Sunday, December 30, 2007

I MADE IT!

Well, I made it.

It is Sunday morning and I am writing this post from a room in the church building that I am staying in until I have an apartment to rent. We were delayed about an hour leaving Miami but all is well I am now in my new city of La Paz. This is surreal. And turns out it is NOT a dream after all. It is a reality. I woke up this morning and I am STILL in La Paz.

The hospitality that I have experienced so far has been amazing. Three people picked me up from the airport and we took some photos. Then they brought me to this room in the church where I am staying and in the room waiting on me was some bottled water, lots of Christmas cards that were handmade for me by the youth and children of the church, and a little small Christmas tree with lights on it. (My little “arbolito”)

I took an altitude sickness pill about 45 minutes before we landed and that definitely helped me with the altitude adjustment. Also, I have already had several glasses of Coca tea which helps with the altitude and helps settle my stomach.

Willy (the pastor of Cristo Rendentor Church), Giovana (His wife) and Estéfani (their daughter) treated me to some nice soup for lunch. There goal is to start me out light to get my stomach used to some of the foods here. Apparently, New Years Eve is going to be an all out food fest so they are going to work me up to that. Also, there is an amazing Bolivian woman, Dina, who lives here and takes care of the place and she prepares food for me as well. She had breakfast prepared for me this morning. She wants me to teach her kids English.

I spent the afternoon yesterday with the youth of the church here. I broke out the Nintendo Wii and I also got to join them for their talk. It is cool to meet them and experience the strength of their faith in God. It puts me to shame. And they are fifteen.

The biggest thing that I have already noticed is the pace of life here. It is just so much more laid back than I am used to. I knew it would be but it hits you square in the face. You cannot rush things here. Granted, I just got here this weekend and I am trying to rest but still you are forced to enjoy the passage of time here. I dig it. I am not comfortable with it yet but I dig it.

I will attend church today and then tomorrow I will hopefully purchase my cell phone and start looking at a few apartment options. There is nothing else that I can do except take it one day at a time.

Oh, and it has been non-stop Spanish since I arrived. I have hardly spoken any English at all since I got here and it is exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I see my Spanish improving quickly but it was just like someone pressed the “SAP” button on my life or something.

But all that being said I have a smile on my face from ear to ear. It is true joy. This is exactly where I want to be. I think that God might have brought me here just so that I would fall more in love with Him.

Thanks for your prayers and support to get me here.

Miguel

Friday, December 28, 2007

T-minus 2 hours…

Ok. No turning back now. For real.

I am sitting in the Miami airport waiting for my flight to La Paz. I will be boarding the plane in about two hours. You will be pleased to know that I ate Chick-fil-A for lunch in the Atlanta airport (I know, of course I did.) And I am thinking about strolling down to Starbucks here in the next little bit for one more $5 coffee.

I am just sitting here thinking about how blessed I am. It makes my eyes water when I think about it. I have never been more excited in my entire life. I know that I am right where God wants me to be. It is just the best feeling in the world. The love that I have felt from family and friends during this goodbye process has been overwhelming. And I know that there are people in La Paz right now waiting to welcome me when I arrive tomorrow morning.

Whatever you are doing right now, please just stop and count your blessings. If you live in the United States you have been blessed beyond imagination. We are not just blessed when things go well. We are blessed. Period. It’s what we decide to do with our blessing that counts.

There have been so many people who have told me that they are “proud of me.” And I must confess, recently I have just been tired of hearing it. I think, “I haven’t really done anything.” All I did was “decide to go do something.” I am trying not to put myself on a pedestal for doing this. And I don’t want a gold star.

I just want all of us to use the time we have left on things that count. A book that I am reading right now defined “failure” as “success in something that doesn’t really matter.”

I don’t want to succeed in things that don’t really matter anymore and I wish that all of you will experience success in “things that really matter.”

I will give you a heads up once I arrive in La Paz.

God’s Peace.

Written by Curt in the Miami International Airport on Friday, December 28th, 2007
(Two hours before the start of the greatest adventure of his life)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

That's all folks

Well, well, well...

The time is finally here. I can't believe it. I thought I had a month and now I just have one more night...this has definitely been an emotional time for me. I have not always shown my emotions but believe me God has seen everything. I have wept. But through the tears there is joy and obedience.

I am ready.

I want God to get glory MORE than I want my own safety and comfort. Tomorrow I leave. And I can honestly say that I have no idea what is going to happen when I get to La Paz. I know some things that I would like to accomplish first but God only knows what will really happen. And as long as God knows I have peace.

I am more dependent on Him than ever before.

Thank you for your thoughts, prayers and support. I am excited to take this step and share this exciting adventure with you.

I love you, I will miss you and I pray that God allows our paths to cross in the future.

Your brother in Christ,

Curt

Friday, December 21, 2007

No Goodbyes in Christ

I had a very comforting thought the other morning as I was reading. I was thinking more about saying goodbye to folks and I felt God speaking to my heart and saying to me, “Curt, I am the one goodbye that you will never have to say.”

Wow. What a comforting thought.

It just felt good to be reminded that although I am having to say goodbye to mucho people right now, I will never have to say goodbye to my Heavenly Father. It’s kinda like an eternity thing.

He will always be with me.

And it went a step further when I thought…actually I will never have to say goodbye to those friends and family members who have placed their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Because after all…there is always eternity.

In Christ, there are no goodbyes.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ain't no stopping now

So I registered with the US Embassy in La Paz to give Uncle SAM a heads up regarding my move next week. I also signed up for the Bolivia email list so they can send me messages and updates regarding situations in Bolivia.

Well the political unrest in Bolivia seems to be heating up and the U.S. Department of State sent out a message last week. If you are interested in the current state of affairs in Bolivia and if you want to read the entire message you can check it out here.

But one line struck me in particular.

The Department recommends that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to Bolivia at this time.


Don't worry. God and I talked and we have decided that my move to Bolivia IS essential so I will still be going.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Yesterday

So yesterday was a day that confirmed that leaving Atlanta and moving to La Paz is definitely not going to be easy. In fact, I think that this whole move is the most difficult thing that I have ever done in my life.

I am two weeks away from getting on the plane and the goodbyes are pretty much happening every day now. Yesterday was a big day. I think what got me was the amount of goodbyes that I had yesterday. It was the most that I had experienced in one day so far. I stopped by my old job at the Alliance Theatre to say goodbye to my former co-workers. And it was great to spend some time with them and see them one more time before I take off. It was a flurry of goodbyes. Also, I was able to say goodbye to my hero Miss Mattie, she is my favorite security guard at the Arts Center and she showed me what tears of joy looked like yesterday. She cried, hugged me, told me that she loved me and told me to “Go with God.”

And to add to all of those goodbyes I had a really tough goodbye last night. I had dinner with my former boss and her husband. Virginia was my boss at the Alliance Theatre for the last several years. She is my mentor. I learned more from her in the business world than anyone else. And she was not just a great boss. Her and Ken are great friends and they showed me so much hospitality over the years. This was a tough one. About half way through dinner I realized that this really WAS the last time that I would spend with them for awhile. I used to see her everyday but now that has changed. And as the weight of that sunk in it really hurt. It stung.

It was very emotional when I got up to leave and after we said our goodbyes…I left. And I cried as I drove away. I can’t help it. Crying is part of my life right now. I am one of those freakin Kleenex commercials right now. I swear if I see a guy with a box of Kleenex and a sofa on the side of the road asking me to sit and talk with him I am just gonna be like, “Naw man, I’m good. Thanks.”

Yes I am sad but I also feel joy and obedience through my tears. I suddenly felt alone as I drove home tonight and I actually cried out for God to comfort me. (I bet the person next to me at the stoplight just thought, “Man, the holidays must really be getting to THAT guy.”) But as I drove home in my loneliness I felt God reassure me that “Curt, you are not alone. Remember that I promised to be with you always. And guess what – nothing can separate you from My love.”

Wow.

These last thirteen days are going to be a mess. I have many more goodbyes ahead of me before I go. My family and many more close friends.

Tears are going to flow. And I am glad. I want it to hurt. I want it to sting. I think that my emotion and tears are proof that I actually invested something in another life. And I don’t think that there is anything better than that on this earth.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Let the "Going Away" Parties Begin

So this past Saturday night there was a little going away gathering for me with some of the guys from my small group through Buckhead Church + a few other friends. It was a blast and it was great to see some of the guys that I had not seen in a while.

