Friday, March 28, 2008

Cooking with PJ at St. Barnard's

I want to describe for you the sensation that I felt today as we completed the serve aspect of our trip here in New Orleans...

We went down to the 9th Ward, the place most hit by "The Storm." The place there is ravaged by poverty, destroyed homes, joblessness, and lost hope. The church that we are there working with, Celebration, has established at campus, and we went down there to witness to the "shut-ins" and cook for them. It was perhaps one of the greatest things that we were able to do on this trip.

As a result of the hurricane, a lot of people don't ever leave their house or attend church. Our task today was to introduce them to this campus which opened on Easter Sunday and give them a free meal. Jeanna, Holli, and I stayed behind to set up the bbq and eating areas. The remaining people went out into the town and went to their homes and knocked on doors, and told people about Celebration and that we were cooking free meals at the campus.

At around noon, we got our first customers. They were grateful and appreciative for the efforts that we were making for the community and thanked us for the food. There was a van of Mom and two daughters that I remember most. They asked me how much I was charging for the food. When I told them it was free, the look of joy on her face, spoke volumes to me. She was blessed by the church and said that she would come and give the church a chance. What a great God we serve!

The team came back and we each did different tasks. There was the advertising team that went out and stood in the streets telling people that we were having a free bbq and where to go. They were awesome and entertaining. Ask Christina some time about her impression of advertising the free bbq. Jeanna, Liz, Beth, Charlene, and Christina (She did multiple things that were awesome!) each helped me at the grill, putting the cooked food into packages for the people. The rest of the team talked with the people, prayed with them, gave out Bibles, and promoted Christ and the church to the people!

We were supposed to be there till 2:00-2:30. We didn't stop feeding people, till almost 4:00. I couldn't help but be blessed by the people who were desperately needing to be comforted or fed. I know where my strengths are, and I know where I am weak. I am not the greatest witness in the world, something I am working on, but I can grill, I can cook. I wanted everyone who came to us to be fed in both body and spirit. I could handle the body part.

When all was said and done, after four hours of cooking, I had cooked 200 hamburgers and 134 hotdogs. My back hurt, my eyes were burning, but I didn't want to stop because this is what I could do on this day. I enjoyed serving this way.

So what is the point? My point is this... I was moved by the power of God today. I was moved by people... the people who came, the people who served, the people who advertised, the people who witnessed, all of it. I broke down and cried three times during the event... not because of the pain, but because of comments people made to me about how they enjoyed the food, or how they appreciated my work. I didn't do it for the recognition, I did it because it was something I could do for these people, the church, this team, for my Jesus. I put my last burger down onto the bun, and I felt a sense of relief, that I was done, and sad, sad that I wasn't able to cook anymore food.

My friends, my team, applauded me, and I thank them for it, but it has to go to God who inspired me to do this, to be this guy today, and to serve Him, the church, and my team. I didn't do it alone, I couldn't. I am blessed by this day. I am thankful for this day, and I wish you all, those who read this, to feel for one day, what it's like to be truly empowered by God, to build His church, and feed His people.

I guess all those Patio days, and Son of Man Soul Jam was preparation for me to be here and serve in this way.

This day meant the world to me, and I can't wait to experience another one like it. Thank you, Lord Jesus, thank you for creating a day like this. I am proud to be your servant.


Bringing in customers in true Fuel style - loudly with lots of smiles!

PJ hard at work on the grill

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Finding the Moment

The New Orleans Team after a morning of yard work.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is my first blog on this page and and I am excited to write to you from New Orleans. This has been a great trip where I have had the pleasure of getting to know my fellow FUELERS and leader, Justin, more. We have had some amazing stories and would be happy to share them with you; you just have to ask.

I had a moment on Wednesday where I saw this team doing something all together for the first time on this adventure and felt proud and moved. It was a moment that I will remember as the image from this trip. It wasn't something profound or outrageously cool, it was simply cleaning a yard. I mowed my very first lawn, and we then cleaned it and made it look very nice. What made it great for me was how well we worked together and how we were able to be there for each other without really saying anything, we just did it!

For me, that was a moment where I saw what God is doing with FUEL and what God will do with FUEL. I love moments where teams get together, function for the Lord, for each other; and then get together and enjoy one another like you hadn't just spent the whole day together. We spend 24 hours together, and when we are at dinner or we are at Celebration meeting with their version of FUEL and meeting them and helping them establish their own "FUEL" and we don't get tired of each other, we get excited even when we haven't spoken for five minutes. I love this team, I love these people, and I am honored to have been part of this adventure for Christ.

