Wednesday, June 30, 2010

God Moments



So, our trip to Nicaragua was filled with amazing experiences and I'll probably be doing a final wrap up of the trip some time soon, but I just wanted to take a second to share 4 things that happened to me personally that I really believe were God. These are not huge, earth shattering things, but as I reflect on them, I really feel like it was the Holy Spirit speaking to me and doing some cool stuff.

1. When we were going to leave from O'Hare on 6/21, our flight was delayed because of some storms. We only had a short layover in Houston to beging with (52 minutes) and our flight was from O'Hare to Houston was going to be delayed 50 minutes. That meant we weren't going to make our connecting flight from Houston to Managua and we would have to spend the night at the Houston airport because there weren't any other flights out of Houston to Nicaragua that day. We were bummed. But, our team prayed about it and about 50 minutes before we were to leave we noticed that the flight had been bumped up from a 50 minute delay to a 30 minute delay. That bump gave us just enought time to make our connecting flight in Houston and we were able to make it to Nicaragua on time.

2. Wednesday evening in Nicaragua we were sitting in a Spanish church service with a couple hundred people from Pochocuape. I couldn't understand a word that was said because it was all in Spanish. But, as I was sitting there, I really felt something in my spirit tell me that I needed to pray for my family. This was at approximately 8pm Nicaragua time (10pm Indiana time). So, I didn't know why, but I just felt led to pray over my family and ask God to protect them and watch over them. Come to find out that around that same time while I'm in Nicaragua there is a tornado touching down in Goshen.

3. We left Nicaragua on Sunday (6/27) and landed in Houston. We had a connecting flight to Chicago but it had been delayed for an hour due to some weather. Anyway, during that time we decided to go to the food court and grab some lunch. After lunch, I make my way to a Starbucks to grab a drink. While in line I just kept on feeling something in my spirit say "You don't want this drink. You don't need this drink." Now, for me to pass up a Starbucks is a miracle in and of itself, but I listened to that little voice and decided against the drink. After I passed up the drink I felt something else in my spirit just say "You better check the flight time to be sure the flight is still delayed." Now, my sister-in-law had been checking this on her phone the entire time and the website was still telling us that the flight was delayed. But, when I checked it in the airport the TV's were saying the flight was on time! I checked at 2:12 and the flight was to leave at 2:15. I book it over the the gate, tell the lady that there are 10 of us in a group and we need to get on that plane. She begins to chew me out up and down and made it clear how irresponsible I was for not being at the plane on time. I took the verbal beating me awithout saying a word (although there were a few words I wanted to say) and the group made it on the flight ... even though we held up the plane.

4. When we finally get back to O'Hare and get to the van, our van has a small luggage box on the back. We put some luggage in it and then go to shut the lid and find out that it won't latch. Despite our best efforts no of us can get the lid to latch even though it should have latched with no problem. I say, "Too bad we don't have a bungie cord." No joke ... 5 seconds later someone looks on the ground and 4 feet away from us is a bungie cord ... not one of the small cords but a long bungie cord ... the exact size we needed to wrap around the luggage box to make sure the lid wouldn't fly open.

Again, nothing huge but enough to help me see the hand of God at work in several different ways and I loved trying to keep in step with the Holy Spirit and follow His lead in several different ways during the trip.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nicaragua Update # 4: The Dump

La Chureca is the largest open air dump in Central America. It's also the home of some 1000 people (50% of whom are under 18 years of age). These people literally live in the dump. They find their food in the garbage. The look for anything that can be recycled in order to sell it for cash. This is their home and it's also the place where I had one of the most mind numbing experiences of my entire life.

