Monday, December 15, 2008

Quote

"Every day, I try to live my life in such a way that I accomplish at least one thing that will outlive me and last for eternity."

-Vernon Brewer, founder and president of World Help

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sunday Night Tradition

After a brief hiatus from our Sunday night tradition, we gathered once again last night for more food (of the Chinese variety), fun, friends, and this week, some family as well. Good times. 

I'm gonna miss these people next year...

Mission: Africa

If you know me well at all, you know that I am a missionary at heart. Since my teenage years, I have had a passion for the world, for different cultures, for people groups very different than my own. I went on my first mission trip as a junior in high school. I went to Ecuador, and it was there that God began to place in my heart a calling to youth ministry. At the same time, I began to feel God stirring my heart for the nations.

That calling, over six years ago now, set my life on an incredible journey that continues to this day. Rather than devoting my life to the pursuit of riches or fame or athletic achievement--to all the things that my selfish heart had desired up until that point in my life--I chose a significantly different path. This path led me to study youth ministry for four years at Bethel College. It led me to spend countless hours in college pouring into youth in the local church. It was this calling that led me to St. Mark Missionary Church, where for nearly four years now I have been striving to make a difference in the lives of young people--to inspire them, challenge them, help them see that they are called to something bigger than themselves. Finally, it is God's heart for the nations that He has placed within me that has led me to a significantly different and new phase in my journey...

In March, I met a South-African man in Israel named John Abrahamse. He was speaking at a conference for youth workers all around the world, and he shared his vision to reach the youth of Africa. John and his wife, Lorna, started an organization out of their home called J-Life. J-Life stands for Jesus' Life. Simply put, they began practicing the principles of Christ's ministry on earth, discipling young people and teaching them to disciple other young people. In the past seven years, their ministry has grown exponentially. J-Life is now a movement that is training native men and women from over 20 different African nations to make disciples.

Their mission...AFRICA.

What I saw that day in Israel was a vision for bringing the kingdom of God to a whole continent. A vision for empowering oppressed people with the Good News. A vision for multiplying fully-committed disciples of Jesus. I knew that I wanted to be a part of that kind of a movement of God. 

The rest is history. I spoke with John, and he advised me to begin praying about spending a year in Africa. Over the course of the next couple months, the answer was clear.

One month from today, I leave for Africa.

Why Africa? Honestly, I had never really considered going to Africa. It's not that I was opposed to going there, but I simply had not been exposed enough to Africa to see that it just might be the place where God wanted me. My international experiences have been limited mostly to the Spanish-speaking world, as well as to the far East in places like China and India. To be completely honest, since my time in China two years ago, I had been hoping that God would send me back there, or at least to somewhere in Asia. After spending time in India this past January, I was convinced that God would call me there. However, God had different plans. My life will never be the same.

Africa...here I come!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Name That Band!

My friend Kara tagged me a while back in this band generator game. Here's how it works:

Album Title: Random Quote Generator (Last four words from a random quote)

Here were my results:

My Band Name: Packet Switch Stream
Album Title: Quickly and Easily Tomorrow
Album Art:


















We're easily the sweetest new band out there. Now let's see what bands you can randomly generate! I tag Dani, Phil, and Chad.

Friday, November 14, 2008

These are real people...



Nicomedes is 48 years old, married and has 5 children. He owns a chiperia (local bakeries specialized in preparing a traditional Paraguayan bread called chipa) located at the building where he lives. His and wife and sons are responsible for selling them out of their home while he is in charge of outside sales. For over 20 years, Mr. Nicomedes has dedicated himself to this activity. His leadership skills have made him a very respected man within his community--he has always been part of community outreach programs, and even presided over the district's commission. His main goals have been promoting growth and improvement in his community. In the past, he used to borrow an oven from the neighbors until he invested the loan amount he received from Fundacion Paraguaya to build one for himself and to purchase baking ingredients. Now, he is requesting another loan in order to purchase additional ingredients in wholesale quantity, such as starch, vegetable oil, cheese and wood. 

Kiva = Micro-Loans Made Easy

This morning I sat at my dining room table in my house in South Bend, Indiana, and simultaneously loaned money to a chipa baker named Nicodemes in Caacupe, Paraguay. And how did I accomplish this incredible task, you ask? The answer: Kiva. Kiva makes loaning money to entrepreneurs in impoverished countries as easy as the click of a mouse. Here's some more info found on their website:

What Is Kiva?

We Let You Loan to the Working Poor

Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.

The people you see on Kiva's site are real individuals in need of funding - not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs' profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.

Kiva partners with existing expert microfinance institutions. In doing so, we gain access to outstanding entrepreneurs from impoverished communities world-wide. Our partners are experts in choosing qualified entrepreneurs. That said, they are usually short on funds. Through Kiva, our partners upload their entrepreneur profiles directly to the site so you can lend to them. When you do, not only do you get a unique experience connecting to a specific entrepreneur on the other side of the planet, but our microfinance partners can do more of what they do, more efficiently.