Thanks for everything ya'll!



The picture that I am holding was given to me by a kid in the Upstreet program at Buckhead Church. My friend Jonathon is a small group leader for a group of third graders and he had them make me going away cards. Thanks bro. That was cool. (We finally figured out that those are squirrels and acorns in the pic)

Also, I visited them on Sunday morning and Jonathon had the group pray over me for my upcoming trip. It was by far the best send off prayer that I have received to date. It is interesting to have people lay hands on you and pray for you, but when it is a group of third graders it goes to the next level...some of them were pinching me during the prayer and stuff. And one little girl just had her head touching my head. I must say that no one has ever done that before. It was sweet.

And check out my new specs in the pic above. Given the fact that La Paz is so high up in the mountains and that the air is dryer, I am going to have to take out my contacts more. So I thought some new glasses were in order.

What do you think?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Can we talk?

So I finally got up the nerve to tell my six-year old niece Carolyn that I am moving. I totally had a knot in my stomach right before I spoke. I swear it was like I was about to break up with her or something.

Here is a portion of our conversation from last week...

Curt: “So, did you know that I am moving in about three weeks right after Christmas?”

Carolyn: “You are? Where are you going?”

Curt: “Well, do you remember Bolivia, that place that I went on the mission trip this past summer?”

Carolyn: “Yes”

Curt: “Well, I am moving there.”

Carolyn: “Forever?”

Curt: “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

Carolyn: “But you are gonna miss my birthday party. And it is gonna be a Scooby Doo party.”

Curt: “I know. I am very sad about missing your birthday but we can talk on the phone and through the webcam on the computer.”

Man, this is getting tough. I am just starting to see how easy it is to only truly value and appreciate relationships when you know that you are leaving and that everything is about to change. I am getting a big dose of that right now. I am like, “Why didn’t I make more of an effort to spend more time with people when I lived here and it was easier?”

And I have also instituted a no country music rule until I leave. I just can’t take it anymore. It makes me too emotional.

18 days left...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hush Ya’ll

Last Wednesday I spent about four hours at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. And I think I have mentioned before that I have been going through a weekly discipleship program with the pastor of my home church in Loganville. For the last ten weeks or so we have been meeting and going through some material and discussing the Word and it has been great.

Our last meeting is this Wednesday but last week he asked me to come out to the monastery in Conyers so that I would have the opportunity to enjoy some quiet time with God. He told me that no good discipleship program is complete without experiencing some solitude and silence with God. I arrived around 9 a.m., he showed me around to a few locations and then set me loose to basically just spend time with God until we met up again for lunch. Which forced me to spend about two and a half hours alone with God. After the solitude, my pastor and I enjoyed lunch in silence and then we took a walk around the grounds to chat about my time with God that morning.

I don’t say this to say “Hey, look at me the super Christian missionary guy.” I tell you this to say that I wish I made time with God more of a priority in my schedule.

There have been a few times over the last month or so when I have had a glimpse into what the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude looks like and I must say that it works. This last Wednesday at the monastery was one of those glimpses. There is something amazing about just sitting in complete silence and listening to what God has to say. Too often when I pray I just try to fill the air with all of this info that I think I need to let God know about and not often enough do I just sit in silence and say, “ Ok God, what do you want to tell me today?”

I am trying to get serious about spending time with God each morning before I begin my day. Unrushed, unhurried, undistracted time with God. I want this in place before I move to La Paz because it is going to be so easy for me to get distracted with “ministry” in La Paz and totally neglect my time with God. And it is tough. I found it difficult when I worked 40 hours a week and it is still tough now. Even when I am not working a normal 9-5 job. No matter what our job is…musician, computer programmer, financial advisor or missionary…we will always find things to fill up our schedule and distract us from time with God.

I want more time with God and I want a deeper relationship with Him. But lately it seems like although I want that end result I am unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to get there. A deeper relationship with someone requires spending time together.

How can I expect to magically grow closer to God by not spending time with Him? I just don’t think it is going to happen.

And I think that our culture totally frowns on us stopping to be still and listen to God. I think sometimes we are afraid of what God might tell us if we stop, get quiet and just listen to Him.

I struggle with this. But I want to grow in my relationship with God. I just encourage you to do whatever you can to spend some down time with God. Some undistracted, unhurried, unrushed time.

We just might grow closer to Him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oh no...

...someone talked about me in the past tense a few days back.

Curt "was" _____________.

Oh man it's started already. I'm already gone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Storytime

One of the amazing blessings of being at home right now is the opportunity to spend some time with my six-year old niece Carolyn. She has a great imagination and I love to help her make up stories. Here is our latest creation. Well, I should say that here is HER latest creation. All I did was help her with the camera, type the story for her and play the role of the male voices in the story...


Poems and Revenge
By Carolyn and Curt
(As told by my six-year old niece Carolyn)

Main Characters

Princess – she lives at the richest castle in the Land of Animals

Leroy – he is the brother of Samuel the King

Samuel – he is the King of the Land of Animals and he lives in the castle in the mountains (He looks happy but he is really mean)

Mr. Giraffe – he is the postman

Once upon a time in the Land of Animals…

Samuel the King lived near his brother Leroy in the castle in the mountains and they overlooked the castle of Princess.

Princess is the richest one in the land and she is richer than the King. Her castle is very big and she has an indoor swimming pool. And she has a huge yacht and the King only has a jet ski that doesn’t so anything.

Samuel wanted Leroy to marry Princess because she was richer than him so Samuel made fake love poems with Leroy’s name on them and sent them to Princess by way of the postman Mr. Giraffe. So Princess made a sign that said “No more love poems!” And King Samuel did not know what to do.

So he figured out a way for Leroy to marry Princess by writing a note that said “Can I visit?” And Princess said “Yes.” So the King and Leroy went and visited Princess. But Princess knew why the King wanted Leroy to visit. (Cause her cousin Fox had spied on the King ever since she moved here.)

While the King was looking at her yacht, Princess and Leroy had a little secret from the King. The secret was that she knew what the whole plan was because her spy told her. Princess and Leroy decided to hide the secret from the King but acted normal.

But the next day, Leroy was telling Princess what they had been doing at the castle. But the only thing that was wrong with that was that Leroy was worried that the King would hear the secret while he was looking for him. The King called for Leroy to come. So Princess answered, “He is having some lunch with me.” The King said, “When is Leroy going to come home?” And Princess said “Probably tomorrow morning.”

But the King said, “No. He must be home by after lunch.” So he was waiting and waiting for Leroy to come home. But Leroy did not come. The King did not know why Leroy was not coming. The King got very mad! So he was very very upset and then Princess and Leroy came home to the King’s castle.

The King asked Leroy, “What were you doing? You did not come.” And Leroy accidentally said, “But I was having pizza with her.” The King was mad. He put Leroy in the dungeon just for having pizza with her and not for coming at the right time. The Princess was very mad because Leroy was in the dungeon and he is the only one that she wanted to talk to. So she made the King jump off the diving board and land on his jet ski. She jumped onto her yacht and pushed his jet ski so hard that she pushed him all the way to a deserted island where there was nothing but sand.

48 years later…

The King had turned his jet ski into a rocket but also when the Princess hit him so hard she moved onto a part of the island that he did not know about. (So she could keep an eye on him.) But one day, he saw that part of the island where Princess was and saw that she had built a boat. So she was very unhappy to see that the King had spotted her. So he flew over to her part of the island and tried to get her boat but she karate kicked him all the way back to his part of the island because she was a black belt.

The King had a plan. He decided to go back to his castle and hurt Leroy so she would have to come back and save him. But when he got back to his castle to hurt Leroy he was going to make Leroy walk off the diving board. And once Leroy jumped off the diving board Princess’s bird swooped down and caught him on his back. The bird flew Leroy all the way back to the island but the King did not know where the bird was going. But he figured out where the bird was going and his jet ski broke down again on the island. Princess’s bird grabbed the King so hard and Princess threw the King all the way into space.

And Princess and Leroy lived happily ever after.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thermal Curtain Failure

Well my computer gave me the blue screen of death error message this weekend and it would not boot up properly. I spent the majority of my time and energy over the last few days trying to fix the error on my own. But I was also “supposedly” enjoying a spiritual retreat this weekend on Navarre Beach in Florida. It was going to be the perfect opportunity to get away and spend some quality time alone with God.

