Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kandice



Kandice Robinson (pictured on the right) died last night. She was 27 and battled cancer for over a year. The way she battled, the way she fought ... we could all learn from it. Through it all, the good days and the really bad days, she stayed connected to her Savior and intentionally chose to pursure Him, even on the days when she really didn't feel like it.

Kandice was a missionary that our church supported. She studied sign language and wanted to use her passion to reach the hearing disabled for Jesus Christ in Kyrgyzstan. She was only months away from leaving when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even though she was unable to leave for Kyrgyzstan, she played an important role for Team Asia here in the States.

Two weeks ago she was the the Momentum Youth Conference that I took several of our youth ministry students too. Only days before she had just found out the the cancer had spread to her brain. Doctors wanted to start treatments immediately, but she really wanted to be at Momentum because she felt God had something for her to share with the nearly 2000 students that would be there. Below is a brief clip of the interview she did while at Momentum.

Kandice, you will be missed, but we all take comfort in knowing that you are happier than you've ever before. You are with Jesus now and He is more real to you than He has ever been.



video

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Day in the Life ...

Hospital visits come with the territory when you're a pastor. I had two today that were at both ends of the spectrum. I took the stairs to the 2nd floor and visited one of the missionaries our church supports, a young 27 year old woman who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and is not doing well at all. She was unresponsive when I went for the visit and the news the doctors were giving was not good.

Moments later I took the stairs to the 3rd floor and I spent time with a couple who helps with our youth ministry. They just had their first baby and I was able to make a quick touch with them.

I have a seminary degree and all, but it's stuff like this that you don't learn in seminary. It's days like this that emotions are on a roller coaster. It's days like this when I have to try to figure out how to live out Romans 12:15 "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." ... and I have to figure that out in a matter of minutes. What I do know for sure ... God is good and He is right and He is just ... on the 2nd floor and on the 3rd floor and the same Holy Spirit, who Jesus said is our Comforter and our Counselor and our Helper ... He is there for both families doing what only the Holy Spirit can do.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous



- Our church participated in the Elkhart County 4H Fair Parade yesterday afternoon. The Elkhart County Fair is the second largest event in the state of Indiana (2nd only to the Indianapolis 500) and, I believe, the 3rd largest county fair in the country. The parade is by far the largest event in our town and county. Thousands of people line up the streets and sit in the Fair grandstands to see all of the floats and groups walking in the parade. It only makes sense for our church to be involved in something like this ... something that allows us to touch thousands of lives and hopefully show people what Jesus can do in a person's life.



- This year the theme for the Fair Parade was Rooted in Our Community ... or something along those lines. Can't remember the exact phrasing. We decided to build a 20 foot cross and carry it along the entire parade route. The idea being that we are rooted in the Cross which helps us be rooted in our community and give back as much as possible. And, we WON! We won first place in the "Open Float" division. Not sure what all that means and I know we didn't build the cross to win a prize. We just wanted to try to bring attention to Jesus Christ through the cross ... but it's also cool to have won.



- Along the parade route we also passed out some HUGE "Chiller" freeze pops! These things were almost 18 inches long. It was so fun to pass them out and see the look on people's faces when they would get one! The only thing larger than the eyes of the kids were the freeze pops themselves!



- After the parade, my family and I were able to spend a few hours at the Fair. This was Ezra's second year and Mercy's first. They loved looking at the animals and walking about but, by far, their favorite part (yep, even for Mercy) was the tractors. They could have spent the entire day playing on those things.

- We wrapped up the book of James at Grace Community yesterday. If my math is correct, I believe we spent 10 weeks going through the book of James. To my knowledge that the longest series we've ever done as a church. We don't typically spend that much time on a series, but it was a great series for the summer and, honestly, just so good. Incredibly hard to hear at times (my butt was kicked more than once, that's for sure) but really good stuff in that book. We kick off our new series next week.
- I was able to play on the worship team yesterday morning. Ezra and Mercy both LOVE music, so during the 3rd service Carol had them in the back of The Link to listen to the music and to watch me on the worship team. It was so cute. Hearing them yell "Hey, Dad" or "Daddy" a few different times ... priceless.
- I was able to go on 2 dates with my wife last week. Man, that was fun. We normally do two dates a month, but it just worked out that we were able to go out twice last week. I loved spending time with her. One night we went to the Boathouse restaurant in Winona Lake. We at on the padio beside the lake and then walked around the town for a bit. The second night we went out to Red Robin with some friends. Lots of laughing and a great burger.
- I have a busy week ahead, but get to leave for a vacation at the end of the week. We are going to Tennessee. Can't wait!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Maybe

