As the month of January comes to an end (can you believe it?) I am staring out at a cold, rainy night wondering if the weather will indeed turn colder and bring yet another round of snow for west Tennessee. The snow doesn't bother me, actually, it is the possible 1,000+ snow ball hurlers that gets my attention. Life on campus is anything but boring!
However, I am quite excited about the fact that I will be in Florida this coming weekend. Margaret and I are flying into Tampa Saturday morning to meet with the new team members from the Bell Shoals church of Christ. This first time group is very excited and highly motivated. 38 strong, they sent applications, essays, letters of recommendations, and deposits to me before Thanksgiving. And they have already purchased airline tickets! I am excited to meet the team and to enjoy some warm weather and some Quaker Steak and Lube hot wings. We will be having a team meeting on Saturday night and I will be teaching the Sunday morning auditorium class and doing a question / answer period afterwards. It will be a quick trip but worth every second of it.
February will be bring a trip to middle Tennessee and the Cumberland plateau to meet with a new team from the Collegeside church of Christ in Cookville. Tim O'dell is working at this congregation and has 10 signed up and ready to go. Mobile and the Keys have all reported in with names and applications and both groups are larger than last year. As of this writing our Honduras team stands at 138 which is smaller than last year but still very much a mega team. We currently have 42 signed up for the Costa Rica trip (leaving 3 spaces still available). I have 15 signed up to serve as interns this summer that will be working with me the entire 32 days this summer.
Now that names are in, I am waiting for applications and deposits from several to finish out round 1 of the administrative stage of the trip. Round 2 will be sending out and collecting rules sheets and Spanish release forms (for those under the age of 18) which have to be notarized. Also in round 2 is photocopies of passports. During round 2 hopefully everyone will also send me their flight itinerary so that we will have accurate records of who is flying on which flight so that we will have correct transportation waiting on the receiving end.
With the cost of oil and fuel right now, the rumor mill says that airline tickets are going to start off high and remain that way this year. I am not saying that patience will bring forth a good deal, but with the way things are looking right now I would not bank on it. Watch airfares on a regular basis, communicate to others if you find a good deal, and be ready to buy your ticket when the time is right. Most airlines are also finding all kind of clever ways to get more money out of travelers this year with luggage fees, carry on fees, and even charges for selective seating (aka extra leg room seats). As you are shopping for airline tickets, be alert (the world needs more lerts ya know) concerning the additional fees. You should budget extra money for check ins at the airport going down and coming back (otherwise your spending money will become airline fee money). Depending on your choice of departure city, airline choices will be American Airlines; Continental Airlines; Delta Airlines; and TACA. Remember, departure date is June 24 and the return date is July 4 if you are going to Honduras. June 9th departure and June 19th return for Costa Rica (same airlines plus the addition of Spirit Air).
Several have been asking whether or not our team will be shipping a container this year. As of right now the answer is no, unless we come across supply donations that would warrant a 40 foot container. Shipping a container is not in our budget this year but we are certainly going to be collecting supplies and I will be posting needs very soon. I am hopeful that we will be able to piggy back supplies onto a shared container with another team leader if I can find one going down at a time that will work with us. Our other option is to use the duffel bag method we used a couple of years ago. More information will come soon concerning all of this.
Plans for the Costa rica trip are also progressing well. Minor Perez, who is one of my interns from Costa Rica, has been very active communicating with the preacher at Buenos Aires coodinating ideas and plans. Minor and I go over budgets and costs every few days as we calcualte how much food, transportation, lodging, etc will cost in Costa Rica. Even though this will be our first team to go into Costa Rica to work, a lot of time has been spent on the computer and on the phones. Our scouting trip last spring was very successful and useful to get the perameters set for this year. Minor, Margaret and I will be going down again this March to make final preperations for the trip. I feel very confident that Ben Wright and I will have most things in place when we arrive. I am pretty sure we will have to make up a new phrase while there since "Welcome to Honduras" will not work there.
The interns will be having their retreat soon. February 11th and 12th the summer interns will be going to the Mid-South Youth Camp (here in Henderson) for a weekend of planning and sharing. Besides getting to know each other, we will be eating meals that will be very similar to what we will be eating in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. We will have some information sessions and some devotional time as well. I am looking forward to working with this select group and know that this summer will be a trip that very few ever get to experience. 32 days in 3 different countries working in a variety of seetings and places. It is going to be challenging for sure but will provide opportunities for them to stretch and grow and find their ministry passions along the way. Their biggest challenge will be dealing with me everyday!