Kiva provides a data-rich, transparent lending platform. We are constantly working to make the system more transparent to show how money flows throughout the entire cycle, and what effect it has on the people and institutions lending it, borrowing it, and managing it along the way. To do this, we are using the power of the internet to facilitate one-to-one connections that were previously prohibitively expensive. Child sponsorship has always been a high overhead business. Kiva creates a similar interpersonal connection at much lower costs due to the instant, inexpensive nature of internet delivery. The individuals featured on our website are real people who need a loan and are waiting for socially-minded individuals like you to lend them money.

This is seriously so easy! What are you waiting for?! Help someone in the impoverished world now!

Friday, November 7, 2008

MSM Fall Retreat

Getting ready to head off for the weekend on our Middle School Ministry Fall Retreat. We're trying out a new venue this year, heading over to Prairie Camp's new Retreat Center. I'll be leading worship for the retreat, and former youth pastor and current church planter Jeremy LeVan will be speaking. Looking forward to a great weekend of unplugging from all the distractions around me and diving into deeper relationships with some pretty cool middle schoolers!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yo tengo gozo...

A few girls from my Spanish class put together this sweet video of themselves singing "Yo Tengo Gozo." These girls are really picking up on the language quickly, and I'm so proud of them! Notice the cool special effects in the video, which can only mean one thing...they are Mac users! Whoo hoo!
video

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Good Meal and Great Friends

Over the past couple months, I've gotten the chance to try my hand at cooking more than a few times. Now for those of you majoring in AC to the Max trivia, you might recall that I'm not exactly Emeril. However, in recent months I have become what I would consider quite proficient in making Chinese food. So, Sunday night after our high school ministry, Adrienne and I cooked up a storm: Jasmine rice with Thai Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce, stir fry chicken, szechuan chicken, and chopped onions, garlic, and green peppers. If I can say so myself, it made for quite a tasty meal, and what made it even better was sharing it "family style" with a great group of friends.

ND-Pitt

I had the misfortune of witnessing Notre Dame's defeat at the hands of Pitt in 4 overtimes this past Saturday. My dad, brother, and I went to the game together, an annual tradition dating back to our childhood. Incidentally, this is the third time I have witnessed Notre Dame lose an overtime game (somehow I think it might be all my fault!). The first time was to the #1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers back in the Eric Crouch era (around 2000, I believe). Then, in 2005, the Irish stormed back against Michigan State from a 3-touchdown deficit in the 4th quarter, only to get beat in overtime. Then, of course, this most recent loss in 4 overtimes to Pitt. As if that wasn't enough, I also saw the Irish lose to USC in 2005, thanks to the "Bush Push," in one of the most heartbreaking games in ND history. All in all, I'm pretty sure my attendance at ND football games is a curse. Anyway, it was still fun to get back inside the most historic stadium in college football history. Here are some pics from the game.





Trunk 'R Treat

This past Friday night, our children's ministry at St. Mark put on a great event called "Trunk 'R Treat." Families in the church decorated the trunks of their cars to different themes, and kids both from the church and from the community came to see the trunks and, of course, get lots and lots of candy! I went with an international theme, displaying flags and soccer jerseys from different places I've traveled around the world. Check it out. 

Common questions I received were: "Are you one of those people who sell stuff out of their cars?" and "Are you a Communist?" I assured everyone that I was neither of those things. All in all, it was a really fun night. Seth and Nikki joined in on the fun as well. You can check out their pictures here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Cat is a Potty Mouth

You may not know this, but I have a cat. In light of this fact, people sometimes ask me if I'm a cat person. Well, I grew up with cats, yes, but I'm still more of a dog-lover personally. Anyway, Adrienne found this little kitten in Atlanta this summer, and she asked me if I'd take her in. So, being the good boyfriend that I am...I have a cat. Her name's Beyonce, and she's from the Dirty South. Last night I found out that she's also a potty mouth. Check it out...



Demolition Derby at Hope Ministries

Last night was our first Community Impact event of this school year. The high school Impact Groups teamed up and went over to Hope Ministries in South Bend to do some grunt work at their Family Life Center. We helped clear out an area that will soon be renovated to provide more housing for homeless men. The room was filled with old furniture that needed to be dissembled/destroyed and discarded in dumpsters. For this task, we were given pick-axes and sledge hammers (no joke!), and we had ourselves quite the demolition derby...it was awesome! Check out the pics below:







Note: only one sledge hammer was harmed during the demolition process (my bad), and only three people went home bleeding last night (I'm really hoping my tetanus shot is up to date!!!). Despite those few minor setbacks, it was a GREAT night serving a GREAT organization that does so much for the "least of these" in our community.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

¡La Clase de Español!

One thing I love about St. Mark is that we are a church that is passionate about world missions (kinda makes sense, as we are a Missionary church). Each summer it seems that we are sending teams all around the globe to minister. Many of the countries where we have been ministering or supporting missionaries are Spanish speaking (i.e. Ecuador, Paraguay, Mexico); unfortunately, most members of our missions teams who minister in these countries each summer know little to none of the Spanish language. For those of you who are familiar with short-term mission trips, you know that the language barrier can be frustrating and difficult to overcome in the short time a mission team has in that different culture.

