Friday, 31 July 2015

Lead by Stepping Back

So as I finish my year at S. Luke’s UMC today, (31st July), I am posting the final team building devotion for Florida City. The past two devotions where apart of this training, that sums up a lot of what the missions department aims to instill its volunteers before they go out to serve, and thus is a lot about what I have learnt the past months. Through helping others go through this training, I definitely have had my own eyes opened, as is the intention of it all.
As I looked back at “Leading by stepping back”, I thought a lot about what it means to not lead from the forefront, and how important this is, not only when doing a joint mission experience, but while working with youth, or within a community, or even just in our everyday lives. It is about empowering others, while working side by side with them.

Lead by Stepping Back

Okay, so I am awful with stepping back, absolutely awful. Two weeks into my internship I went on retreat with the young adult missional movement, up to Georgia. Two weeks in and I needed a break, I don’t know what that says about me, but hey. So while away we did the enneagram personality test. I came out as an eight (as did Ruth by the way) with a strong 9 wing. For those that can’t immediately translate that enneagram language, it reads that I am a “leader, or challenger” with a strong “peacekeeper” wing. This means I am self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually creative, optimistic, and supportive, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace.  
This enneagram combination gives me the title “the Bear”, but the traits do mean that at even healthy levels, I can have difficulties in giving up power and leadership…. This came as a huge surprise to my roommates… but I do honestly have difficulties if I am not in some control of my work. So today’s topic of leading by stepping back is probably the least easy for myself to give a devotion over.
Last week we were looking at gifts and assets, and in the excellent exercise that Adam did, we saw how Branches likely have as much to offer us, for our needs, as we have to offer to their needs. We are all equals and thus one group is not the leader of the other, we are all a part of one body of workers, and cookers, and child minders. We are all working together.

We read:
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
12 Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. 13 We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. 14 Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. 15 If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 16 If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body?17 If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted. 19 If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body? 20 But as it is, there are many parts but one body. 21 So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”22 Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. 23 The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. 24 The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor 25 so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. 27 You are the body of Christ and parts of each other. 28 In the church, God has appointed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, the ability to help others, leadership skills, different kinds of tongues. 29 All aren’t apostles, are they? All aren’t prophets, are they? All aren’t teachers, are they? All don’t perform miracles, do they?30 All don’t have gifts of healing, do they? All don’t speak in different tongues, do they? All don’t interpret, do they? 31 Use your ambition to try to get the greater gifts. 

Just think on this. We are all a part of one body of believers, all of us, Branches Florida City and St. Luke’s, (Churches in Belfast, and Bangor, Northern Ireland and America) neither is greater than the other, neither has greater leadership skills than the other, neither has greater construction skills than the other, neither has greater knowledge than the other. We all have our individual skills and personality types, but together our skill sets are so wide and varied, there is no one skill or personality that overshadows the rest. This is the same for the team we will be joining in Fl City, there will be no one dominant skill. This means neither we are them are capable of leading the charge, being at the forefront in everything. Leading about stepping back isn’t just about giving others the chance to grow, or better themselves, it is also about admitting to ourselves, we can't do this alone. We cannot do it all. So when we lead by stepping back we really are leading, by being a team together, St. Luke’s and Florida City. We will be one team!
So before we leave Friday, if you haven’t already, take a personality test, do the enneagram test, or something, just to look at yourself a little closer, and then think “how will I become part of the bigger team, knowing this about myself?” 

Try taking a minute to think how this can be applied to:

  1. Your home life
  2. Social life
  3. Work life
  4. Church life


Owain Campton

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Skills and Assets

So here is a devotion I did earlier in the year, that I have been thinking on recently. I want to share it with you, but here is an idea, if you can, re-read this with another, or in a group of three or more, and discuss the questions, because I do think it is important to appreciate other’s skills and assets, and encourage others, but also it is equally important to look at your own skills, and think on how they can be used in your life and the life of the church.

This was written and lead by myself before going to Florida City with a group of different ages, to go help build a playground with the Branches community. Although it is based around the gifts and assets found by many at St. Luke’s, gifts and assets are very much universal, so also very applicable to Northern Ireland, as I will discuss in a later post, that I'm trying to lead to. Basically I am pulling from my previous work, so one, you can see what I have been doing, but two, lead you in my thought process, so I can share with you what I have learnt, and you can see and understand how I got to that point.

Skills and Assets

1 Peter 4:9-11
Open your homes to each other without complaining. 10 And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts. 11 Whoever speaks should do so as those who speak God’s word. Whoever serves should do so from the strength that God furnishes. Do this so that in everything God may be honored through Jesus Christ. To him be honor and power forever and always. Amen.
Colossians 3:17
17 Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.
Luke 21:1-4
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “truly I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.