I am in communication with a lot of people each week about the trips. I know the excitement is building every week and as we talk I can just feel the ethusiasm from everyone. I am not exactly sure what is making the plans this summer so exciting, much more that in time pasts, but it is what it is. From devo ideas, new work site suggestions, to menus and t-shirt designs, things are just jumping off of the page! Everyone is asking for ways to help and to pitch in and it is just a constant reminder to me of how great it is to be involved in ministry with such a great group of people. Torch Missions is so much more than a missions organization, it is a family of believers who are truly passionate about the work and the people that we are able to serve.
Time to go, I have a power point presentation to finish. And wouldn't you know it... snow is falling. Another blanket of snow is already covering the ground. The weatherman is calling for 3"-6" tonight. This is the 6th one of the year for us. That could be a lot of snowballs.
Tuesday, January 18
A well known lecturer was speaking before a large group of people for a seminar he was conducting in Dallas, Texas. Well over 200 people were packed into a rather small auditorium to hear him speak. After his introduction, he went to the podium and began by pulling out his wallet. He pulled out a crisp, new $20.00 and then asked who in the room would like to have it?
Hands went into the air from the now attentive audience. "I am going to give this $20.00 bill away, but before I do, I would like to do this." He took the clean, crisp, brand new $20.00 bill and crumpled it up in his hands for several seconds. The speaker then asked, "Who wants this $20.00 bill now?" Hands went up in the air again.
"Well, he said, what if I were to do this?" And with that he dropped the $20.00 bill to the floor and stomped on it and ground the bill into the carpet. The once new bill was now looking a bit worn and some of the edges had a crumpled look to it. "Who wants the money now?" Again hands went up from the crowd.
The lecturer proceeded to walk off of the stage and to a table where left over food was sitting from the earlier meal. He took the $20.00 bill and placed it in a cup of coffee and then smeared gravy on it. He wiped it off with a napkin and returned to the stage. The auditorium was completely silent, you could have heard a pin drop. The speaker once again asked the question, "Who will take the $20.00 bill now?" One hand shot up immediately before the others and the speaker asked him to the stage to receive the money.
The lecturer gave the gentleman the $20.00 and then asked him, "Why did you take the money after all of the things I did to it?" The answer? "It is what it is." The man sat down and the speaker continued. "Today, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the $20.00 bill, you still wanted it because you knew it did not decrease in value. It is what it is... $20.00."
My friends, many times throughout our lives, we are dropped, stained, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions and choices that we make. It did not take very long before that clean, fresh, brand new appearance wore off and we began to look crumpled and tattered. Before long we look at ourselves and we might think that we are worthless. After all, compared to a brand new $20.00 bill, we certainly are not much to look at, if you know what I mean. But no matter what happens, or what will happen, you will never lose value in God's eyes. To Him, no matter what you look like, no matter how crumpled or stained, you are still priceless to Him. You are what you are, someone that was made in the very image of God. And you have been redeemed, paid with a price. And that is something we should never forget.
And that is true whether you live in Hollywood, New York, or Louisville. It is true whether you have a college education or a GED. It is true whether you wear a suit and tie to work or a welder's helmet. It is true whether you live in a 6,500 square foot house or a 1 room wooden shack. Maybe we should get out there to let people know what their appraised value really is... what do you think?
Tuesday, January 11
This Saturday (January 15) taste buds across the Nashville area will be invited to eat at the 2nd annual Chili and Desserts Cook Off at the Western Hills Church of Christ. Starting at 6:00 pm award winning chili and desserts will be open for sampling as entries compete for the 1st place awards.
Chili is divided into 2 categories, from mild to wild, while desserts will delight one and all. For a mere $5.00 per person you get to sample all of the chili and desserts you want and get a drink to boot. Additional drinks will be for sale for $1.00 for those who can't get enough of the fiery variety of the chili caliente or just like to quench your thrist.
If you live within driving distance, come on out and join the fun. During these chilly winter nights you can be warmed and filled and support the mission trips this summer. If you think that you can cook up a batch of chili that would bring home the hardware, or bake up a mouth watering 1st place pie or cake, its not too later to enter! Contact Jenny Lovell at firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP. $10 to enter and that includes 1 free meal ticket and drink per entry. There are 2 categories for chili and 2 for desserts.
