Friday, July 15, 2011

Blessings In Disguise

It was bound to happen; I’m getting all out of order with my blog posts. This blog is not about this week, but the week before the amazing weekend last weekend…I hope that makes sense! I have just a couple of stories from the week that I’d like to share. And thanks to spell check I’m finally spelling “disguise” right; there are some things modern technology is good for, I suppose. :)

First disguise: asthma. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you heard about Bryce’s asthma attack. Bryce is the soundman for the summer at Lake Ann, and because he’s still in high school part of his contract gives him a free week as a senior high camper. His counselor was Zach (from Yellow Team) and his sister counselor was Becca, and I know both of them pretty well, so I was spending the afternoon on Thursday with their group watching them conquer the Goliath, a giant climbing ladder (see pics on Twitter). While he was on the top rung, Bryce started hyperventilating and had to come down right away. After he took a puff of his inhaler, he passed out, and we couldn’t get him to wake up. Becca gathered the entire group in another area while Zach and the nurses tried to revive him. One of the climbing specialists called 9-1-1, and I just kept asking, “What can I do?” Eventually my job was to go the camp entrance and wave down the ambulance and tell them where to go. Easy job, but at least I was doing something! After the ambulance was there, the camp director Ken came and “took over” so Zach could be with his cabin.

Blessing: music. I stood with the group as the girls were crying and the guys were praying and comforting them. They were singing worship songs, and Becca looked over at me and named a couple of hymns really quick; in that stressful moment she couldn’t remember the words. So I stood with them hugging them and leading them in worship. Who would have thought that an asthma attack would spark a random worship session in the middle of the woods? I guess it makes sense if you think about it. But I had been praying for something to do to help, and God allowed me to go back to my roots and remember all those hymns and 90’s worship songs that these kids grew up with so I could provide some comfort and peace. Soon after we found out from Zach that Bryce was awake in the ambulance and that he would be okay, and by that evening he was back and smiling bigger than ever when I ran to give him a hug.

Second disguise: working in the snack shack. Well, I guess it’s not so much a disguise; being able to work in the snack shack once a week is a fun blessing for me. But for Anjela, the high school girl who works there every day, it can get pretty boring. By Friday she was totally bored and had pages full of song lyrics she was copying down, just so she had something to do. For this week I had traded days with Dane so he could be with the junior high on Friday afternoon; he worked Tuesday for me and I had just arrived to work Friday for him.

Blessing: more music. Anjela and I started having a conversation about marching band. Although my marching days are long over, I still remembered a lot of the marches that we played, either in concert band or while we were actually marching. She started singing one of the classics (for the life of me I couldn’t remember the composer), but I knew it and remembered the tune very well. It wasn’t long before we were dancing/marching around the inside of the snack shack and singing the march as we went. We got smiles from the workers in the Red Canoe and rolled-eyes from Elisha, the other snack shack worker who still isn’t sure if marching band is a real sport (which it IS, by the way). About a half-hour later when we started getting a lot more orders coming in, one of the counselors came to order a slushie and asked Anjela how her day was going. I was scooping ice cream or something when I heard her say, “Oh, it’s been the best day ever! Deanna and I were dancing around the snack shack singing marching band songs! I always have so much fun when Deanna’s here.” I could not believe that dancing around the snack shack would make Anjela’s day so much better; I’ll have to make sure I do that more often!

This week that I’ve been writing about was a great reminder to me about how simple ministry can be. Obviously our main output of ministry on HeartSong is music. For these two days I was able to use music to minister to a bunch of different high schoolers; music brought peace to the cabin mates who were scared and it brought joy to the bored snack shack worker. And most of those weren’t even HeartSong songs; it was just God giving me a memory to retain music easily so I could bring it back when I needed to. I am so blessed, and so humbled, and so thankful, that God would use my memory of so-called trivial songs to be a blessing to other people. SOLI DEO GLORIA!!!


Okay, okay, I know this is about a week overdue. I have not even been to a computer to check my e-mail for the past few weeks! I want to talk about one of the best host home experiences I have ever had; last weekend we went to Kalamazoo, MI, and despite a very late arrival and an unusual distribution of the team to host families, I had the greatest weekend of the summer thus far! (Quick note: I don’t like to use names of host families in my blog for safety reasons, so most of the names in this post are changed.)

Last Saturday started out difficult for all of us because Rachel was leaving us for the summer. A couple of weeks ago Rachel got bronchitis, and despite all the rest and doctors’ visits, she was not getting better fast enough to keep going on tour. Brandon came up for a few days to help us sort everything out, and we spent Saturday morning praying and saying goodbye. Even though it was really difficult, we all knew that it was much better for her to slow down and get better. We said goodbye and left the camp, giving her time to say goodbye to the other counselors.

