Monday, November 22, 2010

Final Thoughts #2

Since arriving back in the States two weeks ago, I have done a lot of processing on my own, as well as through conversations with my brothers, and I am really sensing that the flame in my heart for L.A. and my community here has been reignited. For those of you who don't know, I happened upon an overseas position with OMF while I was in Taiwan. I inquired about the position and was seriously considering committing myself to a year; however, after learning more about all that goes into applying for the position and how far in advance I would have to make a commitment, I spent time checking my heart on the matter. I don't believe that there is a right or wrong in my decision to stay or go, but the more I am here and with my community, the more I believe that settling in here for a while is best. By "settling in," I mean that I want to move in a direction of finding a job, learning out to support myself better financially, learning my trade better (preferably whilst making money at the same time), and focusing on my community. I am always down for traveling here and there, but I'm reaching a place where I'm tired of putting off what I want to do here in L.A. I have never been so excited to work and better myself. That's a pretty good sign as far as I'm concerned.

While I am feeling the desire and the call to stay in L.A, I believe that the trip to Asia was extremely beneficial in that I made some great friends and got to broaden my perspective on our world, and life in general. I know that the contacts I made with OMF will come back around. I am still considering doing short-term video work for them here and there if there is opportunity for it, but I just have no desire to commit right now to something that wouldn't begin until almost a year from now, especially if I'm not even sure the job is something I'd actually want to do. I hope and pray that I will return to Taiwan and Hong Kong one day though. I'm very thankful to the Lord for allowing me to go on that journey, and for bringing me back safely. I am also extremely thankful for the friends, work, and ministry opportunities that He's given me here in the City of Angels (love this city by the way).

Alright, well, that's all the updates I have regarding my journey to Asia. Thank you all for reading. I hope you weren't too bored. As far as future blogging goes, I'm not going to promise anything. I tend to back off of blogging when I'm not traveling. My hope is that I will begin to write more often. We'll see...



Saturday, November 13, 2010

Final Thoughts #1

Doing missions overseas is no cake walk.

This is a concept of which I knew but had not seen. After spending a month in Asia visiting various missionaries, however, it became a reality. First let me say that I am not about to try to talk you out of missions (if you happen to be considering); rather, my hope is that you are more inspired to go into the field. I believe it is a common misconception amongst young Christians that to go overseas and do the Lord's work will be this awesome, romantic adventure where hundreds of people are saved day in and day out, and every day is "payday" as you get to see the results of the work the Lord is doing through you. Though I had heard that missions was not easy at all, I still maintained this romanticized view of it.

While in Asia, I met some amazing people -- some who had been around for 15+ years, and others who were just starting out in missions -- and none of them carried this mentality (especially the 15+ years people). In fact, some of them seemed pretty tired. They have seen and experienced a lot -- good and bad. They are on the front lines of the on-going spiritual battle that most of us in the American church tend to forget about with our comfortable lives. Some of these people have experienced (more than once) horrible illnesses, and others have lost loved ones. When I heard some of their stories, my first thought was, "Okay. Take note: Do not work in long term missions." My romantic view of seeing the world and doing Kingdom work broke down. "There is nothing fun about this," I thought to myself. However, as we spent more time with our new friends, and joined some of them in their work, I began to see how much joy and strength they had inside of them. Despite how tired they looked on the outside, you could sense the fire that raged inside of their hearts for the people to whom they were ministering. It was encouraging to see the missionaries who had been in Taiwan for over 15 years still pushing onward with such joy despite the difficulties. I was seeing all the encouragements of Paul on the subject of hardships being walked out.

Despite the point I'm trying to make with the subject of this entry, I want you to know that no matter how hard life gets whether your in missions or not, we have joy and strength and endurance in the Lord. Doing missions is most definitely a great adventure. I don't want you to think I am saying it's never enjoyable, and there is no fun involved whatsoever. But I share all of this because if you are considering going into long-term missions, please check your heart and your mind on the matter, and make sure you are doing it with the knowledge that the road ahead is quite bumpy. Sure, these missionaries are tired a lot of times, but they love what they do and their ability to move forward every day comes from the Lord. They live very raw, stripped down lives where they don't have the comforts of the "American Dream" to distract them from the fact that Jesus is our only hope in this life. As my wonderful brother, and pastor, David said last night, there is nothing evil necessarily about the American Dream, but when it becomes the bulls-eye of our life then we truly miss what Christ is calling us towards.

I am in a season of life where I'm processing through and considering whether or not to focus on media in missions. So all of these thoughts are at the forefront of my mind. My hope is that this entry helped to break down any misconceptions about working in missions, and that it was more encouraging than discouraging. Please feel free to comment, or ask questions and I can go into more detail on my thoughts. I feel that this entry was a bit scatter-brained, but then again I always feel that way about my posts because I feel that I am pretty scatter-brained on a daily basis. As I continue to process things from my trip, I will post more "Final Thoughts."



Saturday, November 6, 2010

Taiwan Update 3

My only excuse for not updating this blog in a more frequent manner is that internet has not been as easily accessible recently. To follow up on the previous post, our hike in Kaohsiung with David Ullstrom and the students was very enjoyable. Only two students and an English teacher showed so we had a small group, which was nice. We attended David's church that Sunday. The service was in Taiwanese and Mandarin, but Kenny translated for us. They had a guest speaker who was visiting with his family from China. He shared about the medical work he's been doing for AIDS patients in China. People with AIDS there are outcasts. They receive no love and acceptance from anyone, so it is great that this man and his family are working to fix that. What a great ministry. We wrapped up our time in Kaohsiung by hanging out with Sara and her sisters. They live in an apartment building with all the teachers and their families, and they threw a "Fall Festival" for the kids, so we helped pass out candy and play games.

Monday night was our last night in Tainan, so we went out for a hot pot dinner with our friends Li, Louis and Joan. Louis let me drive him there on his scooter, which is technically illegal since I don't have a license here, but he said the cops wouldn't really care in Tainan. I almost hit a parked car within the first 2 minutes, but after that I got the hang of it. Scooters are great! Elijah drove it back and about got in a wreck. Poor Louis almost died multiple times. Aside from that, we had a blast. Tuesday, we took the train north to Chai Yi where we stayed with an OMF affiliated youth mission. They needed a few Westerners to pass out flyers to the students who pass by on their way to the cram schools where they learn English (with normal school and cram school, students spend somewhere around 10 hours every day in school -- insane!). We didn't have to pass out flyers until 5pm so we had the entire day to do whatever we pleased. We rented scooters for 100NT (roughly $3 US), and drove them out into the countryside. It was the most fun I've had on the entire trip. I enjoyed every minute of it. Eventually we passed out flyers, and did our best to make it fun. I played guitar out in the street to attract attention while Kenny and Elijah kept score of who gave out the most. Elijah had the most success since he's white, blonde, and blue-eyed. We ate dinner with the head of the mission, Sean, who just happened to be from Columbus, OH. Elijah started to feel sick again so he went to bed early, and Kenny and I passed out more flyers after the kids got out of the cram school.