Hope to see you Saturday! It is going to be muy bueno!
Wednesday, January 5
Happy New Year! 2011, can you believe it? We are now 10 full years past Y2K, anybody remember back to that fateful day? January 1st, 2000, when all of the computers would go into melt down changing day, year, decade, century, and millennial. Doomsday, end of the world, or something like that. Pretty funny to think about it now. 2011... wow... it has a unique ring to it.
I certainly pulled the disappearing act for the past 5 weeks. I could usher in a dozen top notch reasons / excuses as to why I have not blogged but I will spare you the time and me the embarrassment. I have watched the site counter and know that many people have been checking it and with the new year comes new year's resolutions. And one of mine is to get back into the routine of writing regularly and keeping everyone updated with trip plans for 2011. December was one of the busiest months I have gone through that I can ever remember. But January is here and things seem to be back to normal (whatever that means!).
There is a lot going on. During the past 5 weeks I have been very busy in the planning stages of our trips this summer. Lots of phone calls and emails have been made as some of the ideas and thoughts of 2011 are starting to become realities. Trip work schedules, work sites, travel plans, etc. are becoming more concrete and plans are becoming clearer as to what we will be doing this summer in Costar Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Although no where near complete, the big picture is starting to come into focus, which is a good thing! Once the big picture is in focus the task of ironing out the fine details will become easier to do.
This weekend the Torch Missions Board of Directors will be having our annual meeting. This year we will be meeting right here in Henderson, Tennessee. I am very excited to bring the board here for the meeting. It will be 2 days of meetings and fellowship. These are some of my closest and dearest friends on the planet and friends that share the same passion I do about the mission work that Torch is involved with in Central and South America. The meetings this weekend will be very important because specific strategies, guidelines, framework, protocols, and goals will be mapped and laid out. Our focus will be both on current and long range plans for Torch. As Torch continues to grow and expand the board is dedicated to provide the necessary leadership to keep us an effective missions program to serve and to reach those who are in need.
This month is also the official beginnings of the 2011 trips. Back in September trip information went out concerning the dates of the 2011 trips I would be leading. The 1st week of November the 2011 application was ready and was sent out. The 2 trips, Costa Rica (45 spots) and Honduras (100 spots) filled up before Thanksgiving and waiting lists began. Now its time for the rubber to meet the road. Applications and deposits are due this month. The application states that paper work and deposits are due January 8th. So far I have received nearly 60 applications and deposits. The sooner you can send them in the better.
Spaces that have been reserved by email, phone call, or in person are still valid. However, if you are a group leader and you have reserved a specific number of spots for your team, it is time to lock in those reservations. If you blocked off a certain number you need to send in applications and deposits for those reservations. If your numbers have changed, I need to know right away so that any slots that are not being used now can be filled with those who are on the waiting list. The sooner I can contact them the faster they can start moving towards getting their applications and money in. The balance of the trip payments is due June 1st.
Supply collections will begin this month. I will be posting specific items that we need to start collecting for our trips. I am not sure yet if we will be shipping a container this year or not. Containers are shipped throughout the year and depending on how much we collect and have donated will determine whether we will ship a container or "piggy back" with another team that might be shipping a container down to Honduras. Last year's collections and supplies certainly warranted the use of a 40 foot container, we will wait and watch to see how this year goes.
As we enter 2011, I hope that you have a very productive and exciting new year. I hope that you will seek opportunities to serve others and to be a living sacrifice for the One who makes all things possible. I hope that the Lord challenges each of us and stretches us and uses us in ways that will make us more and more like Him. As our 2011 theme states, God reins! I hope that God will rein in your home, in your family, in the work place. I hope He reins in your speech, conduct, and actions. I hope God reins in your church, your school, and your community. Commit to Him. I also hope that you will begin focusing on the mission trip this summer. Commit it to prayer. Commit time. Be pro-active. Collect supplies. Work on your Spanish. Talk to others about the trip. Help raise money for our work fund. Find ways to prepare for your trip along the way.
2011 is going to be a great year, and I look forward to working with those of you going on the trip this year. And for those of you who are not going this year, I hope you will continue to support us any way that you can. We are a team and a strong rope of many cords. With God's help there is no limit on what we are capable of doing! Dios te bendiga mi amigos! Reinados de Dios!