THE PROBLEM: People need to learn Spanish!

About a year ago, I became aware of the desire for many of our mission team members to begin to learn Spanish. Although I would consider myself far from fluent, I did study Spanish for 5 years in high school and college and have spent a decent amount of time overseas in Spanish speaking cultures. So, when I heard of this need, I got excited about the opportunity of helping out in any way I could. However, for a number of reasons last year, this project got put on the back burner.

Then, this past summer, I traveled with a team to South America, where we spent the majority of our time in Paraguay. During this trip, I saw first-hand the need and desire for this group of people with a heart for missions to learn Spanish. I knew the problem (see above), and God laid this simple solution on my heart:

THE SOLUTION: Start a Spanish class!

Duh. Why didn't I think of that?!

Well, it took a little effort to get off the ground, but last night was week 7 of La Clase de Espanol! We meet every Monday night for about an hour and a half, and we have been having a blast. I teach alongside Diane "Dino" Matteson, our office manager here at St. Mark and a very proficient Spanish speaker herself. Our class consists mostly of a couple families, with parents and their children learning the language together. They have taken incredible strides in the past couple months, and I'm so proud of them! Here are a few things I love about teaching this class:
  1. The people. I love spending time with this group! They all have great hearts for Jesus and for the world!
  2. Practicing my language skills. It gives me a chance to keep up with the Spanish language (previously I had been neglecting my Spanish studies for a couple years). Also, I've found that learning a new language and teaching a new language are two very different things. I have had to focus much harder to understand how to best teach others a new language.
  3. The excitement of watching others learn. Last night, I sat with a group of 5 children as they asked questions in Spanish and answered them in complete Spanish sentences! Wow!
  4. The focus on missions. This group doesn't simply want to learn another language for the sake of learning another language--they want to learn another language so that they can minister to others!
  5. The focus on prayer for the nations. Each week, I've been wearing a different soccer jersey from countries around the world, and then we spend time at the end of class praying for that country. I have the kids show me on a map where the country is located, we spend some time identifying the needs of that country, and then we pray for them. So far we have asked God to reign in Ecuador, Paraguay, India, Brazil, Mexico, and China. I was touched last night to hear an eight year old girl pray that Christians in China would be able to go to church and that the pastors there would be let out of jail. God heard those prayers!
God is definitely doing great things here at St. Mark, and He is raising up a people with His heartbeat for the nations! Amen!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Still Alive and Kickin' It

By now, you might be wondering, Is MaxAC still alive? Fortunately, the answer is: Yes, I'm alive, and living life to the max! Here's what I've been up to recently:

  • going to a lot of youth sporting events
  • teaching a Spanish class (more on this later)
  • dealing with some drama in the youth group (of the teenage girl variety...my favorite!)
  • not sleeping enough
  • trying to keep up with my new house
  • leading an awesome student leadership team
  • spending lots of time with my girl
  • preparing for a long trip overseas (more on this later, as well)
  • not blogging
Life never stops, but unfortunately sometimes blogging does stop. However, there is much to share, so look for more from MaxAC in the near future!!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Dream Life

