James 4:14

"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." James 4:14

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Wedding and Guatemala


“Hey Paul, you wanna do a wedding?” I laughed at first thinking that it had to be a joke. However, my brother in ministry wasn't joking. He had agreed to doing a wedding for a young couple and then later realized that he wouldn't be able to do it. After asking probably every pastor and youth pastor in town (who were all busy or on vacation or wherever and couldn't do it), he finally called me. So I'm pretty sure I was the absolute last resort. Admittedly, I didn't really want to do it. It may have been the same friend who asked me to do this wedding who half-jokingly told me once, “Funerals are way easier for the minister than weddings. Why? Because at funerals the mothers are usually already gone.” It also seemed a little strange to do a wedding after being married for only 3 months. It's kinda like, “Hey, let me give you a message with all my 3 months worth of wisdom on marriage.” I did agree to do it and figured if the couple was willing to let me do it, then I would do it. Although one of the mothers did ask me “Are you going to be okay?” during the rehearsal, everything turned out pretty well. At least...the couple got married, signed the license, and I didn't get any rotten fruit thrown at me. So I consider that as going pretty well. I was able to know a couple in a special way and I'm super thankful that they were willing to give me that experience.


This last week, my wife and I just got back from a week-long mission trip to Guatemala. It came about because the pastor of her previous church had a trip and needed someone to play music for the group going down there. He called Sarah and asked if I would be willing to play guitar for them. We agreed and left August 3rd. This was a great short term trip. The group's focus was doing three different revival meetings throughout the week at different churches in the area. These went well and we made some good friends even in the short time we were there. The first meeting was in a fairly modern church. They had announced the meeting a couple weeks earlier, and the missionary we were working with said that they had about half of the people there. All the church members agreed to bring someone with them who didn't know Christ...AND THEY DID! It was a great encouragement to me to hear that the pastor of the church would go with whoever invited the newcomer and go to their home and that many people make their decision for Christ there. This seems like a great way to do it as opposed to our usual “raise your hand, pray the prayer, sign the card, you're in” method which may produce more false converts than we would like to admit. Either way, it was just nice to know there was a work being left behind us.

The second meeting was held way up in the mountains at a coffee plantation. About two-thirds of the way through, the rain started pouring and forced us to end early. The next morning we were given a tour of the plantation and the missionary showed us how coffee was grown and harvested and sorted, which was really cool to see. On our way back to Huehuetenango (where the main base was) there was a protest which was blocking the road. The missionary said he knew another way around, so all ten of us piled in the back of his pickup and began what would end up being a four-hour ride on 4x4 roads. This was great. We traveled way up into the mountains and saw some spectacular views.

The next day we went out to the city square and did some open-air evangelism. We explained the gospel using bracelets with different colored beads. Each bead represented a different part of the gospel. The pastor asked me before hand if I would be willing to read the sheet we had in Spanish that explained the colored beads to the people. So yeah, that was a growing experience--standing on a bench in Guatemala trying to explain the gospel with my limited Spanish. At one point, things were pretty disorganized to say the least and while I could read the sheet, I couldn't explain to everyone what we needed them to do to get organized (somewhat). Then, a young boy of about 15, comes up and says, “I speak English and I can help you. What do you want me to tell them?” After we got everything together, we complimented him on his English and asked where he was from, to which he replied, “Arkansas.” Haha, hilarious. Anyway, it was a good time.
The last meeting went well that night. As I said before, we made some very special friends there and were blessed to be there. Sarah says that, for whatever reason, she has understood and had much more of God's peace in her life after coming back from the trip, which is a wonderful answer to prayer.

From conducting a wedding to playing guitar in Guatemala, I'm just continually amazed at the different opportunities that God puts in my life that help me stretch and grow and trust Him more. He is a great and marvelous God.

Lastly, since we've been back, Sarah and I have started school....in a way. Liberty University has a “Home Bible Institute.” Some of our good friends and co-workers in the ministry are doing it and recommended it to us. It's a little weird for me to be back in a “school” and have “exams” but the material has been great so far and I'm excited to continue in it.

“Even those who trust in their wealth and boast in the abundance of their riches? No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him—for the redemption of his soul is costly,” Psalm 49:6-8a

Please Pray:
--Opportunities to share Christ in Gunnison
--Wisdom about where God would have us long term
On the second one, I feel like I should elaborate a little more. We know that God has called us into ministry, but it's not clear yet where we should be long term. I don't know if we should take a “leap of faith” or “wait on the Lord.” So yeah, wisdom would be great.

Thanks so much for all your prayers and encouragement.  

Friday, June 29, 2012

Marriage, Cali, and FLDS

Another incredibly late update for those of you who still read this. Well, since my last update...there's been loads of stuff going on in my life. The biggest change was getting married at the end of March, which many of you were able to come to. Thanks so much! Aside from the whole getting married thing, the best part about the wedding is that you get pretty much all of your favorite people in the world in one place...and those who can't make it still send cards and stuff. It's just one huge, awesome reminder of all the people God has put in our lives and the impact they've had. It's really overwhelming. We were blown away by all the support and encouragement we received, not just in making the wedding happen (although there was tons of stuff with that), but also for our lives. We are so blessed!!!

After the wedding, we were able to go to California right away which was really fun. I had never been to Cali before, but liked it. One of the highlights was a restaurant that specialized in cinnamon rolls. Yeah, how great is that?!?! Perfect rolls and coffee and that's it. Anyways, we stayed there (california, not the cinnamon roll place) for a week and began the drive back on Friday.

