Thursday, April 17, 2014

XTeam14 pt2 - from Vientiane to Thakhek

By Monday our bodies had (mostly) adjusted to the extreme time and culture change, and we were leaving the capital! Not first before spending the morning at World Vision's National Laos office. This was definitely a highlight for me. We met Amelia who is the National Director, who promptly took us to some hole-in-the-wall shop for Vietnamese coffee! And it was so good! Some place you'd never wander into on your own, but with a "local" we were able to check it out :) The coffee was the strongest thing I have ever tasted in my life!!!! Even with extreme canned sweet milk, it knocked you out with the first sip! The coffee enthusiasts among us were quite happy.

We got a quick tour of the office space, which used to be an embassy belonging to the government. We met Ian from WV Australia, and Thadum who was to be with us for the rest of the week :) We also got to see the staff friends we made over the weekend. We went to their staff meeting with chocolate in tow (a real treat for them there - chocolate isn't a big thing!). It was fun to watch them take piles and piles of it :) The team was introduced, we presented gifts and a signed flag from TJC, and Julianna and I did a presentation about Canada and our church. Then we were able to each meet with a small group of staff members for a Q&A time. Most spoke some English so we were able to converse pretty easily. It was inspiring to learn that many of the staff had grown up in rural Laos - and now wanted to give back to help others who are in a life that they once knew.

The meeting included a worship song and a prayer time at the end. World Vision is a Christian organization but hires people beyond that faith. So the room was full of people with varied faiths (Laos is primarily a Buddhist country with many Animists as well). It was neat to see just how you can "show Jesus" without being overbearing. When Amelia led the prayer she opened with saying that we were going to pray, but if that wasn't your practice you could meditate or just take a moment of silence. After that, most of the staff dispersed and we went through a few sessions concerning safety and best practices, the various pilot projects currently being tested in the field, and a Q&A time with Amelia, Ian, and Thadum. WV has 17 (I think...) Area Development Program's (ADP's) in Laos, and WV Canada supports 3 of them. Xebangfai is one! :) We had lunch at a nice restaurant nearby and then we were in the vans for the 5+ hour drive to Thakhek!

This was the first time we were out of the capital, which is more developed and more playing to tourists than the area we were heading. We quickly experienced bumpy roads and saw typical Laos housing on the sides of the roads. There were also a LOT of animals/livestock wandering around. Lots of dust, lots of bikes and scooters with whole families on them. A lot less shiny expensive cars. The drive down we followed the Mekong river, which on a map I know where it is and that it's between Laos and Thailand. A few times we all looked at each other and said... "are we REALLY driving around on the other side of the world right now?????" It was so surreal to try and understand where we actually were.

We got to the Mekong Hotel around sundown (thankfully!). The hotel was nice and clean and had great wifi (woo!). And you could see the river and Thailand from the front door!! I wanted to run into Thailand just to say we were there, but it'd cost $45 to get back into Laos. No thanks. After a quick checkin we ate at an outdoor restaurant right on the river, lights of Thailand flickering in the background. It was actually chilly!!! Not on Canadian winter standards, but compared to Vientiane's 30+ every day it was only like 12 or 13 degrees. I started bringing sweaters after this. I seem to remember going to bed early this night because we were so exhausted from the long drive... and tomorrow was Day 1 in an ADP!

Monday, March 24, 2014

XTeam14 pt1 - Vientiane

It's been awhile. A little over a month ago I went on an incredible trip to Laos with a team from my church and World Vision. We sponsor kids in the Xebangfai ADP so this was our first visit since becoming a global partner with the area. I managed to journal a little over there but couldn't put things together well enough to blog. When we came home it took a long time before I could start to process it all and reflect. It actually wasn't until we prepared to share with the church a month later that I was like "I think I could blog about this now." So... here's all about my trip to Laos!

Laos is an Asia on the opposite side of the world and it took a long time to get there. 29.5 hours total. We flew to Toronto, then Seoul, then Vientiane. I've never been on one plane for 14 hours before, but it wasn't as bad as I had imagined (might have to do with the gravol and 7 hours of it I slept away). Korean Air is great - if you have to be on a plane for 14 hours, do it with them! The travel was fun because I was with 8 others from TJC, so we enjoyed one another's company, playing games, eating food, watching movies and having chats. Getting into Laos was much easier than we thought it might be. And pretty soon we were at our hotel for the night.

