Monday, October 3, 2011

Kickin' It Off Right

There is no better way to kick off WyldLife than with a club where getting messy is the goal.

For some reason, kids just love throwing stuff at each other and smothering their leaders' faces with gunk, like shaving cream. And so that's exactly what we did last Friday.

If you had seen the week I had, attempting to pull off what we had originally planned for our first club, you probably would have told me to chill out. We had created the ultimate paint war, and all of the high school leaders were so excited to do it. Unfortunately, the county parks department was less than thrilled at our plan, and they adamantly told us that ABSOLUTLELY NO PAINT was allowed at the park. It made no difference that we are a non-profit organization dedicated to kids.

And so, after briefly considering how much better it would have been to just do the paint war without talking to the park people and kicking myself for calling them, I realized I had done the right thing, and we had to respect their request. I was forced to come up with Plan B: colored water and shaving cream fight. 

It didn't quite work out the way we had planned, but it was far and above my expectations. About 50 kids showed up, and after the privilege of introducing the leaders and talking about Jesus raising a 12-year-old girl from the dead, we had an all-out shaving cream brawl.

In spite of all of my worrying and fretting and freaking out, God pulled through. Car-fulls of kids I had never even seen before showed up, and those kids heard about the love of Jesus.

Pray for us as we follow up with these kids! Can't wait to continue telling them about Jesus!

Monday, September 26, 2011


Well, it has officially started. Fall clubs are in full swing, and I have to say it's been a different start to a new year of ministry.

I felt a little off, coming home from assignment and adjusting to so many changes in the area, and it took me a few of weeks to get back to a balanced schedule.  While everyone else in the area was on the same wavelength, I had been gone for more than a month, and it was a bit overwhelming at first. So many new ministries and opportunities for new ministries have popped up recently, and I had to wonder how we could do it all - Capernaum, College Life, new clubs at Coronado HS and James Irwin Charter School... But the Holy Spirit operates on His timing, and according to the Father's will, and even when something seems impossible, He makes it happen.  Capernaum is up and running, College Life is springing up out of nowhere, and God is clearly up to something at both Coronado and James Irwin.  I consistently have to stop and allow the Spirit to remind me that He is faithful, and He is sovereign, and my doubts don't change that.

I had another reminder of his faithfulness and sovereignty last week. While at leadership camp last weekend at Frontier, my sister and I received the devastating news that our grandma had passed away.  We knew she was going to leave us soon, having just been diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer.  Her heart was in rough shape, she was having problems with her kidneys, and she had been experiencing tremors for a couple of years.  When we visited her in Minnesota over Easter, we knew that was likely the last time we'd get to see our Grandma.

Erin and I had planned to fly out to see her this month, thinking we'd have at least another month or two to spend some more time with her. As aggressive as pancreatic cancer can be, we didn't think she'd pass away so suddenly.  Last weekend, she ended up in the hospital because her kidneys were failing, and the doctors told her she wouldn't make it passed Sunday. The next morning, she was gone. Painlessly and quietly, without having to endure cancer.

Erin and I drove straight to Steamboat the next day, having left Frontier Ranch the night before, to spend a couple of days with our mom and brother. We flew out to Minnesota last Tuesday, and went right out to the Bodnar farm, where my family settled many decades before. My grandparents lived there for more than 60 years after my grandpa inherited it from his parents. It's where my mom grew up, and it's the picture that comes to mind when I think of my grandma Lorraine.

My uncles had just installed a sliding glass door in the kitchen so that Grandma could look out on the farm, with the fields lined by thick forest. They had just finished installing it the morning they took her to the hospital, so she got to enjoy it for about half an hour. It was strange walking into the farmhouse and not seeing Grandma sitting at the kitchen table with her Coke, bag of Cheetos, and cribbage board in front of her. She hated cheese, but she loved Cheetos. (We actually buried her with a bag. A snack for the road, I suppose.)

The next day was the wake, and somewhere around 600 or 700 people showed up. It was overwhelming, standing in the funeral home, meeting people I didn't know, talking to relatives I haven't seen in years, and realizing how vast an impact my grandparents had on the community of Elk River, MN. Their legacy extended far beyond our big Hungarian-German-Irish family.