So I came here in October, but prior to that I had a number of sessions with Britt Gilmore, who is a pastor in Northern Ireland, who went over as a missionary from here at St. Luke’s.
In these sessions we had dinner with his family and then would sit down with him, the American use to Northern Irish culture, his wife Alison, the Northern Irish one use to American culture, and me the blissfully unaware intern to be. No I did have an idea about American culture, but these sessions were set as a cultural preparation session.
One of the things Britt said was “Now Owain, Americans are rather self-assured in their talents, they don’t hold back on how good they think they are. Whereas you all are rather held back, and shy away from compliments.”
So from that stand point this devotion on “Gifts and Assets” should be easy, because you all are so self-assured on what you’re good at! (This said of course to americans!)

Truth is we do all have skills and assets, so quick in your groups I want you to discus, what you think your gifts are, and I want everyone to say at least one!

Now you have all discussed what your skills are I want you to think, how could this be used in the context of Florida City, and how it could be used here, at St Luke’s? (Think on how your skills could be used at your local church or community outreach centre!)

We read
10 And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts.

As well as
17 Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.

This tells us that
1.       Our gifts come from God
2.       We should use our gifts to represent and please God here
3.       And everyone has gifts

Now I showed you that clip from the under rated film Megamind, where he is trying to find a way to use his skills to impress the class, but can’t find away, because the young Metroman’s skills keep over shadowing his.
Last week I was on retreat and in our reading, I came across this passage
“Here we touch the most important quality of Christian leadership in the future. It is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility...” “Leadership in which power is constantly abandoned in favour of love” “most of us still feel that, if we have anything at all to show….” “…we have to do it solo, and make it a spectacle”

Our gifts don’t need to be shown as huge gestures of power in faith, to make everyone say “oh look at so and so, aren’t they so good”, like metroman making the popcorn, but we can use our skills together to follow the call to give up power, and be vulnerable humans, and show love. You shouldn’t look at others and think, like Megamind did, “man their gifts are so much greater than mine”, they aren’t. God gives us all gifts, talents, and assets, though some may show them outwardly, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use your gifts, to quietly build the kingdom here.

We look also at Luke 21, and we see that it doesn’t matter how large the gift or asset, if we give it fully to God, it will please him. Like in the how to be rich series how it talks on “God looks at percentages!” If we give our all, and put a large percentage of our time and effort, if we put all the time and energy we can, just like the poor Widow, into the work we are doing here at St. Luke’s or in Florida City, it will please God.

So here is my challenge for you, go from this place and look at the time you spend during your day, or week, and see if you can break down the time you spend at school, work, eating, sleeping, resting, and how much of that time you spend in worship, service, or prayer. Then maybe look at if you can do the latter more so.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Making Poverty Personal


So here is a devotion I did earlier in the year, that I have been thinking on recently. I want to share it with you, but here is an idea, if you can, re-read this with another, or in a group of three or more, and discuss the questions, because I certainly found it interesting how we all have different views of poverty and those in poverty, and its the act of seeing that even those we would see as being in our own social circle, or what not, have different views, that helps open our eyes to our own view on poverty, and a wider look at societies view on it.

This was written and lead by myself before going to Florida City with a group of different ages, to go help build a playground with the Branches community. Although it is based around poverty in America, it is also very applicable to Northern Ireland poverty, as I will discuss in a later post, that I'm trying to lead to. Basically I am pulling from my previous work, so one, you can see what I have been doing, but two, lead you in my thought process, so I can share with you what I have learnt, and you can see and understand how I got to that point.

Florida City Memorial Day Weekend Training

Making Poverty Personal

Take a look at this first!

Scripture: Matthew 25:34-40
34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. 35 I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36 I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’
37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear?39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’

What is it that comes to your mind when the term Global Poverty is used? Africa, poor, Less economically developed countries? What about when the term Local Poverty is used? Benefits, Handouts, minority communities?
Let’s quickly debunk some basic misconception’s, though I am sure you all already know this all.
1.    The US poverty level was as of 2014, 14.3%, that means of the people on that will be going on this trip, statistically 5 would be in poverty. (NB we had somewhere between 35-40 people on this experience)
2.    Poverty does not just occur in pocket communities, within nearly every neighbourhood there will be people facing issues that make it hard for them to keep their heads above water.
3.    The majority in poverty are not there due to “lack of effort”, generational poverty exists massively here.
4.    Those in poverty are not just looking for handouts.
So I want you to think about these four points, and in knowing that think to yourselves, what is my mission as an ambassador of Christ?

We are called in the passage I read, to help everyone, where we see need we are called to help. So we need our eyes to be wide open to the need around us, and a lot of the time it is not going to be fully evident, and others it will be, but we need to be able to see those in need and know that no matter the situation we are called to help.