As we started driving, I opened up some mail that Brandon had brought me from Cedarville. One of the letters was from World Vision, and it was A LETTER FROM MY SPONSOR CHILD!! I have been waiting for this letter since last October; I guess it had gotten lost somewhere, and then they found it, and it took a few more months to get it over here. I was so ecstatic to finally hear from her, even if it was a translator’s handwriting, and to see a “picture” that she had drawn for me! It dawned on me that she is REAL, that I’m not sending a check every month to an organization, but to a wonderful child with my birthday. That was the beginning of my amazing weekend.

A few hours later we arrived in Kalamazoo. We got there about an hour and a half late, partly because of the morning and partly because the “fast-food” place where we stopped took 30 minutes to get all of our food ready! So we set up and went through a few songs for a sound check; it turned into a sneak preview for our host families since they all arrived on time. :) Once we were done, we found out that the boys would be split up 2-2-1, but the family that was hosting just Will and the family that was hosting us girls were neighbors, so all 3 of us spent the evening with both families in one home until it was time for bed.

Matt, Will’s host dad, picked us all up. We found out that he was a musician, and almost immediately he and Will hit it off talking about guitars and all sorts of stuff. We arrived at Matt’s house for dinner and met his wife, Lindsey, and Jo and my host family: Ron, Valerie, and their daughter Briana. After we were all settled with our food around the picnic table, Lindsey asked Briana about her trip to Italy. About a week before Briana had gotten back from a 2-week missions trip to Italy, where her team shared God’s love through music and drama in churches and a day camp. As Briana talked, her smile kept getting bigger and her eyes began to sparkle. She talked and talked about the way people in Europe are so resistant to the Gospel and how much they worship saints, and she kept saying she just wanted to go back and share with them the truth about Jesus. I had asked her earlier where she wanted to go to college, and she said she was going to work for 2 years and get enough money so she could move to Italy and study there and keep sharing God’s love with the people. Suddenly, I really wanted to pray for her, so I said the famous HeartSong phrase: “I know this is kind of random, but Can we pray for you right now, Briana?” It was a little awkward to ask, but I was able to pray with her, these two families, and Jo and Will, for Briana and her ministry and for the people she would meet there when she went back.

After we talked a little bit more, we moved back inside to get dessert. When we were all done with our cherry pie and cookies, Lindsey pulled out the atlas and asked Briana to show us where she had been in Italy. Lindsey, Valerie, Briana and I moved to the dining room where we could see the atlas better. It was so fun to hear Briana talk in her Italian accent when she described the cities and said some Italian phrases for us. As we talked the conversation moved in all sorts of directions; Lindsey and Valerie admitted that when they were together they were very ADD, and being with them reminded me of conversations I have with my sister on a regular basis. The two of them were so funny to listen to and to talk with, and Briana and I rolled our eyes a couple of times in between adding our own witty comments into the conversation. It was SO FUN for me to relax and talk with these girls like they were my best friends. As much as I love the boys on my HS team, they’re still boys, and I don’t always understand their humor. Spending an evening having “girl time” and being silly was so refreshing for me! At one point I made some witty or punny comment, and all I remember is the three of them laughing and laughing about it. That doesn’t happen for me as often as it used to, and that's okay, but it was refreshing to be able to laugh with them all evening.

Jo joined us later on the conversation, and it dawned on me that I wasn’t sure where all the guys were. Then I remembered that while we were eating pie, I had no idea where Matt was until I heard the sound of an electric guitar coming from the basement. Will had said, “I’ll be right back,” and that was the last I had seen of him. I guess he did come back upstairs to finish his pie, but when he went back down again he was down for good. I had to text him good night!

When it was time for bed Jo and I gathered our stuff and walked across the street to Briana’s house where we spent the night. The next morning Will came over and Valerie drove the 3 of us to church, where we heard that the rest of the guys had had amazing host homes as well! Grant and Dexter stayed with a vocal professor and a literary professor who loved C.S. Lewis, so both of them had the time of their lives! Tommy and Dane stayed with a wonderful widow who just wanted to talk about her husband and hear about Tommy’s fiancĂ©e. It was so cool to share stories with each other and to realize how excited we all were to minister through music to this church.

And THEN! After the services, several people came back to our CU table asking about the music major! That NEVER happens!! I was so excited when there was a “line” of about 3 people who wanted to talk to me about piano, traveling with HeartSong, the pedagogy program, the professors, and all sorts of other stuff! I was talking to so many people that it got to a point where the entire rest of the team was almost done tearing down and the only things left on the stage were half a drum set and the keyboards. Whoops!