The funeral was emotional and well-attended, just like the wake. After burying her next to my Grandpa Joe, about 200 folks went straight to the Elk River Golf Club, where they drank, ate, and played cribbage in Grandma's honor. She would have approved, I think. (The priest at the funeral joked about her Thursday night bible studies at the golf club, a.k.a. her weekly poker game. She loved playing cards.)

I can only hope that my life will be as blessed as my grandma's was. She loved and served people so well, and she never lost her sense of humor. Right up until the end, she was teasing her doctors or making snarky comments to my aunts and uncles. I am honored to be her first granddaughter, to have a part of her in me, and to have learned from her. Her legacy will continue, I have no doubt.

To those of you who prayed for me and my family over the last week, thank you. I am so grateful, and your prayers are a gift.  We have our first Cheyenne Mountain WyldLife club this Friday, since I was gone last week, so keep praying that it is a success! We'll be doing a paint war, and I can't wait to post some photos!

On a sidenote, I've decided that I need to find some friends who know how to play cribbage. Let me know if you're game. :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mobile Madness

I think our culture is obsessed with technology. More specifically, we're obsessed with our cell phones.  And I mean OBSESSED.

I was out to dinner with my mentor a couple of days ago, and something suddenly struck me: EVERY person waiting for a table was looking at or talking on their phone. One guy even had his iPad out. Even people sitting in their seats -- at tables, with their friends or families or dates or whoever -- were using their phones.  Across from me, two middle-aged couples sat next to one another, and each of them was silently looking at their iPhone or Blackberry. Clearly, something is wrong when people who are out on dates won't even talk to their spouses because their smart phones take a higher priority.

I was guilty of it, too. My mentor had to take a call (don't worry - it was actually a legitimately important call!), and so I sat at my table for about 20 minutes, just waiting. And what did I do to pass the time? Cleared my text inbox and sent a few texts out myself.  If the Orthodox priest at the next table was looking at his phone during dinner, surely I could take out my phone and take care of a few things.... It was almost like a safety blanket, like a comfortable distraction that made me look a little less pitiful as a sat in a crowded restaurant alone for 20 minutes, like I actually had friends because they were corresponding with me via satellite.  That's what we do when we feel awkward or out of place or bored or distracted, right? We pick up our cellular device and check our Facebook or email or inbox, hoping that someone was actually trying to communicate with us, when there is someone right in front of us just dying for some face-to-face interaction.

At least, that's what I've found to be true with kids. And they are more cell phone-obsessed than any generation before them.  At Young Life and WyldLife camp, we ask kids to turn in their cell phones at the beginning of the week because we know what an isolating distraction they can be.  We want them fully present, fully engaged, so that they don't miss what the Father would have to say to them.  Some kids get in your face about it. Many of them pretend they already turned it in and secretly keep it with them all week.  Without fail, when we return their phones at the end of the week, kids shout for joy and say things like, "My baby!",  "I missed you!" and "Oh, civilization!". The second they press the power button, their inboxes are barraged with texts from their friends, calling them back into the worlds we as leaders work so hard to get them out of, even for just a few days.

Usually, I can't even get a kid to respond to me unless I send them a text. Texting is their preferred method of communication. Half the time I can't even understand their text language because everything is written in acronyms or spelled wrong on purpose (which drives me CRAZY as a English major). I'm still the lame adult who texts full words and uses punctuation. But when I can spend face time with a kid, I find that they are hungry for a real conversation with a person made of flesh and blood.  They want to be truly heard.  And they want to listen. Don't we all?

Yet we still resort to a less personal mode of communicating. We break up over a text or by changing our relationship status.  We tell someone we're mad at them or that we love them with a simple text. We do business over text messages and email. We establish our identity by creating an online profile and check it obsessively on our phones.

It's sad, really. I think we're missing something when our most valuable appendage is a phone. Cell phones are clearly here to stay, and they only seem to be getting more complex.  Don't get me wrong - they're not all bad. They're extremely helpful in many situations, and I've found myself grateful for our society's technological advances more than once. I just can't help but feel that a giant communication black hole has been created because of cell phones. So what can we do about it?

Perhaps one of the reasons that I love the ministry of Young Life is that our highest priority is being with people. Spending time with kids and leaders is how we share life with them, because that's how Jesus lived. A cell phone can't replace a face-to-face conversation or a shared experience. That's where relationships are built and that is where they are maintained -- in the "withness." I hope we never lose sight of that.