I've been in my new house for about a month now, and still the boxes are piled high as I slowly sort through all of my "stuff." I've been known to be quite a packrat, and I have recently discovered boxes upon boxes filled with every single paper and assignment from kindergarten through college...ridiculous, I know. While sorting through these boxes (and forcing myself to throw much of it away), I ran across a paper from 8th grade that peaked my interest. This particular paper was entitled "My Dream Life." Now, I must warn you that what you are about to read is utterly pathetic and hilarious and sad, all at once. Here it is...uncensored and unedited...from the eighth-grade mind of MaxAC...
My Dream Life
I have many goals and dreams that I would like to accomplish in my life. Some of them may seem unrealistic, but it never hurts to dream. In this paper I will talk about what I would like to do in the rest of my life.
I plan on attending Penn High School next year [check]. I will go there for four years [check], and I want to do many things there. I want to play wide receiver in football for all four years I'm at Penn [check...also DB]. By the time I am a senior, I would like to be a starter on the varsity team [by junior year, check]. I also want to win a state championship in football while I am at Penn [check], which isn't uncommon for Penn football! Also, I want to play basketball at Penn for all four years I am there [check]. By the time I am a junior or senior, I want to be starting on the varsity basketball team at either point guard or shooting guard [shooting guard, check]. I also want to get straight A's for every year that I am at Penn [check], and I want to earn my high school diploma [check]. During high school I will get a job to save up some money for when I am an adult [haha, nope].
I want to go to a big college like the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, or Purdue University [nope]. I don't know exactly what college I want to go to, but I want it to be in this part of the country [check]. It doesn't necessarily have to be in Indiana, though. I would like to earn a full-ride basketball scholarship [college was pretty darn close to free] to whatever college I attend because basketball is my favorite sport [that changed], and it is the sport that I am the best at [also changed]. I want to attend college for four years [check] and major in business managing or something similar to that [nope]. While in college I would find a job close to the campus so that I could save up more money for after I graduate [check].
After I graduate I will be in no debt [check] because I got a full-ride scholarship to college. I would move to a large condominium on the Atlantic Ocean in Miami, Florida [From this point on, life gets ridiculous]. There I would work for a year or so as a waiter or something to save up enough money to start my own business. I don't really know what kind of business I will start, though. It would start off small but within a year would grown and become famous nationwide. I would be making millions and millions of dollars a year. Eventually my company would go worldwide.
While living in Miami I would meet a woman, preferably with blonde hair and blue eyes, but I'm not that picky. She would be smart, good looking, and a very nice person. We would date for a couple of years and then we would get engaged. After about another year we would get married. I'd let her plan our wedding and everything because I don't really care as long as we just get married. All our family and friends would come, though.
We would buy a huge ten-story house right on the Atlantic Ocean in Miami. In our house, there would be a gym with four full-court basketball courts. There would also be a full workout gym and an inside and outside olympic size pool. Also, there would be an elevator so we didn't have to walk ten flights of stairs. We would also have our own private beach out by the ocean.
After a few years of being married we would decide to have kids. We would have four kids. First, we would have two boys. Then we would have two girls. I don't have any idea what I would name my kids. I guess I would let my wife decide that. All four of my kids would be very smart. They would also be very talented at many sports.
I would have several cars. First, I would buy a Ford Mustang convertible. Next, I would get a red Porsche. Then I would buy a new bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle for my wife. After that I would get myself a black Mercedes Benz. Next, I would get a big Lincoln Navigator. Also, I would buy a while Ferrari. Then I would get a red Jaguar. I would also have two stretch limousines for special occasions. One would be white, and the other one would be black.
I would take my family on a lot of vacations. We would go to Hawaii for at least two weeks every year. I'd also take my family to Jamaica, the Bahamas, Australia, Paris, Cancun, Switzerland, England, and we would travel to nearly every state across the United States. We would also take cruises all over the world because I would own my own cruise ship. Also, we would frequently go to San Francisco, California because I would own a huge condominium there right on the Pacific Ocean.
I would try my best not to spoil my kids even though I would have enough money to do so. My wife and I would teach our kids Christian morals and values, and we would take our kids to church every week. I would never let them drink alcohol, smoke, do drugs, or anything like that. Since my kids would be very smart they would all go to Harvard and graduate there. When I am about 55 I would retire and turn my business over to my two sons. When I was retired I would buy a Cadillac, and my wife and I would travel all over the world for the rest of our lives. I would want to die at about age eighty because I would not want to be so old that I could not take care of myself and would have to go to a nursing home.
This is my dream life. Like I said earlier, these goals and dreams may seem very unrealistic, but the higher goals you set for yourself the more you will accomplish in life.
Wow...pretty shallow and ugly and pathetic and sickening and American, huh? My question for the few of you who are still reading is this: If you could go back ten years, what piece of wisdom or advice would you give to the 14-year-old MaxAC?

Leave me a comment below!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reality Football vs. Fantasy Football: Week 2

This past weekend in Reality Football...

Da Bears blow a two-touchdown lead to Carolina and lose their All-Pro return specialist, Devin Hester, to injury. Yikes...

Golden Tate and the Golden Domers blow past long-time rival Michigan 35-17. GO IRISH!!! 

This past weekend in Fantasy Football...

MaxAC bounces back, dominating in 2 of his 3 leagues. His one loss, however, came in ugly fashion and was unfortunately in his favorite and longest-running (7 years) league.

Bottom Line After Week 2:

An all-around decent week on both fronts, but with ND's big win over Michigan, Reality Football gets the nod for the second week in a row.

Reality Football: 2
Fantasy Football: 0

Monday, September 15, 2008

Persecution in India

Several months back, I introduced you to Sreejan, a young believer that I met in India. Sreejan lives in the province of Orissa, a place where I have been told there is great persecution of Christians. Recently, the following letter was passed onto me from a pastor in Orissa:

RESPECTED SIR,
GREETINGS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY IN THE MATCHLESS NAME OF THE LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.

      SIR,PLEASE PRAY FOR THE ORISSA BECAUSE THIS TIME ALL THE RSS,BAJARANG DAL AND BISPAHINDU PARISADA BEATING CHRISTIAN PEOPLE AND BREAKING THE CHURCHES AND ALSO BURNING THE CHURCHES IN ORISSA STATE.  

      THE NOCSLET SHOOTED TO LAKHAMONAND PUJARI BUT THE ORISSA RSS AND BAJARANG DAL AND BISPAHINDUPARISAD MADE STRIK IN ORISSA STATE AND BURNT ALL THE CHURCHES AND HOUSES OF THE CHRISTIAN PEOPLE THEY THINKING CHRISTIAN PEOPLE KILLED HIM.

      IN GAJAPATHI DISTRICT THEY WENT SOME VILLAGES AND BROKEN THE CHURCHES AND BURNED THE CHURCHES ALSO BURNED THE HOUSES OF CHRISTIAN PEOPLE. 

      ANY HOW THEY NOT ATTACKED US NEITHER BURNED OUR CHURCH OR HOUSES,BY THE GRACE OF GOD NOW WE ARE VERY FINE AND DOING THE GOD'S WORK IN OUR AREA WHERE THE GOSPEL IS NOT REACHED THERE WE REACHING CHRIST.

