Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Trip Blog

I have started a new blog for my upcoming trip. I do not know how often I will be able to write while I am on the road. When I do though, it will be on my other blog. Here is the link. Hope you like! http://gorejr.tumblr.com/

The Plan

Ever since my return from Rwanda, I have wanted to take a year off from school. I was sick off the classroom and learning in such a controlled environment. Idid not know, at the time, what this year would look like. Many options were available to me. I could go to another country and work with a missionary who had been there for years. I could do a gap year program with an organization I love very much and travel all over the world. Or I could do something by myself without a set organization or group or even plan.

Through God’s prompting, this last option is what I have decided on. As of now, I am in Maryland on vacation with my family. The day after I get back home, I am headed up to Colorado to work at Camp Kivu for the rest of the summer. I am super excited about that because God always does wonderful things there. This is where I will be doing a lot of mental/spiritual preparation for my trip. I will arrive back home in the middle of August and from then until the beginning of September I will be getting ready for the trip and spending time with friends and family.

So, to the trip itself. On whatever day I leave, I will fly to somewhere in the U.S. (not sure where yet) with a back pack and whatever gear it can hold. Wherever I land, I will begin walking and from there I will see where God takes me. The trip will last the entire school year. That is as far as the planning has gone and I do not anticipate it getting much father along that it already has. I am flexible, in the extreme, in terms of planning this thing.

Though I love writing stories, I know this one is not for me to write. Besides, God is a much better author than I am. He has not shown me any of the actual text yet but He has made it clear that the theme of this story is TRUST. This journey is about trusting Him. Trusting Him to provide health, and shelter, and warmth, and food, and to open up doors to places I have never seen, and to create relationships, and to teach me things about life.

I know I have not written much on here for awhile. I wanted to focus on my last days of high school and boy were they great. Thank You Father! Hopefully, I can put a few more posts on here before I leave. I do not plan on writing much on here during the trip but I will not rule it out if that oppurtunity becomes available. I do plan on keeping a journal during the trip. I hope to share whatever happens to me with whoever wants to hear about it. I am very excited, nervous, and scared. I am almost ready.

Why I Cried

Last night I cried. Overwhelmed by emotion, I was sad, elated, confused, and oh so thankful. I have never felt so much meaning and purpose in a single moment. Just thinking about it now brings me to tears. 

Last night was closing night of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, this year’s Spring Musical at my school. I played the part of Caleb Pontipee, one of the seven backwoods brothers who learns about etiquette and gets himself a girl. I was the dumb brother and I loved every minute of it. I was able to make people laugh with my mannerisms and then turn around and sing and dance with people that are much more skilled in those departments than I am. I put so much work into this production and now that it’s over, I’m still not sure how to think straight.

After the last curtain call, Mr. Batchelder, our amazing Director, brought the seniors up to the front of the stage and talked about us all individually. When he talked about me, it all came crashing down. A wave swept me up on the inside and forced its way out my eyes. While he was explaining it to the audience, I was imagining my theatrical career at James Madison.

My sophomore year, in drama class, I could not deliver a monologue in front of my class because I was so scared. Just the thought of performing in front of people terrified me so much that I made myself sick and stayed home from school for a week. That was the worst week of my life. I was so depressed and did not want to live. By God’s grace, my mother helped me out of the depression and Mr. Batchelder encouraged me tremendously and gave me the confidence necessary to perform in front of others. The next year, I tried out for the Impressive Clergyman in The Princess Bride, got the part, made people laugh and had an absolute blast. That year, I was a salesman/dancer/townsperson in The Music Man. Next was Sir Galahad in Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail then Caleb Pontipee.

My journey rushed through my mind, paralyzing me in a state of raw emotion.

And so I cried.

I cried because I was so happy to have the oppurtunity to be in those plays.

I cried because I was so sad that it was over.

I cried because I’ll miss acting on stage with my friends.

I cried because of all the times I laughed.

I cried because of how much I’ve grown.

I cried because I was so thankful for all the encouragement.

I cried because being on stage made me feel special.

I cried because I could not hold it back.

I am crying now because this is so meaningful.

Joy

Kid being rescued from the rubble of Haiti. Makes me laugh and cry. Thank you, Father!

Saying Goodbye to Mexico (For Now)

I’m back from another amazing trip  to a foreign country. This time it was Mexico and despite it’s extremely close proximity, it was my first time there. Going into a trip like this, I try not to have many expectations. I try to be prepared to engage in a new culture but that is about it. I just ride the wave that God’s pushing.

We went to Rocky Point and let me tell you it is kind of a sad place. It’s a city saturated with awesome ideas that were never able to come to fruition. It is riddled with skyrises that have done nothing but rust for the last couple of years. Apparently, when the American economy stepped in sinking sand, we all stopped traveling down to the rocky point that was fantastically popular only a few months before. Because of that, all of the people, who came up from other parts of Mexico to get an easy job in construction, brought their poverty with them.

With that as a backdrop, God did some really great things on this trip. The reason we went was to build a house for a family but the purpose of the trip was far more expansive. Originally, we were to build a single house for a certain family but because another church group was there at the same time as us, we constructed a double-wide home for another family. The two-and-a-half days of construction were filled with hard work, futbol (and football) with the kids, and an incredible cross-cultural fellowship with our Mexican neighbors. It was an amazing experience to work alongside dozens of Mexicans who deeply care for their neighbors as Jesus commanded. There was a very distinct sense of hope and joy and an incredible ability to communicate silently through that. The construction ended with a dedication and expression of gratitude that was awe-inspiring and tear-jerking.

God is doing some crazy things through our facilitating organization, One Mission. They are empowering the people to be able to provide for their needs by using their tools and working alongside them. Plus, they enable Americans to be a part of it, thus knitting the two cultures together. The Body of Christ as it should be. An amazing thing.