It's difficult to describe La Chureca. I've posted pictures (which I'll talk about) but what you simply cannot explain is the smell. It's the type of smell that causes you to not want to take another breath. It's a combination of rotten trash, feces, urine, and death ... and it stays with you the rest of the day.
Our team went here to share the love of Jesus with people. We fed them. We gave hugged them. We shook hands. The language barrier kept us from having really indepth conversations but we were able to say "Jesus te ama" or "Jesus loves you."
I was so proud of our teenagers. When we first arrived at the dump, the look on their faces was one of absolute disbelief. We couldn't believe that people actually lived here. That babies actually lived here. And, honestly, there was a bit of fear. But, as soon as our truck stopped, our kids got out and just started loving on people. No fear. No favoritism. Just love. It was so cool to see.
There were a couple of experiences that brought me to tears. First, I met a young lady who was obviously pregnant. By the looks of things, she'd be giving birth any day. As I was trying to communicate with her as best as my very basic Spanish would allow me, I kept on thinking of my pregnant wife. This lady is going through everything that a pregnant mom experiences, except she's doing it in a trash dump. I was heart broken.
Then I also saw a mom carrying a naked baby around. The baby looked to be the age of our baby girl. When I saw it, I immediately started to cry. I just couldn't believe or understand how this could be happening and how this little baby even had a chance to survive in this type of mess. I was completely broken over that.
But, in the midst of all of this darkness, there was some light that was breaking through. Maria was a lady who felt led to start a school in the dump 2 years ago. She lives in Managua but really didn't know that people lived in the dump until she saw something on the local news about it. That news story ignited a passion in her that lives to this day. She would travel (by foot) 5 miles one way from her home to the dump to share the Gospel with the people there and to pass out food. She felt led to start a school and that school is also now a church. The church building (which isn't much by our standards but by "dump" standards is simply AMAZING) was built because of the tithes of the people in the dump who go to the church. Where did they get the money? They would rummage for anything they could find in the trash, sell it, and then tithe 10% off of it. That money built the church. There is also a man named Pedro who raises pigs in the dump. Any time his pigs give birth to a litter, he always gives at least one of the pigs to the church. The church then either sells the pig for money or uses it to help feed people in the dump. Kids are getting an education and people are hearing the Gospel in this dark place.
I'm still processing this experience, but I know it's shaped me and given me more of a passion to help people and point them to God and it's done the same for the kids on our team as well.
This man looks out over his home in the dump.



These three boys sit outside their tiny home in the dump. The youngest boy that you see on his hands and kness in the picture is the "nake baby" I mentioned above.
This man carries a load of items he rummaged for in the dump.

Some of the pigs being raised here.



Some of the homes you'd find in La Chureca

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nicaragua Update # 3

We spent the day in Tipi Tapa today ... a place where, I believe, the government here placed people after a hurricane a couple of years ago. They were only allowed to take what they could carry with them. There were no homes, no supplies, no water, no electricity ... they basically had nothing and were told to live there. What we saw today was what has been developed in the past 2 1/2 years ... and it was poverty like I've never seen before in my life! Here's a picture of a home in the area.


This is one of the streets we were on. All the roads were dirt roads and it had rained hard the night before which made traveling on the roads quite the experience!

Still, in the midst of all of this, there are people who are trying to help. We met a pastor and his wife today who started a church in Tipi Tapa and they also started a school. They had no money, no supplies, but felt led to start these things and they just prayed God would provide. We spent our time with the children of the school. It was a difficult day emotionally for our team, but we learned what it truly means to serve and get nothing back in return. Below Mariah and Leah are, I believe, putting hand sanitizer on the kids. They loved it!



Below are a group of boys from the school. They taught me several words in Spanish ... most of which I can't remember ... and I taught them how to play the game "hot hands." Too difficult to explain how to play the game, so hopefully you've heard of it. My competitive side came out and I just couldn't let the little Nicaraguan boys beat me. :) I had a bracelet on my wrist and the boy on the far right of the picture asked me for it. So, I gave it to him. He then proceeded to ask me for just about every item I had on my body, including my wedding ring. I'll part with a bracelet, but wasn't giving that one up. :)
It was a difficult day emotionally at Tipi Tapa. Honestly, I left that place smelling ... well ... I don't know how to describe it any other way than to say I smelled like feet the rest of the day. The kids were hot and dirty and had a smell to them and they were all over me also. But, I left feeling like I gave emotionally to them as much as I could. It was so sad to see the conditions in which they lived and how desperate they were for things. I left feeling broken hearted for the people there. One little girl really attached herself to me and kept on asking me "Vamonos mi casa" ... "Let's go to my house." I wish I could have, but didn't think that was a good idea. But, how awesome would it have been to show this one little girl some good, Godly one-on-one attention, probably something she never gets now.
Thanks for your continued prayers.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Was a Sweaty Mess ... and Loved It