The issue with my laptop pretty much messed everything up and that’s a real shame because I didn’t even need my laptop this weekend yet I was still consumed beyond belief with fixing it. I am totally addicted to that thing. I could have put the laptop down, thanked God that I even have a laptop and enjoyed some quiet time with Him minus technology.

But as I came to realize this past weekend my laptop = my control. My laptop represents communication, emails, meetings, ministry, support, donations, etc…and when that crashes, I found out that I kinda crash myself. I am mad at myself for not reacting better when my computer crashed and I am frustrated that my computer is such an idol in my life. And I took out the anger that I felt towards myself on others by withdrawing and becoming silent. It wasn’t until last night when I really openly and honestly talked to God about the issue that I felt any better. Why can’t I involve Him in my everyday issues more?

I really need to realize that things are not always going to go according to plan and my response when things go wrong says a lot about where my focus is and where my priorities are. I let this computer issue prevent me from growing closer to God these past two days. I mean, I am about to move to Bolivia and things there are certainly not always going to go according to plan. And chances are it could be a much bigger deal than a stupid laptop.

How will I react the next time something in my life “crashes”?

The words God gave me through all of this were that I place way too much value on my laptop and also He reminded me that silence and withdrawing in no way shape or form build relationships.

Father, I beg you. Show me how to see the blessings when things go wrong because my natural tendency is to only focus on the negative and the problem at hand.

I need You to help me zoom out before I zoom in.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You know?

What up. So below is the link to the interview that I did at Holy Cross church on Nov. 4. If you are bored at work check it out. It is only twenty minutes long. But you get to hear me talk from my own lips about why I am about to do what God has called me to do.

I say "You know" like 500 times during the interview but it's all good. It's my own little version of "Um" or "Like" I guess.

To the Glory of God the Father.

Enjoy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Yikes!

47 days...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

One Way Tickets

Thanks for your prayers. My talks at church this past Sunday went swell. God showed up. I felt the Holy Spirit giving me strength and I pray that He was glorified and I pray that He spoke to the hearts that He needed to speak to.

It’s more about God getting glory than me getting funds but I was able to distribute a lot of my contact/prayer cards after the services. One thing that has happened already since Sunday is that one person who was there that I had never met before contacted me and set up my flight from Atlanta to Miami using Delta Skymiles. God is so good. I had already booked my flight from Miami to La Paz but I had not yet booked my flight from Atlanta to Miami.

So now my departure is officially set. Goodbye everything and everyone I have ever known. Hello everything I’ve never been before.

Somehow this whole thing became more real when my flight out of Atlanta was actually on paper. I now know exactly when I will be leaving and that would be 2:52 p.m. on Friday, December 28th. I must admit that my stomach dropped a little when I saw that 2:52 p.m.

The Friday after Christmas is when I will officially leave everything and everyone here and head to my new home. Wow. I will ring in 2008 about 3700 miles from the Giant Peach.

And not to mention that both my ticket to Miami and my ticket to La Paz are ONE WAY TICKETS. I have never ever bought a one way ticket to anywhere before. I mean, I always know when I am coming back from places. It is a very strange feeling to know that I am going somewhere but that I don’t know exactly when I will be coming back. All I know is that God willing I will come back.

I hear that in the “old days” when missionaries left to go to the field they like really left. It was goodbye forever in many cases and they took their caskets with them. Crazy. I can only imagine what those goodbyes were like.

I guess I just better get ready to have all of my bags searched multiple times on the way down there. I have no doubt that me and my fellow one-way ticket buyers out there cause someone to get an IM message when we check in. Well, I should look on the bright side. At least I will get some personalized attention as I make my way through the airports.

“Sir, I really AM a missionary who is going to live in Bolivia, I promise.”

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Prayer anyone?

Yo...so if you read this before tomorrow morning (Sunday, 11/4) and you are the praying kind please lift me up as I have been asked to share my story and talk about what God has called me to do in La Paz during both services at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville.

Just pray that God says through me what He needs to say and that the people hear what God needs them to hear. (And if you read this after Sunday just pray that all went well)

Gracias.

P.S. Don't forget to set your clocks back one hour tonight...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kaboom!!!

I blew it this past Saturday night. A group of friends and I went out on the town for a little belated birthday celebration for me. As I mentioned, my 30th birthday was a few weeks back but I was in Colorado at the time and I was not able to celebrate with my friends in Atlanta.

It was great to see my friends but Saturday night was not good. It was fun at the time but going out was just not the wise thing for me to do. It is tough. I debated last week about just doing something low key for my birthday instead of going out to a club and dancing. I have been out plenty of times and I know where that leads. And I didn’t want it to lead there but I guess I didn’t want it enough to change my birthday plans. I think sometimes that we have invented all these special occasions in order to give ourselves license to wear a mask and be someone else for a night.

I did not like the “someone else” that I became on Saturday night. And It frustrates me how I just put God on a shelf sometimes. It is a temptation. I mean I try to live this Christian life but every now and then I decide to take off the “Jesus” hat and hang out with the world for an evening. But it’s ok right because I can just pick Jesus back up tomorrow. After all, He forgives me right? I don’t want to live like that.

I am tired of temporarily setting God aside in order to pursue my own goals and desires. It just doesn’t work for me. I am starting to truly realize that I love Jesus MORE than some of the things of this world that I have loved in the past.

Doing some of the things that I have always done just doesn’t make sense any more. I do the same things yet I expect a different result. How whacked out is that? And I am tired of looking for my acceptance in other people vs. acknowledging God’s acceptance of me.

Bottom line: It is time for me to stop caring so much about how my actions may offend others. It is a tough line to walk because the last thing I ever want to do is judge someone else for what THEY do.

I just want God to grant me the courage to say, “it is just not the wisest thing for ME to do.”

Saturday, October 20, 2007

State of Curt Address – 30 year old edition

I am 30. I am single. I live with my parents. I don’t own a car. (Better yet – I have to ask my dad to use the car – beat that!) And I am unemployed.

Yet somehow through all of this I have more joy in my life than ever before.

I meant to blog about this a few weeks back on my actual birthday (Oct. 9) but my training in Colorado took priority. My world is about to get turned upside down and as if moving to Bolivia was not enough change for me I decided to go ahead and turn 30 as well.

I just thought I would kill two birds with one stone.
New home. New decade.

What is it about the start of new decades in life? I have talked to several people that have told me that some of their best years were in their 30s so I am definitely optimistic. And I honestly feel like 2007 - 2017 could be some of the best years of my life.

There is a lie out there that makes people think that if they are 30 and single something is wrong with them. I have felt the weight of that lie in the past. My guess is that girls feel this pressure way more than guys. I mean you start getting in your late 20s and you are like, “Will I ever meet somebody?” “I sure hope I meet somebody before I turn 30 so I will not be weird.”

As I reflect on my life as a new 30 year old I am just so happy that I do not believe that lie anymore. It is nice to know from first hand experience that God is the one who sustains and fulfills. I chased so many things in this world that I THOUGHT would fulfill me but nothing ever did.

I can’t wait to see where God takes me in my thirties. All I know is that He didn’t promise me that leaving my family and friends and moving to La Paz would be easy but He did promise me that He will be with me.

In fact, I know that He is there waiting to welcome me when I reach the bottom of the airplane steps.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Adios Colorado

Well, my three weeks of training have come to an end. I arrived back in the ATL on Friday but I have to say that I had mixed emotions about leaving. It is good to be home but I really felt like I was finally getting settled in by week three and I was excited about some of the friends that I was making. They had a ping-pong table in the basement of the conference center and we had some epic battles. It was a lot of fun. I was enjoying making friends but I knew that I had to leave in order to keep this whole process moving forward. Life continues on I guess.

It was a very small taste of where my life is headed.

I mean I came to the realization that once I move to La Paz and get the whole missionary thing going my life is going to be a series of goodbyes. I will say goodbye to my family and friends here when I leave but when I leave La Paz and visit Georgia I will say goodbye to my friends in Bolivia. It is going to be a life of constantly learning how to say goodbye well.

My last week at MTI was just filled with emotion. We talked about grief and loss, hellos & goodbyes. It was crazy. I admit that I have cried more in the last three weeks than I have in a long time. And it feels good. I knew we were in trouble when there was a box of Kleenex on every table in the training room. We had the opportunity this last week to individually say goodbye to everyone who attended the training and say a blessing over their life as they leave to serve God in different parts of the world.

