Belmont to Indicoso

We are heading from flatland to flatland, leaving Ohio and entering Indiana to go to Camp Indicoso in Springville. To fill you in, here’s a quick recap of our last week.

Recap

When we arrived Sunday, we ate dinner with the pastor and met with various church staff and leaders to talk about the week’s plans. After dinner we all went to our respective host homes to get settled in. Ariane and Christa stayed with Jen, who is basically the queen of hospitality and invited the whole team over for snacks and Bop It every night. Micah and Cliff stayed with Johnnie and Barb, a couple whose newly-renovated attic is perfect for housing two college-age boys for a decade, let alone a week. Brandon and Conner stayed with Pastor Randy in the parsonage, about 6 steps from the church building. Kat stayed with Stephanie in the house she is still moving into — literally unpacking boxes as we speak. Overall we were very well taken care of in our host homes, and we are incredibly grateful to our wonderful hosts.

Hometown Nazareth

We helped out at BUM (Belmont United Methodist) church this week with their VBS, Hometown Nazareth: Where Jesus was a Kid. We had about 50 kids each night, split into 8 crews. We were in charge of leading stations for the kids, and volunteers from the church congregation led their crews, divided by age group, from station to station.

Cliff led “Hometown Huddle,” a station where the kids practiced their memory verses, talked about the bible stories they were learning in other stations, and worked hard to convince Clifford the Bug Purple Dog to let them play Duck Duck Goose.

Christa and Kat led the station “Mary’s House,” where the kids came to hear about Jesus’ life as a kid in Nazareth. Christa played the role of Mary the mother of Jesus who told stories about Jesus as a child to the guests in her home. Mary’s neighbor, Eunice (no, she’s not in the Bible), stopped by every day to cause trouble and doubt Mary’s stories, which caused much discontent with the kids, who truly believed that Kat actually didn’t believe in Jesus. One of the girls came up to Kat (dressed as Eunice) the last day and, wide eyed and heartbroken, asked, “Eunice, why don’t you believe in Jesus?” We all then proceeded to cry and assure her that the stories Mary had been telling about miracles and wonders were starting to persuade Eunice that Jesus was more than the boy next door.

Ariane and Brandon led the fun and games station, where they led the kids in games that sometimes related well to the Hometown Nazareth theme and that sometimes were just for the sake of getting the kids to run around and hopefully get tired. They also worked hard to help the kids memorize the Bible verses with motions and all. A few games to highlight: Gorilla, Man, Gun; what the kids called “the sheep game,” and duck duck goose. Never have we seen kids love duck duck goose quite this much.

Micah and Brandon led music for the opening and closing celebrations each night, and may I just say that we are still amazed at just how well our boys lead children’s songs. Seriously.

Speaking of music, I have great news: we have all successfully secured a spot in our heads for at least 2 full VBS soundtracks to be perpetually stuck. Cheesy kids songs are currently playing on repeat in our minds and I’m pretty positive they will never end.

Conner and Micah each led a craft one night; Micah played the role of Gabriel the Carpenter and Conner was Samuel the Shepherd. When they weren’t leading crafts, they went around from station to station and helped out where needed. Conner also wandered around with a camera taking pictures of the kids, who proceeded to ask him if he was a stalker.

We really enjoyed getting to be with the kids (and volunteers)! As usual, we fell in love with the kids and found it really hard to say goodbye on Friday when the VBS came to a close.

The Weekend

Saturday was our Sabbath, the blessed day off so graciously planned into our schedule by the lovely people of Belmont. Cliff, Christa, and Kat detoured to the National Air Force Museum for the morning, then met up with the rest of the team for lunch at Taco Bell and a few hours of much-needed band practice.

We split up after practice for alone time/adventure time (Micah, Brandon, and Kat found a disc golf store and an army surplus worth exploring) and then met up for dinner with Johnnie and Barb at a killer Chinese buffet, complete with crab legs, sushi, and fantastic conversation. Dinner was followed by the tossing of frisbee and the playing of Heads Up at Jen’s — an overall relaxing Sabbath, if I do say so myself.