Today was absolutely and amazing day here in Nicaragua. There were several tears that were shed and hearts that were broken on our team, including mine. We started our day off by going to a local school (we were there yesterday and the director actually invited us back which, I guess, is a HUGE deal because she's not a believer and usually doesn"t do that). But, anyway, we went back to the school and just had a fabulous time interacting with the kids. We were able to bring some gifts with us this time (side-walk chalk, coloring books, and crayons). The kids LOVED them! Here's Alyssa using the chalk with some of the kids.



Below is Brittany playing frisbee.



After that we were able to go to another food location and help pass out some more food to kids. There were about 100 kids that were there. The food locations are all outside. It was about 85 to 90 degrees outside and the humidity is out of this world! They make the food in a little shack that is about 4 feet by 6 feet. Inside this shack is a fire where they boil the water along with the rice and vitamin mixture from Feed My Starving Children. I was helping dish out the food in this shack and it had to have been 110 degrees in there ... combined with all the smoke it made things pretty interesting. But, we passed out all of the food and then we went to spend some time with the kids. This is when things got really fun. The boys just wanted to be boys so we just wrestled and wrestled. Below is Cody getting a "beat down." :)



And, that's pretty much what we did the rest of our time there. Cody and I wrestled with kids, we tossed them in the air, we swung them around in circles, we chased them ... just a bunch of "guy stuff." By the end of our time there, we were both filthy and just soaking wet with sweat ... AND we loved it!

I'm really missing my family right now and in each little boy I saw my son Ezra. Ezra and I always wrestle and I always toss him up in the air and so while I was doing it with those kids I was really struck by the fact that many of these little boys don't have a dad to toss them in the air and wrestle with them. It broke my heart and even though I was beat and hot and I stunk, I wanted to give my all to these little kids because who knows when they'll be tossed in the air again?

The couple of hours we spent there really impacted our team. One girl had on two of her favorite rings, but gave them away to one little girl who just kept commenting on how pretty the rings were. It was two and a half of the hottest, dirtiest, sweatiest hours of our lives ... but two and a half of the best hours of our lives also.

One more thing I'm noticing on this trip ... we're not all that different. Even though we're in a different country with a different people, some things are just the same. Little boys still love competition. Little girls still love to be called "pretty." Babies still love balloons! A piece of candy will always get a smile. Teenage boys just like teenage girls (especially the girls on our team) :) There are some things that will always be universal.

Thanks for your continued prayers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nicaragua Update # 1

We've been in Nicaragua for almost an entire day and we've already seen our first "God moment." It acutally happened before we arrived in Nicaragua. Our first plane out of O'hare was delayed and that delay was going to cost us our connecting flight in Houston. We were originally supposed to leave at 1:55pm, but the flight was delayed until 3:15pm. After talking with the airline people, we tried every possible way to figure out how to get to Nicaragua, but it just didn't seem like it was going to happen and we were most likely going to have to spend the night in the Houston airport and leave for Nicaragua Tuesday morning. Well, our team prayed and the flight was bumped up 30 minutes. We left at 2:45pm. That 30 minutes allowed us to catch our connecting flight in Houston (we made it by 10 minutes) and we made it to Nicaragua and to Pochocuape by 9:45pm.

Today we had a great day. The day was mostly spent interacting with kids. There are a couple of schools in the area and during recess we just went and played with the kids. I had my butt kicked in soccer several times by some little kids. :)

Here's Leah with one of the girls.


We then went to another school in the area and we made lunch for the kids. One of the local families opened up their home and allowed us to make the lunch there. Below is Mariah at the home.


Here are some of our kids passing out the meals.




After we had our lunch we walked around the mountain and just interacted with families and asked them if there was any way we could pray for them. It was a very special time and the families were incredibly hospitable. This is Rosa. She gave us some fresh mangos straight from the tree before we left.