On the drive back, I pulled the ultimate husband move of “Nah, we don't need to gas up here, we can definitely make it to Bakersfield.” Well, turns out, Bakersfield was a lot farther away than anticipated and the gas gauge drops significantly faster for the bottom half. Miles seem a lot longer when your “low fuel” light has been on for 30 minutes and the gauge is just sitting on the bottom...yeah, and then I'm thinking how ironic it would be to run out of gas in the middle of Exxon Mobile and Chevron oil fields...where you are surrounded by signs for them and no gas stations within 30 miles. Haha, that would be pretty funny....except for being stranded in the middle of nowhere on your honeymoon. Long story short, we probably had angels pushing the car, but we eventually made it to a gas station and I've never been so happy to pay $4.59 a gallon in my life.

Colorado City:
The really cool part happened after that. It turned out that as we were planning our wedding date and the honeymoon after, we decided to come back Saturday, April 7th. After planning that, I got an update from an old missionary friend in Utah that I'd served with years ago. He said he was planning an outreach in Colorado City, Utah, for what date? You guessed it—April 7th! Colorado City is almost exactly halfway, and right on the way, home from California. So we had the wonderful privilege of joining in that outreach.

What an outreach it was! In the morning, the team swept the entire town passing out invitations to a free barbeque in the park which was attached to a testimony that some of the college students had written out that talked about some truth that God had shown them in the Bible and how that affected their lives. We then went to set up for the afternoon in the park. It was such a great time catching up with the few that remembered me from years before. There is just such a special connection with those people whom you've served with on a mission field like Utah. It just brings you together in a way that you can't really describe. And, of course, they all got to meet my new wife. After being in the park for a while, one of the ladies from our group spotted several local boys sitting a ways off and mentioned how someone should go meet them. I grabbed the best “ice-breaker” tools I know—a soccer ball and cones. I walked up to them and asked if they would like to play soccer, to which one boy responded, “I'd rather soccer than frisbee.” (yeah, great answer) “Me too,” I said. So we got to play soccer for like three hours and I found out I'm not in the soccer shape I used to be in. Their older brother, though, who was a little older than me, sat on the bench and watched for the first while and read through probably 5 or 6 testimonies. Awesome! Later we sat with a family for dinner. They were very friendly and open and we even got to talk about the gospel for a bit. The father told one of his younger sons (probably 10-12) to give us a “honeymoon ride” on his 4 wheeler. Just really cool to connect in such a short time. The pastor that came with the missions group and I were able to talk with a young man for a couple hours about God and everything else and he was very hungry for it. Sarah (my wife) also had some great conversations with some junior high and high school age girls as well as some of the other women. It was AMAZING to have the conversations and connections after the FLDS leaders had told their people beforehand not to come to the “Devil's Barbeque.” Very intense, but a great outreach and a great way to finish the honeymoon (although it's never really over.)


It was nice to get back and have some extra time to move in and get situated because it was my “buffer season.” this is the time between ski instructing and raft guiding, which is nice for the time, but not as nice for the finances. However, God has faithfully provided. One of my close friends who has turned into a mentor for me had a construction project in Snowmass that he needed some help with. So I got to go with him and few others to work for a week and then again for a couple days. One the second time, I was given a great opportunity to talk with one of my co-workers about Jesus. He and I were staying in the same room and had talked just briefly about God in the car. In the morning, I prayed over my granola and said (silently), “and Lord, please give me and opportunity with this guy and open up his heart. In Jesus name, Amen.” What do you know? About ten minutes after that, the conversation turned to God and I got to share the gospel with him. Good times. I'm still praying that he will repent of his sin and trust in Christ.

Back in Gunny:

Since being back, I'm still helping out Rick with ministry stuff. While I'm mostly in charge of organizing the music, I've been able to preach several times and feel like there's more of a calling in that direction. We'll see how God leads with that. Rafting has started back up, which is really fun and God has provided me with a good amount of work. Still praying for good conversations with my fellow guides.

Married life:
It seems like a lot of people are asking us, “So, how's married life?” these days. It's actually a really weird question. It's not exactly a short, one sentence answer. It's not like it's bad. But I feel like it's not totally accurate if I just say, “oh, it's great.” If any of you are married, you know what I mean. It's awesome, but it's still got it's struggles and challenges and quite frankly, it's a lot of work...but it's still awesome. It's not like our marriage is a cake-walk with nothing wrong ever, but we're learning so much about ourselves and each other and tons about grace, humility, and forgiveness. I've found myself usually responding to the original question as “It's good. It's really sanctifying.” We've been blessed by having lots of great advice. Some friends have given us, “Real Marriage: The truth about sex, friendship & life together” by Mark and Grace Driscoll which is definitely a good book for couples to work through together. It's helped a lot....and we're still just halfway through it!

Well, as always, there's a lot more, but this is already long enough, so you'll just have to wait for another 4 months or whatever it's been till my next one. Okay, jk, hopefully I can be more consistent in my updates from now on. Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement. It means so much.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Huh....try to sum up three and a half months in a short time...okay...yeah right! It seems like years of stuff has happened in such a short time. Although I don't always realize it, when I look back, I have a seriously rocking life thanks to God's grace. Okay, I'll try to cram all the stuff in without you having to read a super long blog (I've learned they're intimidating to read). Anywho....post Grand Canyon.