This morning we led worship for Belmont’s combined service, including 2 songs from VBS complete with motions (and the kids’ help singing and dancing). We had lunch with Pastor Randy at the church (the people of Belmont sure can cook!), then packed up and headed out.

Next Up

Like I mentioned above, we are on our way to Camp Indicoso, where we will be the worship leaders for the week. Here are ways you can pray for us this week:

  • Thank God that we had a restful and low-key week at Belmont, and that we had some time each afternoon to recharge.
  • Pray that we would have a supernatural grace for each other in every situation.
  • Pray that we would influence the kids at Camp Indicoso for Christ.
  • Pray that our team would have enough team time. We are still a little fuzzy about just how involved our roles will be this week, but we are ultimately up for anything — we just pray that God would protect our hearts throughout the busyness and that he would keep us safe from stress.
  • Pray for our sound system… Last time we used our system we had some technical difficulties, e.g. we’re pretty sure the devil himself decided to reside in our sound board and cause everything that could possibly fail to fail. If this could never happen again, that would be awesome.

Thank you so much to everyone for your prayers and support! Knowing that we have people back home and on the road praying for us and our mission is so incredibly encouraging. As you pray for us this week, please take a moment to read Acts 20:22-25 (verse 24 is our team verse) — this passage is what our team is all about! Thanks again!

Acts 20:22-27 (NIV)

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.

Picture: Brandon and kids play Red Rover

Departing toward Dayton

Recap

We left Steubenville on Thursday about 2 hours later than we had planned (we always leave later than we plan) and stayed the night on campus before getting Cliff at his house in Wilmore and heading back to First Alliance in Louisville. We showed up Friday afternoon and set up our sound system for their youth group service, where we played a few songs and Micah shared his testimony, which was pretty well received by the room full of teenage boys.

Last week when we were at First Alliance we were invited to the Bar Mitzvah of one of the boys, so we attended as a team Saturday morning. The service was Messianic Jewish, and it was really beautiful. We really enjoyed the traditional Jewish music, the Hebrew liturgy and scripture readings, and the privilege of seeing into another culture. After attending, we all felt really honored that Isaiah had invited us and that he wanted to share that part of his life with us.

We spent most of Saturday evening practicing — it’s great to have Cliff back! — and learning a couple of new songs for Sunday morning service. This morning we led worship and shared testimonies from Micah, Ariane, and Kat. The service overall went really well, and we especially enjoyed getting to talk with members of the congregation afterward.

Prayer Requests

Now we are on our way to Belmont Church in Dayton, OH, to help with their VBS this week. Here are ways you can pray for us:

  • Pray for supernatural endurance for the team. We are all starting to feel the effects of this summer, so pray that we can keep pushing through and going strong.
  • Pray that no matter what we are faced with, our team would have such deep unity and Christ-like love that the tasks wouldn’t matter.
  • Pray that we would be received well by the people of Belmont Church and that the Holy Spirit would speak through us.

Thanks for your support! 

Picture: Bardstown Road mural 

Au Revoir, Steubenville

After spending the week in Steubenville, OH, we’re on our way back to Wilmore to get Cliff (finally!) and then we’re heading back to First Alliance to lead worship Friday evening and Sunday morning.

To follow the usual format, here’s the recap of our last week and pray requests for the next venue.

Recap

We led worship for a youth revival at Finley. We stayed in host homes, hung out with the youth, and played 6 services throughout the week.

When we arrived in Steubenville after some difficulty (Brandon’s GPS was right, ours were not. Let’s not talk about it.), we hit the ground running. We met with Tom and Ryan, who helped us set up our instruments and their sound system in the church, and we started practicing for Sunday morning. After a long night of practicing, we headed out to our host homes to get some rest.

The guys stayed with Ms. Paula who constantly put our boys in a food coma and spoiled them mercilessly. The girls stayed with the Keyser family whose hospitality manifested in good food, amazing conversation, and taking a day off to make time to hang out with us.

We got to hang out with the church’s youth group and do service projects Monday and Wednesday afternoons. On Monday we set up a grill and hotdog bar outside the church on the street and served lunch to people passing by. With the meals we handed out business cards for the church, and we got to have some pretty meaningful conversations with people who stopped to get food. On Wednesday we went to the Urban Mission food pantry to help out with some odd jobs. We had been told there was a lot to get done, but by the time the 15 of us got to work, we knocked out all the work and then some in about an hour. We enjoyed getting to serve the community and to work with Finley’s youth group.