Here are some of our girls walking with some of the local girls.





Today has been amazing so far and it's so awesome to see God working in us and through us. Our kids have been absolutely incredible and have already faced some different struggles on the trip and have passed with flying colors! I'm so proud of them all.
This is a level of poverty like I have never seen before. It's really eye opening and just reminds me once again how important it is to bless others with what we have been given. But, also a reminder that this trip is not just about "humantarian" stuff. There's a lot of that going on. We want to be giving Jesus to people, not just some granola bars.
One funny story .... my Spanish is not good at all. Anyway, I had been going around asking kids their name by saying "te ama" and I had several kids just sort of laugh at me when I'd ask. Well, come to find out that "te ama" is not "What's you're name." Instead it's "I love you." Well, kids need to know that anyway. :)
Please keep praying for our team. Thanks.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 6/16/10 - What We Believe About Jesus

We continued our "What We Believe" summer series at axis by taking a look at What We Believe About Jesus. Again, we stripped down everything in the ministry, had a short time of announcements, broke up in to small groups, prayed, and then got right in to our teaching time.

Before we started I reminded our kids that what they believe about Jesus will be the most important thing that they EVER believe in their entire lives. I also reminded them that the reason I do what I do is because of what I believe about Jesus. He's made an unimaginable change in my life and I want to do all I can to point others (especially teenagers) to Him.

We spent some time going through a short workbook on Jesus and looked at things like:
- Jesus was 100% man
- But, Jesus was also 100% God
- What does the Bible specifically say about Jesus
- What did Jesus say about Himself
- Why did Jesus have to die for us

Honestly, for me personally, it was a very worshipful time simply focusing on Jesus ... who He is and what He has done. I left with just a greater sense of wonder and amazement because of who He is.

For more information on what we talked about you can go to http://www.axisgcc.com and click on our What We Believe About Jesus workbook.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Doing What You Don't Want to Do



I cracked up when I saw this picture of our Mercy! She was playing "dress up" with the daughters of some good friends of ours ... well, maybe I should say the daughters were dressing up Mercy. By the looks of the picture, she didn't seem to want anything to do with it!

It reminded me of a good principle of being a leader. How do you respond to those tasks you're given that you really don't want to do? How do you respond when you think something is unfair or that you're carrying more than enough of the load of work?

I blew it in this area the other day. We had just bought a new and much bigger blow up pool for our kids. We wanted to use it on Saturday, but weren't able to purchase it until Friday night. I wasn't going to be home during the day on Saturday so I knew that it meant I was going to have to blow the pool up Friday night. Anyway, I had worked all day. It was 9pm. It was hot and humid and mosquitoes were flying everywhere! We only have a hand pump so I knew this wasn't going to be an easy job.

I did it ... it took 30 minutes ... I was dripping with sweat ... I lost a pint of blood to the mosquitoes ... and my attitude was awful the entire time! Instead of turning the situation around in to a positive ... my kids are going to LOVE this ... I can't wait to see them swim in their new pool ... I get to serve my wife ... She's going to see my bulging muscles while I'm using this hand pump :) .... I focused on myself ... it's hot, I'm getting bitten by mosquitoes, I'm going to have to shower after this, I'm tired and deserve better because I worked all day. Yep, I blew it and totally didn't follow the principle of "Do everything without grumbling or arguing" (Philippians 2:14).

There are many facets to leadership. The one that often gets overlooked is the fact that to lead you often have to humble yourself and do the stuff no one else wants to do ... the hot, sweaty, I'm going to stink when this is done stuff. Don't complain. Don't argue. Just do. That's the type of leader I want to be and I try to help our students to be as well. I definitely don't have it down, but want to keep working on it. Why? The next few verses in Philippians 2 explain: "So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life." (Philippians 2:15 - 16a)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous




- We invested in a blow-up pool over the weekend and were able to put it to good use when we had some kids stay with us on Saturday. Ezra LOVED having Ethan and Elisha over for the day and the pool was definitely the popular attraction ... even more popular than the dance recital I had planned for the kids. For some reason, they didn't like it very much. :)





- Mercy got to "strut her stuff" in her new bathing suit (thanks, Aunt Sandra). Seriously ... that girl is the cutest girl in the world!


