May 14, 2010

Moving forward, but holding on tight to what's behind.

With the encouragement of Matt and my Mom, I thought it would be appropriate to write one more blog here on the the adventures of two brothers.

It's hard to figure out where to even begin summing up such an incredible experience. Over the last month people have asked me often how my trip was. Every time I see a montage of images fly through my head, from Speaking at churches, to backpacking into villages in Papa New Guinea, to scrubbing rust off a ship, to making incredible friendships, to the sheer wisdom I gained. Not to mention the way the Lord seemed to gently and lovingly pull me close to His heart.

As Matt mentioned, if you haven't read his blog under mine, read it! I'll forever look back on the experience of my last six months, and smile knowing that it forever changed my life. I believe every person should take six months where they go and take time to grow in themselves!

I could go on and on about the stories and friendships I made. But I want to share the three areas that I grew in the most.

1. Restoration of a relationship with Jesus. It's hard to put to words how and when this happened. But I went to YWAM hungry for TRUTH, and feel like came home in more in love with Jesus. I know that sounds pretty hokie pokie, but it's the truth. I was reminded over and over again, by others, by reading the Bible, and through prayer, that I'm deeply loved. I needed this, I think we all need to know we are deeply loved, just the way we are.

2. Opened my eyes to the Beauty of the church. This was huge for me. I both know Christianity isn't perfect, and never will be. What I realized though, was the the church is made up of broken PEOPLE, it's not a building its people. People who believe in hope and love. People who are bound to mess up and make mistakes, but people who when operating the way God hopes, can be the most beautiful thing eyes will ever see. I spoke about this to a small gathering of believers, the church, in Sydney. I called out and said some of these words about the church:
It's the church who says, we can't sit back and let people in PNG, Africa, and elsewhere to die of preventable diseases. That's absurd.

It's you and I a church that rises up against child sex trafficking, racism, and poverty.

It's a people willing to mentor young teenagers struggling with depression and suicide, and they would do it for free, even if they were treated like crap the entire time.

It's a group of transformed individuals so in love with Christ that they would stand up on a platform and scream out at the top of their lungs to a room of young teenage girls that they are BEAUTIFUL and they do have to believe the lies of the media and world.

The church I'm talking about has the ability to take a criminal who is addicted to the craziest drugs, full of violence and hatred, and transform him into a humble, loving compassionate follower, willing to do anything for the sake of the gospel that saved his life.
(I've seen it with my own eyes.)

3. Believing in myself and the dreams within me! A few weeks into YWAM I discovered something in me. A dream. A life goal to run after with all my heart. That's to develop a youth movement, that helps young people discover who they are through creative strength-based leadership programs! Opening up Youth Centers where young people can go and have a safe place to be where they are invested in and valued, where relationships are restored, and kids walk away living a life with Passion and Purpose.

So that's what I'm running after. Life back home has been interesting, it's had its challenges. I'm so thankful and blessed by the people in my life. My friends, my family, those who continue to support me. The thing I feel like God is telling me more than ever is,

Be Free Jason, Be Confident, and Be Loved.

With that I will run into what life has for me. Thanks for supporting me and being a part of this adventure.

Like Matt I to have my my own blog. Check it out! Love you.

May 13, 2010

And so life continues..

I remember sitting at a Macca's (McDonald's) in Australia thinking to myself, "Will the day ever come? How much longer until I return home?"  It seemed like an eternity away...

The decision to leave for 6 months was one of the best in my life.  However, it was a difficult one, it felt like a "leap of faith", and I often doubted myself.  "Will I have enough? Will my friends be there when I return? What if I can't find a job? What if my life is forever changed?" And those were the thoughts I had before I left!  From the moment I decided "YWAM" in my heart, I should have know what kind of challenge would be in store. After all, how does vine yield a greater crop?  The dead branches, and even the living ones must be pruned.  And so this common analogy first explained by Jesus to his disciples might accurately describe my journey.

How so?  I was challenged to give up my comforts of familiarity.  I started over in many ways with new people, new traditions, and nobody knew me (except my sidekick Jason of course, but we spent half the time away in our respective teams traveling around Papua New Guinea and Australia).  I lived in a dorm-style room crammed with 9 other guys from all around the world.  Talk about a clash of the worlds, we had England, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and America represented in a 15'x20' box!