Here is a photo of our group...


I had so many great revelations during my time in Colorado but I will just leave you with a few…

God really does LOVE me.
(We hear this so much that I think we really have a hard time letting this concept sink in. Well it’s starting to sink in for me. I am starting to realize that God is not going to love me any more or any less because I am going to Bolivia. I am not getting extra credit or a gold star. God’s love for me is constant no matter where I am. I am not going to Bolivia so that I can earn God’s love. I go because He called me.)

God’s strength is good enough for me.
(I went to the training really struggling with self-reliance. I felt myself trying to make too many things in my life happen with my own strength. God totally broke that down during my time in Colorado and now I believe more than ever before that God’s strength is sufficient for me.)

Different is not necessarily wrong. Wrong is wrong.
(Just because things in my new culture in Bolivia are different it doesn’t mean that they are wrong. It’s all about finding out what is right and wrong according to God’s word.)

My success in Bolivia is not up to me.
(This kinda goes with the comment about God’s strength above. It is a huge weight off my shoulders to know that I am not in control of the results in Bolivia. This is not to say that I will not work hard. It is just a comment about how I deal with the outcomes.)

A few formulas…
Be Still = Knowing God
Quiet + Rest = Strength

Three foundational truths that I am wrestling with…
God is God (He doesn’t owe me an explanation)
God is not safe, but He is faithful
God is good (No matter what happens)

God really spoke to my heart during my time in Colorado. And I am so glad that I was able to experience the MTI training. I know that I already have a better chance of enduring and enjoying my time in Bolivia because of all of the truths that I learned over these three weeks.

I created an online photo album for the trip so check it out.

Next Steps: Buying my plane ticket to La Paz & getting my Visa from the Bolivian Consulate

Saturday, October 06, 2007

MTI Training: Week Two

And what a week it was.

First of all, last weekend I was able to do some sightseeing in the Colorado Springs area. A few of us traveled up to Pikes Peak in the hopes of getting to the summit of the peak around 14,000 ft. We could only get to about 12,000 ft. because there were very strong winds at the summit so the rangers were not letting anyone go to the top. Boo on that. We were also able to visit these very cool rock formations called Garden of the Gods. I will post a photo album when I finish my training so stay tuned.

And now for a training update. I have to tell you that the sessions just keep getting better and better and my list of notes and reflections just keeps getting longer and longer. There is no way that I will be able to process all of this stuff while I am here. God is really speaking to my heart during my time here. Maybe sometime in November it will all sink in. I can’t tell you how helpful this experience has been for me.

We finished the week where my previous post ended - discussing our different conflict management styles…the advantages and disadvantages. Very eye opening stuff. I now have a greater understanding of my natural tendency with regards to conflict management but I also know some stuff about other styles as well so hopefully as a result I will have a better success rate at “speaking someone else’s language” once I get to La Paz.

We have also talked a good bit this week about basic cultural differences and also transition. What will some of the characteristics of my transition to Bolivia be? In most cases, people experience a honeymoon stage when they first enter their new culture followed by an unsettling phase, followed by a CHAOS stage (I can't avoid this one), followed by a resettling stage before finally beginning to feel settled in the new culture.

The length of these transition periods varies for each person but the bottom line for me is that I will be changed.

I will not come back to the states the same person I was when I left. It is impossible. I am just going to let that sink in for awhile.

But I don’t necessary think that is a bad thing either. I am hopeful that I will eventually find balance between my home culture and my host culture of Bolivia. But it is definitely going to take time. More time than I actually think.

Probably the biggest thing that hit me this week were the words that God spoke to me during our sessions on Soul Care. Just FYI…Soul Care is just that – taking care of my soul on the field. How am I going to take care of my soul while I am in Bolivia? I don’t want to become just another bad missionary statistic and return to the US after my term in La Paz burned out on God and dried-up spiritually. Basically, how can I avoid coming back a battered and bruised missionary? This is way more common for missionaries than I ever realized. You would be surprised.

I learned this week that a big key for me is going to be the Sabbath. Which doesn’t really mean anything to a lot of people in our culture anymore but as I came to find out this week the Sabbath actually means “to cease.” God’s model of resting one day after every six days of work. Having a day each week when I turn the cell phone OFF and don’t turn the computer ON will care for my soul in ways that will make me endure and last on the mission field.

Me finding a day each week to be UNAVAILABLE will save me. I spent some time with God this past week practicing solitude and silence and I can’t tell you the impact it has had on me. Imagine that, actually being silent so God has a chance to talk to me and I have a chance to actually listen.

It’s a big change from me just jabbering and filling the air with all this stuff that I need to let God know about. Me talking to God has its place. But too often I find myself talking too much.

I think I got a better understanding this week of that verse that talks about God knowing what we are going to say before we even say it. And I figure it’s time I stop giving God info all the time and actually give Him the mic for once.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Lifehouse Everything Skit

Check out this video.
Wherever you are in your life, take hope and keep up the fight.

Friday, September 28, 2007

MTI Training: Week One

Well, the first week of my training here at MTI in Palmer Lake, Colorado has been completed and I have to tell you that my head just HURTS. This first week has produced some amazing self-evaluation. I have felt nervous, rushed, excited, unsure, happy, vulnerable, anxious and scared. (I know…what a roller coaster of emotions) But it is all for a purpose because I already have a better understanding of who I am, and because of this I know that I will be able to tackle my new environment in La Paz with much greater success.

It is so true…you really need to know WHERE you are as an individual before you can begin to change anything or head in another direction. In my case, I really need to know what the values are that I hold so dear. And I need to know the values of my new culture in La Paz. I need to know this BEFORE I go so that I will be aware of where the disconnects are…what are the very important values that I hold dear that maybe the people of La Paz do NOT hold dear. Trying to figure all those out was a big part of this week.

The week ended and continues next week with a huge focus on conflict management. I cannot avoid this issue. Trials are inevitable for me in La Paz and conflict will already be waiting for me at the bottom of the steps as I exit the plane. They actually told us that conflict management is a make or break issue for missionaries. And 70-80% of missionaries do not return to their initial field of service after their first term because of this very issue – conflict with other missionaries or team members.

This is a huge issue for me because those of you who know me very well know that I am someone who avoids conflict whenever possible. But I am about to walk into situations where conflict will find me whether I like it or not. And my reaction and response to that conflict is going to make or break me in Bolivia.

So overall it has been a great week of self-evaluation and learning. Not to mention that the location, facilities, food and staff here are all absolutely amazing. I know that I am going to be thanking God for many many years to come for the amazing blessing and opportunity He has given me to be here.

And here are a few photos of my home for the next few weeks…









Monday, September 24, 2007

The Mile High City

Denver welcomes the International Association of Women Police, September 23-27.

That is what the sign reads right in front of me while I sit in the Denver airport. Cool. I didn’t even know that there was an International Association of Women Police. Maybe there are International Associations of pretty much everything and I just need to get out more.

“Getting Out More” seems to be my life now. I am sitting in the Denver airport waiting for three hours until my shuttle to the MTI training center arrives. And I just paid $8 to access the internet. There was NO WAY I could just sit here and read for three hours.

This is my first trip to Denver and for you readers who don’t know…the reason I am here is that I am attending a three week training program at Mission Training International in Palmer Lake. Palmer Lake is between Denver and Colorado Springs.

I am looking over the MTI brochure right now and their mission statement reads: Our passion is to see cross-cultural messengers of God’s grace and their families experience effectiveness, longevity and a deep sense of satisfaction in their calling.

I am not sure exactly how to implement that yet but hopefully at the end of these three weeks I will be able to tell you. I am honestly not sure what these next three weeks hold in store for me. Hopefully, whatever I learn in these weeks will help me transition to my new culture in La Paz more effectively. That is my hope. I know that there are pitfalls out there that missionaries fall in when they go to serve in another culture and I hope I can avoid some of those.

Hopefully, whatever God calls me to do in La Paz will be more fruitful because of the weeks I spend here in Palmer Lake. Also, the opportunity to spend some time with other “crazies” like me who are leaving the U.S. to become missionaries is exciting to me.

I should be able to post regularly during these weeks with updates for you.