- Both kids have been sick this week, which has made for an interested week in the Yauger household. Sickness = crankiness for both kids and parents! As of this morning, though, it seems like both kids are back on track physically. Whew!


- We had our ultrasound last week as well. Carol is 22 weeks along now and we were finally able to see our baby. Man, those things never get old! It was so awesome to see the baby moving its hands and legs and just being so darn cute! I can't wait to meet the little bloke or shelia ... that's boy or girl for those who don't know Australian. :)

- Was listening to some Cold Play over the weekend. Love the song "The Scientist."


- The band on my iTunes that may surprise you ... The Devil Wears Prada.


- I finally bought new shorts. While on vacation, I decided that it was time to get some new shorts to wear. As I talked it over with Carol, we both realized that it's been 5 years since I last purchased a pair of shorts. The expression "When pigs fly" can now be replaced with "When Rich buys another pair of shorts."


- We have just a fantastic week planned at Grace Community next week. Dad Fest is gonna rock! We are combing all 3 of our services in to one for the first time since meeting in our new building. We are also doing everything we can to reach men and are actually giving a way a Honda Shadow to some lucky guy next week. For more info on Dad Fest AND Kid Fest, click on the logo below.

Nicaragua

I'm getting ready for my first "out of the country" mission trip. I'll be taking 8 of our teenagers to Nicaragua. We'll be doing a variety of things while we are there, but we'll be working closely with a mission who serves children and families who live in a very impoverished area. One of the areas we will be at is literally a garbage dump where families are living. I'm really excited about this opportunity for several reasons:

1. I believe doing this makes God happy.
2. I believe doing this will really allow us to be Jesus to kids and adults who live in a very impoverished area.
3. I believe this is going to change me.
4. I believe this will change our teenagers going.

Sounds like a win any way you look at it! I've been on several cross-cultural trips, but have never been out of the country ... unless you include my 2 hour stay in Canana while on our Alaskan cruise. I'm glad that my passport is actually going to get some use now and I can't wait to see what God has in store.

Here is a link to a slide show of where we'll be serving. I'd really appreciate your prayers.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Our Graduates


I had the opportunity to honor our graduating high school seniors this past Sunday at Grace. We had 30 seniors from Grace Community moving to the next chapter of their life. This graduating class was filled with a variety of students ... some have been coming to axis since 6th grade ... some just started coming this year ... some are from the other side of the world (one from Russia and one from Norway) ... some were born an raised in the area. We had incredible athletes, incredible musicians, amazing dancers, hard workers, and two who tied for valedictorian at their school. Some were very regular in our youth ministry and others maybe came once or twice. But, one thing I do know is that when this class is "officially" gone from axis this fall, there is going to be a HUGE void in our ministry. This was one of the strongest graduating classes that I have ever been associated with in youth ministry. We had such amazing servants and such amazing leaders! Some were great upfront. Some were incredible behind the scenes. I really bonded with this group and am totally going to miss them.

We tried to do several things this year to honor our seniors. We had a special senior night where I took out any seniors who could make it out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant in the area. It was really a lot of fun, especially when the cook was throwing things at our kids! We then brought them back to the church and I had a few of our adults share some really cool things with them. We also had a night at our youth ministry where we honored them and prayed for them. Then, finally, we took time to acknowledge their hard work in front of our church on a Sunday morning.

My advice to them ... do more than what's expected of you. No matter what they do from here on out (college, military, work, whatever) if they do more than what's expected of them, God will honor that (Proverbs 13:4) and it will allow them to have a good reputation before others ... something God says is far better than wealth or a big paycheck (Proverbs 22:1).

I'm truly going to miss this group and I look forward to seeing what God will do through them and who God will raise up to take their place in our youth ministry.

Axis Wrap Up 6/9/10 - What We Believe About God

Our summer ministry at axis looks a lot different than our ministry during the school year. We strip down everything ... no music, no games. Just a bit of hang out time, some prayer and then we get right to our teaching time. This summer, I decided to do something totally different than we've done in the past. Our numbers go down dramatically in the summer. Instead of fighting that I decided to try to embrace it this summer. We put everyone in small groups and we spent time really digging in to the Bible.

