Paris & Versailles Report

So as I mentioned before, I spent almost three additional weeks in England. That wasn’t completely true. During my time over there I took some time and travelled to Paris for two days. I planned this from the beginning. I figured that if was going to be over there for so long, I should take the time to go to mainland Europe. I took a lovely train ride through the chunnel to Paris. I originally had only five sites that wanted to get and I was going to take the “Metro” (subway) between all the sites.

First was the Eiffel Tower, which was an amazing spectacle to see. I planned my trip pretty good as the first thing I saw as I walked onto the streets of Paris was that beautiful tower. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing, actually seeing the Eiffel Tower with my own eyes was amazing. I couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the day. As I got closer it was kinda scary how big it was, and as I went up into the tower I couldn’t believe how big and beautiful Paris was.

Next on the agenda was the Arc de Triomphe and a lovely walk along the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. It is known as “the most beautiful avenue in the world,” and it didn’t disappoint. Much like on the Westminster Bridge and Thames River Banks, there were many street performers and vendors. During my walk, I got to see several cool performers, but none as cool as these break-dancers. Along the Champs-Elysees was also some great store and shops that I was able to go in and browse around. Champs-Elysees was a convient road for someone trying to see as much of Paris as possible because a couple of miles down the road was the Obelisk of Luxor which was just before the Jardin des Tuileries.

The Tuileries was a nice park where I was able to sit down, relax and soak in Paris. I also got to have the first opportunity to people watch. I always enjoy people watching and I’ve been told that people watching in Paris is the best. It didn’t disappoint, there are so many different kinds of people I was able to creep on. But I didn’t get to spend too much time, Paris awaits.

After my quick break, I travelled to on the other side of Tuileries which lies the Louvre. The Louvre was the “third” site that I visited and someplace that I always wanted to visit. In fact, #90 on my Bucket List is to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. But I was pleasantly surprised with many of the other attractions there. The Assyrian Winged Bulls, the Winged Victory, Egyptian sculptures, all the amazing painting that I’ve only seen in books, and one of my favorites, the Venus de Milo.

After the Louvre, I made a quick trip to the Norte Dame Cathedral, then a authentic French dinner, then back to the Eiffel Tower where I relaxed in the Champ de Mars until nightfall. The Eiffel Tower at night is just as beautiful as it was during the day. Every hour on the hour they put on a light show (as pictured above) that all you can do is stop and stare.

My second day wasn’t in Paris, but instead Versailles. What a great decision that was. Despite some rain and sore feet, Versailles was breath-taking. I was told by three people that “if there is one site on mainland Europe that you should visit, it’s Versailles” and they weren’t joking. This palace was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen, everything is so over the top. I couldn’t stop but be amazed at everything. Wasn’t too impressed with the Trianon palaces, but the trip to the Hamlet was worth the trek to that part of the grounds, the chateau was interesting as well, but the seeing the gardens and fountains made the entire trip. I could spend all day exploring the gardens.

Going to Paris was well worth the train tickets, hotel room, metro tickets, sore feet, 2 days worth of walking, everything. The best part is I only saw just a couple of sites and if I wanted to return, there is still so much I can go back to see.

London Report

As some of you may or may not know, after the Minnis Bay mission, I had the opportunity to spend 3 additional weeks in England. This was something that I was not going to go by without making the most of it. Fortunately I was able to stay with a friend that I met at last year’s Minnis Bay, Fabian, that lives in East London and only a ten minute walk from a tube station that took me into Central London where all the big sites and tourist destinations were.

First off, there were- So. Many. People. I couldn’t believe how many people were walking around in London. It seemed like everywhere I went, there were tons and tons of people. But the funny think was, as crowded as it seemed, it never seemed like there wasn’t room to walk around. Nevertheless, being that it was holiday/vacation season in England, what else should I expect.

I planned out most of my time in London and really took the time to explore all the different landmarks and ended up seeing most of London. Fabian, the guy I was staying with, said that in those seven days I was in town I saw more of London than he had seen in his entire life.