Once we were done with the house, we were able to visit a family for whom another New Valley group had built a house about a month ago. The family had added on to the house, converting it from a single to a double. They had completely furnished it and considered themselves wonderfully blessed. They new they had so much and have committed their lives to giving. “To whom much is given, much shall be required.” Seeing this, I had two thoughts. 1: It’s really cool to see what has happened because a group was able to come down and build this family a house. They have capitalized so well. 2: If he knows much is required of him because he was given a house that’s not even as big as my parents bedroom, then how much more is required of me?

The last morning, we had a debrief time on the beach in which we all shared highs and lows. The lows were admittedly trivial and sometimes humorous. Among the highs were building alongside the Mexicans, playing with the kids, seeing the other house, communicating through the language barrier, and experiencing the beauty that can only be found in simple places.

I am so thankful that I was allowed to go on this trip. As is His way, our Father accomplished mind-blowing things while we were there. And He hasn’t stopped since we left. He continues to work yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Switchfoot Concert (And Some)

Friday night, I went with some of my good friends to see Switchfoot at Martini Ranch. It was quite the adventure. We left right after our play practice ended and picked up everybody. Hungry, we stopped at McDonald’s because we all wanted some sweet tea. While there, we heard that the concert was sold-out. Bad news because two of my friends were planning on getting tickets at the door. We went back to school to drop them off and then sped (within the legal speed limit) of course) back over to Scottsdale. We waited in line for about twenty minutes in order to enter the venue that is about as big as my living room. The place was packed to the brim. Because we were so late, we were stuck in the back. As people moved around though we made our way closer to the stage using the classic wedge formation.

The show itself was spectacular. They played the full set from Hello Hurricane, their new album. If you haven’t heard their new stuff, check it out. It really is quite good. True to form, the songs are both hard hitting and soul searching. Jon’s lyrics are vulnerable and relateable, filled with hope and the power of real love. One of the standout songs was Needle and Haystack Life, which Jon sang from the middle of the audience. The Sound, one of the harder songs, sounded amazing live. Raw energy just flowed through the room. At the end of Free, Jon pounded the rhythm out of a bass drum. The addition made an already emotional song that much more powerful. Red Eyes brought the set full circle with the echoes of “We are once in a lifetime”.

Switchfoot played seven of their older songs as an encore. It started with Meant to Live, then a Stars/The Shadow Proves the Sunshine medley (I loved it when he sang “My shadows prove the sunshine”). After that was 24 followed by Oh Gravity! Then they dedicated Yesterdays to a soldier who was at the show. To end the night, they played Dare You To Move. It was a wonderful greatest hits style ending.

After the show, we bought some merch, including two fedoras and a golf hat. Then we went over to the trailer and met Tim Foreman, the bass player, and his brother Jon, the lead singer. I got them to both sign a cooker wrapper from McDonald’s. Jon lead a crowd to the other side of the street and started a little acoustic concert. After a few songs we were asked to leave by the police because of the noise. It was really cool that Jon would do that. We went back over by their bus and I listened to all of the conversations people were having with Jon. One in particular was really cool. A guy who was very emotional explained to Jon how thankful he was for his lyrics and how the gave him hope. The guy was just so genuine. He even sincerely apologized to the crowd for being kind of drunk. That is why Switchfoot’s music is so amazing. It gives hope to people who may not be exposed to the idea on a regular basis. I also listened to Jon explain his faith in a God of love. It was really inspiring to witness a regular guy who has been given an incredible platform to reach people with love and hope. Listening to Jon talk about Jesus on the street with a couple of dozen people around him, I couldn’t help but think that I was getting a little taste of what it would’ve been like to follow Jesus around and hear him talk to the crowds. It was a really cool experience.

Thanks Jon, Tim, Chad, Jerome, and Drew for doing what you’re doing!!!

Here’s video from Jon’s impromptu acoustic concert.

Late Night with Random Thoughts (#2)

It’s 12:34. I can’t fall asleep. My body is exhausted but my mind is in midday stride. I have a test tomorrow that I need to study for but I can’t concentrate on the material so I find myself delivering my thoughts to you.

Just finished reading a book called Tribes by Seth Godin. It’s all about leadership and it’s importance in today’s world of movements and tribes (groups united by a single vision/motive/product). Really enjoyed it and got a lot from it. Need another good read now.

Sometimes I get behind on stuff and it overwhelmes me. It happens with schoolwork. Today, it happened with my room. I was supposed to clean it (we just moved into a new house and are in the process of unpacking boxes) but I didn’t know where to put anything so I just didn’t do anything for awhile. After some time of doing nothing, I felt behind and overwhelmed. My mom gave me some practical/obvious tips and You gave me some much needed encouragement. I was able to get a lot done. I hate being immobilized.

Regarding the new home, it is quite amazing and fits our needs perfectly. It is a lot smaller than our previous behemoth of a house but I like that very much. It forces us to be closer as a family. We can no longer all go into separate corners of the house (all the kids rooms are about five feet away from each other). We have a huge (by East Valley, Arizona standards) backyard with a pool and patio with fireplace. And we have numerous parks and fields in our neighborhood. I love it. Thank You so much!

When someone encourages me, it’s one of the best feelings in the world. I want to give other people that feeling.

Sometime soon, I need to apply to college.

Packers. Ouch! Losing to the previously winless Bucs? They only had to go about ten yards everytime they touched the ball. Our offensive line is stinky.

I’ve been listening to Switchfoot’s new album Hello Hurricane and it is really good. Sound is rocking, anthemic, and ambient. Lyrics are full of hope in the hard times. Really, really like this album!

Wondering, if I had the chance to go back to either Morocco or Rwanda, where would I choose?

Goodnight. I hope I dream about freedom.