Category Archives: travel

Twenty-ninth

I’ve stumbled over how to start this post. And despite my hopes to make it a 2017 in review post, time has dragged on and so it is, instead, a look at all that happened during year number 29 for me. Typically, I would do this chronologically, but there are too many connected thoughts and ideas across the year…. so….

(hopefully you follow the chaos that is about to come)

  • Antioch Community – I stumbled into finding this church, and waffled around about whether or not to jump in with them. Eventually, I realized the goodness of God on Sundays, and maybe even more in my Life Group. I struggle to be fully present in community, even though I know it’s good, but these people knew (know) how to love and challenge well. Many songs, prayers (including some truth-speaking int my life and future), laughs and good conversations on life, faith and community.

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  • Returned to monthly counseling, which transitioned to more life coaching. Still need to get better about voicing my opinions, and being okay with the messy present. (Progress is greater than perfection)
  • Working at RYSS – My job often had me frustrated at the school system or exhausted from substituting or laughing with my Latino coworkers and students. The stress of state testing, but the joy of seeing students “get it.”  My 3rd graders made leaving the school tough. They reminded me of the joy of learning, the desire to have an adult listen to their story or idea, the struggles of childhood. And I wrestled with whether or not I was supposed to move on from that school. Despite the amazing smiles and stories, something new would come for me.

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  • I realize, looking back, the importance of some consistency in reading and discussing Scripture. Whether it was reading through the Torah to get to perspective, or messaging about Proverbs or Colossians with friends far away, having that accountability and structure for reading is good. And it forced me to take time to think and ask questions about what I was reading.
  • My post-Mission Year community. What a blessing (that I didn’t always realize or acknowledge) to have other alum to live with after such an intense year. The consistency of my roommate and our conversations, drives and coffee. The joy in exploration and digging into issues with another teammate. The monthly alumni dinners we coordinated with another couple from our first year. Something that was happening, that I’m still trying to notice now, the simple goodness of “those little moments” that develop and solidify community, friendships.
  • After reading Your Other Brothers, I connected with their group of supporters. And while I was just expecting to give thoughts on future blogs or podcasts, I found myself quickly in the midst of the “Yobber” community.  Having a group of men to share the ups and downs of life with. And then I was invited to blog for them as well! This online (and sometimes in person) community has blown me away with the vulnerability and welcoming and engagement in tough conversations. Plus some good gifs.

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  • I had an open summer after quitting my job, and was introduced to the amazing organization, Love Fosters Hope. If you’re in the Houston area, check them out. Two weeks of my summer were then spent helping at their week long summer camps for children and youth in the foster care system. We ran and sang and encouraged and ate and laughed and played gaga ball and swam. The boys from my cabin the first week made me laugh so hard and confused me and broke my heart by the end of the week. To see their pain, to see their capacity to love and enjoy life in the midst of everything else that may be going on. Such incredible kids (and staff).
  • There were so. many. trips. this past year.  Started off visiting Arizona for the first time ever to surprise my friend.  Then Denver for a wedding. Spring break trip (with McKenzie) to visit Mission Year friends in Raleigh and make my first trip to the Jewel of the Blue Ridge.  With no work during the summer, I was able to take a longer vacation – Minnesota to visit CrossFire teammates and all the wonderful people I left when I moved, Kansas to be with family and meet my niece Amelia, and then Denver (again) to meet some of the authors of YOB.  Plus I got hangout in Boulder for a few days with McKenzie and her family. Made an uncharacteristically spontaneous decision to join some friends on the East Coast to watch the eclipse. And rounded out my travels with a long weekend in St Louis.
  • With the future somewhat uncertain, I tried to figure out life in Houston back in the Beulah house with a new mix of housemates (and two dogs).  There were lots of good conversations, great food, and confusion (for me) about where I should be living, what I should be doing. And just as I was getting close to a possible answer – Hurricane Harvey. So… got to experience a real hurricane and flooding with some great people, and witness neighbors and churches being authentic. But then it was on to the next journey.

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  • Asheville, NC – With little notice, two job interviews, but a place to live for up to a month, I said goodbye to Houston. Within a week, I had a job offer. The next two months would be a roller coaster. Waiting for the job to start, getting to know my friends in Asheville better, exploring the city, waiting as my start date continued to be pushed back, crazy adventures with Yobbers coming to visit – Clue movie night, bruppers, hiking Craggy Pinnacle, finding waterfalls, plenty of coffee and dancing. Finally moved into an apartment (and got a roommate) and then started working at Cambria hotel as a front desk agent.
  • As I re-read journal entries and blogs, I can’t help but see the over-arching idea of “directionless” through this year. Not enjoying my work at school, but not wanting to quit because I didn’t know what I would do next. Having community in Antioch, Beulah and Asheville, but always holding it at a distance – not sure how to be fully present or authentic. Jumping around during my summer to visit places I have been, wondering if it might give me ideas on a place or a next job. Yet, in the midst of all this confusion, there remains some sense of hope. Though I have often felt unsure of who I am, what my work is, or where I belong, I can look back an see the moments that friends and family were right. there. with. me.