Now, we are in Taipei. Elijah and I are staying with the parents of Kenny's friend, Henry; and Kenny is staying with his father. Taipei has been a blast. We've had great food and met some really cool people who work with OMF here. We had a nice home-cooked dinner with Kenny's father's family. Henry and his parents have also been taking great care of us with food, and whatever else we need. They took us to a nice hot pot all-you-can-eat buffet, and we ate enough to hold us over for a couple days. I didn't feel too bad though because we went right after a 4-hour hike in Yangmingshan National Park. A couple days ago we visited the National Palace Museum which was okay, but definitely not as interesting to me as the Hong Kong Museum of History. That evening we joined up with our new OMF friends (Tim, Jennie, Miriam, Feli and Erene) and went to the Shilin Market, the largest night market in the world, and ate a ton of food that was not healthy for us at all. I felt sick.

Today we had lunch with Kenny's uncle, aunt and cousin. I had a really good time talking with them. They shared a lot about Christianity in Taiwan and China, and the work that ministries like OMF and ORTV (Overseas Radio and Television) are doing to reach people through ministry and English teaching. We spent the afternoon helping out with the Kids Club that Tim, Jennie, etc. run at a park. We ended up playing Four Square the entire time. I had a blast. The kids were hilarious. After that, we went to "snake alley" with Tim and Miriam. We went to a restaurant that served snake meat. They had massive pythons in cages at the front of the restaurant. Elijah and I shared a plate of snake meat. It was actually pretty good. Kenny and Miriam did the really weird stuff. They bought a variety of drinks that included snake blood, snake venom, snake semen (dead serious), snake gall bladder, and a couple others -- disgusting. We capped off the night with a trip to a comedy club. They had like six different comedians perform, and only two or three of them were actually decent. I don't think it was worth the price of admission but I had a good time with everybody.

Tonight was a our last night with Kenny because he is going to Taichung to visit his other uncle's church, and we are staying to go to the ORTV church and check out the ministry. I'm hoping I can make some good connections with that ministry. Anyway, it's so late here, and I'm quite tired. I just had to update while I had internet for an extended period.

I can't believe this trip is almost over. Sad day. Pray that the Lord will grant us wisdom and guide us as we go back to the States. I'll eventually write a post that explains more about what the Lord's been doing with me on this trip. But for now, goodnight.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Taiwan Update 2

My opinion on Taiwan has yet to waver, as we are fully enjoying our time here still. This country and it's people are absolutely beautiful. I like just walking around the NCKU campus by where we're staying and just soaking it up -- the students heading to and from classes, and others packing out the recreational areas; the beautiful architecture and landscaping; the countless rows of scooters and motorcycles parked in the lots. We hardly ever eat at the same place twice because there are so many great options, especially in Tainan City. Our friends Li, Louis, Joan and Grace all make sure we get the best of the best. We've also had a few amazing meals at Kenny's grandmothers' apartment. You have to love a good home-cooked meal.

On Sunday, we attended the service at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (where we are staying). It was all in mandarin, and we didn't really have a translator until the end. The best moment of the service was at the very end of one of the hymns when, in the second of complete silence after the final note rang out, an old woman behind us released a very loud burp. The timing was amazing! Elijah and I did our best to suppress our laughter -- it wasn't easy. After the service, we joined in on the community potluck. We met a girl named Rae (not sure about he spelling), who was of Asian ethnicity but was from Oregon. She is teaching English in a nearby town, and attends Good Shepherd regularly. I found out she went to Wheaton College, and we had an immediate connection since Chaz and another friend of mine, Justin, went there. She knew who both of them were though she didn't know them. We enjoyed talking about our Christian college experiences.

Anyawy, we are currently in Kaohsiung, which is a little further south than Tainan City. We are staying with an OMF missionary couple, David and Ruth Ullstrom. They have been great hosts. We're so thankful for them. Most of our time in Kaohsiung is being spent observing the ministry that's being done within the OMF community here. We've attended a prayer meeting each morning at the Ullstroms' church, as well as two other bible studies connected with another church in the area. I met a girl named Ansy at the first bible study (she also attended the second one), who was from Cardiff, Wales. We got to talking after I mentioned that I worked in media and was seeking the Lord's guidance on whether to focus on media missions this next year or stay in L.A. She mentioned that she did some video work herself, and that she knew of a media job opening within OMF. They've apparently been looking to fill it for a while now, and so, of course, I immediately emailed the contact she gave me to find out more. I've already exchanged a couple emails with OMF and it's only been two days. It seems like an awesome opportunity for me, but I don't want to get into the details of it right now. Please just pray that the Lord would give me wisdom as I weigh all my options. I'll be meeting with OMF when I get back to L.A.

While I'm in Kaohsiung, I am also visiting a good college friend of mine, Sara Hatcher. It's so great to see her. She is in her third year of teaching at Morrison Academy (a great school by the way), and working with His Hands orphanage. She cooked me and the guys dinner last night, and then took us to His Hands. We sat around for over an hour, and held/played with babies. That was one of my favorite experiences on the trip so far. I am looking forward to visiting with Sara more this weekend. Always good to catch up with old college pals.

Tomorrow, we are helping the Ullstroms' church take a group of university students on a hike in the hills. I'm not sure of all the details, but I know we'll be doing some ministry with them, and after the hike, everyone will have dinner back at the church. The guys and I are looking forward to it. We've all been craving more ministry opportunities.


Wisdom and guidance for all three of us: Kenny and I are both seeking the Lord on whether or not to seek out long-term jobs with salaries and do ministry on the side, or to commit to full-time ministry for at least the next year (we have opportunities for both); and Elijah has to get his schedule of classes together as he prepares to return to Shelton State in January to study Civil Engineering.

More OMF workers in Kaohsiung: David has been sharing a lot about the work that OMF is doing in Taiwan, and has mentioned more than once the need for more missionaries in the south. They are lacking in strength in comparison to the north.

Thanks, Everybody!



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Taiwan Update 1

Okay, so there's a lot to cover since my last update, but I'm going to do my best to keep it as succinct as possible.