I want you in small groups of four or five to answer on these four questions. (You can do this alone at home…)

1.    What do you view as poverty?
2.    What are some areas of poverty, that people even in your community may be facing?
3.    What are some judgments I am quick to pass on people who need help, that I should try to drop here?
4.    How will you help support each other as a team (or support those you live or work with), to stop quick judgments, and to help do what this passage was talking about?

Here is one more question for you all to take away with you.
What am I going to look out for this week, to try help me identify those in need, And to help stop myself passing judgment on others?


God we thank you for the time we got to spend together this eve, preparing to work with our brothers and sisters in Florida City, and we hope that you can bestow onto us the ability to see the world through your eyes, that we may see those who need help, and that you also help strengthen us to fulfil what you have asked of us.
We bring all our worries, and our judgments, that we may have, and we lay them in your arms, knowing you are the great provider, and sustainer. That with you we do not need to worry.
Let us go back to our weeks, full of your spirit, ready to help build your kingdom here, and everywhere we go.
In your Sons holy name we pray.


That is the end of the devotion, but I did find this video that I thought was interesting, from a UK stance on the public's view on Poverty


Owain Campton

Monday, 27 July 2015

A Letter Home

Before the letter I will give a little information. This was written and sent on June 22nd, of this year. Many from my home church will have already read it, but it contains a snippet of what I have been up to between my last update blog and now.

                Is it me you’re looking for? Okay maybe now isn’t the time for Lionel Richie lyrics.
So let me start this letter by apologising for my disappearance from my blog and lack of communication with back home. It has been about three months since my last blog post, and honestly I have been neglecting the importance of letting “Y’all” (yup still using American colloquialisms) know how I am doing.

So I am coming into my final month of working at St. Luke’s UMC and very hesitant about the fact I am having to leave so soon, don’t get me wrong I want to see you all back home, but I have made many connections, and friends here, that I really wish I could somehow bring home and here together.

So what have you missed, well my supervisor in youth ministry has moved on to take a congregation of his own, as he becomes an associate pastor at another church. This has led to two new youth directors coming on, a Gent called Zac, has become the new director of middle school ministries, (the equivalent of p7 through third year). He is, of course completely mad, as you have to be, to work with middle schoolers. Though I would say he is truly excellent, and I am excited to see how the St. Luke’s Middle School Youth develops in the future. A Lady named Caryn, has taken over the High school and young adult ministries, and with her being a member of the church already, I could think of nobody whom would be more ideal for the role.

In missions the mission experience I had been working on since January came together, and we ( a group of about 40 people, of all ages), travelled down to Florida City and worked with the community to build a playground down at Branches UMC. This was over memorial day weekend, and took a lot of energy as we moved tons upon tons of mulch to lay down a protective layer around all the equipment. It was tiring, but immensely fun. I also got to lead a worship group consisting of two St. Luke’s youth, Pedro, and a few Branches musicians, in the Sunday morning service. In the past few weeks I have had more and more time to lead the St. Luke’s Youth worship, and has given me great pleasure in using my music to help guide the youth in their faith journeys.

I have also been continuing my work with the missions council,  in which they try to define the missions criteria, based around St. Luke’s 4D vision. This also has involved looking at their Belfast mission partnerships, and seeing how we change, without losing our partnerships, so that they fit with our vision. So I have enjoyed the chance to help with that home connection, and hopefully over the next month will help set some more things in place to make a difference, both back home, and here.

I went on an excellent retreat to Atlanta with the YAMMERs which involved going to the MLK centre, which was a very moving and powerful exhibition, that all should see if they can. I also went to the CDC (centre for disease control) museum, which was also fascinating to see how our understanding of diseases has changed over the years, from cancer to HIV, right through to Smallpox.

I finish work at St. Luke’s on the 31st of July, and will be returning home the 15th of August. I ask for prayers for my friend and pastor Jenn, still, as she has just had her final surgery, in this battle against what she refers to as “Stupid” (Cancer). Please keep her family in your prayers as well, that they maintain their strength as well. Asking for prayers for the other Co-lead pastor, Bill Barnes, as he ends his time in ordained ministry and moves on to other things. Finally please pray for me, that as I try to follow God’s path for me, and leave this place, for the next in my life journey, that I don’t find it to difficult.

I continue my prayers for South Belfast Methodist, and Belfast as we move into the season of parades and bonfires, that peace will prevail through the time.