Another HILARIOUS video from Mark and Dave at Momentum 2010.


video

The Rest I Never Had

Mark Artrip and Dave Nicodemus or Mark and Dave, as they are known at Momentum, did just some absolutely HILARIOUS videos at the conference. Here's one that sums up how we all feel by the end of the week ... The Rest I Never Had


video

Axis Wrap Up 7-21-10

We had a great night of axis Wednesday. It was our first time together since the Momentum Youth Conference. We did a few different things that were really powerful.

1. A group of our kids did a REALLY FUN DANCE to the song Jai Ho.

2. We watched the Momentum Recap video.

3. Students shared. I just opened up our night to kids who went to Momentum or kids who didn't go to just talk about what God is doing in there lives. Wow ... powerful stuff. I was just amazed at the things kids were sharing with each other and the support they were giving to each other after they shared. There is power in testimony. There is power in our stories. We experienced that Wednesday night.

4. I asked 3 of our graduating seniors to share some parting words of advice to our students for the fall. None of the 3 got together to discuss what they were going to say, but all of the 3 said almost the exact same thing: Get involved. They strongly encouraged our kids to take their walk with God seriously and to take advantage of everything we, as a youth ministry, are trying to offer kids to grow in their walk with God. It was powerful.

It was cool to see kids hugging each other after the night and cool having kids come up to me asking for prayer or asking for specific advice on stuff. My prayer for the night was that God would help set a direction for us as we begin to start our school year ministry. I'm excited to see the direction we'll go. We want to follow Him. We don't want Him to follow us.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back From Momentum












Well, I'm back from a week at the Momentum Youth Conference and, once again, I had an absolute blast. Going to a conference like this reminds me of why I am in youth ministry. I was so proud of our teenagers and my heart just exploded with joy as I saw them genuinely making commitments to God and, from a place deep within their heart, asking God the question "What do you REALLY want me to do?" Here are a few of the highlights:
- Connecting with Our Kids: There's nothing like spending 24/7 with a group of teenagers that you love. We were able to take 34 kids from axis with us and I just had an absolute blast with them. I really try to take advantage of times like this. Kids just seem to be more open to spiritual conversations. I had several really good and deep talks with our kids and just to see their hearts open to God ... well ... again, it reminds me of why I am in youth ministry.
- Our Times of Worship: It was so cool that Jeremy Byng and the band from our church was able to lead the entire conference in worship a couple of days. They did such a great job and really brought us before the thrown of God. I loved seeing our kids respond and worship God in this way. Aaron Keyes, Laura Story, and Brett Younker also led worship at the conference.
- Sessions: The sessions and speakers were amazing! Our lead pastor, Jim Brown, had the oppportunity to speak at one of the main sessions. There was also Brett Harris, Mark Batterson,
Jeff Bogue, Kondo Simfukwe, Greg Speck, Mark Cahill, and several others teach us from the Word of God.
- We Care: We Care is something that Momentum does every year where we just take the entire conference out in to the community and just serve and love on the community. We did community service, trash pick up, went to homes and just randomly asked how we could help out in their yards, fed people, painted ... whatever needed to be done. We also did Feed My Starving Children, which is what our group specifically worked on during our We Care day. Just loved it and love how the conference allows us the opportunity to give back. It's one thing to sit for a week and take in the Word of God. I love how Momentum says "We take in God's Word so we can then give back."
- My Personal Epiphany: On the last day of the conference we take communion. I was asked to help out in a small way at the communion by being stationed at one of several tables across the auditorium where kids would walk up and take the bread and the cup. So, I had a loaf of bread and as a teenager would walk up to the table, I'd break a piece off, give it to them, and then they would dip it in a large bowl of grape juice and take communion in that way. Anyway, while I was breaking off pieces of bread and giving it to teenagers, I felt like God just really spoke to me and reminded me of what this aspect of communion is all about. The bread represents the body of Jesus Christ ... the juice represents the blood of Jesus Christ. As this is all taking place, I felt like God was just reminding me of what I am called to be doing ... giving Jesus to teenagers. It hit me in a way that it has never hit me before and I just started weeping. Tears are just pouring down my face every time I'd give a piece of bread to a teeangers. I was just overwhelmed with the responsibility that I've been given and overwhelmed for teenagers to encounter Jesus. Honestly, it was one of the most worshipful experiences I've ever had.
Overall, another great conference and I'm praying that God will literally, keep this momentum going the rest of the year.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Momentum 2010