A few other tidbits:

When I opened my backpack I found a birthday card that my mom had snuck in there. It reads “Open on Oct. 9, 2007”. Yes – I will celebrate my birthday while I am here in Colorado and YES it is my 30th birthday. More on that in a few weeks…

And last but not least, I love to watch people greet other people at the airport. I am sitting here watching people run to each other and kiss each other and it just makes me realize how I want someone to run and greet ME at the airport. (And I am referring to people who run to greet CURT not DALE JR.) Ok, and I admit that it would be nice if it was a really cute girl that ran up and greeted me…but you know what I mean. There is something about time apart that somehow brings people closer together. Something about absence and the heart…

Maybe I am moving to Bolivia because I know that my “having someone run up and greet me at the airport” probability will be higher.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Curtain Call

When actors come out on stage after a show to take their bows it is called a curtain call.

Well…last Friday, September 14th I enjoyed my own curtain call at the Alliance Theatre. My Final Bow if you will. It was a very emotional experience on my last day at the theatre. And I must admit that it was more emotional for me than I had anticipated.

I knew I would be sad. But you never know sometimes how much something means to you until you have to say goodbye. I think there is more of this in my future so I guess I better brace up for it.

My farewell at the theatre was not just the normal goodbye party on Friday only to start a brand new job with better pay the following Monday morning. This was a real chapter of my life closing. For the last seven years, marketing the performing arts in Atlanta has been my life. And it is kinda hard to imagine my life without it to be totally honest with you. It was the perfect job for me. With my marketing background and my love for the arts I was able to find a job in marketing at Atlanta Ballet right after school. I don’t know how often people find their dream entry job right after school…I think it is pretty rare. But I did, and I loved it.

I was given an amazing opportunity to join the Alliance Theatre a year and a half out of school and for the last five and a half years I have not looked back. My time at the Alliance has made me into the professional that I am today. I was given amazing opportunities to grow professionally at the Alliance. One thing you don’t realize when you take a job in the arts is the fact that you meet so many different people. And during my time at the Alliance I was given the chance to present to executives on our board of directors that it would have taken me years to present to if I had taken the corporate path.

But the majority of the opportunities that I was blessed with at the Alliance were possible because of the support of my boss, Virginia Vann. God blessed me with the best boss in the world, someone who not only challenged me to grow professionally but someone who I am just plain proud to call my friend.

I made so many wonderful friendships at the Alliance and I will definitely miss my co-workers. The people you work alongside everyday make all the difference in the world.

Marketing the arts has been my dream job for a long time. It was all that I ever wanted to do. But since we can always see the past with 20/20 vision, I can now see that through all of my time in the Atlanta arts scene God was preparing me for a job that I NEVER dreamed of until about a year ago. A job of serving the abandoned, abused, forgotten, invisible, neglected children living in La Paz, Bolivia.

It’s funny how God works. Who knows? Maybe one day some kids and I in La Paz will put on a play. You never know.

But what I DO know is that I love my family at the Alliance Theatre and I will miss them more than they will ever know.

Goodbye ya’ll. Break a leg.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

“You don’t know me but…”

Once again, God just amazes me. I know…big surprise. Get used to it I guess blog readers because I am sure the trend of me writing about the amazing things God does is only going to gain momentum when I actually live in Bolivia. I think that is the point of this blog…maybe I will rename it “The amazing things God does.”

Anyway, it is just plain overwhelming sometimes and this past weekend was another example.

As the whole missionary fundraising process continues on it is so cool to watch God work in the area of finances. And it is great to watch Him work in the lives of people that I don’t even know and have never met before. This weekend it happened again.

I was attending a Sunday school class and after the class a lady came up to me and said, “You don’t know me but I have been following your story and I know that you are heading to Bolivia soon to be a missionary.” She said, “God spoke to my heart a few weeks ago and told me that I needed to support you.” Then she told me that, “Well, God woke me up from a dream this past week and told me AGAIN that I needed to support you and I felt like this time I needed to be obedient. So this is for you.”

She handed me a check. Amazing. She had this check with her and we happened to attend the same Sunday school class which was a class that I attend fairly regularly but I have never seen her attend.

It is just cool to watch God at work during this process. I think that if I don’t share these stories and testimonies with you I am not truly honoring God. And I believe that part of the reason that God has called me to missionary service is to share my experience and testimony with you.

I love the front row seat that I have. Pass the popcorn and the gummi bears will ya?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Storm before the Calm

These first two weeks in September are very busy for me. Next Friday, September 14th, is my last day at the Alliance Theatre and Denise Cox, the Associate Director of the South American Missionary Society, is in town this weekend visiting the church and some of my family,friends & supporters.

I feel super busy. This last week at the Alliance is going to be crazy, I have to pack my stuff to move out of the condo next weekend and I am hosting Denise from SAMS this weekend. Also, I leave for my training in Colorado in a few weeks so I am prepping for that as well. While at the same time continuing to finalize details to move to Bolivia later this year.

I feel like my current schedule/to do list is in real need of a Blackberry.

But…I really feel like this past week and this next week are really the storm before the calm, because in about a week I will be a little thing that I like to call…unemployed. And although momentum will be building for my move to Bolivia over the next few months, I will not have a full-time job during the week to think about. It is going to be a weird feeling for me that’s for sure.

So, I feel like the busyness of last week and the week ahead are really temporary. And I see some calm days in my future and you know...I’m ok with that.

Denise’s visit this weekend is going well. We had some great meetings earlier today and she got to spend some quality time this afternoon with some of my family and friends. I feel like we took another step today toward my upcoming move to Bolivia. Having Denise visit was a key part of the whole process. Tomorrow after church we will be having lunch with my pastor prior to her heading back to the airport.

I kinda see this as God just moving me another step closer to His ultimate plan for my move to Bolivia. And I am looking forward to being able to completely focus my attention on Bolivia.

For one more week it is a part-time job, but come September 17th my FULL-TIME focus will be preparing for long-term missionary service in La Paz, Bolivia.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thumbprint of God

About two and a half years ago, about three months into my whole “walk with Christ”, I began keeping a spiritual journal. I wrote in the journal on Saturday, April 2, 2005 that “I never want to forget God’s impact on my life. My hope is that through the words and thoughts that follow I will be able to track God’s hand on my life for the rest of my life…”

I kept it up for about a year and a half but man my hand started to hurt so now I just type instead of write…anyway, I am so glad that I did write for awhile because every now and then I open the old journal up and read about what I was thinking about two years ago.

Well, I am moving out of the condo in the next few weeks and in the process of going through everything in my room I came across the journal.

I found a few entries that I think apply directly to the next step of my life and I just share them with you as a confirmation that I think God was moving me down this path to Bolivia long before I even knew where Bolivia was.

Sunday, June 26, 2005 (A little over two years ago)
Heavenly Father, I want to get in the game. I am so thankful that you have invited me to play a part in YOUR story. Thank you for helping me realize that it is not about me getting you involved in my story, it’s about me deciding to get involved in YOUR story. I want to participate. I want to use my life to glorify and honor you and help spread your redemptive message to everyone I can. I want to use the talents and abilities that you have given me to help make investments in lives here on earth that will last an eternity.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 (Almost two years ago)
I have been thinking a lot about a message that Jeff Henderson gave a few weeks back where he said we should all strive to align our frustrations w/ God’s frustrations. He urged us to find our “Holy Discontentment.” He believes that when we find “that”, we can truly begin to impact this world with God’s love. I think mine might be kids. Abused children have really begun to break my heart over the last few weeks, specifically sexually abused children, and I feel God leading me to get involved somewhere and volunteer my time to help out. I am becoming less and less interested in promoting the arts and I want to spend more time working with issues that I know frustrate God. I want to feel like my life counts. I want to have an eternal perspective in everything I do and I want to use the gifts God blessed me with the share His love with those around me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 (about one year ago)
Now...for the really BIG thing. I feel God calling me back to Bolivia and I am currently gathering info on a few opportunities to return to Cochabamba next summer and stay for an extended period of time, possibly a year. As I look back on the last year I can really see God preparing me for this mission. I feel Him telling me to pursue this. The more I stare at the picture from Bolivia on my desk at work the faster I want to get back there and the less interested I become in my job at the Alliance. This can only be explained as a God thing. Who else could take a career path that consumed me for six years and say, “Just drop it.” I just pray daily that God’s will is done and I know that if He needs me in Bolivia He will get me there. Father, lead me to a ministry in Bolivia where I can make a major impact for your kingdom. Show me that there is more to life than what my culture has conditioned me to think. Enlarge my border and ministry. Send me where you need me most. Whatever the question is Father…I say “Yes”!