I wish that was the only challenge, but it was only the beginning.  Long story (6 months long!) short, God used some circumstances in my life to pull me very close to him.  I frequently asked about my future, and I felt his response was often a very simple, "I will be with you."  I questioned a lot, I wrestled with pride that was deep in my soul, and I found myself in desperate need for my Father.  One night I stayed late at the base and used a concrete grinder to attack some old tiles in the hallway.  Nobody was around, Christmas was a week away, and it was miserably hot.  I was sweating profusely and my mind was absolutely racing with thoughts.  Finally, I broke down.  To my knees I collapsed and tears came rushing down my face.  And then I felt God near me. That's all.

Understand, the challenges that I refer to were "heart issues".  It was, I believe, the natural pruning process I chose to go through.  But the journey beginning to end was certainly the best of my whole life.  Somehow I will pull from a common financial theory to elaborate: High risk, high reward. And yes, the reward is well worth it. I will spend my whole life referring back to the lessons I learned, the people I met (such as my school leader, Buddy, on the left), and some very special moments that I witnessed.  With some things in life, you have to choose to do them, as few great adventures in life just happen.  And the best part, no one can ever take this experience from me.  It's mine forever.

I would like to take this moment to acknowledge everyone who helped support me financially.  I raised over $10,000 to cover the school fees, the outreach fees, my Aussie visa, and my international plane tickets. Oddly (or maybe not that oddly), I raised exactly the amount that I needed, and not a dollar more.  I am, through this journey, very humbled.  Thank you supporters for believing in my dream.  And for those of you who are considering an adventure like this... I challenge you to DO IT.  Purpose Precedes Provision.

Well I made it home.  That Macca's is a thing of the past.  It turns out, my time away was only a season, and now I've entered a new one.  If you desire to follow my "life journey" then check out my personal blog:

Oh life...

March 2, 2010

Here's my outreach report-Thought you might enjoy!

Major (and Minor) Outreach Report

My outreach team went to two locations during the DTS.  For the minor outreach, we traveled to the beautiful land of Papua New Guinea and experienced a culture that is entirely unique.  The people are generous and hospitable, yet a large portion of the country lives in poverty.  We had the opportunity to perform dramas and share our personal testimonies.  For major outreach, our team spent the majority of our time in large Australian cities including Canberra and Geelong.  These locations resembled what I’ve experienced my entire life living in a western culture.  During this portion of outreach, our team had the opportunity to speak in schools and churches, and even share the gospel down on the streets.  Both locations presented significant challenges.  However, these outreaches helped contribute to one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life.

In Papua New Guinea, we met people that consistently blessed us and were enamored at our very presence.  They treated us like royalty by always giving us fruits and bags at every place that we performed our dramas.  One night, our team dressed like tribal warrior dancers and shared in their traditional “Prophet Dances” in the middle of the village.  That night, I left with coconuts, several bags around my shoulders, bananas, the dress that I danced in, and one of the most bizarre memories of my whole life!  During my time in Papua New Guinea, especially during experiences like these, I learned a valuable lesson.  The way to reach the hearts of people in different cultures is by valuing their cultural norms and sharing in their traditions. This helps break down barriers and shows that that we appreciate who they really are.  Granted there are also a lot of differences between our cultures as well.  For example, the host villages that we spent time in rarely had running water or electricity, they live primarily off the land, and most of the people will likely live in their village for their entire life.  They don’t have hope for the future like we do, and they certainly don’t have opportunities that we have.  All in all, our team adapted well to their society.  It’s important to be sensitive to their way of life so that there is no disrespect among us.  We shared in their dances, we celebrated at their churches, we visited their homes, and we even practiced learning their language: Name belong me Matt!  Visiting Papua New Guinea provided some fantastic memories, plus it built credibility to our testimony as we ventured down to southern Australia to speak about the Ship Tour.