Elijah and I wrapped up our last few days in Hong Kong with a trip to Lamma Island, a couple trips to Mong Kok, a random trip way out to the middle of nowhere, and then we attended another service at The Vine. Lamma Island was one of my favorite moments of our time in Hong Kong. We took the ferry out to it, and then spent a few hours just walking around and taking photos. It was nice to be somewhere away from the masses. It was a lot of walking and my feet and knees were killing me but it was very peaceful. I was also glad we got to attend The Vine one more time. We sat with our new English friends, James and Alexa. I hope to visit them again someday. They are wonderful people.

Flash forward -- We are now in Taiwan. We are based in Tainan City, which is in the southern part of the island. Kenny is staying with his grandmother, and Elijah and I are staying in a mens dormitory owned by the aforementioned grandmother's church. The living conditions are not quite as nice as they were in Hong Kong, but the cost of living is much cheaper here and, so far, I've really enjoyed the people. The weather is pretty rough due to typhoons. It's actually kind of nice to have rain for once. Living in L.A, I don't really miss the humidity, but every now and then I kind of miss the rain. In Taiwan, they have a long period of typhoons, but once they're done, they have 2-3 months of no rain which is kind of nice. I wish I could combine that weather schedule with the dry heat of L.A.

We've had the opportunity meet quite a few wonderful people. Elijah and I have gotten to know two of the guys in the dorm well -- Li and Louis. Li has kind of become our point man for living here since we are not staying with Kenny. He has done a great job of showing us around, and we eat breakfast with him every morning. He's a funny guy. He's getting better, but he's been quite nervous around us as he speaks in English. Today, Louis took us to lunch, and then showed us around their campus. Their school is called National Cheng Kung University. It's quite nice.

The most fun I've had so far since being in Taiwan was over the last couple days. Kenny's friend Joan and a couple of her friends took us up to Taichung, which is in between Taipei and Tainan along the west coast of the island. We stayed at Joan's alma mater, Tunghai Univeristy. The night we got there, we walked around the night markets and ate new, interesting foods, and then drove to a lookout point to look at the skyline of Taichung. The next day (yesterday), we drove 2 hours into the mountains to a hot springs resort. I forget the name, but it was really nice (only cost 7 or 8 USD!). Kenny, Elijah and I all bought speedos because people don't wear board shorts to the springs. I never thought I would ever wear a speedo, let alone buy one, but I did. If you haven't seen the pictures on my Facebook page yet, check them out. You should get a good laugh. I know we did. After a few hours at the hot springs, we drove out to a flower farm. Our time there didn't last long because it began to rain, but it was nice nonetheless. We took Kenny to the high speed rail station in Taichung after that because he's spending the weekend in Taipei, and then the rest of us drove back to Tainan.

That's all for now. I'll post more of my thoughts later. To sum Taiwan up so far though, it's a great place -- great people, great food, great prices, great sites, etc. We'll see if that assessment stands after my time here is done ;)

Until next time!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Hong Kong Update 3 -- some random thoughts, etc.

This update is going to be a bit helter-skelter as I don't feel like typing up a long, well-composed post.

A couple things that I have noticed about Hong Kong:

1. The people here are as plugged in, if not more than the States. Everywhere I go, most everybody is talking, playing, emailing, etc. on their phone, iPod, iPad, etc.; and I've seen a lot of people with their headphones in. Being from the U.S. -- specifically L.A. -- this sort of thing is not uncommon, but I feel as if it's just more common here.

2. Another thing that is common in the States is print advertisement; and in L.A., most of our ads are film, tv, fashion, etc. Here, in Hong Kong, I have been bombarded by fashion ads -- posters, massive billboards, small billboards, electronic marquees, massive LCD screens, TV, magazines, and the list goes on. As a result, most people here dress pretty fashionable.

3. Everyone smokes.

(I think the first three points could be summed up by saying that Hong Kong is a more intense version of Los Angeles)

4. Also, you don't drive a car here unless you're wealthy and can afford a BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Bentley, Ferrari, Porshe, etc.


Two days left in Hong Kong. Kenny is already in Taiwan. Elijah and I head there to meet up with him on Monday. Hong Kong has been fun, but I'm ready for some Taiwan. Not to mention, money's getting tight, and it's hard to have fun in Hong Kong when you don't have much money to spend.

I think I could live and work here...maybe not. I don't know. Hong Kong is cool and now I have contacts. We shall see. We still have a lot of trip to go, and a lot of people to meet.

Song of the trip so far for me (can't get it out of my head) -- "Forever Reign" off the latest Hillsong Live album.

Until next time!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hong Kong Update 2

Oh, Humidity, how it's been a while. Call me spoiled, but I miss air conditioning. We have fans in our flat but I'm still hot and sweaty from just sitting around at night. It's been relatively cool since I've been here due to cloudy skies and some rain. Today was our first day of sun, which is great, but it meant no more cool.

Yesterday (Monday), Kenny and I went out to lunch with MSI (the organization that is housing us), and then we visited their office. We spent a good amount of time with one of their directors, Ian Chng. He explained in more detail what they do, and talked with us about future missions/work opportunities with them. He also laid some wisdom on us in regards to waiting on the Lord and not running too far ahead when it comes to missions. It gave me some good stuff to chew on as I decide whether or not to commit to traveling and producing videos for missions for a year, or planting myself somewhere and making money for a year. After MSI, we hung out at one of the many shopping centers in Hong Kong, saw a movie in Mandarin (had English subtitles for me which was nice), and had dinner with an old coworker of Kenny's.

Yesterday was the first day that Kenny and I were intentional about sitting down and praying at the beginning of our day, and it's awesome to see the Lord move in response. We asked for guidance and for open doors to future missions opportunities, and I believe we received via our time with Ian at MSI. It could be a year or more before our meeting with him will bear visible fruit, but the door was opened. If nothing else, we definitely acquired wisdom from our brother.

Today, since the sun finally came out, we took a cheap bus ride to Sai Gong, which is on the east side of Hong Kong. It's on the water, and there are a lot of seafood restaurants because there's a lot of fishing there. All the restaurants had big tanks with live fish, crabs, lobsters, etc. out front. It was cool to see all that sea life. We walked around some and then just sat outside McDonald's and read until Kenny's friend, Andrew, joined us. I read for a little while, but decided to turn to people watching instead, which turned out to be more entertaining. There were a lot of internationals (Brits, Americans, etc.) there, which I concluded was a result of there being a nice school in the area. We eventually walked around some more, ate dinner, and then made our way back to the flat.

Please pray for more appointments like the one with Ian and MSI for us. Also, Elijah joins us tomorrow. Pray for safe travels for him.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hong Kong Update 1

First off, Hong Kong is a crazy city. It's packed full of people, and all the buildings are tall. I don't think the city ever really dies down. There's so much to take in; I'm having trouble processing it all.