Owain Campton

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Hashtag Agapé

So you haven't heard from me in ages, and I'm sorry. The honest reason was because I didn't make time to communicate with yous all, because I was finding it harder to want to put down some of my feelings on paper (well, blog) because sometimes it made it too real, or sometimes I didn't want to let people know that at times I was having some issues. Truth is I'm fine, just at times was homesick, or worried about going home, totally two ends of a spectrum, but still.
I decided to try and post one story ever couple of days about my stay here until I leave, good luck to me!
Today my story is prompted by just stopping at one of St. Luke's mission partners to worship after being on retreat. This was Branches, in Florida City. Now I have travelled here twice this year before today. Once was over MLK weekend, to help with Florida City love yourself, in which I did a lot of gardening with the youth, and moved a stupidly heavy cast iron bell with Andrew. The second was ove Memorial Day weekend, on an inter generational  mission experience, in which St. Luke's missions department took a group of people to Branches to work along side the community building a playground. I had the privilege to play with the worship band that
weekend. It was amazing. Anyhow I digress.
Today (Sunday 26th July) the roommates and I left our retreat in the keys to make our way back to YAMM-lando, for a youth lake day, we stopped at Branches, to worship, and honestly to just say hey to some friends that some of us won't get to see again for a long time. Today was their celebration of  "Summer Shade"
which is their Vacation Bible School, and it was great to be able to see the kids and youth singing, dancing and giving praise to God, and they do it with this feeling of such honesty, as in they didn't seem to hold anything back to try act all "cool" or what not, they just praised, and that's something that I really love about Branches. During the service the kids recalled some of their summer chant followed by "hashtag (#) agapé" and I found this really awesome, coming from a church back home (Belfast south Methodist) who worship in the Agapé centre.
It got me really thinking on the  word.
Of course we all know agapé is the Greek for "love: the highest form of love, especially brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God" (from Wikipedia: the fountain of all semi-accurate knowledge). To see this term both sides of the Atlantic makes me mindful that Love is global! God loves all, and we are called to love all as well. My whole year I have tried to focus personally on the passage from John 13:34 "a new command I give you; love one another. As I have loved you love one another!" Don't underestimate how hard that it is to do so, especially when someone finishes the last of the sunny delight and all you want is sunny delight.... But for real, it is difficult. So seeing agapé today helped me remember that love is global, and we are all linked. We sometimes find it easier either to focus within our local community, or only focus on "world issues", but we need to look at both, because they are linked, and this is something I want to look at in my next blog post. We need to love locally and globally we need to love family and non family, we need to love in all things we do. God's love is agapé. We are called to show agapé love to all.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Week Eighteen (continued) through Twenty: "Owain, you've fallen behind in blogging again!" "Ah well, hashtag Y.O.L.O!"

Okay so yet again I have left this a while since my last blog, due to the sheer amount of work that that I have been helping (not hindering…. Usually) with, at St. Luke’s UMC. So I am going to do this in my normal style, for an “Owain-you-have-too-many-days-to-remember” catch up blog.

Children’s Ministry

So as you now I spent time over Christmas, researching and trying to find some curriculum, for the hour long period I have total control over the children on a Wednesday, I was happy with what I brought together for them, however you would be surprised how many Tuesday nights I spent looking at what I had planned, and thinking, “what the heck was I thinking?!”, and changing my plan.
Looking back at some of the things I did with them, there are definitely something’s I would change about how I would present it all. So here is:

Owain’s three point guide to not screwing up children’s ministry.
Do no,  I repeat do not, put out the paint, brushes, and paper in front of them before you explain what to do…. Or you will end up with something beautiful, but also useless for the lesson… this is pretty much the same for any craft activity.
Explain, in detail, to your volunteers what the activities are, and even if think you have, tell them once more just to make sure. This stops you having to answer their questions while explaining the task or activity to the children, which can be very distracting to kids, or seen as a chance to escape to the toys. Also, once you start explaining, don’t stop for questions till the end, because when a child raises there hand, this most certainly doesn’t indicate a question, it may actually be a five minute ramble on how they went to school without their hair being the way they wanted…

When you make a plan, most certainly be free to deviate, as with children, who knows what the heck is going to happen. (Number of times I stuck to the plan the whole way…. Somewhere between one and negative one) When you can't stick to the plan make sure you have small backups to slot in, to keep the children occupied as you try to find a way back to your plan. (Example: put on some kid friendly worship, as anyone under ten seems to have the ability, and loves to dance to anything…)

So there you have it. I will put in here, an example of one of the days we did that I felt went the best…
The Creed: God the Father
First I sat with and talked to them about the first two lines of the Apostles Creed, “I believe in God the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” Trying to get them to just appreciate how we believe in a being that created everything, and how mind blowing that is, from the oak leaf veins to the massive burning ball of gas, that we call the sun. I then showed a time lapse video that we had used in Sunday school for youth that previous week.