So, while the next year remains pretty blank in terms of knowing what may happen, maybe I can take heart, learn a lesson from twenty-nine, and trust living as presently as I can to see this moment for what it is.

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February 2012

Share your story.  Be a witness. Tell me about yourself.

It seems people want to know about other people.  We want to hear stories – adventures, tragedies, romances.  And maybe, we even want to know people and be known by them through the sharing of our stories, our experiences, our lives. So here we go.

February 2012, I am traveling in Tanzania with my CrossFire team.  We’ve been in the country for about a month, and some other missionaries have offered to help pay for us to take a day off and go on a safari.  Pretty sweet deal, so the five us head off one day to Arusha National Park.

It’s a beautiful day – sun out, but not too hot. Rather than try to explain the safari itself, I’ll let some photographs from the day tell the story.

Yes, it was a bit tourist-y of us, but after a month of cross-cultural ministry it was nice to have a day to just enjoy.

Less than 30 minutes after that last picture was taken, our team and safari driver were headed out of the park. As we come up and around a corner, there is a large bus coming quickly at us. The roads are dirt, and wide enough for 1 1/2 vehicles… maybe. So, our driver does his best to pull over to the side to get out of the way. Everything is fine.

For about five seconds.

 

Then we feel the jeep tilt.

 

 

The next thing I really remember is being upside down in the vehicle. At least two of my teammates are crying/screaming… and there is clearly commotion outside of the vehicle. The other male on my team is already out of the vehicle, I convince the girl who was in the back with him and I to get out, and make it out myself. We are way down the hill (later we decided that we rolled 4 1/2 times). I look at my teammate with the “what the hell do we do?” look. Maybe I used words… I don’t remember. He says he’ll get the other two girls, because the third is having a panic attack, so I coerce her up this hill…

Many Tanzanians are up there (more than the 5-10 who had come down to our jeep) and they try to get water for us. Eventually the rest of the team makes it up. One girl looks beat up and the other has been carried up by several men.

[there is no way to share how many thoughts and questions were racing through my brain at this point. and possibly no way for anybody to understand unless they also have been in a severe accident in a foreign country]

Through much miscommunication and several cultural barriers we make our way from the park to the police station (because the accident had to be reported….) to the hospital. The girls insist that the guys get checked out too, but we both politely refuse to make sure we know what’s happening with the ladies of our team. The hospital decides that the girl who was carried up the hill needs to go to a larger facility, so I travel with her in an ambulance. She gets x-rays. I talk with one of the pastors we’ve been working alongside. He convinces me to go back and sleep… the adrenaline was finally wearing off at midnight during the x-rays.

I crawl into bed, finally aware of some of my own pain but too exhausted to care. When I wake up in the morning, I’m so stiff and sore. It’s Sunday. I’m alone and beat up. But one of the teens asks me to go to church. I have nothing better to do (because I can’t get to either hospital until after church anyway), so I go. We walk very slowly. Myself with a noticeable limp in my left leg.

The church service was nothing spectacular. In fact, it was kind of terrible.  There was a guest pastor from the US… and he used a football analogy. American football analogy in Tanzania. [facepalm]. But during one of the songs – Great is Thy Faithfulness – though I was busy being annoyed at the choice given the circumstances of my team, I felt some brush past my left side. I looked over, but nobody was near. Whatever, maybe I was going crazy.

The three teammates from the other hospital joined me later that day. The next morning as we’re going to the larger hospital, I realize that I’m not limping anymore. With no specific prayer on my part… and no way of anybody else knowing to pray that specifically, I could walk without (much) pain.

Fast forward through hospital (teammate with compression fractures in her back, another with a broken rib and arm) and physical therapy and time spent not as a team of five all in one place. We had a lot of pain to process. Coming back together as a team of five wasn’t easy. But we talked. And we prayed. And we continued to do life together.

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We ended our year together. We ended our year healthier than most would expect after an accident like we experienced – both physically and emotionally.

It’s been five years since that day.  And there are days, weeks that I don’t think about what happened. But this is a reminder, to myself if nobody else, that God has and does still work. That each day has value. That life is better lived together.

The Stars

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Darkness.  Night. All-enveloping in a way that produces both fear… and peace.

Some of my most peaceful, happy moments have occurred while looking at stars.  I think back to college and the trip to middle-of-nowhere Missouri and being shocked at how many stars you could see when there was little to no light pollution.  Or of my two summers on staff at Youthfront Camp West – the occasional night watch, or evenings on the weekends talking to other staff and just enjoying the view from the field or the waterslide tower.  I think of Youth Encounter trainings at Luther Dell – middle-of-nowhere Minnesota, and again being surprised and awed by the stars. And again, staying up late, under the stars talking about life.  I remember moments in my overseas travels and being comforted that the friends and family that I was missing were still present as I looked at the stars, knowing that they would be seeing the same stars.