Kenny and I are the only ones here so far. Elijah will join us on Wednesday because he and I missed our flights (silly mistake on both our parts). I changed my flight before he did so it was cheaper for me to come a couple days later whereas he had to wait a week for it to be cheap. Anyway, we were totally blessed right off the bat to have a place to stay provided for us. We are staying on the Kowloon Peninsula in a flat provided by an organization called MSI (not sure what it stands for yet). It's a pretty nice location. We haven't really gotten a good chance to explore our area yet though. We're going to do that tomorrow. We have been using the MTR (subway system) a lot which is okay because it's cheaper to travel by train than by taxi or bus.

We've been hanging out with a few of Kenny's friends who came to visit just for the weekend -- Andy (from Thailand), Ray and Eva (from Taiwan)-- and another friend of his, Andrew, who is here studying for a while. We also met up with a guy named Sam who does ministry with his family here (thank you, Drew Crofton, for connecting us with him). I've had a blast hanging out with everybody but it's been tiring at the same time. We've done a lot of walking around in various areas -- Mong Kok, Lan Kwai Fung, Wan Chai, Tsim Sha Tsui, etc. (for those of you who know Hong Kong). Mong Kok is the most densely populated area in the world apparently. Lan Kwai Fung and Wan Chai have a lot of cool bars, and I saw a lot of internationals (Brits, Americas, etc.) hanging out there.

My favorite part so far was going to church today at The Vine located in Central on Hong Kong Island (again, thank you Drew Crofton, for the recommendation). The Vine is a cool English-speaking church, and is led by a couple British pastors. The worship was wonderful and refreshing. One of the senior pastors, John Snelgrove, spoke out of 2 John on Truth, which was a solid teaching that Kenny and I both fully enjoyed. After service, we made friends with a young couple -- James and Alexa -- that had recently moved to Hong Kong from London for work. They gave us their contact info, and we will probably meet up with them later this week. We also made friends with a couple women who had been sitting next to us during the service. They gave us some information on things to do and see, and then we all took the ferry back across to the Kowloon side together. I snapped some cool pictures of the city skyline along the way. I'll post a few of those to the group page, but the rest are in my Great Asian Adventure album on my profile.

That's all I have for right now. I'm quite tired as I am still getting over jet lag. Until next time, be blessed!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Nat Geo Expedition in Puerto Rico - 3/25/10

I woke up around 5am because I wanted to watch the sunrise. CK and Mike were up, but they both went to bed shortly after I arrived on deck. Eric joined me once Mike crashed. We watched the sunrise and took tons of pictures. It was absolutely stunning. I had seen plenty of sunsets on this trip but had not seen a sunrise. I loved it.

We spent the entire morning sailing back to Fajardo. I started reading my Bill Butler-signed book (I haven't finished it yet but it's quite fascinating). Around 1pm, we anchored in a reef off a small island about an hour from Fajardo, near the northeast point of Puerto Rico. It's a hot spot for snorkeling. CK wanted to show us a good time after all our work since we had gotten back so early. It was my first time snorkeling, and it was so much fun. I didn't see anything too crazy like a barracuda (apparently they are everywhere down there) or a manta ray or a shark, but I saw tons of beautiful fish. We grilled and ate some hot dogs while we dried out, and then took off for the marina around 3pm. On the way, we found calmer water, and Mike and I got in the dinghy so I could get a couple boat-t0-boat shots of CK and Eric sailing by us. Despite the calmer waters, the dinghy still rocked much easier than the sailboat, and it was hard to film but I think I got what we needed.

We arrived at the fuel dock around 4:10pm, filled up, and then docked Eugenie in her slip by 5pm. We took showers, which felt great, and then met up with CK and Bruny at a liquor store/bar. We had a couple beers and met a guy named Brad, who was my age and originally from Atlanta, Georgia. He's a dive master, and moved to Puerto Rico 5 years ago to teach scuba diving. He was getting ready to head back to the States to finish school though. After drinks, we all (including Bruny and Brad) went back to the boat. We cooked a nice steak dinner, had port and beer, and conversed until 11pm. Then we said goodnight, and Eric, Mike, and I conked out for what would be our last night on Eugenie, and my last night in Puerto Rico.

Nat Geo Expedition in Puerto Rico - 3/24/10

We spent the day just drifting within 30 miles of our drop point for Cam #2. I got a good bit of reading done, and actually finished my book, The Wastelands (Book 3 of 7 in the The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King). I was proud of myself considering I can be awful about finishing books. I also spent time listening to the ipod and chatting with the guys. Around 3 or 4pm, the guys got a second fix on the camera which confirmed that it had surfaced. We were surprised because we didn't expect it to surface until 1 or 2am the next morning. So, we set out for it, and picked it up just as the sun went down. It was pretty cool to get to pick this one up in the dark. You could see the bright strobes flashing in the swells every 5 seconds. I filmed the retrieval as well as I could in the dark. This pickup, like the drop, went much smoother. As soon as the camera was onboard, we popped open a bottle of wine, and set sail for Fajardo. CK and I rustled up some dinner. He prepped the burger meat which included mixing in chopped onions, montreal steak seasoning, pepper, salt, and mustard. I grilled them as such, and baked a couple batches of potato wedges. We were all quite satisfied.

I took an early watch with CK. Around 1am we saw some strange lights in the distance. It looked different than normal ship lighting we had seen so far, and we saw a helicopter lights flying circles around the other lights. CK thought it was maybe Coast Guard. I went down to monitor the radio, and a call came through in a French accent that said something along the lines of: "Sailing vessel at 19 degrees North (listed off our coordinates), this is French warship...," and I forget what else, but they basically wanted to communicate and see what we were up to. I thought to myself: "What in the world?! French warship!?" CK climbed down into the galley, and I looked at him and, in a shocked voice, said, "It's the French." He looked as puzzled as I did I'm sure. He picked up the radio and said, "This is the captain of National Geographic Research vessel, Eugenie I. What are your intentions? Over." Yes, CK loved the name drop. I missed the rest of the conversation because he sent me topside to keep an eye on things, but the name drop definitely worked. Apparently, he asked them if they read the magazine, and they said they did and that it was a great magazine. Then he said, "So do you want to cross starboard or port?" The French went on their marry way after that. CK joined me topside and said that it was the first time he ever felt any respect from a Frenchman. Feeling good about himself, he went to bed. Around 2am, not long after CK crashed, I had Mike take over for me. Crazy night.