We then created a huge poster of the world, made up of blue bulletin board paper, and green craft card, cut by the children into different land mass shapes

Youth Ministry
I love every one of my youth, no matter how hyperactive some can be at times; they are all fantastic! It is a pleasure to be able to work with them. Over the past month we started new Monday night programming, called Plugged In, which I have been given as my programme to try grow, and run. It is good experience starting a programme from scratch, first week we had a grand total of….Five, which to some may be disheartening, and make you feel like giving up, but you always have to remember that a programme is not going to be an overnight success. Also being a new start and blank page, it does give Andrew and me the chance to be creative with what we do in it over the next months.
Wednesday nights I am still taking sport, and yes, I am still awful at basketball…
Sunday School has been really interesting over the past few weeks. With Andrew leading confirmation, I have been left to take what remains of the 7th and 8th Grade class. It is a great growth experience, I believe, for me. It lets me actually teach on the topics; yea that is scary, me teaching young impressionable minds, on our religion and faith. So far, however, I feel it has gone relatively well! Sunday evenings have been going well, we still play games that are all…. Carefully thought through, I think is the best way to describe them… Maybe…
We also have continue to volunteer with Wyldlife, an external middle school youth fellowship programme. They are amazing! The leads are so passionate, and caring towards their youth, it is something that a lot of youth fellowships could do with!

Forty-four games that I thought would end up with a child in hospital, but somehow didn’t….
Dang! We actually have a lot of weeks and games to get through…. Please note, not all these games are from St. Luke’s Youth, some are from Wyldlife.
#13 Scavenger hunt… round a major theme park and night club area, using Instagram! (Wyldlife)
                Take youth to a destination full of people, and different sights, have a list of objects, people wearing specific clothes, etc. and have them go round in groups (with leaders) to find them. When found the group must take a photo, be it a selfie or a regular photo, then post it to Instagram, with a specific hashtag! It did sound like so many things could go wrong, being out in the crowds, but it was brilliant, and was a great way to integrate technology into the game!

#14 Reindeer Vs Elves
Marshmallow gun plus capture the flag, at Christmas! You have a pitch with three thirds marked out,  a reindeer safe zone, a no man’s land, and an elf safe zone. Basically if you are shot, you must return to your safe zone. The goal being to… well its obvious… capture the other flag…

#15 Ant Raid!
Four points marked round a specific playing area. One person is the exterminator, pretending to have a can of Ant Raid, the rest are ants. The exterminator, runs around spraying ants with the raid! (okay so its tag) When an ant is caught, it lies on its back with legs and arms up in the air. Four ants can then drag the dead ant to one of the four previously marked points, for the dead ant to be revived, while doing so they are safe from the exterminator.

#16 Ninjas and Shaman
This is a weird, but awesome one. You need loads of foam pool noodles (you know, the floats) these are swords for the ninjas. You also need hula hoops, for the shaman. You have two teams, made up of many ninjas, and a few shamans each. After the whistle goes, ninjas from opposing teams run at each other, and sword fight. If hit in the arm, you put your arm behind your back, if hit in the leg, you hop. This goes on till you have no limbs, and are then dead. The shaman’s job is to hula hoop around, and heals injured ninjas, but they can’t revive dead ones. Winner is the team with remaining ninjas.

#18 Trade Up. (Wyldlife)
So get multiple teams of youth, and give them all a paper clip. They then get given a specific and unique route around a neighbourhood, each. The task is to trade the paper clip for something bigger or better, and then repeat till your set time limit is up. The winner is to the team with the biggest item, and the most useful item. The biggest for Wyldlife was a sheet of Plywood, which our team got at the first house in exchange for the paper clip… we couldn’t really go anywhere further with trading that…. The most useful was split between a Surf board, and a 52 inch telly. Yea….
To be honest I didn’t really expect a kid to get injured, mind you with Florida’s stand your ground law, lord knows what could have happened…

#19 Wizards, elves, Giants
                Wizards beat elves, elves beat giants, giants beat wizards. Two teams. Each choice has an action, which you can get creative with. Teams line up opposite each other in the middle of a hall. Shout 1,2,3 go. At which both teams reveal their action (which must be the same for each team member, if not those doing the wrong one, loose) the looser is chased by the winner, back to their wall. Whoever the winner catches joins their team. Rinse and repeat!

#20 Human Knot
                Everyone(max 12 people) gets into a tight circle, and then put their hands in the middle. Take your left hand, and grab someone’s right hand, whom is not beside you! Now they have to untangle themselves without letting go… I am surprised nobody ended up with a spiral facture or dislocated arm, with the way they tried untying themselves… And this was done with elementary school children!

Missions work has been great fun recently. Not that it never was, but it has been more so recently... Saved myself there….
I have been working closely with Miriam, in mission development and Global Missions, as you will remember. The main project I am working on at the moment is the Florida City Intergenerational  Mission Experience. Kelly Brinker, Miriam, and I have just recently got the applications complete, and sent out. We soon will be selecting the team, setting up training times, and going down to Florida City, to coordinate with our partners down there. The goal is to build a playground over Memorial Weekend.
I have also started work on researching a possible Intergenerational Mission Training Retreat, to prepare those who want to serve. One of the places we are looking at is the ECHO far, I talked about recently.
This week I hosted Family Promise, overnight at St. Luke's. As their website states: Family Promise of Greater Orlando (FPGO) is a nonprofit, interfaith hospitality network providing temporary assistance, hospitality, and case management for families with children experiencing homelessness. Family Promise provides these services through the participation of local congregations, dedicated staff, and hundreds of volunteers. 
It was great to get talking with the families, and hear all their plans, and what they did in their everyday lives.

