Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Brooklyn College and WICKED

1 1/2 hours and 27 subway stops was the time it took us to get to our campus today. We traveled from the student housing in Queens to Brooklyn College. I never imagined that it would take that long to get around this city! Although it was a long commute, the rewards of being on campus were great. Like yesterday, I experienced so much diversity. When we arrived on campus, we paired up to do different surveys to help us learn about the campus...what things students care about, what people enjoy being involved in, and why they chose to come to Brooklyn College. Although the surveys are structured to provide practical information to help us do what we call "decoding a campus," almost always the conversation turns to spiritual things. It's so interesting how that happens, and the conversations we've had with people the last two days has been eye-opening.

The first guy we talked to on campus today was named Admar. He is an international student from Croatia, in his last classes before graduating this summer. As a philosophy major, he's a deep thinker and it was awesome to walk with him as he pondered God's love in the midst of an imperfect world. He is agnostic, acknowledging that a "higher being" must exist, but not really desiring to worship or know him. Our hour long conversation didn't bring Admar to faith in Christ, but we walked away encouraged that God had moved in his heart...perhaps bringing him one step closer to trust Christ with his life.

Thank you so much for praying for us, and for our students as we minister on these campuses...please keep praying that God will bring us into divine appointments with people who are searching for spiritual truth about God.

On a much lighter note, I was able to go to the Broadway Musical WICKED on Sunday!! We entered a lottery at Gershwin Theatre and 2 of our students won the right to buy 2 FRONT ROW tickets for only $26.50 each! Each of the students could take a friend, and Sarah asked me to come with her. It was such a great show...if you're ever in the city you should totally see it! Here is a picture of the whole group (minus me) waiting for the lucky winners to be announced:

Here are the 4 girls that went to WICKED:

Monday, June 16, 2008

NYC is fun...and very tiring!

Our New York Experience has been so fun. We've already seen more things, and been more places than I thought we would all summer. Life in the city is fast-paced, and is pretty tiring. We leave in the morning...around 9 and don't get home until 10 most nights! It's hard to get used to. Here are some pictures of the fun we've had:

Here we are eating Gimaldi's pizza in Brooklyn after walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Here is us at the Top of the Rockafeller Center...the view of Central Park was my favorite!

You might be wondering what else we've been doing in addition to all the sight-seeing...well today was the first day of ministry on the college campuses here. Up until this point there has been lots of preparation, and getting students adjusted to life in the city (navigating the subways, building relationships within their team, learning about their campuses, etc) Today my ministry team spent most of our time at Hunter College, where my friend Jon and I were able to talk to 4 students who were soooo different than us. Out of the 4 students we just happened to strike up conversations with, 3 were Jewish. It was awesome...I love the diversity here, and it's awesome to see how the Gospel transcends all those unique differences. It was a great day, and we were able to talk about Jesus alot! I'm excited to tell you more as we're on campus much more frequently for the next 4 straight weeks.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Team Bonding

These past few days have been great. Our staff team arrived on Wednesday, so since then we've spent lots of time getting to know each other in hopes that we'll lead well together this summer. I'm so excited about the fun group of people God has brought together. On Friday evening and all day Saturday, we spent time sight-seeing and also learning about the campuses we'll be ministering on this summer. We also spent 5 hours telling each other about our stories in an exercise we call "Soul to Soul". It was so fun hearing how different we each are, but how we are all here for the same purpose. Here are the FUN staff we'll be spending the summer with--these pictures are from the BBQ festival in Madison Square Park!: From left to right: Eden-- on staff at University of Tennessee, Erik--on staff at Syracuse University and Jonathan--on staff in Albany, NY

Above are Hobie and Hannah Wood, who are on staff at Appalachian State University. We also spent last summer with this WONDERFUL couple, and are sharing our apartment in Queens this summer with them.

The students arrive this Tuesday! I'm so thankful for this past week--I've been able to get used to the fast-paced city life, and get to know our staff team before welcoming our students. Please pray that the students would have a safe, relatively easy transition here to NYC and getting used to the culture shock that can happen. Thanks for praying!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

We finally have a place to live!

As of yesterday, we finally moved into our home for the summer...a cozy little apartment in Queens. We're sharing the 2 bedroom apt with our friends Hobie and Hannah Wood, who are also doing ministry with us this summer. The housing we found for students this summer doesn't have accommodation for couples or families, so each had to sublease various different apartments in the city. Our apartment was particularly hard to find for some reason, and we actually took the train up to NYC not knowing where we would spend the next night...it's been quite the faith stretching experience! Here are some pictures of our apartment--that kitchen picture was after extensive cleaning by Hannah and myself...It's a bachelor pad, so as you could imagine, it wasn't as clean as we would have hoped (no offense guys). Along those lines, the guy we're subleasing from was in a hurry leaving for Chicago that day, so he left lots of random things out that we had to clean up--dirty dishes in the sink (with no dishwasher other than us), dirty towels hanging in the bathroom, and--as shown in the picture-- shoes on the floor! After getting our apartment ready for someone to live in it while we were gone, this was definitely a surprise...but, needless to say cleaning up a little bit didn't kill us, so we'll be ok.