Nat Geo Expedition in Puerto Rico - 3/23/10

We sailed out of the harbor around 2:30am. Eric and Mike slept while CK and I stayed on deck. Mike joined me on watch about 40 minutes after CK had passed out, and then I crashed shortly after. I got a few hours of sleep before I was back on deck. We spent most of the day just hanging out on deck reading books, talking, snacking, etc. We reached our drop spot around 3pm, and dropped at 3:51pm. This drop went much smoother than the first. We attached the ship chain to the base as well as some sardines in hopes that we could attract some cool species of fish to come eat them, and get it on camera.

From there, we got a sat fix on Drop Cam #1, and we set sail for it. We retrieved it at 5:45pm. Eric and Mike had to go out in the dinghy and grab it in the midst of 5 ft swells (some maybe bigger). The mission was successful so far. The rest of the night, we ate hot dogs and chilled on deck. I went on watch around 8:30pm while the others watched Sukiyaki Western Djiango, which I had already seen. I sat on deck in my rain gear braving the wind and occasional splash while listening to worship music until about 1am. At that point, Eric took over, and I went to bed in the aft cabin. I had the best night of rest while sailing yet. It was a little cooler in that cabin, which helped tremendously.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nat Geo Expedition in Puerto Rico - 3/22/10

I woke up feeling pretty rested. CK was already off running errands, finding new weights. Eric and Mike slept a little longer. Once they woke up, CK returned with some old iron ship chain from a ship junkyard -- perfect weights for the drop -- and then he ran off again. Eric, Mike and I went looking for coffee. Sizzler wasn't opened yet so we went to a little shop called Captain Mike's where CK was hanging out, and we got our coffee.

After we filled up, Mike went off to get some more ship chain. CK introduced Eric and me to a guy he had been telling us about. His name was Bill Butler, and back in 1989, he and his wife were shipwrecked in the Pacific. They spent 66 nights on the ocean in a 6-foot life raft. He wrote a book about it called Our Last Chance. We talked to him for a bit, and then both Eric and I bought a copy of Bill's book, and he signed them for us. I could've spent a few hours with this guy. You just know he's full of stories and wisdom. However, we had to keep going about our day.

Eric and I went to Sizzler once it opened, had coffee, and checked on the shipping status of the parts. Then we checked on our dinghy, which had deflated over night for some reason. We figured out the source of the leak, and then informed CK so he could pick up some patching for it. Mike returned with more ship chain, and then we all went back to Sizzler for lunch. Afterwards, Eric, Mike and I went shopping for extra groceries and medicine. I called Mom while we were out to let her know all was well. When we got back, we moved Eugenie to a new dock because we were in the fueling slip. Then we spent the afternoon cleaning her, fixing the dinghy, tidying up our storage, and waiting on our parts.

The parts came around 6pm. Bruny came to see CK and steal him for a bit because their anniversary had been the previous day, and they had both forgotten about it (hilarious!). Eric and I cooked up a nice Italian meal -- pasta with chicken. After dinner, Eric and Mike built Cam #2, and then we all crashed.

Nat Geo Expedition in Puerto Rico - 3/21/10

I awoke to find my face caked in sweat and whatever oils were left from sunscreen -- yuck! I freshened up and had some breakfast -- poptart, banana, and diet coke (too hard to make coffee). I went topside, and everyone else fell asleep because they had been up real late. ERic joined me shortly after though. The conditions were a little rougher. The wind had picked up and the swells were probably 4-5 feet. I handled it okay for most of the day though. We pretty much just sailed all morning, and reached the drop spot around 11:30am. Eric, Mike, and I were all feeling slightly seasick. Mike especially because he spent a lot of time in the galley putting the exteriors on Cam #1. Eric was probably not as bad as Mike or me. It's really hard to find motivation to work when you have motion sickness, but I pushed through.

The first attempt to throw the cement buckets in the water failed epically. One of them broke off and sunk to Davy Jones' Locker. Fortunately, we still had bags of sand that Eric and I had filled on our prep day. So, after struggling to get the reflectors on and throwing up my breakfast, we finally tossed Cam #1 overboard. It was very stressful in the midst of the wind and swells but we got it off and I captured it, so in that sense, it was a success.

From there, we set sail for San Juan to get our part for Cam #2, and refill fuel and water tanks. The ride back was intense -- into the wind, 5-6 foot swells, and salty water splashing over us every 30 seconds. I set myself up in a nice reclined position, and dozed off most of the afternoon. We had sandwiches for dinner because it was too difficult to make anything else. They tasted great though, and I kept them down.

We arrived in San Juan around 2am. CK and I were the only ones awake at that point. We docked right next to a beautiful boat named the "Blue Guitar," which just so happened to be Eric Clapton's boat. Unfortunately, there were no sightings of Mr. Clapton himself. I assume he was in the city. Shortly after CK and I laid down to sleep on deck, we got kicked out of our spot by the La Rumba party boat. Apparently we were in their spot. So, we found a new spot and finally crashed.

Nat Geo Expedition in Puerto Rico - 3/20/10

We had an even earlier start (5:30am) this day. We grabbed coffee at Starbucks, and set out for the marina (we were staying San Juan, and it's an hour and a half drive to Fajardo). We spent most of the morning and early afternoon doing last minute prep work, which included making new weights for the drop cam. We bought two 50-lb Quickcrete buckets, mixed them up with some rocks and water, and loaded them on the boat.

The drop cam needs 50+ pounds to sink it to the bottom. The weight is attached by multiple magnesium links that dissolve after around 30 hours, and then the camera floats back to the surface. Once it reaches the surface, we get a satellite fix on it and pick it up.

Once we finally got everything loaded, we took a shot of the best rum I've had, Don Barrilito Rum, and set sail. Sunset on the ocean is absolutely stunning. It was a beautiful evening of sailing. We had dinner after dark-- pork chops with sauteed onions and peppers, and green beans. It was an amazing meal. I stayed up with CK for the first watch, but the motion sickness meds I took were knocking me out. Eventually, Mike came up, and I went back to bed in the bow cabin. It was very different sleeping there while sailing because the bow was bouncing on the waves, but I still slept pretty well.

Nat Geo Expedition in Puerto Rico - 3/19/10

We got an early start and spent the first half of the day finishing prepping for the trip. We had to assemble the cameras, and found out that one of them was missing a few parts from it's external ring frame which holds the reflectors (a strobe light flashes every 5-10 seconds and the reflectors pounce the light out so that the camera and pick up footage in the blackness of the trench). Eric and Mike got it worked out to have the parts shipped to San Juan, and we would pick them up after we dropped off Cam #1. We loaded up the boat in the early afternoon, and found that Jim (the owner of Sail Caribe) wanted CK to go with us for the expedition because he was worried about his boat going out beyond their typical charter boundaries. So, we added CK to the crew.