Super Bowl

I watched the super bowl at Andrews… he is a mad patriots fan, so Pedro decided to support the Seahawks, because he doesn’t mind stirring things up at all…. So we watched the game at his, and I got to experience proper super bowl adverts! There were some very impressive ones!

Also with those last four game plays, meaning the game was in the balance till the end, made it a game I won’t soon forget. That and Andrew flipping out when Patriots intercepted in the line….

School System
So I have recently started helping some students, at our Monday programming and some others, with homework, and some tutoring.
Oh. My Goodness! I just cannot get my head around their system. These youth are under constant testing, and the AP students have large exams at the end of the year. Some start school before 7am, if they have a test they need to do, and end around 2pm. In the last year of school they could be doing up to eight subjects, sometimes more. Admittedly I haven’t come across a subject (even AP) which goes into as much depth as we do in our A-levels, but we are doing only four subjects, and other than coursework and practical’s, the only real thing that counts for our result is our end of year exams, which yes is horrendously stress full. Here though homework, and in the year tests, all count, and then you get told where you’re grade is at the end of each term…. The stress is constant. I honestly don’t understand how that can be seen as healthy, mind you I wouldn’t say that our home system is better. I have thought one thing… Thank dear goodness I managed to get through it all eventually!

Six Nations
I can confirm I have watched all the games! Wooo! However I will also confirm the games kind of sucked, except the Scotland Wales game, that was a good one. Come on Ireland for Sunday the first of march!
Their first rugby game... it sucked....

On Friday just past I took part in CQ, a seminar, workshop, whatever you want to call it on Cultural intelligence! I was interested to see where I ranked on the scale for CQ, and it suggested that my cultural background was, well all over the place. I have the collectivism mentality (focus on We rather than I) similar to those cultures in in Arab, Confucian and southern Asian, Latin American and sub-Saharan African. I am High Power Distance orientated, meaning I see boundaries and somewhat accept inequality levels, as in Arab, Latin American and southern Asian cultures.
I have a high uncertainty avoidance level, like Latin European and American cultures, meaning I avoid failure, and need rules. I am competitive like Anglo and Germanic European cultures, so need to excel and live to work. I am long term based; I need a long term plan, look at past successes to determine the likely hood of future success.
I am fairly high context based like Eastern European Latin American and European cultures, so I am indirect in communication at times, and don’t like upsetting harmony.
I am doing orientated, like Anglo and Germanic European cultures, so am goal orientated. I am time focused, and need a time frame, and a plan!
My home culture would come under the Anglo cluster culture, which includes the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand. However I do hate the term Anglo…
For the Actual CQ Profile, I was in the top 25% of the worldwide norm for each of CQ Drive, Knowledge, Strategy, and Action. This means I do have a good idea of Cultural differences, and know how to interact, though it did show me areas in which I could improve, like in my Socio-linguistic skills, or Extrinsic Interest in CQ, which is to see something in it for yourself, apparently I don’t look at things for my own gain a lot, which to be honest I am not too sure if this is true or not…
Despite this it was an excellent workshop, and if you are ever offered to do it, please take it!

Spare time
What free time… 
I am joking. kind of... Recently in my spare time I have been hanging with the college students, frequently with my friend Francesca, who I can honestly say I am lucky to have around, to keep me sane here at times!
I also have been to the cinema with Pedro on numerous occasions, once to American Sniper, then with youth to Selma, and with him to see Kingsmen.
They were all good films, though American Sniper made me feel very uneasy, especially when the audience cheered and clapped when the “bad guy” was shot dead from two miles away….
Selma was mighty powerful, and for someone who knows little about the American civil rights movement, has created an interest.
Kingsmen was hilarious for a twenty year old male….

Prayers, Praises and Concerns
The Stiles-Williams as they continue their journey, Grace as she continues through her Senior year.
Shakeria, just that whatever is going on in her life right now is positive; and the same for Francesca.
Pedro, just for his heart.
Sarah, my other roommate.
My family back home, that they stay safe, healthy, and mad as ever. That my father has a positive lent and Easter.
That St. Luke’s has a positive transition as Pastor Bill retires in the following months, and Pastor Jenn moves from co-lead, to lead pastor. That people, who may have fears in this change (as many do not like change at all), may be put to rest.
Pray for me to keep motivated, and energised!
Pray for Andrew, as for the reason below!