We spent the weekend in Vientiane (capital), adjusting our bodies to the new time zone and diet and learning about the culture we found ourselves in. On Saturday we started off visiting COPE, which is a facility that treats and rehabilitates amputees, mostly related to the extensive bombing the country underwent during the Vietnam war. There are still 70 million unexploded "bombies" in the country, and villagers often stumble upon them and get seriously injured. Crazy! After that we visited some temple's. Laos is 90% Buddhist and unlike here, religion and culture are very intermixed. It was good to take it in, to see some similarities but also many differences between their religious practices and our own. Next we lunch at a restaurant on a beautiful river. In the afternoon I opted to go back to the hotel and rest. 30+ hours of travel and not sleeping much before leaving (too excited!) meant I was crashing fast. That evening we visited the night market which was a real treat.

Sunday we got to visit Naxay Church, one of 3 Christian churches in Laos (although there are 700 house churches and 13,000 or so Christians!!!). They had translation available so we could even understand the message! It was so incredible to join with other Christians, and sing songs we know (but hear it in Laos) and to see the incredible vibrancy of this congregation. There were as many people sitting on plastic stools outside in the overflow as could fit in the sanctuary. After church we had lunch with one of the Pastor's who shared about the dozens of conversions and baptisms they celebrate every month - from desperate people needing to be healed, to government officials checking in on them! It was SO AWESOME. It was also neat to have our first traditional Laos meal - tons of food all in the middle of the table, eaten with sticky rice and your hands! The rest of Sunday was spent reflecting, journaling, packing, and preparing for the next day which would take us from Vientiane down to Thakhek.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Today's Lesson

A friend told me once to post photos instead of text when updating a Facebook page because it gets more hits. I figured he wasn't lying to me, but never had qualitative proof. I do now! Today I poked around on the Journey Kids page and thought I should post a reminder about Sundays Christmas concert (don't ask... Snowstorms on Sundays suck). So I went ahead and wrote what I needed to say. Then afterwards I remembered I had some pictures of the kids that we're using in the concert. So I opened one, did a little edit, and threw that up too. This was all around supper time. So within 6 hours, my text post has reached 62 people... And my photo has reached 114! I've also gotten 4 more likes on the photo than the text post. So take note, page owners... It's worth the extra effort to create a graphic with info, instead of just posting info. I used "Over" to add the text, and Instagram to add a filter. Voila!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What's on my iPad

So about a year ago I sold my iPad 2 with the hopes of getting an iPad mini. But when they were released I knew they were seriously under what Apple could do. A5 chip and no retina display? No way. So I waited a year, and now here I am on the mini that should have been released last year. I know several friends have recently joined the iOS world and are looking for app suggestions for their new iPads. I don't like a clutter of apps, but I tend to download everything and try it before dismissing. Yesterday I spent a couple hours getting this new iPad mini loaded with all my favourite apps. So, here's what's on my iPad!

1) [most of] Apple's recommended apps
The first time you open the App Store it'll ask you if you want the official Apple apps. Say yes. Apple are now giving away iLife and iWork and they are great tools. Pages, Keynote, and Numbers are the Word, Power Point, and Excel of Apple. iPhoto, iMovie, iBooks, Podcasts, and Garage Band are pretty self explanatory. Find my iPad is good if you also own an iPhone and misplace one sometime [works with Mac too... But how does one misplace a whole laptop???]. I deleted "find my friends" and "iTunesU" because they're not useful to me. But I kept everything else. 

2) Kindle and Kobo
I subscribe to a few places that give away lots of free and cheap books [ and] and they do all platforms. Of course I download whatever is cheapest :) If you've owned a kobo or kindle previously all your books will now be on your iPad, synced to the last page read.

3) Productivity Stuff
Evernote, Drop box, Google Drive, GoodReader, Mind Meister, DocuSign Ink. Evernote is where I take notes for meetings I'm in, conferences I attend, and where I clip and save blog posts that are particularly helpful. It syncs to my iPhone and Mac. Drop Box is cloud storage my church uses for sermon stuff and for sending stuff to the worship centre computers. I essentially do all my church work via Google Drive so I can easily share with volunteers and we can edit together. GoodReader enables you to mark up and highlight PDFs. Mind Meister lets you create diagrams and flow charts [I use it to plot the 5 purposes of my ministries and how we're trying to reach them]. DocuSign Ink is exactly what it says - enables you to sign letters and documents in your own handwriting.

4) Bible apps!
YouVersion is great for reading plans and live events at The Journey Church. And the Bible app for kids is so much fun!

5) Social Stuff
Facebook, Facebook Pages, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, GoodReads, Skype, LastFM Scrobbler, Blogger [what I'm typing on now]. Basically, whatever social media stuff you belong to... There's an app for that. :) I actually started this blog post in Safari but nope... Get the app.

6) RSS Readers
Feedly and Flipboard. Feedly has replaced Google Reader [R.I.P] as the best way to follow blogs. Flipboard is a magazine style app to read content you enjoy. You can add tons of different sites and blogs... Whatever you're interested in!