Already this was the best weekend ever, but two more things added some icing to the cake. When we were done setting up at Lake Ann, Brandon took us all out to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner, and we all ate way too many wings. As we drove back to camp my team kept teasing me about wanting to stop at Wal-Mart or to get some ice cream because they knew that my parents were waiting for me at Lake Ann. It was amazing to have my parents here for a couple nights, to see the camp, to give me hugs, and to tell me about how things were at home.

Even though last Saturday didn’t start out very great, God gave me a huge amount of blessings all weekend long, and I got sort of a “second wind” for the rest of the summer. It’s crazy to think that we only have 3 weeks left! Thank you all so much for your continued prayers as we continue to minister at Lake Ann Camp and churches throughout Michigan. Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, July 4, 2011


Believe it or not, that was the nickname of a camper I met last week. She was in the junior high camp, and Linnae was her counselor. We met in the nurse's station when she had a headache and I stubbed my toe pretty bad on the Zorbs, and for some reason we hit it off and hung out for the rest of the week. And it turned out to be the best week of summer tour yet!

On Wednesday during team time, Tommy challenged all of us to find one camper and learn their name and something interesting about them. I really hate challenges like this because I feel like I'm being forced to make a friend. But I gave it a try; I went out to the Zorbs hill where all the junior high girls were hanging out for the afternoon and met a girl whose name I can't even remember now. I felt really relieved that I "fulfilled my requirement" so to speak, and relaxed for the rest of the time just enjoying myself and hanging out with the girls. When it was my turn to ride the Zorb, I stubbed my toe really badly and was bleeding. I probably could have walked to the nurse's station myself, but there was another girl who got ran into by a Zorb and had a horrible headache and needed to get driven up. Andrew, this girl, and I rode up together to the nurse's station. I talked with her on the way up and learned her name, about 5 of her nicknames, and a little bit more about her. She and I both had free time after the nurse fixed us up, so I suggested the two of us go to the water front and chat. Without even planning it, I had made a friend.

We even talked a little bit about spiritual things! She told me about her family and her experience with God and that she wasn't sure if she was a Christian. Before too long I had to leave for a HeartSong responsibility, but I was determined to find her later in the week and lead her to Christ. I prayed hard for a couple of days for an opportunity.

On Friday all the junior highers piled in the Lake Ann bus to go to the Sleeping Bear Dunes. I decided to go with them, hoping for an opportunity to talk to Kupkakez again. The entire afternoon we had fun singing silly songs on the bus and running up and down the dunes, but I never got to pull her aside for a chat. Arriving back at camp, I was discouraged, especially after how much I had prayed about it. But we had about an hour until she had to be at dinner, so I invited her to hang out with me until then. I talked to her some more about her experience with God and where she was emotionally, and she began to open up to me about her love for her family and friends who were not Christians. Even though she wasn't entirely sure that she had made this faith her own, her heart was aching for the people that she knew who were misunderstood and just needed someone to love them. She told me about the way she loved on people in her life that needed it, and I could see the fire in her eyes for these people and for God. I told her that I saw that in her and that I was so encouraged by the way she loved these people! I prayed with her, that God would wipe away all of her doubts and use her in the lives of her friends and family.

The rest of the evening was crazy as I raced through dinner, sang for Junior Chapel, and played for the big combined chapel. Afterwards it was time to tear down; we would have to miss the Glory Bowl, a huge bonfire where anyone in junior or senior high could share what God had done in their lives during the week. I was so disappointed to have to miss it! Joellyn was the only one going, to kind of represent HeartSong, and halfway through the Glory Bowl she texted Tommy and asked if I could trade places with her so I could go. I was so excited and thankful as I ran across camp to the big bonfire just in time to see Kupkakez and encourage her to talk about how God had changed her life. I heard from Linnae later that me being there was a great thing for Kupkakez, and afterwards she got to talk with her about the week and Kupkakez told her that she wasn't in doubt anymore; she knew that God was living in her!

I didn't lead Kupkakez to Christ. I only helped her a little to see that her commitment to Him was real. I wasn't expecting that at all; here I was praying for something that had already happened! God ended up using me in a different way, to be a listening and praying friend to help Kupkakez find the truth that she had always known.

Bonus Story:

In the midst of my discouragement Friday afternoon, another counselor named Abby came up to me on the bus and told me that one of her girls accepted Christ DURING our morning worship set. Without even knowing or praying about it, I had been a part of leading someone to Christ through music! Hearing that was a great encouragement to me that God uses me in ways I could never expect. All of week 3 was a great reminder that I don't always have to know what I'm doing as long as I am giving all of me to God to be used in whatever crazy way He wants to use me. I want to keep on repeating the words Isaiah said to God: "Here am I. Send me!"