or neglect, and it was incredibly refreshing to just sit back and take in the teaching and worship.

As far as what the Lord taught me during that week…GOD IS IN CONTROL, AND I AM NOT! I mean, I knew that, but I needed to be reminded of it in a big way. I admit that I like to have control over my situations, and going into this trip I was frustrated and discouraged. Praise the Lord he showed me the error of my ways and used this experience to encourage and refuel me!

I just want to close by thanking everyone that made this trip possible, from the people who helped financially, to those who prayed for us, as well as the parents and grandparents who entrusted their students to us for the week. A HUGE thank you to the students who had the desire to make serving the Lord a priority this summer when many others did not, and to the chaperones who were willing to come along live in a dorm with teens for a week. Thank you to all of the staff and volunteers at StudentLIFE who put blood, sweat, tears, prayer, and many, MANY miles of traveling into making Mission Camp the best that it can be. And finally, all thanks and praise belongs to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – all of this is by Him and for Him!

Click HERE to view photos from the trip!

2010 MBC YOUTH Home Mission Project

•August 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

*This post is my “journal” from our youth Home Mission Project back in June.  It is long-overdue – thanks for your patience! To see photos from the week, please click here.*


2010 MBC Youth Home Mission Project

SUNDAY, JUNE 13
Months of training, preparation and prayer have gone by, and now it’s time to get to work! We all arrived at the church around 9:15 this morning to prep for Sunday School. Our responsibilities for the morning included taking care of Sunday School for three-year-olds through sixth grade, plus Jr. Church during the morning worship service. Our goal is to not only serve the children who will be in these classes today, but also to bless the regular teachers with a rare day off. Amy did an awesome job teaching Sunday School – the kids loved “marching around the walls of Jericho.” Jr. Church went well, too…you really can’t go wrong with Veggie Tales. 🙂

After church, everyone went home for the afternoon and reconvened at ACCA around 4:00PM.  At that point we did some unpacking, then we split up into our Backyard Bible Club groups and drove to our respective campgrounds to hand out fliers about the clubs we’d be hosting during the week. When we were finished with that, we went to the church to pack up the puppets and puppet stage for use during the week.

In the evening, we attended the evening service at our church. ACCA’s barbershop quartet, which Matt is part of, sang a few songs during the service, which was pretty cool. Following the service, we were part of a pizza party to recognize this year’s graduates. After cleaning up the fellowship hall (and trying to figure out who took our cake, lol) we headed back to ACCA for the first of our nightly devotion and discussion time.

Our devo tonight came from John 14. We also read an excerpt from the book Extreme Devotion from Voice of the Martyrs.

MONDAY, JUNE 14
Today was our first day doing Backyard Bible Clubs! Amy’s group will be at KOA Kampground all week, and they had a great day today. They had a great group of kids, and Pastor Baker taught the lesson, which was about creation. After teaching the lesson at KOA, he traveled to Gettysburg Campground, which is where my group is stationed for the week. When he arrived, however, he was met with the unfortunate news that we did not have any children for club that day (we had one boy for about fifteen minutes at the beginning, but he had to leave – he was from Utah, and Brooke was convinced that he had a British accent). We made the best of the situation, though, and Pastor taught the lesson to us. The activity for the lesson involved catching bugs, which was an interesting experience for some of us. It was a little discouraging to not have any children on the first day, but I think the students all kept a pretty positive attitude in spite of that.

Our afternoon ministry today was visitation. Right after lunch, we baked cookies and made cards, and then we split into three groups and went to visit mostly elderly people from our congregation who don’t normally have people that visit them and don’t have the chance to get out much. I think it is safe to say that it was an awesome experience for all involved.  It was great to see two different generations interacting like old friends! You could tell that the people who we were visiting highly enjoyed our time together, and many of them thanked us multiple times for coming to see them. Our students seemed to get a lot out of the experience as well. Hopefully we can make visitation a “regular” event – I think it would be awesome to see the teens build relationships with these “Senior Saints” and begin to tear down the wall that often seems to separate the two generations.

We ate at Burger King tonight, where our new t-shirts caught the attention of a couple who was there. They were believers as well, and we had a very encouraging conversation with them. Somehow we ended up at McDonald’s after that for coffee, and then to the Outlets, where a misunderstanding about movie tickets led to a window-shopping adventure, which I’m sure was the highlight of the evening for some of us.

Tonight’s devotional came from James 1 and an excerpt from carried. by Justin Hanneken and Jeremy Willet.

TUESDAY, JUNE 15
Today was the second day of Backyard Bible Club! KOA had a great day with great attendance again, and our group at Gettysburg Campground was blessed with 3 students today. The Bible lesson was all about Joseph, and how even though he faced great trials, God was with him every step of the way and ultimately used them for good and His glory.

After lunch, we set out on a Prayer Walk/Drive. We broke up into three groups: Brittany took a group to the church, where they walked through all of the various rooms to pray for every aspect of the ministries that go on there. Amy’s group stayed at ACCA, where they prayed from room-to-room for the students and teachers, and for everything involved in the day-to-day operation of the school. My group had the “drive” part, as we traveled all over the Gettysburg area, praying for various people and organizations as we passed by. This was such an amazing time, and definitely my favorite part of the week so far. When’s the last time you devoted two hours to nothing but prayer? I don’t know if I personally have ever done that, and it was awesome to see the students take it so seriously.