One thing that's been pretty fun lately is getting used to the subway system. I imagined that it would be tough to learn, but I had no idea there were so many routes and lines to navigate. It's like a big puzzle for me. Well one really fun subway memory was made tonight. Reece and I were coming home from the Campus Crusade office, and were bringing a rolling shelf with us back to our apartment (because we have basically no drawers or closet space in our room). We walked from the office to Grand Central Station and had to roll the shelves to take the train. Well it was late, and we were tired so we started doing acrobatics in the middle of Grand Central Station using our shelves...here are some pictures:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Our first day in the city!

We were so glad to finally be in New York City today. After 13 hours sitting on a train yesterday, we both were happy to be out walking around....and boy did we walk A LOT today! Reece had a pedometer in his pocket throughout the day, and it reads that we walked 15991 steps (6.7 miles) today. Whew! It makes me thankful to be sitting down again :)

Our apartment is not available until Wednesday so we've been staying in a hotel in Queens. We had meetings this morning in Manhattan, so we had our first subway ride of the summer this morning. We waited for 20 minutes for it to arrive which we didn't expect...thank goodness we learned yesterday to be early!!

After our meeting, all of the directors went up to the Bronx to the Bronx Zoo! It was really fun, and amazing to see all the animals. We saw some pretty strange things as well. A gorilla threw up in his hands twice and proceeded to eat his own throw up both times. I know I'm probably weird, but that was my favorite part.

After the zoo, Reece and I went to Bryant Park in Manhattan to have a little date for our 1 1/2 year anniversary! We got sandwiches and brought them to a little table in the park....so cute. From the park you can see the Empire State Building on one side, the Chrysler Building to another side, and lots of pretty grass which is an endangered species here. It was very nice...oh, and we were able to sit again. I liked that.

Here is Reece with the sandwich shop in the background...it was named 'Wich Craft. I definitely recommend it. We're excited for another day tomorrow!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Planes, Trains and Automobiles…

“Love, we’re gonna be late, its quarter till 3!” Yeah, that would be am. I never thought that getting up at 2:45AM would make me late for anything.

So yeah we woke up late to catch our train to New York City for summer project. We hurried up and to leave by a little after 3 or so. As we walked in to the Amtrak station in Greensboro, the ultra-calm ticket agent said to us that we should have been there long ago if we were going to check our bags…thanks a lot. Stephanie and I ran to get our luggage, not fully aware of how close we were to scheduled departure, causing a commotion that we wish was captured on film. Seriously, it probably looked like something from a movie.

As we started running from our car I was dragging 2 large rolling suitcases, a backpack, a duffle bag, 2 squishy pillows, a back roll, and a bottle of aloe vera (we got a little too much sun at the lake yesterday) and Love with a large rolling suitcase, backpack, 2 Nalgenes, a blanket, and food for the trip. At this moment, I thought, “I survived a much worse fiasco getting on a train in China than this, we’ll be alright and we’ll make it on the train; they won’t leave.” The next moment everything was falling; the pillows, the duffle bag that I had on top of the rolling suitcase, the aloe vera; everything. Stephanie bursts in to tears over how pathetic the situation is and over how tired she is. Seriously, at this moment I’m thinking that this is just like a TV show or a movie and then I remembered that they always make the train, plane or whatever on TV and the movies; we’ll be alright, they won’t leave us.

A few steps later and I’m on the sidewalk, I have dropped the red squishy pillow and run over it with one of the suitcases. It’s a casualty at this point, I’m not going back to get it. The ticket agent helps us to get on to an escalator to get up to the train. As soon as we get off the escalator and step on the platform, the train blows its whistle and begins rolling. The porter on the side of the train shook her head and said that it was too late.

The stages of mourning presented themselves quickly. Immediate disbelief, following quickly by rage, made me want to hurl my Nalgene bottle as hard as I could at the wall. Then followed a long period of strategy. I turned to the ticket agent to ask where the next stop was and if we could drive there and beat the train. He said we couldn’t make it and told us the next train to NYC left at 9:21. It was 4am.

Back downstairs in the ticket office, we found out that we would have to pay $180 extra to take that 9:21 train on top of the $160 that the tickets to NYC already cost us. After my awesome wife called Amtrak “customer service” (she said she would be more determined than me and not back down) without really getting much service, we decided to try to see if we could get a cheap flight. Going to the airport ticket counter was the wrong thing to do because the agent at the Greensboro airport noted that we were walking up to the ticket count to buy tickets, apparently that’s the most expensive way, and then told us tickets would be $900…per person!

Then we called Mrs. Love (sorry we kept you up!) and she looked on discount airline sites and bus sites for alternatives while we drove to Panera to use their internet connection to do the same.

After seeing nothing for less than $400, the next mourning phase set in, acceptance followed by delirium (due to the lack of sleep). We drove back toward the train station to check in wait for the 9:21 train. The same ticket agent was there, bless his heart. He checked our bags in for us, 3 hours early and then wisely asked if we were going to hang around there or if we were going to go anywhere and then told us what time we should be there to not miss the train. The following events including quite an excursion in downtown Greensboro will come in a later blog post.

We have made it to New York now though and are chillin at the La Quinta (Queens).