Post GC:

After I came back from my epic trip down the Big Ditch, God continued to blast open doors for us on campus. We continued to go out every Wednesday at the table and good conversations seemed to pour out for us. One of the brothers who was with us had his schedule changed and couldn't make it. So the other DP and I changed tactics slightly. Instead of sitting at the table waiting for people to come to us, we decided to go to them. We “stole” an awesome method from some of our amazing brothers in Utah who spend all their time witnessing to Mormons. One of the big issues with Mormons is getting them to see their sinfulness in the light of God's righteousness. It's the mindset that says, “well, I'm a pretty good person, so I'll be okay.” Well, as we talked with people on campus, we've found this is the underlying theme with pretty much everyone. Our brothers in Utah created a “good person” survey which takes people through the Ten Commandments and shows them how they are really doing at “being good.” We did this for several weeks and had many great conversations with not only students, but workers on campus as well. Praise God! I could fill up the whole blog if I were to write out each of these stories. So incredible!


Then I started to work at the ski area and couldn't go out on Wednesdays anymore. Working has been really fun and really interesting. It certainly has a whole culture of it's own up there. I jokingly say that there are probably more devout Hindus in Crested Butte than in India. Anyways, work was pretty slow, but has started to pick up more. There have been some small conversations there though which is encouraging. I was learning from a co-worker one day and I got to ask him if he went to church anywhere. He said he watched a preacher on the TV. This was not particularly encouraging but it opened up some talks later. This guy later asked me at lunch, “So...are you like super-religious or what?” I told him it depends on how you define religion. I never really got to explain what I meant, but it was okay. Later, a friend who I raft with in the summer came up to me and said one of his friends had posted something about God and suffering as her status and he didn't get it. Another co-worker went to a coffee shop with me to read and then asked what I was reading. At the time, it was “Not a Fan” which is a great book about not just being a fan of Jesus but a follower (yeah, there's my little book plug—available now at any Christian bookstore worth it's Jesus bracelets for only $14.99! haha, jk, but seriously, it's a good book and not too long.). So....I had the opportunity to share with him what that difference was. Then one day I was taking a couple free runs when there was no work and rode up with a different co-worker. She asked me what I did in Gunny and I explained Rick's ministry and Saturday night then asked her if she ever went to church or anything. She gave me her story and then I asked her where she was at with God right now. It was short, but still a cool opportunity. There's also just some hilarious stories that happen when dealing with kids. One that sticks out was being assigned to the two year olds and having the supervisor say, “We have one kid today who doesn't speak any English...only Japanese.” Oh, sure, no problem, cause I know how to say....um.....nothing in Japanese. Fortunately, (and I say this as humbly as possible) I'm the bomb at charades. The kid didn't do too bad and had fun. Haha.


Yep, who'd a guessed. On January 4th I proposed to my girlfriend and she was crazy enough to say “Yes!” Yeah, I know, poor girl. So yeah, that was kind of a big deal and I hear it changes life a little. She's an awesome woman of God and a huge blessing in my life....and she makes really good pie which is also a plus! We're getting hitched in late March (yeah...this year) and are super stoked for it. God has shown us sooo much already in just the wedding planning. Lots of good stuff about trust and humility and grace...it's been..painful at times, but really awesome over all! So the typical question most people were asking was “How did you propose?” To which my answer is “I got down on one knee, pulled out the ring, and asked.” This answer doesn't go over too well with the female inquirers. So then I say, “well, I took her out to McDonald's and bought her a cheeseburger, stuck the ring in it, and brought it back to her. After singing her the cheeseburger song from VeggieTales, I knelt down and opened the box, revealing the ring in the top of the burger and asked her.” To this I get mixed reactions until I tell the real story about how we went down by the river walk and then pulled off by a SUPER-ROMANTIC spot and then I busted out the ring and popped the question.

Mormon Friends:

About a month or so ago, I was hanging out at the B-fizz and the new Mormon missionaries came by. We have struck up a great friendship with them and have had some good talks at least once a week and they haven't run away yet! Please be praying for these dear friends, that their eyes would be open and that they would see the wonderful grace of God. It's definitely a cool opportunity to get to meet with them every week and try to share the true Jesus with them.

Ministry Stuff:

This has been fun as well. Rick and I started a bible study at the ski area every Monday after work and it's been great to see some believers and seekers show up to that. Tuesday nights we have a 5 Minute Theologian class in town which is a good intro class to theology (and yes, 5 minute theologian is the name of the book...the actual class takes more than five minutes.) Wednesday nights there are a few faithful believers at my other church who pray...that is just an awesome time. Thursday morning ministry breakfast has been interesting. It's changed a lot..some ways for the better, and some ways, maybe not so good, but people are growing. Please pray for the direction this should take. Saturday night service has been wonderful...we actually have unbelievers coming and inviting other unbelievers! Haha, how often does that happen?!?! God is so good! One of my roommates who was leading music left in January which was a bummer, but we're stoked to see how God is leading him. So, I was then put “in charge of music.” Haha, which if you know me, this sounds like the punchline of a joke because music is not exactly my gifting. However, I am surrounded by some great guys who can play and sing louder than me so the people don't run away before the message. Haha. The trouble I have right now is that all this stuff is great, but I feel like I'm overloaded and end up not being able to anything really well and everything suffers. I expressed this one Wednesday night at prayer and one of the elders simply said, “Man, you need to learn to say 'no.'” I think this is sound advice, the tricky part is just what to cut out. So, please be praying for me that I would be able to do the work that God has for me, but also that I would have the courage to cut out the things that are only distracting from His true work for me. Yeah, that would be great.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who still read my blog that I don't update nearly enough. Thanks so much for praying for me and standing with me.