After Papua New Guinea, it was time for our team to prepare for major outreach to our own backyard.  Of course, the culture of cities like Canberra and Geelong is virtually identical to mine in America.  This meant it was easier for me to adapt to the people and understand some of the struggles of the youth.  Canberra is the capitol of Australia, and it has a typical political feel to the society.  The people dress nicely, especially those that work in and around the parliament building, and the city is clean and uniform.  During our outreach to Canberra, I got the opportunity to witness to a couple of guys down at the park on Australia day.  Well, they were no ordinary guys.  In fact, Grant and Guy are a homosexual couple, and both have tested positive HIV.  I built a respectful relationship with them and began to share about my faith in Christ.  They began to cry and became Christians on the spot… Okay, actually they mocked me and told me to put away my “blanket” (the Bible) and suggested that I grow up and consider other religions.  I wasn’t offended though, as I could see past their defensive words to their abused childhoods.  I apologized for the way the church had offended them in the past, but I also reminded them about the truth of Jesus.  During my time with them, I realized that God never gave me more than I could handle.  My faith was challenged, but by no means did I feel overwhelmed.  Grant and Guy are just a couple of ordinary guys looking for satisfaction and fulfillment, and finding it in all the wrong places.  I considered it a privilege to meet them.

Our team finally made it to our ultimate major outreach destination, Geelong.  In this city, there are two kinds of people: the people who surf “2-3 times a week” and the people that surf “4-5 times a week”.  This city reminded me of how I envisioned Australia to begin with.  The beaches are beautiful, the people are laid back and everyone surfs!  During our time in Geelong, our team spoke at many churches and schools.  My favorite engagement was probably the Geelong Grammar School (GGS), which is a wealthy private school complete with a pristine chapel, fancy cafeteria and even a state-of-the-art “Wellness Center”.  Meeting Father Hugh was one of my highlights from my time at GGS.  He’s a former YWAMer and now serves as an Anglican Priest.  He has a gentle heart and of course, because of our YWAM connection, he got to know Jess, Alfredo and me and even invited us to lunch at the school three different times after each of our speaking engagements.  Speaking at GGS was a personal highlight because of how well behaved all of the students were.  Each time we spoke, we had an attentive audience and an opportunity to speak about our testimonies and even encourage them to consider missions in their own lives.  Once again, I was amazed at the way we were honored throughout our time in Geelong.  Everyone we met seemed to take us under their wing, treat us to great experiences and just made our experience such a positive one. 

As it’s pretty common with mission trips like these, sometimes you prepare to give, give and then give some more.  But then you leave feeling like you received more than you ever could have possibly given.  I suppose that’s the beauty of God’s economy.  One of the most encouraging things that I take home from YWAM is the way I feel so encouraged about the state of the church.  Somewhere in between meeting Pastor Ekupu, Stasia from the soup kitchen, Father Hugh at GGS, Loren and Darlene Cunningham and the countless others that have had an impact on me during the last six months, I’ve realized that God really works in all shapes and sizes!  The church is really blooming and there are men and woman of God that are standing up to make a difference in the world.  I feel grateful the journey that I’ve been, and it makes me look forward to what’s coming next, even though I have no idea what’s coming…HA!  I suppose I’ll continue to take one step at a time.  My last step seemed to work out pretty well. 

February 14, 2010

The Fabulous Twelve Apostles

They are on practically every postcard that you buy in Australia. These massive sandstone monuments jut out of the ocean about two hours west of where we are staying in Geelong. At one time, there actually were twelve of these monstrous rocks, but they keep crashing into the water. So now there are only about seven left! Better hurry and come see them before they are all gone!

A little over one month till I set foot back in beautiful Colorado. Love you family/friends.

Surfs Up From Geelong!

Three weeks ago my team began our formal outreach in Canberra, which is the capitol city of Australia.  We spent time downtown in youth centers, soup kitchens, the mall, and even Parliament.  I have two highlights from my time in Canberra. One was meeting Stasia at the soup kitchen, and spending two different Friday afternoons with her, serving the homeless and needy, and of course, hearing her remarkable stories.  Those are two of my teammates on the right, Timmy (from California) and Alfredo (from Connecticut).

My other favorite story was meeting Grant & Guy, a homosexual couple that sold everything they owned to go on a trip around Australia.  They are both HIV positive, and adamantly atheistic.  We had a very honest and respectable two-hour discussion one morning at the park. Both admitted to being abused as children, and hurt by the church.  I apologized for the way the church had failed them, but I also reminded them that just because people have failed them doesn’t mean God has too.  When I get home, I’d love to tell you more about this story!