The evening services were up at Finley’s ministry center, which is a church building that was given to Finley that they have converted into the world’s coolest youth group building — the pews were removed and replaced with a random assortment of couches, foosball and pool tables, and that basketball arcade thing you had in your basement when you were little. We played music for the services and then hung out with the kids afterward eating food, playing the world’s worst game of volleyball, teaching foursquare on an awkwardly large court, and discussing the proper way to make s’mores (Gabe prefers his marshmallows burnt to a crisp while Brandon and Kat prefer a nice golden brown color).

Over the course of the week we had a few directional difficulties including but not limited to finding a giant giraffe on the side of the road (picture below). There was also a turtle killed in the making of our week, and a 40-minute moment of silence held in his honor.

We especially enjoyed getting to know the people at Finley like Tom, who organized our whole stay and took great care of us while we were there, and Gabe and Harper, the pastor’s kids who just clicked really well with our group. We also got to meet a lot of people we’ll get to see again at Hollow Rock like Rachel and Abby.

Speaking of Hollow Rock, we’re discovering more and more that this whole SMT thing is an existing universe outside of Asbury. Joining this team was stepping into something so much bigger than just the 7 of us touring the country, and it’s been really awesome diving deeper into that world.

Prayer Requests

As we go into this weekend, please pray for the following:

  • Pray that Cliff transitions well from Malawi to our team, and that we make his transition as smooth as we possibly can. Also pray that musically we would get back into the swing of being a full band. Since the summer began we’ve been playing acoustic sets with Conner on cajon (the box drum), so it will be nice to have Cliff playing a full drum set and Conner back on his tertiary instrument of bass (his primary and secondary are guitar and vocals, so he’s a little out of his comfort zone in general this summer). Our dynamic will be totally different when Cliff joins us, both socially and musically, and we’re all really excited for the change.
  • Pray that we would minister well to the youth at First Alliance on Friday night and to the congregation on Sunday morning, especially that the Holy Spirit would speak through us in all we do and that we wouldn’t get in the way of what Jesus wants to do this weekend.

Thank you for your support!

Picture: The Giant Giraffe that signals “You’ve gone the wrong way.”

Farewell Louisville (for now)

Recap

We spent the last week at First Alliance Church/International Christian Center on Bardstown Road in Louisville, KY, running a VBS for neighborhood kids. Here is an abbreviated recap of the week’s events:

  • Our first night and the next day were dedicated entirely to decorating. Our theme for the week was To the Edge: Encounter the God of the Universe, so we decked out the basement of the church in space-themed decor. When you walked in the door, you were in outer space. Brandon had the brilliant idea to cover the walls in black trash bags to give it a night sky effect, and we hung stars and styrofoam “planets” from the ceilings throughout the hallway. We worked without pause from breakfast Monday morning at 9am to 6pm when the kids arrived that evening putting up stars and planets and glow sticks and everything we could think of to make that basement feel like outer space.
  • The kids were mostly from Nepal, with some from various countries in Africa, some from Latin America, and one or two white kids — needless to say, we were the minority! We had about 25-40 kids each night and split them into 3 groups by age: Conner took the littles (4-6), Micah took the middles (7-9), and Brandon took the bigs (10-12). The groups started in a bigger room where Micah led music and Ariane led memory verses, and then we split up and rotated through our stations. Christa was in charge of teaching the story, which was taken from a different Bible passage each night. Ariane led the kids in games, which usually wore the leaders out more than the kids. Kat came up with a different craft each night and led the groups through each one. At the end of each night we met again for music and memory verses and then sent the kids home.

    Ariane and Micah lead the Middles in practicing their memory verses.