In just a few hours I'll be leaving for the Momentum Youth Conference in Cedarville, OH. I'm really excited and looking forward to spending time with our teenagers. This will be my 22nd year of going to this youth conference (I started going as an 8th grader when I competed in Bible Quizzing) and have been going ever since.

I go because I really believe in the ministry of this conference. I've seen God do just absolutely incredible things during the week of Momentum and I truly believe this conference has the potential of changing lives every year. I can't wait to see what God will do this year and I look forward to spending some 24/7 time with our teenagers.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Mind of a 3-Year Old

So, for Father's Day, I received the most precious gift from Ezra. It literally had me weeping at the breakfast table. Unbeknownst to me, Carol had asked Ezra "Why do you love daddy?" She wrote down his responses and, drew some pictures (with Ezra's help of course) and made a book out of them and then gave to it me on Father's Day. Here are a few of the pages from the book.





He has loved to cuddle since Day 1.

We play Star Wars all the time.

For his birthday I "taught" him how to eat these for a treat.

He always cheers me on when I come back from my runs.
The other pages say:
- "I love my daddy because he sings the Spider Man song when I brush my teeth." We bought him a Spider Man toothbrush and I sing the song to him while he brushes.
- "I love my dad because he is cool."
- "I love my dad because he likes to play outside with me and rides on the tractor." Ezra loves to go for rides on the John Deere.
- "I love my dad because he wrestles me." He's such a boy!
- "I love my dad because he lets me use his tools and we fix things." My tools consist of a screw driver and hammer. Not the greatest handy-man in the world. :)
- "I love my dad because he tickles me."
- "I love my dad because he goes to the park with me."
Everything we do as parents is noticed, whether we realize it or not. Do not pass up these opportunities to pour in to your kids and point them to God. We, as dads, are the first picture of God that they will know. Give them a good picture to follow.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- Getting ready for our High Five Sports Camp this week at Grace. Pastor Jon and his team do an amazing job bringing all of this together and we'll have the opportunity to reach hundreds of kids at this camp. Very, very cool. My role this year ... to help teach the large group sessions and to lead games. Notice I wasn't asked to be in the slam dunk contest.

- Had our 4th of July party last night at our house. It was great to have kids from axis over and I had a blast with them. Honestly, though, the funnest part of the night was watching the fireworks with my son. This was the first time he has ever seen a fireworks show and I enjoyed watching him more than the fireworks themselves. He must have said "Wow" a hundred times! It was the best!

- Getting ready to leave again next week for our Momentum Conference. I'm looking forward to taking a nice group of teenagers this year and I can't wait to hang out with them for the week. Lots of fun stuff planned and I can't wait to see how God moves. Also, Pastor Jeremy will be helping lead worship at the conference with some of our axis band. Very cool!

- I'm more amazed at my wife every single day. She's so out of my league!

- Looking forward to getting back in to my running schedule this week. The week I was in Nicaragua and the week after sorta threw me off a bit. I think I'm feeling up to par this week and look forward to getting back on track. Plus ... I've ordered new shoes. Can't wait to try 'em out.

- Saw a man on a Harley yesterday wearing Crocs .... ok, I'm not all about fashion and appearance but don't the words "Harely Davidson" and "Crocs" sort of not go together. Somewhere a biker is turning over in his grave.

Axis Wrap Up 6/30/10 What We Believe About the Bible

We finished our What We Believe series by taking a good look at what we believe about the Bible. I really enjoyed our time taking an intense look at why we believe the Bible is literally the Word of God and is exactly what God wanted to be written to us. Our kids went home with, hopefully, a greater understanding of the uniqueness of the Bible, how it was formed, and the power that it has in our lives (The words of God + the Holy Spirit = A Winning Combination). The challenge to our kids was to remember that there are many people who read the Bible, but it hasn't changed their lives because they are unwilling to partner with the Holy Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to use His words to change us on the inside. Kids also left with a passage from the book of James and were given specific questions to ask that would help them get the most out of their time in God's word.