This afternoon we went down to the church, where some of us stayed inside and did some cleaning while others did some mulching and weed-pulling outside. Thanks to Dave Lake, Elaine Coleman and Shelley Hart for getting things ready and helping us out!

Tonight we went to the Benjamin’s home for supper and swimming – it was such a great way to “wind down” after a busy day.  We had our devo time there, too, which was cool. Brittany led some worship songs, and we looked at James 5 and discussed the importance of prayer.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 16
Day 3 of BYBC is finished. Amy’s group had an awesome day again, praise the Lord! Our group…not so much. We didn’t have anyone again, which was honestly very frustrating. We’ve prepared, promoted and prayed, but still nothing. I told the kids that God has some purpose in this; I’m just not sure what it is yet.

Tonight, we will be hosting “Family Night” at the church, which is meant to minister to the families in our church by providing a night of fellowship and fun. Our original plan was to have an evening full of water games outside, but right now, the weather forecast is looking a bit stormy. So, we had an “emergency meeting” to decide how we can change our plans to be inside instead of outside. We came up with some really great, fun ideas, and I can’t wait to see how it goes tonight! During our training over the past few months, we talked so much about the importance of flexibility, and we are seeing that first-hand today. I’m so proud of our student’s attitudes and their willingness to work together right now!

After that “emergency meeting,” we turned our attention to our afternoon ministry. We spent some time stuffing doorknob bags with info about our church, along with a brochure that clearly explained the Gospel and gave a phone number to call for counseling or questions. Then, Amy took a group to Lincoln Estates and I took a group over to Twin Lakes West, and we spent the afternoon distributing the packets. It is our prayer that people will read the information, and the God will use it to bring many people to Him!

Family night went really well! The teens’ “last-minute” ideas turned out to be brilliant, and everyone seemed to have an awesome time. Besides the games and food, we also had an opportunity to share about what had taken place so far this week, and we asked that they would continue to keep us in their prayers as we still have many things ahead of us the rest of the week.

After everything was cleaned-up and the last people trickled out of the church, we headed over to Amy and Jason’s house. We spend some time in worship, prayer and of course eating s’mores around the campfire, which has become a tradition for us over the past few years, and is always such a special time. We looked at II Corinthians 4, and talked about what “earthen vessels” would have meant to the people in the day that the passage was written, and what implications it has for us today. As we were finishing with the devo and it was getting pretty dark, the field behind us literally lit-up with fireflies. I have never seen that may fireflies in one spot before – God was definitely showing us just a little taste of His majesty and creativity. That, in turn, inspired us to listen to “Fireflies” by Owl City the entire drive back to ACCA. It was definitely a very special night that I will not forget for a long time.

THURSDAY, JUNE 17
Backyard Bible Club went well again today. My group started out the morning with no children again. Then Brittany suggested that we not only pray for people to come, but also thank God for providing as though it had already happened. Such a great principle, that in a moment of frustration, I had neglected to apply. So that’s what we did, not just as some sort of “magic formula,” but truly believing that God was going to provide. Guess what? He did. We ended up with four children by the end of the morning. Thank you, Brittany for the reminder, and thank you Lord, for providing!

We spent this afternoon helping out at the Adams Rescue Mission. The first chunk of our time was spent tearing the covers off of books that needed to be recycled, and separating the two parts into separate bins. It was cool to see how even such a “mundane” task could be done for God’s glory – and also be fun at the same time. After we were finished with that, some of us went outside to pick up trash, and others did some cleaning in the thrift store. It was awesome to partner with the Mission again this year, and to see how God is continuing to bless them and meet their needs as they work to help those who are in need.

We also spent some time picking up trash at the Gettysburg Rec Park this afternoon, although we kind of felt like we weren’t doing much, as the grounds were pretty much clean when we got there.

Laurie Sensenig cooked supper for us tonight, which was AMAZING. After eating, we drove out to Devil’s Den. The original plan was to do a scavenger hunt, but we ended up just going to various battlefield sites and just hanging out. We ended the evening with a visit to Rita’s for some awesome Italian Ice and Gelatis, then had devo time before turning in for the night (we looked at Acts 20 and John 10, as well as a short devo written by Jimmy Needham).

FRIDAY, JUNE 18
It’s hard to believe that today was the last day for Backyard Bible Club. Wow, where did this week go? Both groups had a great day – KOA had 15 students, I believe, and we had our high attendance for the week with 5! I realize that the “praise of men” is not what we’re doing this for, but it was so cool to hear some of the parents say that they were so thankful for us providing the club for their children this week. Praise the Lord!