“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I have hope in Him.'” Lamentations 3:21-24

Pray for:
--Direction for Ministry Breakfast
--Mormon Missionaries—that they would see the Truth.
--Direction/wisdom for me
--All the wedding jazz

Praise for:
--All the wonderful opportunities!
--An amazing fiancee' (hmm.....however you spell it)
--God's continued faithfulness.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Grand Canyon and More

What a rocking month it's been. There's so much that I can't even remember it all...and I don't keep a daily journal that I can cheat off of like I had in India. Anyways, here's some of the cool stuff in my life last month.

First, while flying back to Colorado from Idaho, I had a very interesting conversation with the man next to me on the plane. He was probably early 50's and looked like a hunter. We talked about general things at first and then we moved on to spiritual things (I forget how we got there). He took a very passive approach to it. Like, “I believe this, they believe that, and you believe whatever and that's great for you.” I questioned him about truth for a while and then the topic went to evolution and eventually we ended up at the Bible. I would take him back to it and then he questioned it...which was funny because I had just gone over all that stuff about “Why Christians choose to believe the Bible.” From the things he said, it was obvious that he had no idea how we got the Bible although he claimed to have read all of it and “been there done that” and “of course I know where we got it.”At this last statement I asked him if he would explain where and how he thought we got it to which he said, “Oh, so now you're quizzing me?!” Not exactly the “got saved right there” type of conversation. We covered lots of area's, but it was mostly centered around “How do you know you have it right and every other religion has it wrong?” So..interesting.

Then I got back to Gunny and started going on campus with a couple dear brothers. They set up a book table with free booklets and free Bibles. One of them leads Cru on campus and had Soul-arium set up. This is a tool that uses pictures to start spiritual conversations with people and proved to be incredibly effective. We did this several weeks in a row and God blessed us with many AMAZING opportunities. I could write forever talking about just the conversations that happen in one day. It's just amazing to see the doors being opened. I'll share one special story. One guy about my age came over to the booth. I'd met him before once at the Brushfire. Even though I had only seen him that once, I remembered him because I'd had such a difficult conversation with him. He was arrogant, atheist, cynical, and confident. Just seemed impenetrable. I'd seen him around town just a couple times in the three years since then.

We talked for a while at the table and he asked about what the pictures were for. I explained it and asked him if he wanted to do it which he sarcastically did. However, in our conversation, before we mentioned anything spiritual, he would throw out little jokes about how much he drinks. He would laugh a little after each joke. After (literally) the fifth time or so, I just thought “This is really buging him.” So, quickly the conversation turned to God. I asked, “where are you at with God.” He responded that he sometimes goes to the Lutheran church and is pretty good. “So if you were to walk out that door in five minutes and drop dead, what would happen, would you go to heaven or hell?” “Well, I hope I could to go a confession first.” “No, I mean, no confession, like you walk out and your dead.” He was silent and struggling with his answer. “Well, I think I'd go to heaven, I'm pretty good and I stick to my principles.” “Well, do you think God will judge you by your principles or His standard.” More struggling until he admitted “His standard.” I asked him about if he knew about God's standard of the Ten Commandments. I walked him through several of them in a Ray Comfort style. He came to see his sin and see how far away he really was. Then...I got to share GRACE with him and explain how Jesus took all that sin and gives His righteousness as a free, totally undeserved, gift. I explained that God takes him as a wicked sinner and doesn't say clean up first. But to come to Him with all your problems and let Him take care of them. I could see the message was hitting him hard. He finally looked up at me (he had been staring at the ground for a while) and said, “Are you going to be a preacher? Cause you've hit me harder than the last three pastors I've heard.” Of course it's not me, but the Holy Spirit was hitting his heart. I encouraged him to repent and believe in Jesus—to trust in His righteousness. He took a Bible and I gave him some good places to start. He asked about the Brushfire and the times it's open. “I'll have to stop by, it'll be better than hanging out at the bars.” What a blessing to see this change. Several years before he seemed so hard and now he was like a sponge! Praise God for his mighty work. I haven't seen him in the Brushfire yet, but I pray that God would continue His work and that he would come to repentance.

There are many more conversations like that each week and it's simply amazing to see. I've also been given the chance to teach Sunday school at church. Wow, those kiddo's are just such a blast. After Sunday School, the church had baptisms which were great. One of the kids in my class got dunked! The pastor explained that when he had been talking with this little guy about baptism, he'd asked him, “so what is baptism?” to which the kid responded, “It's swimming in Jesus.” “that's some pretty deep theology,” the pastor said to us. Haha, it was great.

Saturday night services have been going well and I also had the chance to teach there one night and play music another. Making music certainly isn't my gift, but all our musicians were gone. But God is good, one dear lady loves to sing but doesn't play anything and I can (sort of/more or less/kinda) play guitar but singing's not super good. Sooo...we teamed up and it was really fun. The women from Saturday night are just rocking it right now. They have “caught the blaze.” And you can just about see the flames of godliness shining on them. To say these ladies are ON FIRE would be an understatement. They are so hungry for the word and have multiple Bible studies throughout the week where they continue to press in deep. Then they have prayer meetings on top of that and conferences and a desire for their husbands to know Christ as well as a desire to be more godly wives. However, you could definitely pray for the men. There are certainly some very faithful men who are wonderful servants, but in general it seems like most of the men aren't that stoked on it. Some are not yet saved, while others may be saved, but seem to be content just sitting. Please be praying for the men who come consistently but aren't saved. There are several who look like they're trying to get as close as possible to being a Christian without actually being one.