CHOZEN, the Celebration version of FUEL has great potential and some really great people who want to serve, grow and make people BELONG. Their are driven, they are passionate, they are great leaders who were touched to have us there and we were touched by what they are and what they presented. God is doing great things in New Orleans, and for a moment, we got to be part of that. It was awesome. They have a worship leader, Amanda, who is incredibly talented, with a great story. She made some of us cry with her singing. It was awesome. Another girl, Nabilla, a great story teller (she did a drama that moved me!), and a great leader, talked to Charlene and I about how much she loves CHOZEN and she loves God. Keep her in your prayers.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for this team and this experience.


You Are Valued

Today we spent all day at Crescent City Christian School, affiliated with Celebration Church on one of their campuses. They've recently gotten a brand-new computer system, new desks, new plasma screen TVs... basically tons of spankin' new goodies.

It was amazing how much time it takes to tear out old desks, put in new, re-wire an entire school, hook up new computers... but it was so rewarding to see this brand-new high-tech Christian education take shape.

We worked with another Mariners team, so it was so cool to see the whole school campus crawling with bright blue "Mariners Global Outreach" t-shirts and watch it be transformed from old broken desks to new, clean, shiny desks, newly-waxed floors, brand-new computers and monitors and the air around us permeated with hope and optimism.

A team of 2-8 people were constantly breaking down computer boxes and hauling trash to the dumpsters, others were running cable through the ceiling, others were cleaning, assembling tables... endless tasks done with cheerful hearts!

Hopefully, this new facelift and technology will encourage parents to enroll their kids here so they can learn about the Lord at school, as well as get the kind of great education that many in New Orleans never receive. This was a huge chance to reach entire generations, just by a willingness to break down a few boxes and sweat a little. We get to show this community that they are valuable to people and to God by giving of our time.

How great is our God!


One of the coolest opportunities we've had here in New Orleans is the chance hang out with the members of Chozen, Celebration Church's young adult group.

Last night we went to their Leadership Summit, where all the leaders of ministries in the church come together for a night of worship and a chance to catch up on the available ministries and fellowship with other leaders. After the main event, we got the chance to hang out with Chozen peeps and get to talk together about our common goals, frustations, joys and lessons learned in Christian leadership.

The incredible thing is the commonalities we have, despite the differences in hometowns and cultures. Seeing people come to Christ-centered community, find a place to belong, grow spiritually and reach out again in service is what we're all working towards and it is so encouraging to see people, thousands of miles apart, catching the same vision.

The Chozen folks were tons of fun, too, hence our nearly-midnight run to IHOP. We all gelled together right away, and were laughing and bonding together like one group (which I guess we are,) by the end of the night.

Tonight we're going back for more discussion, fellowship and leadership training, and we can't wait!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

They will know you are Christians... your love.

John 13:35

We've realized something over the last couple of days. Maybe this is more of a personal revelation for me (Dani) because I tend to be task-oriented.

But this is the truth of Service in His name. They won't know that we're Christians by the houses we build, the lots we clear, the food we serve, although that's all good stuff, that's not our real witness. They will KNOW about Christ because of our love.

1 Corintihians 13 says: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."

Just serving is not enough. The grass that we cut today will grow back and homes that we work on will eventually need more work. What lasts is out attitudes while we serve. Does our service "profit us" because of the attitude with which we perform it?

SO here is our high call, how they will know that we know Christ's disciples. 1 Corinthians continues:

"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Little bit of a high call there - I'm not gonna lie, I'm intimidated by the immensity of it. But we can do all things through Christ... He's our Hope - whether we need a new house for the first time or just the strength to get through today.

God is working in New Orleans!

Work-a-day Wednesday

Hey everybody!

Sorry for the lack of blogging yesterday, I did sit down to write but got distracted. It's Phil's fault.

Anyway, today we went to work with Crossroads Ministries, a homebuilding ministry that creates custom homes in low-income neighborhoods where families have rented for generations, and offers affordable mortgages so that these individuals can own their own homes and gain more economic independence and a sense of well... ownership.

We spent all morning tackling an overgrown lot where Crossroads will be building a new home. It was pretty jungle-fied, complete with vines crawling over the fence and large bugs, but thanks to weed-whackers, pocket-knives, lawn-movers, sturdy gloves and old-fashioned elbow grease, we conquered and left a couple of nicely trimmed-up, cleaned-out lots in our wake.