7) Photo Fun
Picstitch and Over. PicStitch enables you to create collages of photos. Over is a way to add text over photos. I use the latter to create content for Journey Youth's Instagram account. Great way to promo events since more kids are on there more than Facebook these days.

8) Video
Netflix, Global Go, CTV Go, YouTube. If you pay $8 a month for Netflix anyway, might as well get the app for iPad! Global & CTV enable you to watch shows on your iPad... Some for free, some when you input your TV provider info [which I don't have].

9) Games
Download whatever you want and try them! I try not to play too many because they are addictive. I delete and add all the time. At the moment on my iPad I have: solitaire, spider solitaire, bejewelled blitz, 4 pics 1 word, jigsaw hd, and sudoku. [Side bar: create folders by moving apps on top of one another! I obviously have a games folder to keep everything organized.]

10) Travel
The Weather Network, Google Maps, Air Canada, Priceline, Hotel Coupons HD, TripAdvisor. I love to travel and am always looking for a deal. So I have these guys on my iPad!

11) Random Others
Planning Center Online, Amazon. The first because my church uses it so now I can access service outlines from my iPad. The latter because it's an easy way to shop. 

Wow. I didn't realize how much I had on here! I hope something in here gave you can idea of an app or two that might be helpful to you. If you know of any I may have missed leave a comment. And for those wondering, I have the 32gb iPad mini. With 64 bit apps on the way I would not recommend a 16gb as you'll run out of space [you definitely won't have room for all of these apps!]. And the screen is plenty big to preach from! Woohoo! I am loving the smaller size. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

The power of a few minutes

Today was a weird day. My church is a little ways out of our city's centre... and I live a little ways from city centre on the opposite side. I had an appointment in town at 10am so I opted not to go to work beforehand for the sake of 45min at my desk. My appointment ended at 10:30 and I had a lunch meeting at 11:30 (also in town). Days like this can be super annoying - meetings spread apart just enough that you feel like there's no big chunk of time to get something accomplished (I am very type A task-driven, if you haven't caught on yet). I thought "I can't waste my whole day away" so I went to Starbucks and decided to push and see what I could do with the few precious minutes I had.

Well, within 54 minutes I managed to finish up 4 weeks of children's curriculum (12 documents), submit 3 purchase requests, respond to 4 e-mails, send a few Facebook messages, and adjust 6 schedules in our church management software! All while sipping an Americano in my favorite coffee spot. Sure, I was a couple of minutes late for brunch. But I got SO MUCH DONE in such a short span of time! I was impressed and amazed.

I hate to think of all the other "little bits" of time I've had, but have shrugged them off as not long enough to do anything, so I ended up doing nothing (except maybe play bejeweled blitz). Little bits of time can really add up. Sometimes, it's worth spending 5 minutes reading a book. Or 3 minutes making that phone call you've been putting off. Or 40 minutes getting some office work done. If we capitalized on all those little bits of time, I think we'd find ourselves much farther ahead at the end of the work week!

Just something to think about. :)

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Frosh Week

This news article has created quite a stir this week. St. Mary's University is "feeling the heat" as the nation is looking on in horror. Because of social media, a chant at Frosh Week promoting violent sex was recorded and unleashed to the masses. And people are shocked.

I'm not. The same thing happened at UBC. And at York University. And just two years ago, the University I graduated from had this happen.

FYI, I just found those articles in a 30 second Google search. And these are just the ones the media has found. I hate to break it to you, but Frosh Week has been ugly all across Canada for a very long time. I was thankfully sheltered from it for my Undergrad. I lived at home and was part of SASF (Salvation Army Student Fellowship), so I never once was at a gathering of students that involved alcohol, or drugs, or sex.

My University career is kind of backwards. In 2008 I went to do my Masters at Acadia Divinity College. Most people live in dorm for undergrad and off campus for their Masters, but I chose to live at Acadia University while I was at ADC. I was on campus for 3 years, the last 2 of which I worked as a Resident Assistant (RA). At 23 years old, I was experiencing "frosh week" for the first time (and all the other things that happen throughout the year). I could hide from some of it in my first year, but in years 2 and 3 it was my job to help police it. I was going to try to share a list of some things that went down... but it's too hard to try and describe it all. Let's just say, University is a place where all rules and morals surrounding partying, drinking, sex, drugs, and authority, are in question. I have seen bright-eyed seemingly high-standard kids end up drunk and sleeping around. It happens. On every Campus. Every year.

I know that some Christian Universities use this fear to play on parents (and students) on why they should go to their school instead of a secular University. While I think this is a good choice for some people, I don't think it's the only choice. There is a deeper problem. Why is it that the morality of a student is flushed down the toilet as soon as they move away from home? When they move away from their church? Why haven't they been mentored and discipled well enough that they can withstand the pressures of the world?