Once we loaded all the equipment onto the boat, we set sail for the Northeast side of a small island called Palomino. IT was a great ride out. We saw a sea turtle along the way. We connected with Adam, who had chartered a dive boat, and got to work. By the time we got to the spot, I wasn't feeling to well from prepping my EX-1 (HD camera for those of you who don't know) in the galley. But I filmed the guys from topside as Adam filmed underwater, and made it through without throwing up. Mike was in the water with the drop cam trying to assemble the exteriors in the current which we decided would not be a good idea once we're in the trench. He was struggling against the current just off the island in water that was 80 feet deep; there was no way he was going to be able to do that in 6 foot swells out in the deep. The reason he assembled in the water for this test was so Adam could get shots from underneath. After Mike finished assembly, he dropped it multiple times so Adam could film it dropping. Eric, CK, and I chilled topside during all of this. After about an hour, Adam's underwater housing unit for his EX-1 started to leak, so we called it a day, and departed for the marina. Along the way, I emptied my stomach off the stern into the bluest water I've ever seen. That was quite an experience. I definitely felt better after that though.

Once back at the Marina, we said goodbye to CK for the evening, and spent the night on the boat. We had steak (the boat has a little grill on the stern) with green beans and baked potatoes, drank wine and rum, and talked the night away. I eventually passed out in the bow cabin, and had a wonderful night's rest.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nat Geo Expedition in Puerto Rico - 3/18/10

Eric was feeling much better, but still suffering the effects of a cold. We met the Nat Geo diver, Adam Geiger, who was only going to be with us for a couple days, and discussed logistics for the shallow water drop cam test, which we'd be doing the next day. Eric, Mike and I then shot off to Fajardo where our boat was docked at the Puerto del Rey Marina. No one was at the charter office, so we wandered around the marina for a bit. We eventually stumbled upon our boat, which was being cleaned by Captain Keith Lehman and his wife, Bruny.

Captain Keith, whom I will refer to as "CK" from now on, is originally from Canada, and moved to Puerto Rico in 1995. Soon after, he met and married Bruny, who is a native of the island. They both work for the charter company, Sail Caribe.

After we connected with our people and our 38 ft. Hunter sailboat named Eugenie, we spent the rest of the day running errands and prepping for the expedition. We had dinner that night at the hotel with Adam, and, knowing that we'd be getting an early start, made sure we got a good night's rest.

Nat Geo Expedition in Puerto Rico - 3/17/10

I flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico alone to connect with National Geographic Engineers, Eric Berkenpas and Mike Shepard. Mike met me at the airport because Eric had fallen ill with food poisoning. We dropped of my luggage, and then went down the street for some dinner and drinks. It felt nice to just chill and chat and get to know Mike better.

Nat Geo Expedition in Puerto Rico - Intro

Between India and Israel, I had 7 weeks to kill, so I defaulted to editing an India recap video, writing transcription for money, and finding ways to waste time. One day, Drew was chatting online with our friend Matt Berkenpas, and it turned out that Matt's brother, Eric, worked for National Geographic as a Lead Engineer. Matt was asking around to see if there was anyone who wanted to pay their own way to Puerto Rico to help document a Nat Geo expedition down there for his brother and his brother's partner. I immediately jumped at the opportunity. It cost me close to $500 to get myself there at the last second, but I did it. I saw it as a worthy investment into my future (Nat Geo? Resume enhancer anyone?).

The nature of the expedition was to sail 90 miles north of the island to the Puerto Rico trench, and do a couple test drops with a cheaper concept for deep sea cameras to prove that it works. The deepest part of the trench is called "Milwaukee Deep," and has a maximum depth of 28,231 ft (8605 meters). That is what we were aiming for. I went along as a volunteer videographer to obtain topside footage and interviews. I was excited and very nervous all at the same time because I hadn't really been a decent-sized sailboat, nor had I been on a boat out on the "deep blue" ever, and we were about to spend 5 days on one.

I have an entry for every day, which should come to a total of 8 posts. I hope you enjoy them and that they satisfy your questions about the trip. If not, comment and ask away. I'll be glad to answer what I can.


Finally updating my travel blog...

So, I've been lazy, but I'm finally getting around to posting about my last two trips: Puerto Rico and Israel. For Puerto Rico, I wrote about each day on one of the last days so most of it will probably not be in present tense. As for the Israel trip, I'm just now writing everything out (I was real lazy about writing on that trip unless something significant happened).

I know it's a lot of reading to catch up on everything, but I hope it's not too dull and that you enjoy it.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Mumbai 2/14/10 (Last Day)

The original plan for today was to split in to various groups depending on what you wanted to do today. Everyone would go to one of the IJM folks’ churches, and then we could tour South Mumbai, shop, go to a Bollywood film, go to the Arts Festival, etc. However, due the bombing last night in Pune (about 4 hours from Mumbai), which killed 9 foreigners and injured many more, our plans became fluid. IJM staff was worried about have large groups of foreigners out and about, so we had our own little church service in the Drawing Room at the Hyatt, and then rotated out to a market in smaller groups.

Our church service was amazing. We worshipped some, and then Don Gerrod, the guy who’s stepping into Andrew’s position at Crossroads gave us a little thought for the day based out of Isaiah 9 (I’m currently running on very little sleep with a killer headache on a long flight back to the states and I’m having trouble recalling the details of his thought). After he was done, we circled around the IJM staff that were with us, and prayed over them. During that time, I felt a strong tug on my heart to pray over Andrew and Don and the transition that they are both going through. So, we got into that, and as I began to pray over them and over Crossroads, I broke down. I couldn’t even get the words out after “Bless this family.” I still cannot pinpoint what triggered it, but I just lost it. It could be that I feel a part of the Crossroads family now, and that separating myself from it is painful. It could also be just a build-up of emotion over the week. As I mentioned though, I am in no state of mind to go any deeper with my psychoanalysis of that moment. I need sleep.

I wish I could have another week in India. I wish I could have more time with the Advait family. If anything in what you’ve read of my trip has grabbed your heart, please make it a point to pray for these girls. They all have dreams, and they all deserve to have the opportunity to chase after them. Also, pray for the girls who are currently on the line, and whom IJM is looking to rescue. And lift IJM up as well. They are doing a great work all over the world, and specifically here in India. Also, this is the hard one, please pray for the perpetrators -- the pimps, and the people who force these girls into sex work. My initial emotion towards these people is anger, and that’s okay, but I really believe they need prayer as much as these girls. This city is such a dark place, but there is hope. I have seen it. And I suggest, that if you ever have the opportunity to see it for yourself, you do not hesitate to seize it.

Thanks for reading.