Friday, August 24, 2007

What fisticuffs?

So a brawl broke out in the Bolivian Congress in La Paz this past Wednesday. (Don't tell my mom)

Check out the article and video HERE.

I am definitely not moving to the most politically stable country ever. They are also in the middle of rewriting their constitution which is set to go up for a national referendum pretty much right when I move there.

That should be fun.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

One on One

Over the past two years I have benefited so much from the time that I have spent with my men’s small group from church. I have been in two separate groups over the past two years and we have met pretty much on a weekly basis.

We go through different studies and/or books and discuss them. Sometimes the material that we read is no where near as strong as the discussion that we have. And sometimes getting off topic is the best thing possible. Having a group of single guys that I can hang with on a weekly basis is a very cool thing. It is just a great bonus that these are all guys who are pursuing the same thing that I am…a deeper relationship with God.

All that to say that I am a big believer in this kind of community. I have been impacted more than I can accurately convey. I have no doubt that God created each and every one of us for this kind of authentic community. I hope that I can find a group to hang with once I get to Bolivia.

But there is another kind of community in my future. Starting this week I will be meeting on a weekly basis with my pastor at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville. He will be meeting with me prior to my move to Bolivia. This will be a one on one kind of community. I am excited about the opportunity to meet with him to discuss foundational things about the Christian faith and also I am excited about the opportunity to pray with him during our meetings.

This discipleship program stems from Jesus’ call for us to go into the world and “make disciples” which basically means that it is not just about making a decision to follow Christ. It is about helping someone continually grow in their relationship with Christ.

This is a 10 session program that I am sure will be full of some amazing revelations. I will keep you posted as to how everything goes.

I am excited to have the opportunity to go through this program prior to my move to Bolivia. And the hope is that I can continue this program once I move to Bolivia.

I am not going to turn down any opportunity to spend time talking about what I see God up to in this world….whether with a small group or just one on one.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Where to start?

Recently I have just been bombarded with different things to pray for. And to be honest, sometimes I just don’t know where to start. Sometimes I feel like I have so many things to pray for that I end up not really praying for anything at all. Do you ever feel overwhelmed like this?

I have told so many people that I will pray for them recently that it is too much to remember. I want to pray for others. I really want to make that part of my daily prayer life. But I am just struggling lately trying to figure out the best way to go about it.

I feel bad just praying once for someone. It’s like I want to pick a few requests and pray fervently and consistently for those requests for like six months and then move on to other requests.

And through the whole missionary thing I am making more and more connections to other ministries around the world and I want to pray for them also. I am just flooded with things to pray for and I know that they are all important. But figuring out how to organize my prayers is just difficult right now.

Good thing God knows what we are going to pray for before we say it, because I sure miss some things. I know He hears all of our requests…but still there is something powerful about someone interceding for another person in prayer. I really think that it puts a smile on God’s face. I just wish I could do it better than I currently do.

So I am struggling with all that and then two days ago God placed another request on my heart…I felt God nudging me to pray for my future wife. What??? Where did that come from?

God knows that I have a desire to be married but I know that if it is His will for me to be married it will happen on His timeline. And with my upcoming move, dating and marriage have not really been on my mind at all. My main focus has been moving to Bolivia. Believe me, I want to date and I want to get married but it has just not been a priority lately given the fact that I am planning to move to Bolivia in four months.

But still, it is interesting that God has placed this prayer on my heart. I think it is pretty cool to pray for my future wife. Praying that she is seeking a deeper relationship with Christ wherever she is. Praying that she is protected. Praying that she is loving God with all her heart, mind, soul and strength. And to know that possibly there is some girl praying for me out there is a very encouraging thing.

But I guess it all goes back to God having a plan. He has called me to La Paz, Bolivia. I realized recently that if I had met someone in the last year or so it is very unlikely that I would even be going to Bolivia. Again, it is just evidence that God is in control.

I’m just lost in a sea of prayer requests right now and I am struggling to find guidance and direction.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Double Blessing

It amazes me sometimes just how much God honors and blesses our sacrifices.

A friend of mine has two cars. One he bought recently and one that was given to him as a gift. Recently God has been calling him and his wife to give one of the cars to someone that they know who has no car and really needs one. They feel that since the car was given to them that they should share that blessing and give the car to someone else who has none.

Amazing testimony.

I was talking to this friend recently and he was saying that his wife will be starting school this fall and it is going to continue to be more difficult logistically for them since they will only have one car. They have a need for two cars but what is amazing to me is that they are willing to sacrifice that need to meet a greater need. I think that is the essence of what God is calling all of us to. And I am so encouraged by the strength of their faith.

Well…a few weeks ago God just laid on my heart that I needed to give my car to them before I leave for Bolivia.

I can’t take my car to Bolivia and my plan has been all along to sell it. But God spoke so clearly to me that I know in my heart that what I need to do is give my car to them. The real “God moment” of the whole thing is that I had no idea that they were going to give THEIR car away when God placed this idea on my heart. But God knew. I didn’t even know that they had two cars. I always thought that they only had one.

It was only after I shared with this friend the idea that God had placed on my heart that he told me the amazing story about them giving their car away. So basically what has happened here is that God has called them to sacrifice and give their second car away while at the same time calling me to give my car to THEM.

God KNEW that He had another car waiting for them. They didn’t know. But He did. And I believe that He is honoring their sacrifice by providing them with another car.

We can’t see sometimes the blessing that waits just around the corner.

I gladly give my car to them. It’s not about the money that I would have gotten for selling it. If it was all about money I doubt I would even be heading to Bolivia anyway. It’s about sharing a blessing with someone else. It’s about seeing a need and then meeting that need. And I can’t describe to you the joy that I feel giving my car away. God has blessed me so much. I truly believe that He blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.

And besides…why should Oprah be the only one who gets to give cars to people?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

So it hit me today...

I am about to quit my current career path and in about four months I will be leaving all of my friends and family and moving 3,700 miles away to a country where English is not the primary language and I will be moving to a city where I am acquainted with about five people total and where I will be living by myself for the first time ever.

And I am actually looking forward to it.

What am I thinking????

Saturday, July 28, 2007

El Día

The Day.

When I was meeting with the La Paz director of Red Viva I was introduced to worship leaders from various churches throughout the city of La Paz. They were having a meeting to talk about this year's El Día worship event. A group of them began this event about four years ago in La Paz and it was born out of the idea that we talk to God all the time and ask him for help, advice, things, etc...but we don't stop often enough to just praise Him and NOT ask for something...just praise Him because He is God.

And thus El Día was created. Basically for the last few years in La Paz and in a few other cities in Bolivia a group of people get together for one day every year and just praise and worship God for 24 hours straight. Non-stop worship. Different bands/singers will play sets and they will just praise God non-stop for one day. This year's event will be on December 7 and 8 and it is my hope to be back in Bolivia in time to experience the event this year. That is the goal that I am shooting for. What a great welcome that would be to La Paz. "Hi Curt. Welcome. We are so glad that you made it here safely. Now let's go praise God for 24 hours straight." I am also excited because I will have the opportunity to use my marketing skills to help promote this event in the future and I can't wait to be involved in a movement to praise and glorify God across the entire country of Bolivia.

This year they hope to have the day of worship simultaneously in nine cities in Bolivia. Awesome. I can't wait. I think it might just be where I am right now in my walk with Christ but I really have a growing desire in my heart to stop and worship God more and more. I have to tell you that just singing 2-3 songs on Sunday at church doesn't satisfy my soul anymore.

I need more.

There is also a ministry in Kansas City called the International House of Prayer. They have a prayer room on their campus and they have had non-stop praise and worship for the last seven years. Wow. Two hour worship sets back to back to back every week. All the time. Non-stop. That is what I am talking about. They have a live video feed of their prayer room on their website that I subscribe to. So I can log on anytime to watch live worship. At 2 p.m. on Saturday or 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. They never stop.

It's amazing to see people here in the U.S. and people in Bolivia going after the same God with the same heart and spirit. We all seem to be heading in the same direction. Constantly worshipping God. Day and Night. Night and Day. I think the hope is to be in a constant state of praise, whatever you are doing. I know we all aren't going to sit in prayer rooms all the time because we are way too busy for that but I do think we can all strive to have lives that reflect a constant state of praise. It's about praising God on Sunday but it's also about praising God while you are washing clothes and cleaning the dishes.