The Grand Canyon:

While I was in Idaho, I received a phone call from one of my kayaking buddies from CB. He said he got a permit to float the Grand Canyon and I was invited. I prayed about it and then agreed to go. He said it would be self support, meaning that there would be no rafts going to take our gear. So when I got back, I began the logistics of getting a larger boat in which I could pack all my camping gear and food for 13 days. Everything came together and we launched from Lee's Ferry on Oct. 23rd to paddle to 226 miles down to Diamond Creek. What an incredible trip! The Grand Canyon is truly breathtaking. The water was a little higher than last time I did it which made it pretty fun. We only had one guy swim the first day (kayaks are harder to roll when they're weighted down), and then one guy swam in Lava Falls. Other than that, it was pretty clean. We boated a lot and hiked a lot and climbed some. Such a blast! It's hard to even describe everything. The weather was pretty nice the first couple times and then it became windy one night and rained on us a little. The next morning there was strong wind and lots of rain. Definitely chilly. The good thing was that the wind was downstream. We almost literally flew down the river. We paddled nearly 18 miles in two hours without hardly trying. After that, the weather was pretty nice.

Spiritually, it was a difficult trip. While I grew closer to these guys and I want them to know Jesus so desperately, the opportunities seemed non-existent. Pretty disappointing except for one small conversation I had with one guy while the others were gone climbing. God gave me some encouragement on the trip home while I was reading “The Savage, My Kinsman” by Elizabeth Elliot. In the final pages, she talked about “success” and “failure” in ministry and how we try to measure it, but God often measures a totally different way. She mentioned that you don't want to glorify something trivial, but you also don't want to label something as a “failure” when that may in fact be something that God wants to use for something great. So that was encouraging. I hope that if nothing else, they were able to see something different in my lifestyle. Haha, one of the funniest compliments I received was on the last morning while we were playing hacky-sack. One of the guys said, “you know, Paul, You're the best non-pot smoking hacky sacker I know....I mean, you're even up there with some of the top stoners.” Haha, it was so funny. So I entrust them to God and if He gives me more opportunities with them, then I pray that I will be bold enough to share the good news with them. It was a wonderful trip, but it is nice to be back and not eating dehydrated meals for dinner every night.

Lastly, I had an email from CBMR when I got back that said they had decided to hire me as a ski instructor here this winter. Woohoo! Praise God for that! I'm excited to try out a new mountain and see what God has for me up there. As exciting as all these things have been, God has reminded me in multiple ways that my goal in life is nothing more than knowing Him. It is not service for Him or anything I do or accomplish, it's about knowing Him and that's it. That is a wonderful truth and has given me great peace.

“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” Luke 10:20

As always, I haven't proofed. If I really did, then it would be another 3 months to post probably. So, if there's lots of typo's and poor grammar and writing, then you can practice some grace. :) haha.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A "Summery"

Talk about an adventurous summer. There have been several trips to Pueblo, several others to Pagosa, good kayaking and some preaching opportunities, and work on top of that. We’ll start out with work.

I’ve been guiding rafts and duckies again this summer which has been wonderful. Admittedly, it’s a rough job—having to go out on the river every day in summer sunshine down a canyon that’s absolutely gorgeous…yeah it’s tough. Anyways, there are always lots of adventures because the customers are always different….and some are…more different. Good times though. It was also great working with my fellow guides. I held a “Beer and Bible study” after work once a week which went…okay. It was nothing spectacular, but there was a guide here and there that would show up. Most of the time they did show up, there was good discussion. So praise God for that! There were also many small discussions throughout the summer with my co-workers and many with customers. One really sticks out in my mind. I was teaching a kayak lesson and we had decided to take a break. I asked him many questions to get to know him. I was hoping for him to return the favor…but he didn’t. So I prayed and asked God to direct the conversation if He wanted me to share with this man. We ended the lesson early, and as we were putting gear away, he began to ask questions. The conversation quickly went to the gospel and we had a wonderful conversation for about an hour. It was wonderful. He was super interested and asked lots of good questions. There are really too many good stories to write down all of the cool opportunities that God gave me.

God gave me several opportunities to preach this summer which was super cool. The first one was in Pagosa. One of the elders of the Cowboy church there called me up and asked if I would like to come a preach there one week. The pastor had recently passed away and they were looking for transition speakers. I was so blessed by the opportunity to go down there and share with them. Then, for the 3rd of July, I had another opportunity to speak at a church out in Sargents. The main guy they had asked was out fighting a forest fire, his backup was preaching in Missouri, so they got me. Haha. I guess you could say I was the sub for the sub. Either way, that was also a huge blessing. Aside from that, I’ve also had the chance to teach at our Saturday night services a couple times randomly throughout the summer. So that’s all been great.

Of course, there’s gotta be some good kayaking in every summer. This summers’ fun runs were Daisy Creek, Pine Creek, and the Black Canyon. OBJ was crazy (previous post), but other than that, it was a great summer. The Black Canyon was super intense and involved more hiking than I prefer, but still an epic adventure…and I didn’t get poison ivy!

The men’s conference in Utah was spectacular and I loved seeing the brethren in Logan. Idaho was great as well. Wonderful times catching up with the believers here and I got to go out on campus with them to witness and pass out free literature. We passed out lots of free espresso cards and God blessed us with some good conversations with everyone from atheists to solid believers.

Also had a great river trip down the middle fork of the Salmon for 5 days with some cool Idaho boaters. Last night the Nuart showed a film called “why Christians choose to believe the Bible” which had a good turnout. One agnostic friend that I had the chance to talk to last week on campus showed up and seemed really challenged by the material presented. Praise God!

“For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Goody's pinned!"

