Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rehearsing for Oshkosh

Soft beams of light shoot skyward while arcing back and forth across the star studded canopy.  As the beams rhythmically pulse through the air, they occasionally dip toward the main stage looming noticeably in the foreground.  The stage is lit with soft blues and purples, accentuating the Babylonian wall d├ęcor and stately pillars.  All around me is space, tons of space.  A wide open field.  Semi trailers line the edges.  Lights are scattered throughout.  Huge speaker and jumbotron screen towers break the flat expanse.  An enormous steel island with stage lights and cameras and sound equipment stands near the front.  And there, right in the heart of this mammoth cluster of electronics and technology, sits a large group of people, quietly singing as they bring in the Sabbath.

It’s the Friday evening before the 2014 Forever Faithful International Pathfinder Camporee.  Over two-hundred people; camp staff, Pathfinders, youth leaders, volunteers, professionals; have gathered together to dedicate the stage, the camporee, and everything/everyone involved with Oshkosh to the Lord’s service.  Earnest prayers are sent heavenward, asking that God pour out His blessings on the forthcoming camporee.

It’s becoming a reality.  When I first received the email saying that I had been cast to play a role in the Daniel story during the Oshkosh Pathfinder camporee, I had no idea what to expect.  I have never been a Pathfinder and had only heard second hand about the wonders of Oshkosh.  However, I knew that the Lord had called me to be a part of the acting team, and I was willing and excited to see what He had in store.

About three weeks ago, I found myself on the beautiful campus of Andrew’s University beginning rehearsals for the Daniel story.  I met with all the actors and we excitedly began to rehearse our lines and figure out our blocking, all under the skillful direction of Sean Dale, our play director.  To condense the past three weeks into just a few sentences is literally impossible.  All I can say is that the Lord blessed immensely.  We spent long days practicing our scenes, going over and over the various acts until we could perform them in our sleep.  Almost…  We practiced together, ate together, played together, slept together; becoming a unified team of actors supporting each other through the long and trying hours of rehearsal.

And now we’re here at Oshkosh.  For the first time we as actors are seeing the amount of work that has been put into this production.  The mammoth stage is being set up by a crew of skilled workers.  The costume people are putting the final touches on our garments.  The props crew has been unloading incredible, jaw-dropping prop displays off semi trucks.  The AV guys have finished the lighting schemes, setting the lights to just the right angles.  The gigantic speaker towers have been set up.  And we, the actors, have been swallowed into the entire process.  The realization has hit home, this entire production is much bigger than any one of us.  And the more we realize just how big it is, the more humbled we are to have a part, no matter how small or large.

No, I don’t play Daniel, but I know who does.  I’ve spent the past few weeks working with him, and he’s a pretty awesome guy!  When kids find out that I’m part of the Daniel story cast, they always ask if I play Daniel.  “No,” I say, “But I know the guy who does!  I spent a lot of time with him today.”

As Christians, we’re part of something much larger than ourselves.  The body of Christ spreads across continents and oceans, embracing people from all walks of life, all skill levels, all cultures, and all races.  We are a part of God’s great last day movement.  He’s setting the stage for His grand finale to the great controversy and has called us to tell everyone about His free offer of salvation.  No matter what part He has called us to play in His plan, whether big or small, we are vitally important.  And whenever we share the story of Jesus with our friends and those we come in contact with, we can finish by saying, “And I know Him personally!  I spent a lot of time with Him today.”


Because after all, it’s not what you know that matters so much as Who you know.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Update

Hey readers, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a blog update so thought it was time to let you know what is happening in my life!  Right now, I am writing this post from a small office here at Camp YavaPines in Prescott, Arizona.  I’m excited to be working as the media director here this summer.  This past week I was with the youth and young adults, filming them as they engaged in community service projects.  The pastor for the Young Adults, Jeremy Anderson (with Next Level Living ministry), spoke powerfully on practical Christianity in our hectic, modern era.  The past few weeks, I have felt God calling me to a new and deeper relationship with Him; God has been working mightily in my life and I’ve sensed the need to publicly seal my commitment to Christ.  At the end of the week, I responded to the call to be rebaptized and publicly announce my dedication to Christ - 100%.  I am so thrilled to be wholly surrendered to Christ and I look forward to seeing how He will use me in ministry through the skills He has given me.