If you're interested in looking at the lesson we went through, you can find it as www.axisgcc.com

We're off this Wednesday because we're doing one of our largest outreaches of the year ... High Five Sports Camp. I'm so excited that so many of our kids are helping make this outreach happen.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Final Nicaragua Update

Below will be some very random thoughts on my final update from our mission trip to Nicaragua. I've had a week to process things and just wanted to take a moment to jot down some of my thoughts:

- From a youth minstry standpoint, this trip was soooo refreshing to me. I had so much fun with these teenagers! I truly feel like they breathed new life in to my role as a youth pastor. I loved laughing with them, crying with them, sweating with them, joking with them, stinking with them, and I just loved seeing them step up in every situation and just hit it out of the park. I could not have been any more proud of this team.




- I saw our kids do some pretty cool stuff. My style of leadership is not so much vocal as it is a "lead by example" type of style. I'll be vocal when I need to be and will definitely give direction when needed, but I really felt like we had prepared for this trip for an entire year. Our team knew what I expected of them and knew what we were going to be doing and so I didn't have to give a ton of direction to them. They just jumped in to situations and simply made things happen. I couldn't do that with every group, but with this group I could and that was very, very nice from a leadership standpoint. They took initiative. They discussed things and worked things out on their own. They pointed things out to each other ... things they did well, things they could be doing differently ... things they shouldn't be doing at all. It was awesome to watch and I just had to jump in occassionally with a few pointers.





- The above picture was taken on a very wet day. The mission we stayed at was at the top of a mountain and the only way to the top was to take a very long and very bumpy dirt road. It literally would take at least 10 minutes to get to the top of this road in the truck. Anyway, it was raining one day and we pass the wagon pictured above. On the wagon was a wife, a child, and an infant. the husband was trying to help pull the wagon up this hill. The mule was struggling ... coudn't get any traction because of the rain and the mud. Out of no where, I see one of our teenagers JUMP out of the truck and start helping this man push his wagon up the hill. It was awesome to watch this guy see a need an meet it. Two things went through my mind: 1) I was so proud of him. 2) Why didn't I think of that first? :) Anyway, we all jumped out then and were able to get the wagon up the mountain.

There were so many situations like that ... kids stepping up to learn and lead songs in Spanish ... kids stepping up to do stories without any prep time ... kids stepping up to clean without being asked ... kids jumping out of the truck in the dump and just loving on people who were literally covered in flies ... kids just looking for opportunities to be a blessing. Again, I could not have been more proud of them.




- Kids are kids, no matter what country you're in. I think I mentioned it in an earlier post, but even in this 3rd world country, little boys still love to wrestle and be tossed in the air. Little girls still love to be told they are "muy bonita" (very pretty). Little boys love competition. Little girls love to walk hand in hand. Teen boys still like teen girls (as was evident in the church service were were at when a couple Nicaraguan teenage boys kept on asking me about the girls on our team). Although there was a definite language barrier, we were still able to communicate with our smiles, our hugs, and just all-around friendliness.

- While we were in the dump, I took this picture below. I had just seen stuff that I had never seen before in my entire life ... poverty on a level I had never known ... little babies rummaging through trash .... women selling themselves in order to get the first picks of the recyclables in order to get money ... men walking around huffing glue, but in the midst of that, I saw this puddle that I thought looked like a heart. It just reminded me of God's love for people ... all people ... rich or poor, it doesn't matter. We all need Jesus and I was just reminded of how blessed my life has been since I've known Jesus and how important it is to share my story with others.




- Our team was made up mostly of girls. Most of the guys on our student leadership team were not able to make the trip for various reasons, so we had 7 girls and 1 guy (not including me). Anyway, when you travel with a group of girls, stuff like this happens. :) That was a lot of fun ... and even more fun because we were going to an English speaking church that same night and the girls "made" the two of us guys go with the nail polish on.



- What would happen in our world if every believer tithed 10% of their income? Stuff like the dump wouldn't be happening.
- This experience has definitely shaped me and softened my heart. I feel so blessed and truly want to be a blessing to others and teach my family and my youth ministry to do the same thing. I'm looking forward to how my family and my ministry will be different because of this experience.

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