  • Most of these kids are bi- and trilingual, and English is their second language. When there were kids who did’t know English very well, the others were always very eager to help out. By the end of the week, we were all really attached to our kids, and we finally knew their names, no matter how unpronounceable they were to us.
  • One of the guys who helped out with the VBS was Austin, who was about our age and had an amazing testimony. He really clicked with our team and stuck around for dinner and showings of Veggie Tales on VHS each night.
  • We slept in classrooms in the church, so we were in that basement pretty much all the time. The funny thing about basements is that you lose all sense of space and time; we woke up at 11am feeling like it was 4 in the morning, we didn’t eat lunch until 2:30 or 3, and dinner didn’t even hit the stove until the kids left around 8:30 each night. Our internal clocks are completely messed up.
  • The guys worked on some odd jobs around the church like trimming trees and fixing cabinets throughout the days while the girls prepared the curriculum/games/crafts for the evening and set out food for meals — and may I just say that we are very proud of our guys for their successful use of a chainsaw!
  • Since our boys were in dire need of haircuts, we dedicated all of Tuesday afternoon to clippers and sheers; our men are now neatly trimmed and presentable.
  • We cooked all of our meals this week, which was a bonding experience in and of itself. Here’s our week’s dinner menu; parents, be proud.
  • Monday: Spaghetti with meat sauce
  • Tuesday: Chicken and rice with mushroom sauce and green beans
  • Wednesday: Taco Salad
  • Thursday: Chicken and Shrimp Fettuccine in Alfredo Sauce
  • Friday: Chicken Parmesan (breaded and fried chicken breast over spaghetti noodles with marinara sauce and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses) and Broccoli
  •  We detoured through Lexington today to go to a wedding and got to catch up with some friends in the process. Be sure to check out the Circle of Hope Facebook page for updates on Cliff and his team in Malawi. They’re doing awesome ministry there, and we’re super excited for what Jesus is doing in and through them.

     

Prayer for the Upcoming Week

We’re headed to Steubenville, OH, now to lead worship at a total of 6 services in the next 4 days for a youth revival. We are very excited, but also very nervous! Here’s how you can pray for our team and our ministry in the upcoming week:

  • Since we were leading a VBS all week, most of us haven’t even touched our instruments since our training week back on campus… and we’re leading 3 worship services tomorrow! Pray that we would quickly and easily get back into the groove of being a worship band.
  • Continue to pray for Cliff and his team for their last few days in Malawi. The team comes home Tuesday and Cliff rejoins our team Friday. Pray for a smooth transition for everyone.
  • Pray that we would reach people well for Christ this week, and that our team would be as effective as we possibly can in love and unity.

As always, thanks so much for your prayers and support!

Picture: The gang poses for a group photo on the last day of VBS.

Wilmore to Louisville

And So It Begins!

After a long week of a lot of training sessions, Sojourn is (finally) on the road! Here is a quick recap of the last week:

  • Like I said, we went through a lot of training sessions this week, including van safety, finances, story telling, confidentiality, and many many more. Though our schedule was surprisingly full, we do feel better prepared for our summer after this last week.
  • The pastor at our first church stop came to meet with us one day at lunch and told us all about the church and what to expect, which was really helpful.
  • One of our training sessions was going to Asbury’s Challenge Course and doing different group challenges. A few of us had been really dreading the trip to the course, but it ended up being super fun and really beneficial. We all learned a lot about each other, ourselves, and our team dynamic.
  • The last session was a “talent show” where both teams did a mock service with skits, music, and testimony. It was great to show each other what we have been preparing for the summer and to encourage each other in our preparation.
  • We met this morning at 7:30 to wish bon voyage to the other team, Ebenezer. After seeing them off, we went back to bed until it was time to pack up and get on the road.

As we head to our next stop, here are some prayer requests:

  • This week we will be leading a vacation Bible school in the evenings for 25-40 international kids. Our theme is To the Edge and it focuses on the God of the universe in relation to us, his creation. Be praying that we would lead well, and especially that we would be able to share Jesus with kids who may not receive the message of the gospel any other way. Many of these children speak English as a second language and come from Muslim and Hindu homes.
  • Continue to pray for Cliff and his team in Malawi, Africa. They will return stateside on June 9. Pray that they minister well to the people in Malawi and that Cliff has as smooth as possible of a transition when he comes home and joins our team.

Thank you for all of your prayer and support!