On July 19, I will be headed up to Andrews University to begin practicing the Daniel drama production that we will be performing at Oshkosh.  I’m very excited for this opportunity to work with some pretty talented people as we share the story of Daniel’s faithfulness to over 50,000 Pathfinders.  Over the next few weeks, you will be receiving periodic updates about that production as I continue to prepare for the show, getting an exclusive behind-the-scenes perspective.  Also, stay tuned for some vlogs that we might be producing regarding the production as well.  You’ll definitely want to check those out!

I don’t get too much time on the internet here during camp, so this has to be short for now.  But keep me and the rest of the camp staff in your prayers as we continue to minister to the kids here at YavaPines, and then stay tuned for updates regarding the upcoming Daniel story production!!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Paths of Comfort

A quiet path led towards the top of a small hill behind the mission in Bwa Pen, Haiti.  Thick jungle encroached on either side of it as it wended its way towards a cloud of drifting smoke which was hovering on the horizon.  Pink, orange, and grey hues spread across the sky in brilliant swaths as the sun attempted to peak over the distant hills.  The surrounding valleys grew vibrant as the shafts of light shimmered ever brighter amongst the grim darkness.  Somewhere in the distance half a dozen roosters vied for superiority of sound.  A lone donkey brayed audaciously while a pig squealed uncontrollably a few huts away.  The village slowly began to stir with life as women and children trudged along the road with their water pots, headed for the well.

Along the quiet path a small Haitian boy ran with a quality stick he had fashioned out of a forlorn branch.  His feet pounded solidly on the dirt ground, making prints as the dust blew up around them.  This was his village, his people, his life.  This path led to his home, a small shelter crudely built out of palm trees yet sturdy enough to weather the tropical storms.  A casual observer might overlook this path, this small geographical location virtually insignificant to a worldwide perspective.  Yet this young boy had never been beyond the confines of this small path.  It ran through his village and provided a place to play, work, get food and water, and understand his culture, his family, and his identity.  This path was his world.

We all have a quiet path in our lives.  We all have a place we feel comfortable; a place where we derive our self-worth and decide our own destiny.  But sometimes, it requires us leaving that path of comfort and venturing into new territories, where only miracles can transport us, in order for us to fully understand who we are and why we are here on this earth.  The world is much bigger than that little Haitian boy could ever dream.  Our lives are much bigger than we could dare to dream.

God has an immense plan for your life and He is willing to come find you on your little path.  Comfort zones are nice, but no growing happens there.

This past week, I had the privilege of leaving my comfortable path and working among the villagers of Las Cahobes in the jungles of Haiti.  Visiting developing countries is always a blessing for me as it allows me to leave my “groove” and experience a different culture for a few days.  To relate the trip in its entirety is impossible, but to summarize all I can say is that there are some things which words or pictures will never be able to adequately capture.  I worked with one of the most amazing mission teams I’ve ever gotten to work with, and the Lord blessed immensely while we treated patients in the clinic as well as ministered to the children through friendship and VBS.  Thank you so much for each one of your prayers on our behalf while we served in Haiti!


P.S.  I’m currently working on putting together a documentary of the trip as well as will be posting pictures soon.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Barabbas

This short Biblical novel was written as an assignment for my Christian Spirituality class.  I attempted to put myself in Barabbas' place during that pivotal moment when the Jews cemented their desire to have Jesus crucified.  I obtained my inspiration from Matthew 27:15-26.


It’s completely dark.  Nothing moves except the faint imagining of shadows all around me.  Cloaks, armor, staves, hoods; they all seem to be skulking ever nearer and yet too preoccupied to notice my position.  I cling tighter to the boulder I’m hidden behind.  Suddenly a rogue wind whips my skin into a plethora of bumps and then howls around the rocks with a lonesome wail.  Suddenly it is gone.  The blackness is becoming thicker now.  Off in the distance a lone crack of thunder follows a lingering flash of lighting half veiled by a shroud of misty blackness.  I peer again through the fog creeping up the hillside.  Yes, right there, in between my two men, at the top of the rocky slope.  It’s Him – I can see Him.  It’s the Man I stood next to earlier today.  The Man I can never forget.  The experience was too surreal.

Anger had burned deep down in my soul.  I was being dragged up the stone steps towards Pilate’s judgment hall.  I couldn’t see straight, I stumbled, I fell.  I was tired.  Tired of the guards’ jeering.  Tired of running.  Tired of prison.  Tired of life.  I now could see the mob that had gathered outside Pilate’s court.  I knew why they were there.  Everyone hated me.  They had good reason to.  I led a roving band of thugs and cutthroats.  We plundered, killed, stole, and grabbed everything we could.  I’ve always been looking for a better life, something that would gratify my desires and satisfy me with fulfillment.  I still haven’t found it.  And then one night we accidentally happened upon a Roman contubernium.  They arrested myself and two of my best men.  The rest got away.  I hated everything and everyone.