It's that "loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength" thing. I know I haven't fully grasped that concept yet but I feel like God is moving me in that direction. My relationship with my Heavenly Father HAS to be my source. My home base. If I lose my personal connection with God then my soul will dry up and nothing will matter.

And I believe that any act of service in the name of Christ is just a natural reaction of a heart that is overflowing with love for God.

We just can't help it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What happens in Bolivia…(Part 3)

Two highlights from the Bolivia trip…and one of these experiences was without a doubt the most “out of my comfort zone” that I have ever been.

Throughout our time in Cochabamba, several folks from Niños con Valor, a foundation we were visiting, took us around to various ministries around town to “give us a real sense of what life is like for kids living on the streets there.”

There are several experiences that I just have to share. And these are the kind of experiences that make me wish that the countdown on my website was counting down a little bit faster.

The first was a visit that we made to a home called Solomon Klein. We were told that this was a transitional home and the first home that many kids come to directly from the streets. We were also told that many people just walk up to door and leave their babies/kids because they either don’t want them or they just can’t take care of them.

We visited three different areas in this home and I think each area broke my heart in a different way. The first area was the toddler room and there were like twenty toddlers crawling around on the floor like ants and of course all of us immediately sat on the floor to play with them. What was so crazy was how starved they were for positive touch. I held this little girl’s hand for thirty seconds and when I let go she began to cry. Broke my heart. I wish I could describe the look in their eyes. It was a moment that really tugged on my heartstrings. They started crawling after us when we left.

The next area was the newborn area where there were three workers feeding thirty newborn babies. They had the babies’ bottles propped up so that the babies did not get used to being held while they were being fed. There are just not enough workers to go around.

And finally we visited the older boys and girls who were playing outside and they just mobbed us. They all wanted to play and they all wanted us to pick them up. I got to brush up on my Spanish playground lingo that’s for sure. It’s funny how kids are just kids whether they are in Georgia or in Bolivia. They all just want unconditional love and they all just want you to push them in a swing.

And as if that whole experience wasn’t enough we decided to spend about two hours one evening down at the Cochabamba bus terminal. Not one of the main tourist attractions of the city I might add. This is the “out of my comfort zone” moment. Doug, a guy from Holy Cross who joined us on the trip, myself and two folks from Niños con Valor hopped a cab one night and headed down to the bus terminal. The hope was that I could get a chance to get a real picture of life for kids on the streets there. Boy did I. This was ministry on an up close and personal level.

The people from NcV have been going down to the bus terminal for some time now to try and build some relationships with some of the girls who live on the street there. One of the ministries that they are trying to start is an outreach ministry to these girls. They have a vision to open a home for these girls that will be a safe alternative to the streets. We found about 7-8 girls that night outside the terminal and we spent time with them for a few hours. It was unbelievable. One of the big addictions for street kids in Bolivia is an addition to sniffing glue. Very strong glue...not like your normal Elmer's kind of glue. It not only helps to keep them warm but it also numbs their hunger pains.

I have never been that up close and personal to something like this. I would be having conversations with these girls while they were holding their bottles of glue to their noses. I could just see in their eyes that they were in some other world, “Volando” (Flying) as they would call it. I saw young boys on the streets messed up on glue as well. I was even getting a little messed up from the glue myself after about two hours. I was getting some strong second hand whiffs.

I share these experiences to basically say two things – if you have never been out of your comfort zone like this I wish wish wish every single one of you could have the opportunity to do so. And if you get the chance...just go. Your view of the world will be expanded like you can’t even believe.

I also share it because I came to the realization while we were down at the terminal that “If Jesus were walking the streets of Cochabamba right now, I think He would be at the Cochabamba bus terminal.” It was about sitting with these kids for two hours and just showing them unconditional love. It was about loving them and not expecting anything in return. I am told that street ministry is a tough ministry though. And just when you think you are building some good relationships and making progress it all falls a part.

But I honestly believe that you just start by showing up. By just consistently being on the scene. How can we expect any relationship to be built and grow without this? I challenge you to look at your own city, your own neighborhood and ask yourself, “If Jesus were walking these streets right now, where would He be?”

And then just go there.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What happens in Bolivia...(Part 2)

Now comes the post where I show you some photos.

I have uploaded some photos from my recent placement trip to Bolivia to my online photo galleries. Check them out HERE.

Enjoy.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

What happens in Bolivia doesn’t stay in Bolivia (Part 1)

My recent trip to Bolivia was such an experience that it will take several posts to cover the entire trip. But I thought I would start with a post about the big issue – what city in Bolivia is God calling me to and what ministry is He calling me to partner with. So here goes...

You know, sometimes I just try to put God in a box.

I tried it on this recent placement trip to Bolivia and I found out once again that God’s plans are not always my plans. I was reminded that He sees a much bigger picture than I could ever see. He knows what’s best for me better than I could ever know what’s best for me and, during this trip, He opened my eyes to a vision that I could have never possibly dreamed of.

It is not a question of what city has the most need. They all have need. There is no shortage of opportunities. Especially with high-risk kids. It became very clear to me during the trip that God would call me to the city where I would have the best chance to grow closer to Him spiritually and also to the city where I could most effectively serve His kingdom.

Ever since my first mission trip to Bolivia last summer I thought I had it all figured out. I was going to live in Cochabamba and most likely volunteer for a foundation there called Ninos con Valor (Children with Value). An amazing foundation with a vision that I truly admire and support. And even after visiting with them during my placement trip I felt a great peace about working alongside them. Great people. They gave us some truly wonderful experiences and we had the privilege of getting some “up close and personal” looks at various ministries. I was way out of my comfort zone. And it was great.

I had SUCH a peace about Cochabamba that we tried really hard to skip our final city, La Paz, altogether. We had spent one day in La Paz the previous summer and we all suffered from altitude sickness. (La Paz is around 12,000 feet) It’s funny because for a good amount of the time leading up to this placement trip I actually told people “I hope God does not call me to La Paz. I hate La Paz. I definitely don’t want to be there.”

I think you see where this is going.

So, needless to say, we reluctantly went to La Paz. The Bishop wanted me to check out a Saturday morning outreach ministry to kids at one of the churches there (Cristo Redentor). There are two Anglican churches in La Paz and we were going to also attend Sunday services at one of the churches.

From the moment that we began to descend the 2,000 ft from the airport to the city I began to sense something special about this city – maybe it was the fact that I was NOT suffering from altitude sickness this time or maybe just maybe God was sending a lightning bolt my way. We checked out the ministry to kids on Saturday morning at the church and it was great. I also decided to play a game of soccer with the kids and I almost passed out. (I somehow forgot that I was at 12,000 ft)

God continued to work on my heart.

Also, the fact that there are currently no long-term missionaries from SAMS (My sending agency) in La Paz right now began to work on me as well. It seems a large number of missionaries choose Cochabamba and Santa Cruz over La Paz because the climates are more pleasant in those cities.

When we attended church on Sunday at the second Anglican Church (Cristo Salvador) I absolutely knew that I needed to be in La Paz. The service was amazing and the worship music lasted for an hour. Anyone who knows my tendency to always want to worship for “20 more minutes” knows that this extended praise and worship in La Paz was right up my alley.

To top it all off I met with the La Paz director for an international network called Viva. In Latin America and the Caribbean the network is known as Red Viva. Check out the international Viva site at www.viva.org or if you can read Spanish check out the Red Viva site at www.redviva.org. Basically, this is a Christian network of individuals and churches who have a heart for children in high-risk situations. The goal of the network in each city is to help the various Christian groups that support high-risk children in the city better collaborate by sharing info, resources, best practices and training and by helping the groups to create a combined powerful voice to the government.

So this Red Viva network is “just getting off the ground” in La Paz. They are currently mapping the city to identify the various Christian organizations working with high-risk kids and then after that the work to bring the groups together gains momentum. They were very excited about the possibility of me bringing my marketing/promotion skills to the table. Part of the deal is to launch a public awareness campaign in La Paz about the situation of high-risk kids there. Amazing.

This project is what I calling a “body of Christ” project. Denominations are not a factor. I look at it as God calling me to work to unify the body of Christ in La Paz, Bolivia. Of course I will be working with the Anglican churches there and enjoying plenty of hands-on volunteering with children and street kids.