After a satisfying brown bag lunch in the vans, (PB&J... Mmmm...) We went to Celebration Church's other campus to help clean, build, scrub, break down boxes, fill up dumpsters, and install a new computer system in the Christian School at Celebration.

Tonight, we're going back to Celebration for some leadership training with the leaders of their singles' groups. Hopefully we'll get a chance to pass on everything that serving at Fuel has taught us in a clear, effective way.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Arrival in Naw'lans

Things we've learned in the seven hours we've been here:
  1. "New Orlleeeans" is not right. The locals say "Naw'lans" although we're still not sure we can pull that off.
  2. It's easy to get lost here.
  3. Speaking of getting lost, Fuel has some crazy drivers, although we'll try to avoid mentioning names. *cough*Justin*cough*
  4. Bouncy balls can provide hours of entertainment.
  5. We like dancing. In cars.

OK, so maybe that's not all we've learned - it really is amazing how much God can teach us and use us in such a short amount of time, when we're out of our comfort zones and willing to let Him.

Just to recap the day, we met at 6:45 am at John Wayne Airport, and were blessed to all get through security quickly and all sit in the same vicinity on the flight. (We try to keep from annoying our fellow travelers. Really.)

We had a brief 50-minute layover in the ginormous Dallas/Fort Worth airport, but luckily we braved the SkyTram and most of us even grabbed some Subway before boarding our next hopper flight Southeast.

I think the stewardesses put something in the beverage service on that flight, because most of us konked out, but arrived in Louisiana with smiles, all of our baggage on the baggage claim, (Hallelujah!) and very messy hair. (Well, the sleepy girls, anyway.)

Justin, Jeff and Adam, being the "elders" of the trip, went to go get our sweet rides (3 mini-vans) and before we knew it, we were loaded up and ready to go.

We arrived at Celebration Church to great hospitality (comfy cots and Southern cookin'!) we had a bit to eat and went out to explore.

A couple of the Celebration volunteers rode with us to give a first-hand tour of the worst-hit areas of the city (St. Bernard's Parish and the 9th Ward,) and share what Celebration is and has been doing to help.

I think our whole team was surprised at what we saw. Seeing homes still completely destroyed, standing empty with their windows blown out like empty eye-sockets and dilapadated porches still sagging - and to realize that these are families' lives and homes and heritage that is still in shambles years later - it moves us to feel a tiny part of what God must feel when His children are hurting.

As one member of our team pointed out - especially in Orange County - we live in a constant state of instant gratification. I want something, I buy it. Simple. But many people here don't have that option. Years later, people are still struggling to rebuild in an area that is still so broken and crime-ridden that Hope is hard to come by. That kind of perserverance convicts our hearts and reminds us that God also, does not give up on us. He is faithful, and we as a team are so excited to see more of that this week.

Tomorrow, we're going to serve at a Homeless Shelter and then go out for some Streetcar Evangelism. We're excited to see what God does in and through us, it's only Day One and He's already shown Himself in great ways...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Packin' Up and Rarin' to Go

Fuel New Orleans Trip Dates: March 24-30

Fuel's New Orleans Team,
L-R: Kenny, PJ, Adam, Justin, Christina, Scott, Dani, Kirsten, Phil, Jeanna, Holli, Kara, Liz, Beth, Charlene, Jeff (and Becky, not pictured, she was still working hard somewhere in South America - we can't remember if it was Argentina or Peru - when this picture was taken. Just kidding, Justin... ;)
We just got our itinerary last night, and we are so excited for what God is going to do in us and through us in the coming week.

Right now, the plan is to spend every day (8 am - 4 pm) working on community projects - from construction to computer set-up for a school - yay IT guys! - and our evenings working with the young adult ministry at Celebration Church, who we're partnering with while we're there.

However, even though we have a plan at the moment, our motto for this trip is: "stay flexible". While those of us who keep desk calendars (and Outlook reminders and Google calendars and... I mean, what? I'm totally flexible,) may get uncomfortable at the thought of not having a set plan, we know that God is in charge, and our plans don't always match up to His.

We want to be available for whatever ministry comes our way, stay gracious in the face of changing plans or unmet expectations, and to keep our minds and hearts open for what He would like to teach us through this trip and how we can give back to Him.

Everyone on the team is so excited for this opportunity, and THANK YOU for your support. Whether you're supporting us financially, through prayer, or by telling your friends and family, we couldn't do this without you.

Monday is take-off - 6:45 am at John Wayne Airport! Please pray for us as we travel (we'll need caffeine...) and check back for more updates...