      PERSECUTION IS GOING ON IN ORISSA ALSO THE GOD'S WORK GOING ON IN ORISSA STATE. PLEASE PRAY FOR ORISSA AND FOR OUR MINISTRY TO BE GROW.
                                    THANKING YOU  
                                    YOUR BRO,P.C.BANTU

Pardon the broken English, but the message is clear! Our brothers and sisters in Christ in India are in need of our prayers. In just 10 short days that I spent with the believers in India they captured my heart. Each month I still receive an email from a pastor there who is praying for me, for my ministry, and for the church in America. I am always so humbled that they remember us in their prayers. How, then, can we abandon them in their time of greatest need?! Please, join me in prayer for the church in Orissa.

Pray for Brother Sreejan and other believers from Orissa.

Pray for the future of India, the children who are also greatly 
affected by these attacks.

Pray for the pastors in India, and specifically for those in Orissa who are facing great trials and persecution at this time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reality Football vs. Fantasy Football

This past weekend in Reality Football...

Da Bears are back, baby!!! My team that had lost its swagger last year has found it once again, relying on its smothering defense and a less-than-flashy but effective offense.

A win was just within reach for my Fighting Irish. Even if it was against one of the worst NCAA Div. 1 teams, A WIN IS A WIN!!!

This past weekend in Fantasy Football...

MaxAC starts the season a whopping 0-3, getting it handed to him in two leagues, and barely missing the sweet taste of victory in another league.

Bottom Line After Week 1:

Reality Football: 1
Fantasy Football: 0

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

After six days and five nights in the Big Apple, Teddy, Jordan, and I returned home yesterday. Our journey home went something like this:
  • walked several blocks from our hotel in Lower Manhattan to the subway station
  • rode the subway downtown to Madison Square
  • took the train for the nearly two-hour trip from Downtown Manhattan to Long Island
  • rode the bus from the Ronkonkoma train station to the Long Island Airport
  • flew in an airplane from Long Island to Chicago
  • rode in a car back to my new home at 809 33rd St.
One day...six modes of transportation!!!

All in all, we had a GREAT trip. Check back in for some pics and stories in the near future!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Link Lovin' It

  • Andrew just became a dad. Read his thoughts on fatherhood here.
  • My buddy Eric just started blogging. He calls me a girl here.
  • Ted's blog used to inspire many of us to rethink the way we live. He hasn't blogged since October 25, 2007. For the love, Teddy!
  • Danielle is just a boring old mom. Just kidding...she's a boring old mom who happens to have some great thoughts on life. She talks about wanting more from life here.
  • Kyle consistently offers deep thoughts and insights on life from his travels and experiences.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Impact Your World/How to Save a Life/There Must Be a God


IMPACT YOUR WORLD

This past Sunday night in our high school ministry, Seth and I decided to take a big risk. Sunday night was our fall kickoff, and in years past we had set the precedent that the fall kickoff would involve lots of food, lots of games, and lots of fun. We knew that was what our students would be expecting once again this year, but we had a little different vision of what God might have in store for our kickoff this time around. We wanted to set a significantly different tone for this school year, and that is where the risk comes in.

What we attempted Sunday night we simply called Impact Your World. The instructions were simple, the possibilities endless. The students broke down into small groups, and each group was given one $20 bill. They were then told, "Go, and impact your world!" 

Some groups went and bought flowers and gave them to people who looked like they were having a tough day. A worker at Wal-Mart was brought to tears when she received the flowers from our students. Some students went to Chuck-E-Cheese, bought arcade tokens, and handed them out to kids (I know...kinda cool and kinda creepy all at the same time!). Another group found a stranger on the side of the road with a dead car battery and jumped it for him. Others handed out balloons, while another group ordered water at a restaurant and then left a big tip with an encouraging note for the waitress.

The following is the story of what God did with my group.

HOW TO SAVE A LIFE

I jumped in with a group of three guys: Matt, the tough-guy Jimtown football player; Brad, the Penn fine arts standout; and Gabe, an unbeliever and first-time church visitor invited by Brad. As our group was deciding how to impact our world, Gabe was the first to speak up...

I think we should go to Hacienda, order water, eat some chips and salsa, and then leave a $20 tip.

Not a bad idea, but I didn't like the thought of us gaining something from our giving (ie. enjoying some chips and salsa from Hacienda). So I encouraged the guys to keep thinking. Matt was in my Impact Group this past year, and he remembered a time when we had gone as a group to the Homeless Shelter in South Bend and handed out food. He suggested that we head back into South Bend, buy some food with the $20, and hand it out. So we jumped into my beat up '98 Camry and took off for South Bend.

I remembered that there was a McDonald's just south of the Homeless Shelter on Michigan St., so we made that our first stop. We went through the drive-thru and ordered 19 sandwiches. The order was large enough that the drive-thru attendant asked us to pull around in front of the restaurant, and she would have someone come out to our car with the sandwiches. As we waited, a man came stumbling out of McDonald's. He looked like a mess, like he hadn't showered in a month. Dirty clothes, disheveled hair, an open and bloody wound on his hand, and a look of desperation.