We spent our afternoon with the US Christian Commission and the Wega family. They gave us an update on what’s been going on with their ministry, and then we hit the streets to spread the word about their “God and Country” celebration/ministry event that would be taking place over the next weekend. I have to say that I am always so impressed and humbled by the Wega’s and their ministry. The USCC is facing some very real and potentially tragic trials right now, but they are totally relying on God and trusting in His promises and calling on their lives. They are ready to go the distance and do whatever it takes to proclaim the Gospel where God has planted them. You know, we plan ministry weeks like this to do our part to spread the Gospel and to help and encourage others who are doing the same, but inevitably, the Wega’s always end up encouraging and challenging us in ways that we could never have imagined.  Please join us in praying for them and their ministry!

Tonight was our “big” fun night, and we went to see Toy Story 3 in 3D – it was opening night, so it was kind of a big deal. J Before the show, though, we found a large grassy area where had our devo for the night. We looked at Matthew 13 and talked about the “pearl of great price.” We used a great article on the topic by one of my favorite people on earth, T Elliott Welch, to guide our discussion. It can be viewed at: http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?id=55713250#!/note.php?note_id=392310542858

SATURDAY, JUNE 19
Today has been a flurry of activity. In all honesty, I was a bit frustrated this morning, as NOBODY was up-and-at-it when we were supposed to be, but thankfully that sentiment quickly went away.

We started the day with our last group devotion time. We had asked each teen to be prepared to share 1) their favorite part of the week, 2) what God had taught them this week, and 3) a verse or two that really resonated with them this week. It was an awesome time of sharing, and a great way to cap-off the week.

The rest of the morning was spent cleaning up and packing up. By some miracle, we were actually finished with all of that before noon! Praise the Lord for an awesome week! He is good!

Looking back over the week, God certainly proved Himself to be mighty and in control. Even when things didn’t quite go our way, He was still in it, and He had a purpose for it all.

It is so hard to just pick one aspect of the week that was my “favorite.” I absolutely loved having our group devo time each night. It was awesome to see the teens engage in discussion more than they normally do on a Sunday or Wednesday, and it was so cool to see some of them really open up and honestly share about victories and struggles that they were going through. As I prepared the devos the week before the mission project, I can honestly say that I did not put as much thought and effort into it as I should have. It was awesome, though, to see how God worked in spite of me. Each one of the scripture passages and articles that we used were amazingly intertwined and related, and I definitely did not plan it that way. Many of them dealt with trials and leaning on God through difficulties, and so many of us were going through various things in our lives at the time and desperately needed to hear what was read and said those nights. God gets all the glory!

If I have to pick just one ministry that was my favorite for the week, it would definitely have to be working with the US Christian Commission. As I explained earlier, it was just such an awesome time for all of us, and we came away with a renewed sense of urgency and vision for reaching the lost in our area.

What did God teach me that week? He expects nothing short of obedience from His children. When you think about it, that takes a lot of the pressure off of us, doesn’t it? As humans, we are so concerned about results. I was a bit bummed at the end of the week, as we had prayed for souls to be saved and we hadn’t seen a single profession of faith all week long. I was just like, “God, have we been wasting our time?” That’s when I realized that we had done what He had asked us to do, and we had to leave the results up to Him. In I Corinthians 3:5-9, Paul says: “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” We cannot save anyone – only God can do that. I am strongly convinced that our purpose that week was to plant and water. The Gospel definitely went forth, and we are promised that it will not “return void.” God cannot lie, and we take comfort in His promises.

I am so thankful for the ministry opportunities that this project has opened up for us in the future. We already have some dates scheduled to work with the USCC again this fall, and I pray that this will become a long, wonderful partnership. We also have some days set-aside to do some more visiting. It is my prayer that the students and the seniors will eventually form friendships, and that they will begin to truly care about and pray for one another. God only knows what is in store in these areas, and I am excited to see what He is going to do!

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank everyone who was involved in making this mission project a success. First, thank you to our AMAZING students who devoted their time to this project. I could not have asked for a better group of teens to work with. You guys did everything you were asked with a great attitude, were flexible and understanding when we had to change plans, and were just overall great to be around! I believe that the Lord was pleased with your service for Him!

To all of the parents – thank you for your sacrifices of time and finances to allow your student to be a part of this amazing week of ministry! It is appreciated more than you can know!

Thank you to the other leaders: Amy, Brittany and Jody. You were awesome, and this thing wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without you!

To all of the teachers that were willing to help us out with Backyard Bible Club – thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share Jesus with the children! You were all a huge blessing!

To Laurie Sensenig – thank you for preparing all of that amazing food all week long! It was awesome.🙂

To all of the ministries that we partnered with – thank you for allowing a group of teenagers to invade your space for a few hours. It meant so much to us to be able to learn about what you do and to work alongside you for a little while.

To Bruce Hoover and Justin Hanneken – thank you so much for coming in to speak to us during our training time. Your valuable insight helped us to be better prepared to face the challenges of the week.

To everyone who supported us financially through fundraisers and donations – I know that times are tough financially for everyone right now, and the fact that you chose to give some of your hard-earned money to us for this project speaks volumes about “where your treasure is”! We couldn’t have done this without your support.

And finally, to everyone who supported us through prayer – words cannot express how much that means to us. I often use the quote, “Nothing of eternal significance is ever accomplished apart from prayer” because I believe that is so true.  Please don’t stop praying for us now that this project is over – keep going! We desperately need it every day.