Sunday, July 18, 2010
Growing up as the oldest cousin, a babysitter, and an older youth, it was common to be reminded that I must be a good role model. Youths (youth?) and adult are often expressive about the role models they've had throughout their lives, and which truly made an impact. Today, sitting in the pew and reflecting on the things I've read this week, I realized that most of the time, people consider those who are their elders to be the candidates for role models... but really, someone who affects your life in that way can be any age. I looked to my left, admiring my friends beautiful cross necklace that she recently received for her confirmation, and knew instantly that she has been a role model for me this year. I wish I had become closer with her sooner, but I know we will be friends for life. Her constantly peppy attitude and her dedication to her faith, friends, and family are truly inspirational for me. Also this summer, I was privileged to meet a younger guy from West Virginia. His enthusiasm about helping, his unconditional love for his family, and his dedication to protecting his younger siblings was admirable. I am constantly surprised by the enthusiasm and dedication to the program that the youth younger than myself have for this program and for each other, whether we're winning jackpots at chuck e cheese, climbing (or falling down) mountains, hammering, shooting each other with paint or lasers, or sleeping on the ground, indoors or out.
So anyway, whether you consider yourself young or old, remember that there is likely someone who considers you a role model.
It made me realize that while the updates on this blog are currently happening with fair regularity, coming off of a fantastic year at ASP, they will soon stop as we all get geared up for school, work, and life again, just as it did last summer after national gathering.
Martha's attitude in life, and our pastor's conviction that the vast majority of our congregation had a similar attitude, was definitely a wake-up call today. Rather than get caught up in work, in school, in a social life, or in ourselves, let's get caught up in Christ. He is truly the only one who will always be there for us, no matter what. It is a reminder to take time every now and then to consider what is important in life, from family & friends to the Lord, and remain focused on them. Taking focus off of material things, busy work, and what "society" says is okay allows the mind to focus on things that actually matter.
So this week, let's challenge ourselves to be more like Mary, and try to take a step back from life and really listen to what's going on around us. You may be surprised by what the world (and the Lord) are trying to say.
And as for the blog, I hope that the contributors can take time every once in a while to focus on their spriritual life and write about how it changes/is affected by the busy-ness of our lives.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
As youth workers and adults who work with youth, we often get hung up in fundraising, details, the project, etc. This year was a different kind of trip for me for a number of different reasons. Yet, one of the main reasons is the time I had to spend with the youth in the group.
In 1994, a friend came on The Appalachian Service Project with me for the very first time. He was a year younger and I was not sure how he would fit in with my “older” friends. At the time, he did and it was fine, but I remember thinking how awkward it was. Matt was not the most conventional of friends. Why, because he was a kind, wonderful person, who didn’t seem to really understand holding grudges and was just happy laughing.
Now, as a 32 year old man, I can say this and be honest, but I was not always the best friend to Matt. Not saying that we were “best friends” but saying as a friend, I failed a lot. However we shared a unique bond in scouts besides youth and high school. I remember when Matt would agree with where to go or what to do his answer was “good call, in fact that was an excellent call. We joked of killer, kudzu eating, radioactive, suicidal, and cliff diving deer on the way to my Sr. Year on ASP. Matt, Mickey, and I spent one of the greatest weekends with the youth group in Washington DC. (SIDE NOTE: This is also the trip where Pastor Bill Bixby told us we were ROLE MODELS and people look up to us. We both look at him and say, well we don’t want to be, and we want to have fun. Bill explained that you can do both, but we are getting older and need to learn that others will look to us.) That weekend we played Frisbee on the Mall, ate at the Hard Rock, and talking about things in life that perplexed us like girls, parents, and what life would be like when we grew up.
Well here I am grown up (ok, how about chronologically older and a little wiser). 14 days ago my friend Matthew Ryan Hoffa died. We had been through a lot in the passed few years and time had separated us, but in 2005 when I learned my friend was in the Hospital waiting on a new heart, I was there to see him, talk and on a few times I just sat in his room while he slept. A few of these he may not even have known about, but I did and that is what mattered. His faith even then was an example to me. He was my ROLE MODEL and we spoke of times growing up and friends. He told me of the people in the hospital who inspire him to keep hope and be positive.
Recently, Matt had been ill 2 times since March this year and each time friends would tell me and I would say, OH I HAVE TO GO SEE HIM! Well, like all “important” people I got busy. Then the second time in the hospital, he was home the day I was going downtown to see him in Jefferson Hospital. Little less than 2 weeks later, my ministry friend Dayle Malloy had to tell me that Matt had passed. This was the Friday before I left for ASP. I WAS CRUSHED, I thought, I need to be here to say goodbye. Then I thought about it and back to those talks with Matt in 2005 and high School and with all the teens who tell me how amazing ASP is for them and I realized I had to go and not just go, but go and take Matt’s spirit and heart to serve with me.