Mumbai 2/13/10

Our entire group went out to the TLC and blitzed that place. We had a construction team working there most of the week, but there’s so much work that needed to be done -- a lot of painting and landscaping.

I mainly worked with the mural painting team one of the rooms. It was a blast. I cannot say I’m a great painter, but I did enjoy it. My hand was so unsteady. I found it hilarious. The finished product was quite good, and that’s what matters. I took a lot of footage of the change that took place in the TLC over the week. It is pretty awesome to see.

The coolest thing we did was we wrote prayers on the accent walls in the girls’ rooms before we painted them. So, the prayers won’t be visible, but they’ll be there. I love the concept of doing that for the girls. Making that home a dwelling for the Holy Spirit is key. The girls need as much prayer covering as possible.

Tonight, we all went out to a great rooftop restaurant in Bandora, which is a cool place for shopping and hip restaurants and bars. The meal was great. We got to try a lot of different foods. My favorite thing was definitely my drink, a Mango Lassee (sp?). It was a mango yogurt-is drink. The view from the terrace was pretty nice too.

Mumbai 2/12/10

Every morning, the whole group gathers after breakfast, and Robbie leads us in worship. It’s such a blessing to be able to do that. I was always under the impression that we could not do something like that in India. Oh, naivety. I just had to make a comment about it.

Anyway, the days just get better and better. Andrew told me to take the day off as a videographer, and to hook up with the work team of my choice. It was a hard choice at first because I enjoyed being with my work team, but the Photography/Arts&Crafts team was going to Advait. My heart was with the girls at Advait so much that I had to go back. So, I joined Photography for the day, and had an amazing second day at my favorite place.

We kicked the day off with some more Bollywood dancing -- always a good way to start the day. From there, I just hung out with the photography group. We got to teach the girls how to use digital cameras, and then let them take as many as they wanted. On top of that, we brought photo printers, so the girls were able to pick their two favorite pictures and print them out. In Arts & Crafts, they made picture frames for their photos. It was great to see how excited these girls got over everything. The girls took a lot of photos with the group members and me. Some of them were making a fuss over not getting to have more than two photos, but all is well because Crossroads is donating the cameras and printers to them, and giving them all the pictures that they took. I love it.

After two days in a row at Advait, my heart was truly knitted in with the Sisters and all the girls. I have Sister Bonita’s email, so I will be able to correspond with them, which really excites me. As we left that place, I asked God to please allow me to return some day. I feel pretty confident that I’ll return to this country at some point, and will get to see some if not all of the girls. I cannot get the image of some of their smiles, and the sounds of some of their laughter out of my head.

Two little moments I will not forget about today:

1.) As I was saying goodbye, the girls were writing their names in my moleskin journal, and one of them shook my hand and said, “Please pray for me.” Ugh. That ripped into my heart.

2.) The last little moment was as we were walking away. I turned around and saw one of the girls whose smile has impacted more than just me this week, and I smiled at her and gave her that “Oh. You” point (not sure if that translates at all). She broke into her big, infectious smile and laughed. That’s an image I will always treasure -- joy on the face of one who has experienced some of the darkest things anyone could ever experience.

Mumbai 2/11/10

First off, let me just say that the breakfast spread at the Grand Hyatt is amazing. It’ll be hard to go back to my average breakfast in L.A. -- coffee and a banana.

Although I am the videographer for this trip, I was attached to the Song/Dance/Health&Hygeine work team -- Marcus, Robbie, Jennifer, Nikki, Tracy, Roberta, Linda, Erin, and our IJM group leaders, Melissa and Michelle. We went to Advait today, the semi-government home headed up by Sister Bonita, whom I mentioned in the previous post. There are close to twenty girls in the home, and they are all wonderful.

Most of the first half of the day involved me filming the murals that were painted last year by Crossroads folks, participating in Bollywood dances with the girls, and then trying to gain permission to film some of the girls. Robbie, who used to work for Vineyard Music and is a music leader at Crossroads, led the girls in some singing. He recorded them singing along to a couple loops he created on the spot with his guitar, and then, why we danced, he mixed the song together and played it back for the girls. It was awesome to see their faces light up as they listened.

After talking with Sister Bonita, Melissa, and Michelle, and then making a couple phone calls, I got the “Ok” to film the girls. So, I filmed most of the afternoon group of girls participating in the singing and dancing, and capturing the interactions between them and my team. I was also blessed to be able to film messages from the “major” girls (18 and older) to Crossroads. Their faces will be blurred in editing, and their names unrevealed, but it was just great to be able to capture the messages.

I was amazed to see so much joy and laughter in these girls who have been through so much darkness. There was one girl who was visibly unhappy. She participated in some of the singing, but none of the dancing. She hardly smiled. As I talked to Sister Bonita, I discovered that her friend had run away yesterday. They were from the same community, the Devandasi Communit. In this community, girls are thrust into prostitution as soon as they start menstruating. Their parents tell them that it is their job-- it is their purpose. Ridiculous! Anyway, The runaway had told the judge and her parents at her court hearing that she wanted to stay at Advait. She liked it there and wanted to study. Her parents told her that they would have nothing to do with her. So, obviously, guilt an shame were dropped on her, and now she’s lost in Mumbai, and her parents have already moved away, so she cannot go to them.

As far as how most of the girls ended up at Advait, some of them were promised jobs, and when they showed up for work, they were sold as sex slaves; and a good number of them were promised to be married, or were married, and then their fiancé, or husband sold them off. My heart broke when I heard the latter about one of my favorite girls at the home. It breaks even as I write about it now.

It was a great day. However, the men capped it off with a tour of the Red Light District. We hopped in a few different vehicles with an IJM Investigator in each one, and drove around for a good hour. The Investigators pointed out all the active brothels, as well as the ones that they had shut down already. It was very interesting to see, but it was very intense. The strongest emotion I felt during the tour was anger. Most of the brothels are just a hole in the wall amongst the various stores. I saw many taxis in which a man sat in the passenger’s seat up front, and two sex workers sat in the back seat. In one of those taxis, one of the two girls was holding a baby.

Our one scary moment was when we went up one of the side streets, and were supposed to turn left just before we hit the dead end, but our driver didn’t turn. We found ourselves unable to go forward anymore, and for a moment, we were unable to go backwards. We were surrounded by pimps, and one of them walked up to the open passenger’s seat window where Marcus was sitting, and asked us if we wanted to come in to the brothels. Phil and Marcus both immediately rolled their windows up. Thankfully we didn’t have to linger too long, and were able to get out of there. Our vehicle could be recognized by some pimps, and associated with IJM’s investigations, so we had to be careful about hanging out too long. In retrospect, it’s not that scary, but in the moment, I believe we were all at least a little nervous. I remember Phil saying, “This is a bad place to be stuck.”