Help me, man! Can you help me? I'm really messed up, man, he said.

I asked him what he needed. I asked him if he was hungry.

Yeah, man. I'm hungry. I haven't eaten in a long time, man. I'm really messed up. I lost my job, I can't get home...I need help. Can you help me, man?

I asked the guys what they wanted to do, and Matt spoke up right away. 

Let's at least give him a ride home.

The sandwiches showed up about then, and this man we soon came to know as Marcus climbed into my car, his bloody hand wiping up against the dash of the car. After refusing a sandwich more than once, we finally convinced him that we wanted to give them away, and that in fact that was what we had come to do that night. He gratefully accepted two sandwiches and began chowing down. Our conversation continued... 

Why you help me, man? he asked. I'm black, you white. We ain't prejudiced, man?

No, Marcus, we're cool, man, I told him. It was as if he couldn't understand our kindness. I couldn't help but wonder how many white people had treated him unkindly in his life.

I asked Marcus if he knew of anybody else who might need a sandwich. He assured us that he knew of a small community that would appreciate the remaining 17 sandwiches. So I drove as Marcus directed us to the ghetto of all ghettos, a run-down government-subsidized apartment complex on the west side. The security guard there didn't want to let us in, but we gave him the sandwiches to pass out to some of Marcus' friends there.

We continued on our journey to the east side of South Bend. Marcus actually lives on 29th St. in River Park, merely four streets away from the house I just bought in the same neighborhood. As we were taking him home, I asked him about his family. He confessed that he is an alcoholic, and that that had cost him his job and his family. He was currently living with his ex-wife's sister's family. He was almost constantly on the verge of tears as we drove, telling the high school guys that he loved them and that we were such a blessing. Angels, he called us.

He told us about the poverty that he was living in, that basic necessities of life such as food were scarce. So we stopped at a store on the way back to his house and got him some groceries. He said they needed meat and bread. When we had purchased that, he got a little more bold.

What about some ice cream...and some candy for the kids?

Sure, Marcus. 

Every man has the right to a bowl of ice cream from time to time, right?

After some quick comic relief in which Marcus called out a preppie white kid in a Jeep with his cool shades and spiky hair for listening to rap music that Marcus found offensive as a black man and which the kid didn't know nothin' 'bout, we loaded up the few bags of groceries and continued heading toward 29th St.

We pulled up in front of an old dilapidated house, and although we were already late in getting back to the church, we sat and listened as Marcus began to share...

My life's a mess. I need to change, man. I've lost everything. I've gotta change.

I laid my hands on Marcus and began to pray for him. I prayed that God would make him the man that he's called to be. I prayed for victory and freedom from alcoholism. I prayed for change.

As I finished praying, Marcus began to get choked up. He looked at me, tears in his eyes...

I made up my mind, man. Tonight...I was gonna jump off the bridge. I was gonna take my life. I had nothing to live for. You guys are a blessing. You guys gave me a second chance. You guys saved my life.

As Marcus stumbled out of the car, the groceries clearly too much for his small frame to handle, the four of us guys sat in stunned silence. Nearly the entire drive back to the church we sat like that, no one saying a word. Finally, as we were all processing the gravity of what God had done through us that night, Gabe, the non-Christian first-time visitor, spoke up.

I think that was a little better than eating chips and salsa at Hacienda.

The tension in the car released as we let out a collective laugh, realizing what we might have missed if we had chosen differently that night. Everyone, Gabe included, recognized that God had graced us with His presence that night.

THERE MUST BE A GOD

Believe it or not, the story doesn't stop there. Brad had been trying for over a year to get Gabe to come to youth group with him. When they got back to Brad's house, Gabe asked if he could start coming to church with Brad. Gabe's response to all that he had seen and heard that night...

There must be a God!

That's right, Gabe. There is a God, and He is good. And He is still in the business of doing miracles. He is still in the business of transforming lives.

Gabe's life...changed.

Brad's life...changed.

Matt's life...changed.

My life...changed.

Marcus' life...CHANGED!

And all God's people said...Amen.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fall Calendars

Our Student Ministries Fall Calendars have officially hit the printer. Mad props to Seth for not only designing both the Middle School and High School calendars but also for staying in the office late last night to finish the calendars before our volunteer retreat this weekend. Nice work, Seth!

Check 'em out...


Friday, August 1, 2008

Taking the Day Off

Fridays are my day off from work. Sometimes I just chill, but more often than not I find lots of things to do to make myself busy. After a full week of going, going, going, I decided to force myself to relax today and do some things that I enjoy. Here's what I've been up to:
  • slept in a little this morning
  • watched ESPN analysts babble on and on about Brett Favre and MLB trades on SportsCenter (and loved every minute of it)
  • played guitar
  • played piano (a new hobby I've recently picked up and am enjoying)
  • started boxing up my stuff for the big move in two weeks!
  • Read a few more chapters in this book...