Below is just a quick List of the amazing sites and landmarks I visited while I was in London:
1.) Big Ben Clocktower and House of Parliament
2.) Westminster Abbey
3.) London Eye
4.) Trafalgar Square
5.) Tower of London
6.) St. Paul’s Cathedral
7.) London Aquarium
8.) National Gallery
9.) Piccadilly Circus
10.) Leicester Square
11.) Abbey Road and Abbey Road Studios
12.) British Museum
13.) 10 Downing Street
14.) Winston Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms
15.) Buckingham Palace
16.) National Maritime Museum
17.) Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian
18.) O2 Arena
19.) Canary Wharf

I was so fortunate to be able to see all these things. There are a few things that I didn’t get go an see, but that just means that if I am able to come back on another holiday to London, I have some things that I haven’t seen that I can visit, and some of these sites were amazing and I would love to revisit.

The Big Ben clocktower, for example, never gets old. Walking Whitehall from the Houses of Parliament to Trafalgar Square is always fascinating. The National Gallery had on display some of the most amazing art I have EVER seen. Finally, sitting in on a service and wondering at the architecture of St. Paul’s Cathedral is humbling.

London was amazing and proved that it is one of the most cities in the world.

Momentum report

The best way that I can describe Momentum is that it is a giant Christian festival. Much like music festivals like ACL, etc. But at the same time it was a lot like a conference as well, where one can go to seminars and learn a little about how to live as a Christian in the world and not of it.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect other than I knew there was going to be worship and we would be camping, but other than that I no clue what was going to happen. This ended up being a good thing as my eyes were opened to an interesting and different worship experience. I have not been shy when I talk about how limited my experience with how church is done. My experience is pretty much with one church and one youth group and both of them tend to do the exact same thing every week with no diversity or openness major change in how things are done.

While I was initially resistant to some of the different forms of worship and expression. But after a couple of days of being exposed to it and God softening my heart, I became interested and really wanted to understand it. What if I was just being critical? What if I was trying to fit God into a box? I think in those worship times, in those times of expression that were foreign to me, He was trying to teach me. He was trying to reveal Himself to me in a way that I had never experienced before.

In addition to all that, I also got to spend some quality time with some friends that I had known and grown close to through the Minnis Bay mission. During those five days, we camped in tents in the cool, damp English weather. It’s funny how close you can grow to people when you spend almost all day every day with them. This doesn’t come as too much as a surprised as this is the same reason a mission team grows so close together.

What did surprise me was how little I knew these people I went with. It shouldn’t have surprised me as I have only spend a total of 4 weeks (max) with these people. While I’ve known them for a year, I’ve only actually spent a short time with them. Don’t misunderstand me, this wasn’t a bad thing, just something that caught me off guard.

But it doesn’t matter now as I grew so close to these people that they prayed over me and declared that I was an honorary member of their crew. That really meant a lot to me. It was a feeling of overwhelming love that I hadn’t felt from others in a while. In a year that I felt like I was overlooked and taken for granted, I finally felt appreciated. It gave me a renewed sense of hope for my ministry and the direction it was heading.

Minnis Bay Report

So I wrote a few posts with the hope of doing what I did last year and writing on every day of the mission. But, that didn’t happen, sorry. Hit a snag in my writing schedule about halfway through the first week that just messed me up for the rest of the missin and really the rest of my vacation. So here is a short report and commentary of the 2011 Minnis Bay Holiday Club.

The first week I worked with the Super-Trogs (15-18 year olds), not gonna lie, that was a great experience. Unlike last year, with the exception of Shamus, I was able to make real and deep connections with a couple of the students. Four in particular, Nicole, Vikki, Reece, and Tom. I hate that this has happened both times I’ve come over (and maybe this means I need to reevaluate what I am doing or just my perspective) but this was the first time in a long time I felt like I was pouring into and ministering to students. Even though I discipled a couple of college guys last spring, I don’t count that because I mean the teenage students that I see on a weekly basis.

Regardless, Super-Trogs was great and I loved being a part of that group and honestly by the end of that first week, I kinda didn’t want to leave. But I did, and week two I was back in Trogs. It was nice to be able to join the team of people that I worked with and grew extremely close to last year. There were also a couple of new faces that I was able to befriend. Overall, Trogs went pretty much as expected. Nothing too special or over the top, which honestly I think is better for middle school age kids.

I loved the group of kids we took this year, they were a very mellow, laid-back group that (other than one hiccup that occurred after the mission) worked together well and grew closer to one another.