So this month Andrew, Director of youth ministry, announced to the youth, that he was going for ordination into the United Methodist Church. This was a hard time for them.  I have known for a while now,  but before I was told, I could honestly say that he was made to be a pastor, his passion for youth, is only ought weighed, in my eyes, by one thing, his passion for teaching scripture and theology. I have learnt so much from him, it has been a pleasure working with him, and I know he will make an awesome minister! The church council voted to send him forward as a candidate for ordination, on Tuesday past.

So this week I went to my first full Ash Wednesday, complete with the Imposition of Ashes, something which rarely done at home, as it is a Catholic tradition. Though it is a powerful service where I felt we look upon our own mortality. We are very fragile, and as is said “the only certainties in life are death and taxes.” Though as a certain nameless person (for their own protection….) said “yea but you can avoid taxes….” We come into this world, and from our first breath we have started our journey to death. There is a saying, that I do use totally ironically when people ask me questions I can’t really be bothered answering, and that saying is Y.O.L.O. You Only Live Once. An example “Owain why is my coat on the ground.” “Because, YOLO.” Or “Owain, why is my car totalled?!” “hashtag Y.O.L.O!” The thing is though, through Christ we don’t. We will die, but because of Christ we can be born again, so Y.O.L.O does not apply. Many young people use the phrase, to pass of behaviour that isn't really positive, off as banter, joking, a one off, but we should strive to live with Christ. Viktor Frankl once said "live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time." We should really think about all our actions, be it what we say or do, be it towards someone, behind someone's back, our to our self, because we must love ourselves, others and God, we must aim to live for the next life.

This video is worth a watch, I found it as I was thinking on the Ashes service.


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Week Eighteen: Running in Faith and Colour...

Oh my goodness… I am twenty… What the heck! Gone is the excuse “I am a teenager”. Two decades down, unknown to go… This week, as you may have gathered is my first as a twenty year old, and I think I am settling into it well, and by that I mean absolutely nothing has changed. I still am working the same as I did, still am as (ill-)disciplined as I was two weeks ago, still interact with people in the exact same manor. I mean I knew I wouldn’t have any major epiphany, as I kept reminding my roommate Samantha, as she practically counted down the days till the house was teenager free. Though this birthday week has been very different, to start I haven’t had my dad calmly doing his tax return over it, of course I am joking. The lack of actual family was really weird at first though, but then I realised, I have a massive family here. I touched on my Wednesday birthday celebrations last week, and how Pedro and Andrew threw a Princess Birthday for me, but I didn’t mention the little things like my boss in children’s ministries, buying me a mountain dew (and even tied a bow around it) or Minister of Connection congratulating me, and giving me a hug. Really in life it is the small things that make things easier. Then my friend Francesca (one of those previously mentioned college students!) got me a card and candy, despite being broke at the moment, though how many students aren’t?  Then I did have that princess surprise party with my youth! I arrived home to find the house decorated by my roommates, with balloons and messages galore. We are all very busy, but the fact they took the time, and effort, to do all of that was just so warming, and loving. Honestly have struck it lucky with these guys. I came in knowing nothing about them, knowing I could be put in a house of freaks, and to be honest I have, but they are awesome freaks!

On Thursday I had the joys to come in for a meeting in mission development and I am serious when I say joy, I had been asking for this meeting since around New Year…. We got together, Lynette (executive director of missions), Miriam (Director of mission development), Kellie (Associate director of missions), and myself (director of squat all/intern); we talked on three points, Global missions, a Florida City intergenerational mission experience, and another intergenerational mission retreat. From Global missions we looked over the links I had made with a Floridian College, in regards to Public Health and our Jamaica mission, as well as the links I had made with this UMC Guatemalan mission, you know, the one I asked the stupidly difficult questions… Yea that one. We discussed how we were going on from there. Then for Florida City we talked over everything that needs to be done before the trip in  May, including producing an application form, going down to work out logistics, what exactly it was we were going to do. I will talk more on this next week, after we release all the information. Then I was given three different family mission based retreat facilities to look into, including ECHO, the global farm project I was at only two days before! The hope is to sort a family retreat, which will prepare families those who want to participate on St. Luke’s missions trips, be it local or global! I love being involved in the development process, as many know I have a rather… strong personality… which likes to have control, and leadership… and honestly (although I am not at all qualified to lead or have full control… at all!), this gives me some control over the content of these retreats, and over the development of our partnerships!

Friday was a day where I just chilled. I awoke to be invited by Francesca, to come round and watch Maze Runner with Pedro and the other students, though Pedro could not attend as he had DMV things to attend to, and the students ended up busy, so we watched Maze Runner, in glorious surround sound… which lead me to jump just a wee bit when weird sounds came from right behind me… totally kept my cool…

Then that night I had a brilliant experience, as I celebrated my birthday, with whom I can only describe as my American family, the Stiles-Williams. I mean they do mirror my home family in many, many ways. I did have a moment yesterday (Monday) where Jenn, did completely mother me, I will not give details, but it did make me laugh. They took me in, and cooked beautiful food, gave me some gifts, then took me out to the cinema to see The Hobbit (don’t get me started on that film…)(…I just question Peter Jacksons belief that his direction is more creative than Tolkien’s writing is…) (…That is all I am saying…)(…but can I also just say, Legolas is pointless and unneeded in this film series…)(…sigh…)Anyway, we saw the film, I got closure with the trilogy, then we returned to theirs for home baked (from a box) cake, complete with candles and ice-cream. There is no doubt that they are a blessing on my year here. They do everything to make me feel at home in this weird country!