Since then, our team has made it to Geelong, which I now know is the “surfing capital” of Australia.  Rip Curl and Quiksilver were supposedly started in this city!  It seems to me that everyone surfs here.  It’s just a matter of whether your in the “2-3” times a week club, or the “4-5” times a week club.  Tough gig eh?  On Tuesday, our contact is taking our whole team out surfing to his favorite place. Woo hoo!

Our team has been speaking at different churches and schools all over the city.  Each day, we usually hit up two or three schools, and yesterday we split into teams and spoke at three different churches.  When our team is given a chance to speak, we usually divide into groups of three.  One person will talk about what YWAM is and what DTS is.  The next person talks about our experience in Papua New Guinea and the medical needs there.  The final person talks all about the details of the Ship Tour.  This takes about 15 minutes and is perfect for school assemblies.  Sometimes we even speak in classrooms for up to 45 minutes, and we usually play a game, get to know the students, and then speak for a little while.  I really enjoy public speaking when I believe in what I’m talking about, so it’s been a lot of fun encouraging students to go out and do something epic with their life!

My favorite speaking engagement by far has been the Geelong Grammar School, which is a private boarding school out here.  We’re talking big money!  Rumor has it that one donor gave $12 million dollars to the school recently, and the school DIDN”T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT!  So they built a brand new gym and now call it a “Wellness Center”!  It is seriously nicer than my college gym, and this is only for middle and high school students. 
Anyways, the school has a beautiful chapel, and Jess, Alfredo and I have spoken three different times: one time for the 10th, one time for the 11th, and one time for the 12th grade assembly.  Each assembly has about 200 students.  It’s been so much fun, the people here treat us like royalty!  Hope you enjoy some pictures from GGS.  That's me on the right speaking in front of the 11th grade group from GGS.  Oh by the way, I was asked to come on as the youth pastor for the Salvation Army church out here in Geelong...

February 6, 2010

Picture Time

Some shutter release action over the past few weeks!

These are my boyz! Quality folk right here, we have Isack on the right and Seth on the left. There is a third one Gabe, he the eldest running around somewhere else. They have brought me tons of smiles! They get a lot of attention from everyone, so I try and soak up what I can get when I can get it. (My sunglasses are crooked because little Isack thought it was hilarious to step on my face with his feet! Kids are amazing and you can learn so much from them.

Maybe its cause I'm in the middle of a giant city, but I took this pic on Ken's farm. I love the simplicity of it. Reminds me that sometimes we can make our lives way to busy, and hectic and miss out on simple beautiful moments. So take time today to enjoy the simple things!

(Here we are at the dish with my outreach Crew) if you want more information about the dish... Read Matt's blog from earlier... turns out he's kinda a really big nerd and loves space stuff. That's ok though, cause my Dad's a big space nerd too!

This is our night at the farm, we had a house all to ourselves, and it had this trampoline, it was awesome! A beautiful sunset with two rainbows made it a night to remember! That's Carah getting her hops on!

Haha this is Matt and I's attempt to get a picture with Loren and Darlene! We were nice and let a few other people join the picture. It's a little blurry I'm not sure what happen... it looks like there 30 feet away but I asure you Darlene is actually about to wrap her arm around Matt

This is my Kite, my parents sent it to me for Christmas, its been my breathe time. I'll go out in a feild, pop in my ipod, and fly my kite. If there is enough wind that is. But it's a great time to process, and talk to God and think about life.

This is a picture of the War Memorial in Camberra. They had an incredible War Museum, turns out Australia played a huge role in WWII. And lost a ton of men and women in the war. They had a beautiful memorial for them. There was two giant walls full of names, I sat there and stared thinking every name on this wall was someone special who had a story, Reminded me that I have a lot to be thankful for I'm so blessed.

This is Mason and Katie Shrack, they just got married this past summer, their wedding was the most epic of the summer! Now they live down here in Australia and help out with the Youth at Hillsong. Anyhow they treated me to an amazing AMAZING dinner at their place, then we walked to a Chocolate bar (it's like a desert fondu) , that's where this pic was taken. It was such a special night! Thanks Katie and Mase!

(This is Joel high on life! I think it looks like he is falling out of heaven. Maybe he is. Joel might be working up at Camp Timberline where Matt worked this summer. He's a quality guy.)