All in all, it's shaping up to be a great day off!!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

All-Star Retreat Highlights

As I mentioned before, a couple weekends ago we took a group of our All-Star Student Leaders on a retreat to Oakwood Inn down on Lake Wawasee. The result was an awesome weekend of focusing on God's plans and His vision for this upcoming school year and how we might fit into those plans. I was really encouraged to see some of the students "get it"--that this year wasn't about them, but that it could be about something so much bigger. I told this group of students that if they want to be leaders, they need to be servants--a far cry from what the world teaches us, but Jesus never really cared much about the kingdom of this world, did he? No, his model of leadership was countercultural--his model of leadership was to put himself below others in sacrificial service to them (see Phil. 2). Probably not exactly the kind of leadership that these high schoolers had in mind, but I think they see it now--there's really no other way to lead.

One of the highlights of the retreat for me was when we began to share visions of what God wanted to do in our student ministry and in our local schools. We then went to three of the most highly represented schools in our ministry, Jimtown, Penn, and Mishawaka, and we laid hands on the school buildings and prayed that God would have His way in these schools this year. I'm excited to see what might come of these prayers, and I expect that some of our students might be used in powerful ways to transform their schools. God is going to move this year! 

Jimtown High School
The students praying for Jimtown.
Praying over my alma mater, Penn High School.
Asking God to move at Mishawaka High School.

Good Times With Great Friends

This entire past weekend was spent catching up with some of my best buddies from high school. We call ourselves The Association, although a few of you lucky ones might remember that we were formerly known as the "Dawgs" some 7 or 8 years ago. But whatever you call us, we are just a group of guys who love Jesus, love each other, and love hanging out together any chance we can get (which at this point, sadly, is only about one or two weekends a year). Still, somehow, we stay connected, and when we get together it always feels like the good ol' days again...

Kyle, Michael, Ben, AC, Natedawg, Ging, Teddy

Kory, AC, Teddy, Ben, Ging, Kyle

Good times...GREAT friends!!!

Welcome to the World, Lance Michael Edison!!!

Congrats to my brother-in-law and sister, Michael and Emily Edison, on the birth of their healthy new son and my first nephew, Lance Michael Edison! After nearly 24 hours of labor (my sister is a trooper!), Lance was welcomed into the world yesterday, July 29th. Here's a sneak peak of the little rugrat...

Monday, July 28, 2008

MaxAC Buys a House!!!

After nearly one and a half years of searching for a house, the search ends at 809 33rd St. in the River Park neighborhood in South Bend. That's right...MaxAC is a homeowner! Here are the top five reasons why I absolutely love this house:

5. I can move right into it...no work needed!

4. Can't beat the location. (Just a few houses down from my brother's new place, close to friends at Bethel, close to downtown Mishawaka, close to shopping, movies, etc.)

3. Got the house for over $25,000 less than the original asking price.

2. Moving in with one of my best buddies since high school, Teddy G.

1. It's MY house!!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

All-Star Retreat

Heading off an an overnight retreat tonight with our All-Star Student Leaders for this coming school year. The goal is to cast the vision and dream dreams together with this core group of students and let them take the vision and run with it. I think God is going to show up in a big way this weekend. Can't wait! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Highlights From Paraguay

Some highlights from my recent mission trip to Paraguay:
  • Spending a day touring Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Spending time in Villarrica with the kids at Alyssa's school
  • Spending the night in a Paraguayan host home with Lucas and his family
  • Being reminded of my love for the Spanish language (and foreign languages in general) and getting numerous chances to practice speaking Spanish
  • Teaching the kids at the church in Villarrica how to play futbol americano (and then running around for the next few hours as the kids tried to tackle me!)
  • Enjoying a worship service with the believers in Kapi'i (the Gospel just reached this rural village about a year ago)
  • Uniting our hearts in worship and fellowship with the SIM missionaries at the retreat
  • Late night talks and royal rumble wrestling matches with the MKs
  • Horseback riding outside of San Bernardino
  • Hanging out with a really cool team from St. Mark
  • Staying overnight in Brazil and seeing the Itaipu Dam (one of the seven wonders of the modern world) and the Iguacu Falls
Some highlights since coming home:
  • Soft toilet paper
  • Being able to flush my toilet paper
  • Hot showers
  • Water pressure
  • Pizza
  • Regular bowel movements (TMI, I know...)
Stay tuned...I'll be sharing some sweet pics from my trip soon!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Good Times in Paraguay!!!

Still keepin' it real down in Paraguay. You can read about it here. I'll be back in 5 days!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

¡Vamos a Paraguay!

Heading off to Paraguay tomorrow with a team from the church. We will be helping to lead a conference for the SIM Missionaries serving in Paraguay. Half of our team will be providing VBS for the MKs there, while the other half of the team will be leading the worship services for the missionaries. Danielle and I have been working extremely hard to prepare hours upon hours of meaningful worship experiences for the missionaries. The goal is that they will leave the conference refreshed and renewed in their spirits so that they can continue the difficult work they are doing to reach the world for Christ. Please pray for our ministry there over the next two weeks. I will be keeping you all posted on what God is doing while we are down there in Paraguay here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gotcha!