It’s been a crazy summer. This is the story of one of the most intense situations I’ve ever been in that happened about a month ago:

“Goody’s pinned!” Ethan said to me in a rushed voice as he jumped out of his boat, grabbed his throw bag, and began running through the woods upstream. It was hard to imagine that two hours earlier we were chilling at the Smokehouse restaurant enjoying a beer together after work. Ethan received a text from Goody saying “Obj @ 5:45?” Ethan glanced at me and said “Wanna go boat?” “Yeah, let’s do it.” We had met up with one of our fellow raft guides, Adam, in Crested Butte who said he would come and take some pictures. After driving out into the beautiful valley, we met up with Chris and Goody at the Oh-be-joyful campground and prepared to run the 1 mile long, Class V creek. We had all run this creek multiple times before and were pretty comfortable on it. As we hiked up to the put-in, we talked about random stuff, about Ethan about to become a dad, and Goody spoke about his wife and one year old son. We put on and ran the first several drops fine. I happened to be in the back of the pack. Things got interesting as we approached Triple Drop, three fairly consecutive 5-6ft drops, before the Big Drop, a 25ft waterfall. I lined up for the first of the Triple Drops. When I went over it, I noticed a blue boat (goody’s) which was pinned underwater in the drop. Immediately I looked for Goody swimming downstream….but didn’t see him. Instead I saw Chris and Ethan eddying out and I knew Goody was still pinned in his boat.

I jumped out of my boat and grabbed my throwbag, I set up just a little upstream while Ethan and Chris went up to where Goody was. I knew that I would be the last safety bag for Goody if he popped out and the other two couldn’t get him before he would be going through the other two drops and possibly the big one. After a short time, though, I heard Ethan yell, “Paul, we need you up here!” I ran up the bank over to where they were. We tossed throwbags into the spot where we knew Goody was..although we couldn’t see him because of all the water pouring over his body. At one point, we could tell Goody had grabbed onto the bag, but as we slowly pulled, it popped out, and Goody was still stuck. Things started looking really grim for the next few minutes. We tried several other quick methods with no avail, not knowing if Goody could breath or not. The situation intensified as the minutes slowly ticked on and Goody remained stuck under the falls. We knew that, if he couldn’t breath, we had maybe a minute and a half, or two max before we would just be pulling out a body. As our efforts were continually ineffective, we thought we were watching our friend drown. However, we were given a little hope after several minutes when Goody’s arm reached up to grab a paddle that we were reaching in with. We kept pressing hard, knowing that he was still alive, but still not knowing how long he had to live while trapped there. We took some time to set up a more complicated ropes system. After trying several methods that didn’t work, we tried one that seemed like our best option. By this time Adam had come up and become a part of our rescue. We hooked up one guy in the river (it was fairly shallow in some spots, but still swift) to two ropes, one on each side. He was also roped on the back by another guy in the river behind him. I manned the rope on the far side, while Ethan and Chris switched off in the middle with Adam manning the rope on the far side. At one point, we needed an extra rope which was in Ethan’s kayak. I tied off my end and began going for it when they called me off. I didn’t know why, but somehow the system was set up. The guy on the ropes would walk out as close as he could get to Goody and then leap into the water where we knew he was pinned, trying to grab him and pull him out. After several failed attempts, moral began to decline again, but the work continued. I began praying, “Lord, you know what we’re doing and it’s not working. Lord, you need to pop him out. Please pop him out, Jesus.” A couple more leaps failed and then Chris went in again. As he disappeared into the falls, we could tell he had grabbed Goody, because he didn’t flush out like before. No sooner had we said, “He’s got him!” when Chris flushed out… without Goody. As Ethan and Chris began to brainstorm again and recoup for another leap, all of a sudden Goody and his kayak had popped out and was floating downstream. Chris was immediately grabbing Goody with both hands, as we held Chris with the ropes. Goody’s boat however was filling up with water and pulling everyone harder downstream. We were able to get the boat pinned on the rock and Ethan began trying to pull Goody’s leg out of his boat, which took longer than it should. Another guy, Nick, a kayaker who showed up just to watch had also been around for most of the rescue. He had helped Adam with the rope and now helped Ethan and Chris pull Goody out of the water on that side. We had just gotten Goody out when another kayaker showed up who had received the emergency call that Adam had phoned in earlier in the rescue. Just behind him was the Crested Butte Search and Rescue Team. I saw Goody move his head as they pulled him out and was relieved that he was alive. Search and Rescue took over and transported him to the hospital. Later, we were able to calculate that Goody was pinned under the water for thirty-three minutes total.

Eventually, everyone left and Ethan and I just sat on the back of his truck at the campground for a while. It was the toughest situation either of us had ever been in on the river, and truly a miracle that Goody came out alive. The “circumstances” that came together were to great to deny the hand of God in it. We got many of these details later. For one, we wondered where the extra rope had come from that we needed. Turns out, several weeks earlier, Goody had used that bag to tie a log off on shore and just left his bag there. It just “happened” to be right in that exact spot on the creek. Then, there’s the manpower. Chris and Goody were just planning on running it by themselves, but Goody decided to text Ethan and we decided to go. Also, that Adam wasn’t planning on coming, but then decided last minute to join us. If we had had any less people, the last system we had set up wouldn’t have worked, we needed every hand. Lastly, Adam had planned on just bringing his camera, but his battery was dead, so he decided to bring his cell phone to take pictures with. This is what he used to place the emergency call early on which helped SAR get there as quickly as they did. All these circumstances just “happened” to come together. No, God was definitely taking care of us.