Suddenly a loud shout interrupted my rueful thoughts.  “Crucify him, crucify him!!!”  The crowd had become impatient.  That’s when I looked up and saw Him.  I froze; I had seen this Man several times before.   I was always interested in large crowds due to their wonderful supply of articles to steal.  But every time my men and I mingled in the crowd surrounding this Man, Jesus, our thoughts would be distracted by His simplistic stories and direct instruction.  He had a way about Him that was like none other.  He could captivate entire crowds.  I glanced around for the men who were usually with Him, but I saw no one. Right now Pilate was arduously interrogating Him while he stood motionless next to one of the great pillars holding up the porch roof.  His face seemed bruised in the early morning light, and His hands were tied tightly behind his back.  He looked my direction but I quickly diverted my eyes.  I was still angry and now more confused than ever as to why I was even here.  Then Pilate began to speak to the multitude gathered below us.  “Whom do you want me to release to you?  Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

Suddenly a servant rushed past me.  He handed a little script to Pilate and then bowed, awaiting a response.  Pilate’s face became troubled as he slowly rose to his feet.  The crowd outside was becoming louder and more belligerent.  “Crucify him, crucify him!  We want Jesus, let Barabbas go.”  My mind raced.  My ears were hearing one thing while my mind told me another.  I knew that each year during the major festivals it was Pilate’s habit to release a prisoner as a gesture of goodwill between the Roman rule and his Jewish subjects.  But no, it couldn’t be happening to me.  Was this- but my thoughts were interrupted once again.

“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” Pilate was again asking the crowd again.  I could tell he was stalling.

“Release Barabbas!”

“What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

“Let him be crucified.  Crucify him!  Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  The crowd began to chant in unison.  Their cries became louder and louder with each syllable.  The chant was rhythmic, almost hypnotic.  The sound rose from the plaza before Pilate’s judgment hall, echoing off the arching porch dome, around the stone walls enclosing the palace, and meeting again in the center before ricocheting off the tall pillars surrounding the courtyard.  The shouts began to meld into one dull roar that threatened to unnerve the most hardened criminal or soldier standing to witness the judgment scene.  I could feel a presence surrounding the arena spread out before me.  I could almost feel the clutch of the death cries as they fought for the very air I was trying to breath.  It became thick around me.  My mind was racing again.  Everything was going dark.

Suddenly, I again noticed Jesus.  He was looking at me.  I began to breathe again as a comforting smile spread across His face.  I felt as if He were reading me; reviewing every action of mine, every thought that I was thinking.  He was completely unphased by the uproar that was happening all around us.  Something in that look broke me.  There was no judgment, no condemnation; just reassurance.

Pilate attempted once more to quiet down the people.  He took a basin of water and ceremoniously washed his hands.  “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.   You see to it.”  His face was full of frustration and anger now.  The crowd had cornered him.

The high priest, dressed in a robe of white, yelled from the crowd below, “His blood be on us and on our children.”  The crowd immediately erupted in vociferous agreement.  My ears began to ring from the noise.

Suddenly a guard grabbed me and yanked off my shackles.  “You’re free,” he said bluntly.  I stared in disbelief.  There must have been a mistake.  I looked again at Jesus.  Here was a Man whom I had seen several times, preaching, healing, loving, never breaking the law or getting into trouble.  Our lives had been complete opposites; His, a life of holiness and compassion, and mine, one of greed, selfishness, and pain.  And yet here we were, standing together before a great crowd of witnesses.  His perfection next to my imperfection.

“GO!” the guard yelled into my ear.  I went.  At first I was hesitant, slowly stumbling towards the stairs.  I looked back for one last glimpse of the Man who had taken my place – the Man who had set me free.  His calm composure and demeanor etched themselves into my mind as I began to run.  I was free.  I left the court and turned down the road that led to the city gate.

Only a few hours have passed.  Now here I am, quietly watching three lonely crosses standing tall amidst a supernatural, eerie storm.  My name is Barabbas, translated to mean son of Abba, or father.  I have no name.  I have no life.  I am a sinner.  An outlaw.  Yet Jesus took my place.  He freed me!  I can almost hear his voice, even now, above the noise of fear all around me.  “Barabbas, I will die in your place.  You are free, my son!”
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