It was a great experience this year and I do plan on coming back next year, but I kind of feel like that might be my last. Due to uncertainty in my future and where my path lies, I feel like next year will be my last. But that’s not written in stone.

One think I love about Minnis Bay that I think sets it apart from many other service opportunities and camps that some one can do, the team working the mission grow very close together. That part of Minnis Bay is hard to explain to people back in the States because there isn’t anything over here that I can compare it to. Below is a video made by one of the team member that I feel really capture how all the leadership interacts with each other over the 2 weeks. Enjoy!

English Food

Last year, when I went to England, I despised the food. I could not wait to get back to America and eat some big, fat, juicy ‘Merican food. But for some reason, this year I didn’t mind it too much. In fact, I somewhat enjoyed English food. The food didn’t change, it was still the same repetitive, bland food it was last year. But it really wasn’t that bland, the difference is English food is not overly-processed like food is over here in the States and one of the things I feel I was doing too much of was trying to compare it an American counterpart.

One of the things that I had to remind all my students when they decided to buy some candy or soda was “Anything with sugar in it is going to taste different.” Instead of using some kind of corn syrup to sweeten the food/beverage, they actually use real sugar -albiet British sugar, but nevertheless real sugar. Burgers were less greasy and more lean (but smaller). Cod wasn’t overly breaded or fried for too long and during this trip, for the first time, I had some quality Fish and Chips and it was amazing. This is what all the fuss is about English fish and chips, I could have this all the time.

I didn’t only get used to eating English food, but I started to kinda like it. An amazing experience considering how I felt about it last year.

So to finish this post off- some of my favorite foods in England:
1.) Jacket potato with super crispy crust
2.) Cod and Chips. Apparently not all fish and chips are created equal and luckily I was able to get some good cod.
3.) Gammon. It’s kind of like ham, but it tastes like it is cooked differently.
4.) real, English Shepherd’s Pie with lamb and not beef. It does make a difference
5.) Curry which is surprising considering I don’t like curry in America at all and at one point claimed I would never have curry again. It’s that different.

Minnis Bay Update

There hasn’t been much in the way of updates, and I apologize for that. Been borderline exhausted most of the two weeks. All is well, we are having a great time. Today is the last day of the Holiday Club. :( Hopefully I can give a full update of the whole two weeks later today/tonight.

Keep praying for us! Thank you for all your support

Minnis Bay is wearing us out

I don’t know if it’s because I have a bad memory, but I don’t remember being so tired and worn out at the end of each day like our team and I are this year. I’ve been asked by a couple of members about the rule on taking naps.

But on the flip side, we have been having a lot of crazy fun that has been the culprit of the tiredness. Lots of life-longs relationships are being built, some that we have already made and others that are new this year.

Yesterday we had our first team social at a beach in Broadstairs, whose claim to fame is that it was the first location in England to learn of the victory at the Battle of Waterloo. There we had some fish and chips and just chilled with our new friends and just had a good time. We threw one of our FBCR team members “American” football, walked along the shore of the beautiful beach, or just sat around and relaxed.

Today we had another great day in Morning Clubs, and in the afternoon we were able to hold the ever popular, highly anticipated Water Fight. We try to play some short water based games, but the children are already running around with their water guns squirting everyone in sight, and once the fire engine arrives it’s over- we lost them.

The Fire Engine is the main attraction because it pulls out the water hoses and just start blasting the group. It is quite a spectacle to watch and experience. Afterwards you are so wet that it feels like you jumped in a pool with all your clothes on.

Once again, this evening, each age group had a time that they could hang out and have an activity with the kids we’ve been working with all week. The group I am with (Super Trogs) had a time to hang out and make and eat pancakes- British pancakes mind you- they are more like crepes than pancakes, but they still weren’t that bad.

Again, at Epilogue tonight, again we had a meaningful worship experience. I could tell that it impacted a few of our (american) kids. I feel like it created a chance for our kids to love on each other and bond together.

I can’t believe this first week is already more than half over and it’s been a great experience so far. Be sure to pray for our rest that we can stay refreshed and ready to face the tasks of the day. Pray for a meaningful last two days of the week in that we can continue to present the gospel to these children we are ministering to.