On the drive back, Ethan looked at me and said, “I just can’t help thinking, ‘What if that had been one of us in there.’” “Well,” I replied, “that’s really where the rubber meets the road for me. There’s lots of religion out there that’s okay for a hobby or decent principles to live by, but with Jesus, I know that if that was me, and I didn’t have an air pocket, I know where I’m going.” “yeah, I guess it would be nice to think there’s something more, but I think I just believe that we just sort of blot out, or just stop existing…that’s kinda bleak I guess,” Ethan responded. “yeah, it makes sense there’s a God though, and I think one of the greatest evidences for it is where we are. When I see a painting I know there’s a painter, when I see a building I know there’s a builder, and when I see Creation, I know there’s a Creator.” “That’s a good point.” That was pretty much our conversation. There was the thought of, “Is now the right time to talk about this?” Then I thought, “There’s no better time. We have just seen two great things. 1. Man’s mortality. We came face to face with the fact that death can happen any time and very quicky. 2. God’s love. We just got to witness, first hand, God arranging things according to His plan in order to save Goody. While many of the guys could only direct their praise to “Luck” I know that Goody was not lucky, it was that God had His mighty hand in that rescue and it is to Him that I give all the praise and the glory. I couldn’t help but saying, “Praise God!” Praise God for His awesome protection and for the opportunities He give to us to share His good news with those who don’t know.

As I think about it, there are many parallels to Goody’s situation and ours as mankind. We are pinned under our sin and are helpless to free ourselves. Although we may live on this earth for a little while, if something doesn’t change, we are destined for death. There is no hope for us if we stay the same. We need an outside force to do something for us, or else we will perish for all eternity…and that’s exactly what God did. He sent us a glorious Savior. He sent Jesus to save us. Now, not through our being “good enough”, but only through faith in Jesus, we can be saved. Praise God that He saves sinners!

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

P.S. Sorry for the typo’s. Posted with basically zero proofing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Unfinished Business

So sorry this is only a couple.....months...late. Yeah, I guess I got back and got busy with life and everything and never bothered to update all of you on my last week in India. Although some books/movies kinda leave you hanging, I feel like I should close up my trip. As I read my journal from that time, the memories come flooding back and it honestly doesn't feel like all that long ago that I was there. So here's the last update about India if any of you were waiting for the end.

The last week there was really incredible...and really hard at the same time. We had one last procession in the village with the church building that is small and in poor condition. The processions are always a blast. It was cool to see the boldness of the pastors as they would stop at a street corner in the village and give a mini-sermon to the people around there. Truly amazing to see how the people would stop and listen to what they were saying. I was greatly encouraged to see this. That night, we gathered in the tiny building and started praying. As we prayed, more and more people began to show up. They just kept coming, and coming, and coming. The place was super crammed and it was AWESOME! I got to give the message here. What a privilege! After the meeting was over and we were just waiting, I had a joyous time with the pastors. It was tough realizing that I will probably not see many of them again until heaven. We had fun joking with each other though. One of the pastors (Moses) and I had a good time dancing outside. Haha! He's a lot like me with goofy dances. He showed me the dances of doing dishes, laundry, flying a kite, etc, which is equivalent to our “lawnmower” or “sprinkler.” Haha, just super fun.

The hard part the last week was realizing that I was having the “last” of many things. The last pastors meeting, the last Friday prayer, the last Saturday worship, the last Sunday, etc. The hardest part of that being that I was seeing some of those people for the last time.

One cool thing that I don't think I mentioned is that a couple weeks before I left, Tabitha opened up a little shop by her parents house. It's really small...like 6' by 6'..maybe. It's out by the road and she sells little snacks and miscellaneous things. I went by there a lot the last week. I didn't want to just hand out money to people, but now I could help her out by buying stuff. I went to her shop the first time and of course she wanted me to pray. I did and she wanted to give me some homemade sweets. I then told her I wanted to buy some biscuits (cookies). I figured I could buy them and then just pass them out to the kids around there. So I pointed to them and gave the number I wanted while she put them in the bag. Then I asked how much and pulled out my wallet. Haha, sweet as Tabitha is, she says “No, take them.” Of course I refused and tried to give her some money....so I get in this argument almost with this dear woman because I want to pay and help her out and she wants to give them to me. This is incredible, it's like lots of people in India see white skin and charge extra, while the believers I know don't want me to pay for anything! It's awesome. Tabitha tried to give them to me saying, “You prayed.” I responded (through her daughter translating) “Prayer is free, I want to buy the biscuits.” Eventually I won and was able to pay for them. This happened more than once that week. One day I was there and Kashoor (a man from church) came by in his auto-rickshaw and bought me a bag of chips. It's often the small things that mean the most.

We had an awesome prayer time the last Saturday evening. Plus, the dad of the new family that was hired to help with the orphans showed up which was awesome because I don't think he's a believer. Haha, after prayer, Pastor Daniel and myself had to go catch one of his chickens that had hopped over his wall. This was quite the task and took over a half hour. I would have to stay back while Pastor Daniel tried to guide it towards a bush, then we would both move in and try to grab it. It would often escape and PD would have to circle around it again. We eventually got it. Fun experience anyway.

The last Sunday was also great. I was given this message as well and spoke on joy. It was a great time of worship but really hard to say goodbye to my church family.