Most recently, the stars were brought to my attention at the reception of my brother’s wedding.  Outdoors, beautiful weather, wonderful time with friends and family.  While everybody was chatting and dancing after dinner, I went out to the porch.  I looked up at the stars… and breathed. So much happening that weekend, and in my life, it was nice to see the stars and breathe and rest – even for a moment.  Seeing the stars reminded me that as much as I enjoy parts of Houston, it cannot be my forever home because I miss the stars, the open spaces too much.

I’m unsure what draws me into deep, reflective spaces when I’m under a sky full of stars, but it seems to be.

Slowing down

Three weeks – amount of time I’ve been in Houston post-Mission Year

Two weeks – how long I’ve been employed in Houston

The time passes slowly some days, and quickly on others.

One morning last week, I noticed how quickly I was walking to catch my ride to work. Suddenly I had the thought – “just slow down.”  By this time, I know that my ride is never on time (and by that I mean I don’t have to expect it to show up early). Yet, my instinct at this point in my life is to show up early (always) and to rush – to hurry – to worry.

On that morning though, the idea of slowing down just stuck.  In that moment, I could slow my pace and enjoy the rest of the walk.  And in regards to my worries? Slow down brain!!  Don’t feel like you have a community yet? You’ve only been in this new season for three weeks – and you’re not even in your “permanent” location yet!  Work still seems unfamiliar? You’ve only been there two weeks… and school doesn’t start until Monday!

All too often I want quick answers.  And moving quickly will get me to answers/resolution sooner, right?  Wrong. I’m being reminded that life is about processes… and being present, enjoying the process, the relationships as they form, the moments of laughter.

There’s more to say.  But I need to start somewhere, or words will never be put on page/screen.

transitioning

It seems like the entire month of July was spent on the idea of transitioning well and/or finishing strong. Questions were asked such as:

  • What relationships can you push into these last weeks – at home, service sites, church, in the neighborhood? And how do you say goodbye well?
  • Which of the Mission Year values have you been drawn to more? How will I continue those after Mission Year is over?
  • What makes me come alive? What and where am I feeling called to?
  • What does it mean to finish strong with my teammates? How can we continue to be honest at the end? What does communication look like once the year is over? How can we celebrate this year together?

All that to say, there was a lot of reflecting and conversating during July. Lots of celebrations – breakfast one last time with Uncle, lunch @ Marcelina’s, meals with co-workers, an open-house at our place,”the last” affirmations and devo.

This culminated in Closing Retreat. Plenty of stories to share from our time in New Braunfels, but suffice to say – much laughter, more reflecting, relaxing by the river, good food, great conversations.

Now, the part many of you have been waiting to hear – I know because it’s the question I’ve been asked since May? April even? – What are you doing next, Kevin?!?!?

Well, turns out I’m staying in Houston!  Through a series of events, I applied and was offered a job at my service site, Raul Yzaguirre School for Success as Teacher’s Aide in English at the Primary Academy.  Currently looking for housing, staying with some friends. Though I can’t say I love the weather here, I’m excited to continue to mold young minds, explore Houston, enjoy the arts/culture and invest in relationships that I’ve made this year.

Stay tuned for more Houston adventures!

Moments (SB16)

Before life gets away from me (read – I get busy with third trimester and spending time with people in Houston), I wanted to share some of the memorable moments from my Spring Break.

  • The trek (breakout session) I led at the Seattle QuakeZone went so well.  Getting to listen to teens talk and ask questions about justice is pretty great.
  • Speaking of the event, it was the last YE event that I attended! Crazy to realize, but got to have some great times with the other staff/volunteers/band/alum of YE throughout the weekend1918554_10153400331496766_791146496353427813_n
  • Also, as a morning person, on Sunday of the event, I was up too early, but got to catch a brief sunrise.  (Brief because its the northwest and was cloudy/rainy almost always). So it was extra striking to get the glimpse of sun before the day started.
  • Portland, Oregon is beautiful. I LOVED getting to spend time there with Annie & Alex, and the waterfalls…. I could have just stayed there – if I had the appropriate rain gear.
  • Surprisingly good prayer time while doing a labyrinth at the Grotto with Annie. Thought/prayed a lot about the future, direction, learning from the past and trusting God.
  • While waiting in the Portland airport, there were some kids playing together – one girl and two other sisters.  The individual girl thought her plane was boarding so she left, then ran back to say goodbye and give hugs.  Her plane was not boarding, so she ran back and the three giggled and continued running around.
  • Reunions are good, and kept happening throughout my break.  Including one where my co-workers drove with me to meet up with the Cooleys in Wisconsin. Good food, better catching up and sharing life with these awesome people.  IMG_20160318_212029469
  • In all four states – WA, OR, MN & TX – I had awesome opportunities to experience hospitality as friends opened up their houses to me and bought me meals.  A joy to spend time with them – and to try local foods! (food trucks, pho & VooDoo donuts)

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  • Sunday – time to catch up with the team in Houston and relax before jumping back into the full Mission Year life!