All a Christian University buys you is 4 more years of a safety net. Sooner or later, the real world is going to hit. And the moral compass of this world is non-existent. So whether you are 14, 17, 23, or 35, at some point in life you're going to have to deal with it.

As a NextGen Pastor I am always asking the question of discipleship. How do you invest in a child's life, and partner with their family, from the time they're born until they are an adult, so when they go to University they have a living relationship with Jesus that is stronger than what the world throws at them? How do we do that well? Because a well behaved kid who is "nice" is not going to cut it. They will get sucked in. I promise.

What do you think? What can parents do to help build authentic faith in their child? What can the church do?

All this to say... I do not blame SMU, no more than I blame every other University in Canada. You could ask why University's employ students to be RA's to their peers... but even if we had older people in those roles I don't think it would eliminate the problems (it would just move some of them to off-campus areas - saw that happen too!). What's really to blame here is sin - our fallen world and the complete ethical disrepair our society has been in for the last several decades. It's an epidemic, and it's upsetting. But please don't try and point fingers at someone just to try and fix a problem that runs FAR deeper than any one person. We all have a choice in how we will live. Most High School grads choose to try this lifestyle on when Frosh Week arrives. I pray that families and churches will take NextGen discipleship more seriously as we seek to grow followers of Christ who will know how to live in the world but not be of it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tidal Impact 2013

Last week I had the absolute privilege of taking 15 students from my church on a missions trip called "Tidal Impact". It's a youth mission tour in Atlantic Canada that brings approx 1000 people together for a week of ministry. We partnered with First Baptist Church in Dartmouth, specifically because they are doing some interesting work in their community that I wanted our kids to get exposure to. The church has two co-Pastors, and Gavin is very much focussed on youth, outreach, and community work. So he was our guide along with his team of leaders and students.

The theme we chose for our week was "God loves a party", based on The Great Banquet in Luke 14. We wanted everyone to know that God loves them, and invites everyone to be a part of His kingdom! So the whole week we threw lots of parties everywhere! We also got to take part in Tidal Impact rallies throughout the week which were a great time of worship, community, and teaching from the Word. That was one of my favorite things about TI... I've done missions trips before. But to have a rally to go to every other day, with 450 other people, that you had no part in leading or organizing, was rejuvenating on a spiritual level. Shiloh Band was FANTASTIC in bringing us to the feet of Jesus. And Tim McCoy was engaging and actually preached whole passages of Scripture rather than trite topics with popcorn verses. Imagine that??! (I'm being sarcastic... everyone should preach that way. Anyway...)

Some highlights from the week...

  • taking over the Sunday morning worship service. This single thing put a lot of our students in places of leadership they had never been before. Greeting at the door, leading a worship team, sharing a testimony, preaching, taking up offering... they did it all. It was really cool to see them all take part. And the church was very welcoming and open to whatever we threw at them!
  • Dinner Banquet for the Food Bank guests. Watching my students be friendly and have conversations with complete strangers (some who weren't the cleanest smelling) was really special to see.
  • Team Party at the Sowerbys. I played the most fun game of pool I've ever played in my whole life.
  • Tuesday night's rally was super special for me. The worship was just GOOD, it was long and wonderful and I never wanted it to end. And when you open your eyes and see all your students fully engaged.... that is just the best!!!
  • Party at Demetreous Lane. Lots of kids came out, our kids were just ON their game. Playing with them, doing face painting, helping with the BBQ, cleaning up, with absolutely NO complaints or whining! This experience was a flashback to Missions Team in Spryfield in 2005, or Marystown NL in 2004. Ah memories. I'm glad I got to give my students an experience I had as a teen.
  • random connect times I had with different students throughout the week, either because they were in my van, or came with me to Starbucks, or sat with me somewhere. I got to know them on a deeper level which is always great.
  • Thursday night rally was really special for a lot of our students. I got to pray with one person who was seeking God so earnestly it reminded me of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis. Then our Middle Schoolers started a big prayer time with our group in the front. LOVE THAT.
  • The final rally - our Campus Pastors showed up!! So they got to see what our kids have been up to, and our kids felt supported by their Pastors. Always a win.

    There's way more than that I could write about, but those are really the special highlights I have. Missions is such a key component of discipleship. Parents, make sure your kids get a chance to do a trip like this at least once. When I look back on my own growing up, it was these times that I was really stretched, that I really learned to rely on God, and ultimately when I got called into full-time vocational ministry. Invest!!

    There's rumors TI 2015 may be in Moncton/St John... I already have so many plans in my head about hosting :D