Our summer series will be "What We Believe." On this night we spent time looking at What We Believe About God. I made up workbooks for all of our kids and basically walked them through every question and every Bible verse on God and what we believe about Him. I really want our kids to examine their faith and understand why they believe what they believe. As we progress through our summer, the idea is to really help our teenagers see why we believe what we believe and then understand that what we believe changes and impacts the way we live. We don't embrace Jesus' way of life simply to do it. We embrace His way of life because of what we believe about Him.

For more info on What We Believe About God, you can check out what we went over by going to our website www.axisgcc.com

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Soccer Camp in South Bend

Our campus in the South Bend/Mishawaka area is putting on their soccer camp this week. There are over 300 kids who are a part of this outreach and Pastor Tim (you can check out his blog here) always does a great job of putting it together. Several middle school students from the Wooster Grace Brethren Church are helping again this year. Josh Atkins does an amazing job preparing his students to serve during the week. Here a pic of some of his students helping out last year.





For more info on what's happening there at our South Bend/Mishawaka campus, check out this video from WNDU.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- I'm back from a week's vacation. I had a really nice time visiting Connecticut and also Maine. My wife and I spent the week with family and it was very nice and a much needed get-a-way for us both. I cut myself off from Facebook and also from email for the 8 days that I was gone. It was really nice. Ezra and Mercy had a blast with their cousins. Here they are with two of their cousins: Haley and Hope eating some donuts at the park.







- We flew to CT, but then drove to ME. The trip to Maine was for a family reunion. Very nice to be at, but a 7 hour trip turned into an 11 1/2 hour trip! Yikes! It was Memorial day weekend and the traffic was just absolutely horrible! It seriously took us 2 hours to go 5 miles at one point. We were all exhausted from the trip, but overall our kids did just amazing!







- While in Maine we spent time at a state park. It was so nice to be outside and Maine is just a beautiful state. Mercy just had a blast walking around the place.







- I also took Ezra fishing for the first time and he caught his first fish! He wouldn't touch it, though, because it was too "flippy" as he called it. :)






- Nothing tests my commitment to Jesus and the whole "Love thy neighbor" way of life more than driving on the east coast. My wife Carol's family lives just about an hour east of New York City. Many people in her area commute to NYC for work. I've driven all over the United States ... LA, Seattle, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia ... but I have honestly never encountered more just blatantly rude and obnoxious drivers than in the New York City area. They take aggressive driving to a whole new level! There's no consideration of other drivers. The attitdue is "I want what I want and I want to get there as fast as possible and if you're in my way I'm going to lay on the horn and then cut you off and then flip you off!" I realize I'm stereo-typing and not all of the drivers in that area are like this, but seriously, if I was honked at one more time I was going to get out of my car and give someone a serious punch to the throat! :) Ihad to ask forgiveness more than once while driving. :)
- The word "toilsome" means "Needing hard work or requiring hard work." I literally experienced the definition of that word over my vacation when I ran up Toilsome Hill. It's a half-mile long hill that is basically straight up. I ran the hill three times while on vacation and made it completely up it twice. The other time I made it half way up before I was about ready to hurl. That was because it was at the end of a long run. As hard as it was to run that hill, I always felt good about myself when I made it to the top.




- If you haven't watched the movie Food, Inc. you really need to rent it. It will completely change the way you look at food. It's similar to the movie Super-Size Me, except instead of talking about McDonalds it confronts the entire food industry. You would not believe the power the food industry holds in our world and how a few companies control a majority of the food indurstry. And, those same companies exert and unfathomable amount of influence on government and policies. Watching that movie really made me even more committed to Going Organic.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Fun Fact About Men

My friend Livie sent me this interesting "guy" fact:

"The first testicular guard cup was used in hockey in 1874. The first helmet was used in 1974. That means it took men 100 years to realize their brain was also important."

Funny ... but a lot of truth to that. :)

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