So I didn't take this picture, but I found it online today, and I love it. The second I saw this I thought to myself, this is beautiful, and this is the perfect image of us and The Father. I love that she has her hands lifted high, reaching out, I love that he has his giant paw, bigger than her freaking head, right over hers, I love that instead of snarling teeth his head is bowed as if to get that much closer. If I had to put to words what has happened in my heart over the last 4 months when it comes to my relationship with God this just about sums it up. Powerful, yet simple, Innocent yet strong, Fearful yet so so so loving.

Thanks for checking out my pics. Now you have to do something! YOU HAVE TO READ MATT'S BlOG just below this, it will inspire you and probably change your life. haha and watch the link to the video, it's like 4 min long and its amazing!

Love you all!!

February 5, 2010

My Favorite Australian

In the journey of life, you're bound to run into some interesting people.  I remember in the book, "Irresistible Revolution", Shaine Claiborne talks about spending a summer working alongside Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta, India.  In the book, Shane recalls that Mother Teresa had very disfigured feet.  It was later explained to him that it's because she always chose the last pair of shoes from the donation box to ensure that the poor people in the village got first pick.  So her feet became disfigured over the years from choosing the worst shoes.  Momma T taught others how to do small things with great deliberation.  She used to say, "We can do no great things, just small things with great love."  I thought to myself recently how great it would be to meet someone like her.  Someone who embodied that sacrificial love, and genuinely put others first.  And then... I did!!

Our team learned about a soup kitchen that happens every Friday afternoon in downtown Canberra.  I found a contact number and called to see how our team could be involved.  An elderly woman answered, and after chatting for a few minutes, I knew we had stumbled upon someone special.  Turns out, this lady has been running the outdoor soup kitchen in downtown Canberra for 28 straight years!  For her incredible contribution to the poor and homeless people in the city, she's earned several awards: 1996 Canberra Citizen of the Year, 1999 Inaugural ACT Senior Citizen of the Year, winner of the "My Favorite Australian" award, and she even served as a torch bearer to the Beijing Olympic games in 2008.  Coming in at a whopping 4' 6", I proudly introduce you to my favorite Australian, the Mother Teresa of Canberra, Stasia Dabrowski.

Make no mistake, Stasia is not the kind of sweet old lady that brags about her grandchildren or pinches your cheek.  Stasia is all about the Father's work.  There she is on the left, probably scolding me about answering a Bible question wrong or lecturing me about loving others.  She has the thickest skin of anyone that I've ever met.  One time I said, "Stasia, it's so good what you're doing down here, serving the poor people."  She shot right back, "I'm not good! I'm just moving my hands and my feet."  Then another time, I accidentally let the word awesome slip out of my mouth to describe her soup kitchen.  Bad mistake.  She shot back again, "This is not awesome, I'm not awesome, you're not awesome.  I'm just a drop of water in the ocean."  Clearly we had a few shaky moments, but I was shocked by her humility.  Something about her made me stick around for more stories...

It took some time for Stasia and I to warm up to one another, but by the end of the day we had built a friendship and we were even laughing together.  She understands her purpose in this world better than most people.  She knows her calling is to love broken people, and to be a grandmother to the lost.  It seemed that she was on a first name basis with every person that came for her homemade, all-natural, veggie soup (which was awesome! I mean...tasty), especially the drug addicts, alcoholics, and homeless people.  I learned that behind her stern attitude is the most loving person that I've probably ever met.  Early in our conversation, I thought she was stubborn.  Later, I realized that she is determined, and I admire it about her!  It's like Allen Reedall once told me, "We need to have thick skin, and a gracious heart."  And I believe Stasia epitomizes that.  At 83 years of age, she says that she will keep serving the homeless until she's lying under the ground.  Who does that!?

Just like Mother Teresa, Stasia understands the importance of doing small things with great love.  And I love that about her.  She won't take a compliment to save her life, and I tried many times, believe me!  But I realize that she gets something that most of our society doesn't.  Stasia only wants the approval of God, and not anyone else.  I asked her for one last favor before we left... to take a picture with me.  Of course it took about five minutes of pleading and using my best persuasion skills, but I got it!  Here's a picture of me and my favorite Australian.  

Thank you, Stasia.

Click here to watch a video of Stasia in action