Monday was the last day there and was rough. I had a tough conversation with PD and could tell that he was a little worried about my “report” when I got back. It was tough just to see him stressed out. Lots of stuff got cleared up though, which was really nice. Packing was difficult. As I took a break in the afternoon, I was walking outside when Chandralahka ran up and grabbed my hand and wanted me to go with her over to the school, where Tabitha was staying. Tabitha was at home with her youngest and oldest, Jahnavi. Of course, we had to pray. I guess everything didn't really hit me until that point. It wasn't until I was praying for them that I realized that I was really leaving. My heart literally broke for this family and the tears streamed down my face. There is no way to describe how dear that family is to me. It was definitely the hardest to say good-bye. Of course she made me tea afterwards. Here's what I wrote in my journal that day, “How could I possibly explain this time? To be with a family like this. Sitting there with the small one playing with his top. I can't describe the impact that Tabitha has had on my life, and what it means to sit and drink tea she made for me. I know she will probably never be popular or famous in this life, but I still can't be here without thinking that I'm with one of the great saints of God.....Even if there was nothing else this trip, just meeting her and getting to be around her makes it totally worth it.” Even as I sit here months later, I can't help tearing up as I remember that day and that special time. That last night Pastor Israel had invited us to his house for dinner. This was really cool. Really special time there as well.

After we got back to the house, Uncle Levi came over to say goodbye. This was way difficult as well. I was trying to hold things together, but not doing a very good job at it. It was so hard to finish packing and realizing that I was really leaving. It was late and the kids were in bed and I had to leave the next morning before they woke up, so I didn't get to say goodbye to them..but it was probably better that way. Every single one of them would have been too difficult.

Early the next morning we had to leave for the bus station. It was so hard saying goodbye to my family. Mom gave me a huge bear huge and started sobbing. We had developed such a special relationship. I knew it would be hard to leave, but it was really hard. I had some good conversation with PD as we rode the bus to Chennai. Saying goodbye to him wasn't easy either, but easier because he comes to the States and I hope to see him this year.

The trip back took a really long time. From leaving Eluru to arriving in Denver, I clocked it at 55 hours of traveling. There was not much opportunity for conversation, but I'm not sure I would have had the brain power for it anyway. Transitioning back was a lot harder than going there. Even though my body was so tired from staying awake, I got very little sleep the first week.

After about two weeks I was pretty much back to normal in Pagosa Springs and stayed there for a couple months. This was a great time with family and teaching skiing at Wolf Creek. God also gave me some awesome opportunities to share with a couple different churches and a couple Bible study groups there about my experience in India. It was a blessing to see God using the things that touched me and pushed me closer to Jesus doing the same for some of the people in Pagosa.

One of the questions I've been asked a lot has been, “so, are you going back?” I would absolutely love to go back. As you've read here, they are like my family over there. Although it was offered for me to come back long term and take some of the leadership for this ministry, I never got confirmation from God on that. It is certainly is an amazing ministry and seemingly what any missionary would want. But here's what God brought to mind. The whole purpose of a missionary is to equip the local people to do the work. Although there is a gap right now in the leadership of this ministry, it is functioning under the native people. I believe if I were to go back, I could be of help for 10-15 years. However, after that time of taking leadership upon myself, I would then have to spend the rest of my time there trying to give back that leadership to the native people. This seems backwards to me. As I read through the book of Acts, I saw Paul and his companions doing the pioneer work. Sometimes, after they had established the church in a certain place, they would return. I saw that when they returned, they did not take back the reigns from those they had put in leadership. Instead, I saw two words come up again and again...support and encourage. This is how I feel with India. Would I go back short term? Absolutely, even short term as in months. I would love to go back and see everyone and encourage them. However, to go back long term and try to take the reigns I think would be counter-productive...but if God tells me to, it won't take much convincing.

So what am I up to now? As one of my good friends said, “Well, I mean, you just got back from five months in India doing all this awesome stuff, aren't you going to go start a church on top of Mt. Everest or something?” Haha. The answer to that is no. I guess Mt. Everest will have to remain churchless for a little while. It does express a struggle that I had coming back though and I could write pages about that. But here's the really short version of things that went through my head. 1. We have to battle selfish ambition and church glory. For example, if we feel the call to serve in vocational ministry, there can easily be a temptation to establish OUR empire. Or to make some cool, flashy, ministry that is big and “successful.” Then we can be seen as “great men of God” or whatever. This ties into church glory. I've seen this a lot from this trip. There is a lot more glory in doing ministry in India than there is in doing ministry in Pagosa...or Gunnison. 2. People go to the same Hell from America as they do from India. There is a temptation to think that the condition of sinners without Christ in India is more desperate than those in America...just because we don't wear it as much. The fact is, without Jesus in this life, all men, everywhere, are destined for an eternity without Him—in Hell. These things and others have helped lead me back to Gunnison. I am helping out a man who discipled me when I was here before. I am able to help him with Ministry Breakfast and Saturday night church services as well as having some opportunities to visit some people in the hospital and jail. This has been such a blessing to come along and learn from him. God has given be some absolutely incredible opportunities to share Him with some of the lost people here. He's also given me a couple guys to disciple. I'm back raft guiding again and God opened a door there for me to do a Bible study with my fellow guides. Next Monday is week one! I'm super excited for it, but I need lots of prayer for that as well.

Right now it's just an awesome time for me to learn the “head knowledge” as well as get the hands on experience of ministry. If God sends me overseas to the unreached, I will gladly go, but if He chooses to keep me here and reach the people of Gunnison or wherever, I will gladly stay. What it boils down to is this: “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” 2 Cor. 5:9

I decided to just keep this blog going and will try to update it...although it definitely won't be once a week. I couldn't say how much it meant to me to have all of you praying for me when I was over there. You are all a great blessing in my life. Thanks for everything.

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” 2 Cor. 5:14-15

Pray for:
--Continued opportunities
--God to work on hearts of fellow guides
--God's continued work in Ministry Breakfast and Saturday nights.

Praise for:
--Good travels
--Wonderful opportunities
--God's working on hearts in India, Pagosa, and Gunnison.
--His continued faithfulness shown in every situation.