Anyway, I’m glad I got to see it all, but it’s definitely not anything enjoyable. I’m just so thankful the Advait girls are safe, and are not working “the line.”

Mumbai 2/10/10

Today was a very productive, and very wonderful day. Andrew and I went over to the Transitions Global Transitional Living Center (TLC) home with Kathy Stout-Labauve, who heads up the after-care program from the IJM headquarters in D.C. I took a lot of shots inside and out of what the house looks like before our construction/cleaning team is done working on it at the end of the week. I also shot interviews with the heads of the TLC and Sister Bonita from Advait, one of the other semi-government girls’ homes.

After the TLC, we moved on to Deonar, which is a government-run girls’ home. When we got there, our landscaping and mural painting teams had already gotten much of their work done. There were girls everywhere, and they were great. We had to have the teachers heard them into one of the buildings so that I could film the work that had been done so far.

It’s for the girls’ safety that we cannot film them. We have to protect their identities. If we are fortunate enough to film at one of the homes, their faces have to be blurred, and names unrevealed.

After I finished filming, the girls came back out, and we all returned to our work. I helped out a bit with the landscaping. It felt good to get my hands dirty for a good cause. Once I was done, I just sat and observed. One of the girls came up to me with a baby (I wasn’t sure of the mother, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t her), and she handed her off to me. Kim, one of the IJM staff who was there with permission to take photos, snapped a series of pictures of me holding the child. The girls loved it. I held her for 5-10 minutes, and then decided to hand to her back off to the girl who gave her to me. As I did, everyone was like, “Oh no!” I looked down, and the baby was urinating. Some of it landed on my leg, some on and in my bag, and the rest on the ground. It was hilarious. The girls were big fans at least. Sure, it sucked, but I couldn’t help but just laugh over the matter with the girls.

Today was much more enjoyable to me than yesterday. I enjoyed spending time with these girls, who are the reason we’re here in the first place. As I sat and observed at Deonar, I began to thank God that these girls were in a safe place, and my heart began to break. Fortunately, a baby was handed to me to distract me before I broke down in front of everyone.

For dinner, our IJM friend, Ashley, took a handful of us to Café Goa, which was a chill restaurant where they do poetry readings, and have karaoke. The food was great, and I really enjoyed just kicking back with new friends.

Good day.

Mumbai 2/9/10

I really don’t know how to start writing about this trip. I guess I’ll start with the basics:

First off, I am in Mumbai with my cousin, Andrew Peters (Yeah. Same name), and 30-some other people from a church in Cincinnati, OH called Crossroads. They are partnering with International Justice Mission (IJM) to assist in the after-care of girls who have been saved from sexual slavery. Andrew asked me to come as the videographer to document the trip because Crossroads’ video guys are all busy, and, of course, I jumped at the opportunity.

So, here I am. We are staying at the Grand Hyatt, and it’s definitely the nicest hotel in which I have had the privilege to stay. We got in late last night, and I did not sleep well. I woke up at 3:30am, and then I was in and out until I finally decided to get out of bed around 6am. The Hyatt’s restaurant where we eat breakfast is amazing.

We hit the ground running with a touring around with the Mumbai Magic tour group. We saw a good bit of the city on our way to our first stop, Elephanta Island. We took boat across the Arabian Sea to the island, and visited the caves in which a place of worship to Shiva was carved out sometime between the 5th and 8th centuries (if I remember correctly). It’s no longer a place of worship, so we were able to take photos, but I was still not able to film inside the caves. However, the outside was a different story. I captured some very entertaining shots of monkeys, goats, dogs, and even paid an old woman for a shot of her balancing a stack of bowls on her head (most people want payment in return for allowing you to film them). We took the boat back to the city, and went to lunch at a wonderful Muslim cuisine restaurant called Khyber. From there, we headed off to the Chor Bazaar where you could find just about anything you needed. It was more of a market for locals than a market for tourists. I did not do much filming, as it was very dangerous to be walking around with a nice camera. I was able to take some shots from the hip as we walked around.

We at dinner at the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana with the IJM staff from the Mumbai field office. We had a great time eating, fellowshipping, and praying for an operation that’s taking place tonight in one of the brothels.

Overall, it was a pretty crazy day. Mumbai traffic is worse than anywhere I have ever been. It’s amazing how the people don’t wreck every five seconds. I’m worn out. I can’t wait to interact with the girls in the homes this week.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Amazing Grace" and Wilberforce -- something to think about

I finally watched the film, Amazing Grace, which is the story of William Wilberforce and his relentless pursuit for the abolition of slave trade in England and its colonies.

Verdict: Thumbs Up.

There were two scenes that caught my attention more than others. Both scenes take place early in the film when Wilberforce is trying to decide whether he should give himself to politics or religion.


Wilberforce, who seems to be leaning towards religion at this point, meets with his good friend, William Pitt, who tells Wilberforce of his plans to become Prime Minister and to have him at his side in the government. Here are the last two lines of the scene:

WILBERFORCE: No one our age has ever taken power.
PITT: Which is why we're too young to realize that certain things are impossible, so we'll do them anyway. I need an answer, Wilber. Do you intend to use your beautiful voice to praise the Lord, or change the world?

I love Pitt's response. That's something to think about those of us who have dreams that we wish to accomplish, but feel that all the odds are stacked against us. Despite tradition and any expectation placed upon us by someone other than ourselves, do we dare chase our dreams? The part of his response with which I am not on board is where he separates praising the Lord and changing the world. This is where the second scene gets me.


Wilberforce has dinner with a handful of people who will become his close friends and allies in the fight against abolition: Thomas Clarkson, Olaudah Equiano, and others. Equiano and Clarkson show Wilberforce the shackles that are used on slave ships, and demonstrate how they are used. Equiano shows him the brand on his chest from when he was a slave. At the end of the scene, Clarkson looks at Wilberforce and says:

CLARKSON: Mr. Wilberforce, we understand you're having problems choosing whether to do the work of God, or the work of a political activist.

The lady at the table, Hannah More, follows up:

MORE: We humbly suggest that you can do both.

I love it! -- merging your gifts and passions with your desire to do the Lord's work.

It seems that Wilberforce's faith and hope [in Christ] was the driving force behind his work in politics. Without it, I don't suppose he would have endured as long as he did, which would have changed the course of history for sure (I'm not suggesting that slavery would never have been abolished, but that it would not have been abolished as early, and countless more lives would have been lost. There are other results that I could speculate on, but that's not the purpose of my post).

Anyway, I enjoyed the film, and I can only hope that my faith and hope [in Christ] comes through in all my work, and that I may also be an agent of change for the better in this world.