All week I had struggled with missing Matt. People asked what was wrong and I just blamed the heat the first two days, but then on Culture Night (Tuesday) a man came to sing. He had been doing this for ASP since 1994. That year he also wrote a song “Love isn’t Love, until you give it away” which was also the theme of the summer and Matt and my first year. It was then, that I knew Matt was with me and God had put me in this place to be a “ROLE MODEL” share my skill, humor, and love with the people of Williamson, the youth on the trip and families.
I still miss Matt; I still need to deal with this loss. As someone who struggles with depression, I can tell you any death is like ripping open your heart and yanking on emotions (though given Matt’s issues, ripping open my heart seems appropriate) and forcing me to deal with it. I read a post on our Youth Blog (udlcyouth.blogspot.com) and it showed me that thanks to my wife Deena, my church friends growing up like Matthew Ryan Hoffa, and the adults who I work with now in ministry I am able to still be a Role Model and hopefully prepare and send out other Role Models who will share their lives with others to show God’s love, but more importantly who they really are not worrying about what other may think they should be.
Thank you to my awesome wife, ASP team this year, the mentors in my life, and those who continue to “give it time” to figure out my style is different, but genuine.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Amanda Couch and Becca Kehs, in one of Rays extra shirts that he brings every year.
Andrew Grafton and Amanda Couch working on a ramp.
Andrew used for drills at once!
Amanda Couch and Willie Thornton.
Cheryl Rozinski and Meghan Evers.
Ray, Shaughn, and Renee.
Todd with his famous monkey.
Our tuesday night entertainment.
At our first rest stop, Matt Merritt bought a huge burger. Where does he put all of the food? It was over 1000 calories!
Sunday, July 11, 2010
This program grants opportunities to serve both at home and abroad, it allows people who wouldn't otherwise meet to develop life long relationships, and it gives us a safe place to go for advice, for a shoulder to cry on, or just for a couch to sit on.
I am forever thankful for the adults and youth that have been present in the youth programs throughout my last 8 years or so at this church, as I truly believe I'd be a different person if not for their guidance, support and love.
Things I've Learned:
~ Never take things for granted. There are things I and my peers have access to, from material possessions, to opportunities like schooling & work, to having transportation, that many teens in our own country and in others can only dream of.
~ Family is important. This sounds obvious, but, it is insane how evident it becomes after spending weeks in foreign situations. I think one of the most important lessons most of the ASP participants take away each year is to value their family above their material possessions and above themselves.
~ Families can (and likely should) be unconventional. Whether it includes neighbors, friends, church members, pets, or strangers, it is necessary to have a strong support system behind you, every step of the way.
~ Follow your heart, wherever it may take you. If you are called to teach, teach; if you wish to light candles, or bake, or run marathons, do it!; if you feel compelled to travel in a van full of teens for 12 hours, well, you're probably insane.
~ Eat. Eat whatever you want, when you want. Eat with your friends, eat with your family, eat alone. Food can be fellowship, food can be delicious, and food sustains.
~ Drink. Stay hydrated when it's 102 degrees outside and you're nailing things together or putting shingles on a roof or sawing things. Use it as an excuse not to eat. Take the time to experiment with different flavors, then share the best and worst with your friends.
~ Bob Topper LOVES Swedish Fish.
~ HAVE FUN. Sing & Dance. Play a new role. Run in circles. Socialize. Meet new people. Keep in touch. Frolic.
~ Cherish everything. First dances, new friends, relationships, your favorite candy, the last bite of ice cream, moonlit walks, camping trips, bonfires, long car rides, and so much more. Some day, high school will end, you'll have a job, people will have moved on or passed away, and you'll regret moving through life so quickly.
~ Wait before reacting. Some of the worst decisions made are made in anger, despair, or haste. Write down your emotions in a situation, or think about what to say, then don't. Give the situation a few hours or a few days to settle in your brain, then when it's finally time to react, you'll be capable of a mature and reasonable conversation.
~ Make decisions and stick to them. If you don't know what you want, how can you expect to have productive conversations about anything?
~ Learn from everyone you meet. You will learn life's most valuable lessons when you least expect to.
~ "Take things in stride" No matter your situation, always make the best of it.
Again, I want to thank all of the wonderful adults and youth that have helped me through my best and worst moments in my adolescence. Thank you especially to Ray Hopkins for being a mentor, a friend, and even a relationship therapist when necessary. You truly go above and beyond for us, and make this program the best it can be.
<3 Rebecca Jean Kehs (a.k.a. Ke$ha.)