As I am sure you can tell I am very excited to get back to La Paz and join this team. This lighting bolt from God was just a reminder that sometimes we have our little visions all figured out and then God says “How about THIS vision?” and we are like Joey from Blossom “Whoa.” Through this opportunity with Red Viva, God has taken my little vision and made it bigger than I could have ever imagined. And I think that was the point.

He knew I was against La Paz and He opened my eyes to the city so He could get maximum glory. I love that. And I love Him FOR that. It is such a stronger testimony due to the fact that I did NOT want to go to La Paz. It is totally a God thing.

There is so much more to share from the trip…more later.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I'm back!

Hello one and all,

Just wanted to let you know that I made it back safely to Atlanta this afternoon. What a great trip! God continues to amaze me. Everytime I think I have things figured out He totally blows my mind with something bigger than I could have ever imagined.

I hope everyone is doing well. Just give me a few days to process/sort photos and I will post a blog about my trip and about where I feel God calling me to serve in Bolivia.

To be continued...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bolivia or Bust

So this is it.

On Tuesday I fly to Bolivia for two weeks. I will be visiting three cities - Santa Cruz (June 19 - 23) Cochabamba (June 23 - 30) and La Paz (June 30 - July 3).

This trip is huge. The main purpose is for me to discern exactly which city I feel God calling me to live in and exactly which ministry I feel God calling me to partner with.

It will be a very busy two weeks but if I get an opportunity to send a blog your way I will be sure to do so. If not - I will post a blog when I get back letting you know how the trip went and hopefully letting you know where I will be living and working for the next few years of my life...

If you are the praying kind, please pray that God will give me clear direction during this trip as to where He wants me to be.

Stay Sweet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

2 years, $15,000 in debt and a God who keeps His promises

Call me a blog nerd but I keep a file on my computer called “Blog Ideas”. It is just ideas that come to me that I want to write about sometime. This post has been in the hopper for awhile now.

It is just a shout out to my amazing God.

Two years ago I was sitting in my room stewing over my $15,000 in credit card/car loan debt. I was talking to God and wishing I could have these debts paid off by the time I was 30. (This coming October by the way) I was also a new Christian and I was wrestling with the whole concept of tithing. I was hearing over and over again that in order to be a fully devoted follower of Christ I needed to have my finances in order, which I SO did not.

I was struggling to give 10% of my income back to God’s kingdom when I really felt like I needed to get out of debt as fast as humanly possible. I mean – not giving the 10% to God would have helped this “get out of debt” process go by much faster. But I know now that while the process could have gone quicker, I would have missed out on countless blessings.

Well, let me just say that two years ago while still in a good amount of debt I started to give God 10% anyway. Just because He is God. Just because He deserves so much more. And just because it is all His anyway. And I honestly cannot express the joy that I have in my heart knowing that within the next month the final portion of the $15,000 debt above will be retired.

I went out on a limb, trusted God with my finances and he has gotten me to the financial place where I wanted to be with five months to spare. He has blessed me so much I can’t even tell you.

It started by getting my car paid off, then I continued to gain more and more momentum and now I am getting ready to retire it all. And you know what? God took care of me through the whole process. Over these past two years I have always had the funds to meet the needs that I had. I have never had so much financial margin in my life.

And I am more content than I have ever been in my entire life. It all started with me being generous with my money. My own generosity broke the power of discontent in my life. And in a culture where every day I am reminded of what I DON’T have, I think contentment is a tremendous blessing, don’t you?

In fact, to my knowledge, the area of tithing is one of the only areas where I can find God asking us to test Him. Check these verses out…

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, “ says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. Malachi 3: 8-10

When was the last time you read Malachi? I know, I can’t remember the last time I read it either. But there is some good stuff there.

Let me tell you from my own experience that God will honor this promise.

Test God on this one. And then watch out for the floodgates.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

“Florida’s Best Kept Secret”

At least that’s what the sign said when we prepared to cross over the bridge to Navarre beach last week.

Well…we had a blast. Even worked it out where we could stay an extra day. We stayed in Navarre but we hit Ft. Walton once and Destin a few times.

It was great to just relax and settle in to a nice little routine:

Wake up around 10 a.m.
Go to the beach
Stop and eat lunch at 2 p.m.
Go back to the beach
Nap/movie time from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Go out, eat dinner and hit a few nightspots from 8 p.m. on

We repeated this cycle for several days in a row. It was very sweet.

Also, I love going to beach because I am always in awe of God’s creation. I mean. I just look out over the water and watch the sunset and it just confirms to me that God is so amazing.

And it was great to rest up for my upcoming Bolivia placement trip. I leave for Bolivia in ten days and I am very excited. I will give you a heads up before I hop on that jet to go south but in the mean time, here are a few photos that I snapped this past week at the beach with my new digital camera…enjoy.


That sign I mentioned earlier

The crew

Apparently they like Nascar also

View from our balcony

Pic I took while strolling along the beach

Our home for a few days

Another view from the balcony

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

R&R

So on Thursday morning I will be heading down to Navarre Beach in Florida for some R&R. I am so ready to get out of town…I got my
SPF 50, all the books I am trying to read before I move to Bolivia and my new digital camera in tow.

I promise to post the obligatory sunset photos when I get back early next week.

I can’t believe it is June already.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Opt In

So you might have noticed the "Join My Email List" box to the right.

I can't help it.

I do marketing all day long.

So naturally I am trying to incorporate as many marketing and communication tools as possible as I launch this whole missionary thing. Thus the website, blog, myspace page, picassa web album and now...an email management tool.

I needed a way to manage email addresses and contacts more effectively so I decided to try out a free trial of this email tool called Constant Contact. I must say. It is pretty cool. And actually pretty inexpensive.

My plan is to send out periodic emails to my list letting everyone know what is going on with me and letting everyone know what I see God up to in this world. I will also be emailing out various prayer requests.

The next big thing in this whole process is my upcoming placement trip to Bolivia in June. My goal on this trip is to determine the exact city in Bolvivia that I will be living in and the exact ministry that I will be partnering with.

So...call this post a plug for my email list. If you did not receive my email blast earlier in May and if you would like to receive periodic updates from me sent directly to your inbox, please feel free to sign up for my email list.

The more the merrier.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Saying Goodbye well

One of the tips that I received at the missions conference I attended in early April was that I need to learn “how to say goodbye well.”
Call it the first of many lessons…

Since I am going to move away from my family and friends for the first time later this year, saying goodbye well is crucial. And since I have never really had to say goodbye before, I have no idea how to do this. But apparently being able to do this well will really help my transition to my new culture in Bolivia.

And with about six months left here in the states this process begins now. I wrote in an earlier post about my transition away from Buckhead Church to Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville. I mentioned in the post that I was bummed that I would not have the opportunity to say goodbye to my second graders at Buckhead who I have worked with this past year.

I was all set to miss my first real opportunity to say goodbye but my leader at Buckhead told me that it would be really great if I could stop by at least one more time before the summer to say goodbye to my kids. Now why didn't I think of that?

I would have totally missed this opportunity if God had not worked through Miss Peggy to suggest that I stop by one more time. I was just going to move on with my life and NOT say goodbye.

Well, today was the last day at church for the kids before the summer break and it turned out that I was able to stop by and say goodbye. And I am so glad that I did.

My bro Jonathan from my men’s small group is also a leader with the kids at church and we combined our groups today so I could show them some pictures from my mission trip and talk to them about me moving to Bolivia and working with kids just like them there. Jonathan also did an amazing job sharing about what I am going to do and sharing how it actually tied in to all the virtues we studied with the kids this past year. He was great. And Jonathan also led the kids in a prayer for me and for the kids in Bolivia that I will be working with. (Thanks man. That was a true blessing.)

And, to my surprise, a few kids knew exactly where Bolivia was. A few kids’ parents had been there on mission trips. And ALL the kids shared my frustration that there is no Chick-fil-A in Bolivia…

I just thank God for giving me the opportunity to say goodbye to these kids that I spent an hour with every Sunday over the last year. He taught me the importance of saying goodbye well today. I pray I don’t miss the next opportunity to say goodbye.

I pray He blesses each of these kids and I pray that they continue to grow closer to Him daily.

Here are a few photos to mark the occasion:

A few kids from my group...



All our kiddos...



And of course we have to do a crazy photo...



“Goodbye Chelsee, Frank, Brooks, Britton, Will, Damon, Grace, Matthew, Miles, Tucker, Brady, Alex and Margaret…I will miss you.”