In case you haven't heard the news, less than a week after our church was broken into and thousands of dollars worth of equipment was stolen, the three kids responsible for the break-in and robbery were caught. 

The story goes something like this:

Last Sunday night, three teenagers broke into our church, taking tons of equipment, some of which was a guitar and an amp. One of our musicians in the worship band, Ray, works at a local guitar store, and only a few days after the robbery the kids tried to pawn the stolen items (not the brightest thieves in the world). Ray noticed a striking similarity between those items and the ones stolen from our church. We checked the serial numbers on the items, and sure enough they were a match. The store had the address of the teens who pawned the items, and they received a visit from the cops. Not only did they confess to the crime, but ALL of the stolen items were found in their apartment and returned to the church! God is good!

To any thieves out there, if you are planning on making a life out of stealing, just don't forget rule #5: YOU WILL GET CAUGHT!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Movie Review: THE INCREDIBLE HULK


A much less anticipated Marvel Comic release than this movie, and for good reason. Perhaps it was the fact that we are still only five years removed from Marvel's last attempt at putting the Hulk on the big screen, but this movie doesn't seem to quite be the blockbuster calibre movie that you might expect from Marvel Comics.

Here's what I liked about the movie:
  • Edward Norton never lets me down, and he does a great job playing the role of Bruce Banner in this movie.
  • Some classic fight scenes involving grenade launchers, tanks, and a couple (that's right...there are TWO) green monstrosities known as "Hulks."
  • A cameo from another Marvel Comic character (I won't spoil the surprise if you haven't seen the movie yet). The combining of the storylines for these two comic book heros could make for an epic movie in the future. 
Here's what I didn't like about this movie:
  • There was very little resolution at the end of the movie. Clearly a shameless ploy for Marvel Comics to continue making sequel after sequel after sequel. I'll still go see the ensuing sequels, of course, but a little closure on this particular storyline would have been nice.
  • Unlike Ironman, this movie lacked much originality. Nothing surprised me...I could have probably guessed the entire plot from the beginning. 
The bottom line: Liked it...didn't love it.

Overall grade: B

Monday, June 16, 2008

Newsflash: Stealing Isn't Cool!


I arrived at St. Mark this morning to find out that we were broken into last night. Some punks smashed one of the windows at the church and proceeded to run off with a TV, video camera, brand spankin' new iMac computer, and the church safe--which luckily was almost completely empty at the time of the break-in. The whole situation left me pondering some things about life...

What possesses someone to take something that's not theirs? How can someone who steals feel like anything less than a complete and utterly pathetic fraud when they make a living off taking things that aren't theirs from other people. And maybe the biggest question of all: WHO STEALS FROM A CHURCH?!?!?

Seriously...

When I was in India, I had $100 stolen out of my wallet. I almost didn't even care about the money (whoever took it most likely needed it more than me), but it left a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach...I felt used and defrauded. That same feeling crept into my stomach today as I walked around the church making a list of all the stolen items. There aren't a whole lot of things in life that I can say I really hate, but stealing is certainly one of those things...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Link Lovin' It

  • For great insights on life and ministry, check out Derry's blog.
  • If you want your head to explode from lots of big words and great thoughts on church, religion, and philosophy, check out my brother Dave's blog.
  • For endless hours of laughter watching funny videos and reading about old men car clubs, check out my buddy Seth's blog.
  • To get the skinny on life as an intern in St. Mark Student Ministries, check out Dani's blog.
These are some of my favorite people in the blogosphere. Check them out sometime!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Breaking News: AC to the Max Goes International!


So I've always been a pretty globally-minded kind of guy, but my blog only recently decided to hit the international stage.  In the past couple weeks I have experienced a worldwide boom in blog readership.  Thanks to Google Analytics, I'm able to track the countries, states, and even cities where people are reading this blog. Here's a list of the countries where people have visited my blog, in order from most blog hits to least:
  1. United States (duh)
  2. Canada
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Australia
  5. Italy
  6. Poland
  7. Germany
  8. Mauritius (island off the eastern coast of Madagascar...I had to look it up, too)
  9. Chile
  10. Sudan
  11. Brazil
  12. Costa Rica
  13. Argentina
  14. Mexico
  15. France
  16. Macedonia
  17. Slovenia
A few random thoughts as I have analyzed the data.  For obvious reasons, my top four countries are English-speaking nations. My blog has been read on every continent except Asia (not counting Antarctica, of course), which interestingly enough is where I have spent more of my world travels than any other place. I suppose I'll have to make an appeal for readership from my friends in China, India, and Bhutan. Western Europe is apparently in love with me, although I've never been there nor posted about that part of the world. I've had readership in one African nation (Sudan)...well...two if you include Mauritius, but I think that is more of an island nation without any continent affiliation.  My readership covers probably 85% of the Americas (I made that statistic up, but that doesn't mean it's not true!), thanks to readers in the big countries like the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina.

The bottom line...my blog readership is going global! So join in the fun! If you are reading this blog from somewhere outside the U.S., leave me a comment! (Ok, U.S. readers...I won't be ethnodiscriminatory...you can comment, too!)