So I got home around about midnight, and came in to be asked by my roommates “and where have you been to this hour young sir”. Now, I had told them, so knew they were joking, but I know that they do actually care on my where abouts and safety. They then proceeded to tell me we had to leave at 7am for the colour run 5k, which I had taken the place of Pedro on the team, this early morning wake did not fill me with joy… So 6:45 came, I woke, put on my white t-shirt and sports shorts and gym shoes, and forced myself into a vaguely conscious state, and we left for the Orlando Citrus Bowl, where the race would start and end. The race started at 8:30, but I didn’t pass the start line till 9:04, as they let people go in large groups. I started jogging at an even pace, only to find out my roommates decided (after 20m) that they were going to walk it, but not I. I decided before I was going to use this a fitness indicator, and was going to run it all, even if it killed me. I passed the first colour zone, which was Pink. I should say for those unfamiliar with colour runs, at these zones they spray powdered nontoxic paint on you. I should advise you, when going through these zones, close your eyes, and mouth, and just don’t breathe…. I couldn’t see for 10s, nearly taking out a small kid, and was coughing pink powder up for a solid minute… but I continued round, and went past each zone (learning from my original mistake) and finished in a time of 34minutes, which I was so happy with given: 1 I haven’t done any running in over two years now. 2 Intern life does not have the most healthy of diets… 

I arrived home, and stood in the shower a solid 30 minutes scrubbing…. The paint didn’t want to come off, and in fact I kind of gave up on some of it, didn’t care if I looked like I had some sort of skin disease down the insides of my arms…. Then I took a nap…. I needed it. That afternoon we saw Selma, that is Andrew, Laura (the one I dropped two pumpkins on her foot, and fired one at her face accidently in October…) Pedro, and myself went with the youth (and by that I mean two youth, one of whom was Laura’s daughter). Honestly Selma was massively educational and emotional for me, having known very little on the civil rights movement here in America!

That night I came home to my roommates, having to decide how to celebrate my 20th… this took a solid hour and a half, as I didn’t fancy going to an 18 and up night club, where I couldn’t have anything to drink, mini golf was way out of an intern budget, so we settled on using house money to go to a nice dinner. Then we went through every option from American grill, BBQ, seafood (nope not for me….), buffet, Italian, Chinese, and finally came to the decision of Mexican! We went to this lovely place, Colibri, which was only a mile away. Lovely music, lovely staff, and food that was mouth-watering (you should know by now, I like my food…)We took an after dinner stroll down the gang walks out to the bridge, and around the local shops, it was very peaceful. We then returned home to play cards.

So not going to lie.... The next three days were very normal. Sunday was filled with Sunday school and Sunday evening programming, with the typical shenanigans after. Monday was a day of editing Sunday school videos, starting out out new programming plugged in, an after school programme, where youth come play games, do homework and just generally chill out!
Tuesday I wrote this blog, started work on a mission experience which I will be talking about very soon, and went to the Stiles-Williams.

Of course continue to pray for the Stiles-Williams, with another Chemo week coming up, and Grace having two scholarship interviews this week, I am sure you can appreciate the stress that they are facing, but I am sure you can appreciate also, how despite all this, they have such kindness in them to still look out for me!
Prayers for Pedro, and his heart.
Prayers for my friend Fran, as she works out some stuff.
Prayers for Andrew, as he continues his path in ministry.
Prayers for my family back home.

So here is the thing, last blog, I talked on Branches, and how it was amazing to see the service dedication, within their community. I commented how a huge percentage of congregant help in the service days, whereas at most larger churches, it is a tiny percent that actually is active in the community that the church works in. It got me thinking on what we as Christians are called to be.
You know, the bible says  Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples, and make disciples of all nations, and above all love each other as you have been loved. Now it is very possible I have some very dodgy theology here, but  how can we live into these commands  if we only go to church on a Sunday, or are only active within the walls of the church while at worship. Surely this means we should be out there, serving? I mean what better way to teach the gospel than to actually act through it! I am by no means saying I am good at this…. I suck at this… if it weren’t for the fact I am interning, I would not be well involved in the community my church connects to, but I am trying to use this internship, to put in place some foundations that will stick with me for the rest of my days, and I only put this out there to share my thoughts from processing all I saw at Branches. I did find this video helpful when exploring these thoughts.