Saying “Goodbye” to a Dear Friend

Last week while on our New York City mission trip I received the sad news that one of my dear friends, Jennifer, had passed away after a long battle with cancer. I returned home from our mission trip on Thursday at 2pm, and by 4pm I was on the road driving up to the Rochester, NY area for her funeral.

Jen and I were the class clowns of our youth group back in the day. She was one of the funniest human beings I ever knew. I have many wonderful memories of laughing hysterically with her. She loved life. She loved people. She loved to make people laugh. She genuinely cared about people. Even as she battled cancer, she maintained her sense of humor, and was always trying to encourage others. She gave everything she had without expecting anything in return. And Jen was a fighter. At the funeral, the minister said, “Jen did not want to die. She did not want to die – not because she was afraid of death, but because she wanted to be here with you.” How true. She squeezed every drop out of life and gave until she could give no more. Although I am glad she is now at rest, I will miss my friend. But the good news is that this is not really “Goodbye,” but rather, “I’ll see you later.” #CancerSucks

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Youth group friends reunited at Jen’s funeral. 

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The last picture we took together. I surprised Jen in the hospital June 6, 2014.

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Jr. High NYC Mission Day 5

This morning Pastor Ron made a pancake breakfast for our team and the other team that arrived yesterday from Ecuador. After breakfast we had a combined devotional time. Natalia shared on servanthood, then I shared from 1 Corinthians 3, and one of the leaders from the other team shared as well. It was a really neat time of encouraging one another as our team was wrapping up a week of ministry and their team was beginning. After devotions we cleaned the dormitories and packed. At 11am we took a group pic in front of the church, then hit the subway, walked about 1/2 of a mile (freezing cold again!) and caught our train home. On the train we went around, and each person shared what they appreciated about each other. We also gave each other care cards. We arrived back in Mineola at 1:15pm, and everyone was safely reunited with their families. It was a wonderful and stretching week in which we all served the Lord by serving His people and grew in our faith.

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Jr. High NYC Mission Day 4

This morning we had breakfast at 7:30am. Christina led our group devotions. After cleaning up, we headed to the subway at 8:30am bound for lower Manhattan during rush hour. e were packed in like sardines! We arrived at the Bowery Mission at 9:30am and were given a tour of this incredible ministry which is 135 years old. We then got to work sorting donated food items and stocking the food room, breaking down cardboard boxes, and sweeping and mopping. We had a short break to eat lunch which doubled as a training on how to serve our guests when they arrived for lunch. We then settled into

our positions and served lunch to 150 people – many of them homeless. It was a great joy to honor these people as guests of the Bowery mission and serve them in the name of Jesus with kindness and smiles. After cleaning up we said goodbye about 2:30pm and headed off for our fun time. We went to Little Italy and Chinatown to buy souvenirs, then we went uptown to Rockefeller Center where we went to the Top of the Rock and enjoyed a crystal clear view of the city from 70 stories high. We took the train back to Living Waters, arriving about 8pm, and had dinner. It has been a really great trip! We look forward to our final night together, and then packing up and heading home tomorrow. Thank you for your prayers.

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Jr. High NYC Mission Day 3

This morning after breakfast Griffyn led us in devotions, sharing several Proverbs with us that talk about caring for those in need. We then got to work here around Living Waters. Our team was able to accomplish a lot of things that needed to get done around the church. We mopped the entire basement, four flights of stairs, fixed about 40 chairs in the sanctuary, washed 4 refrigerators, cleaned the stove, fixed some lights, stocked toilet paper and paper towels, and vacuumed the dormitories.

After some quiet time to do devotions, journal, and reflect, we had a brief time to relax, then at 5:30pm we jumped on the train and headed down to Brooklyn Tabernacle for their Tuesday night prayer service. Thanks to one of my friends who is a pastor at BT and were able to sit down in 6th row. It was a service in which probably 2,000 people were gathered to pray and worship, and it was a great experience for our team to not only observe another church, but to participate in praying for the needs of people all around the world.

After the service we took the A train down to the Brooklyn Bridge and had pizza at the world famous Grimaldi’s. Over dinner we talked about things students should be looking for in a church when they are older and need to make such a decision. We also debriefed our day, and Kristen led us in a devotional. It was another fruitful day for our team.

Jr. High NYC Mission Day 2

This morning John Long made our team a delicious breakfast of eggs, hash browns, and grits. Josiah was the first student up, and he led our morning devotions, sharing from Romans 1. At 9am we left and boarded the train and headed up to the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. We met up with Pastor Reggie and Ibelsa Stutzman and Real Life Church in the projects outside of one of the buildings their church has “adopted” to show God’s kindness to and see the people come to know Jesus. A few of us walked up and down 6 flights of stairs several times announcing “Free coats and shoes” to the tenants. In spite of the temperature of 9 degrees (the wind made it feel like -6 degrees!), we set up tables in front of the building right out on the street and gave away 200 coats, pairs of shoes, and Bibles to people. After cleaning up we took a few remaining coats to a shelter and donated them, then we took our team for some authentic Mexican food. Want to know just how cold it was? The water in the toilet at the restaurant was frozen! Wow! So proud of our students that even in this bitter cold they were willing to go out on the streets and show people the love of Jesus!
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Jr. High NYC Mission Day 1

Today our Jr. High mission team met at the Mineola train station and headed into Living Waters Fellowship in Brooklyn where we will be based for our NYC mission trip this week. Our train and subway rides were fun and overall non-eventful. When we exited the subway station we met our first challenge. It was bitterly cold outside (temps in the low teens), and the GPS said we had a 12 minute walk to the church. Unfortunately we thought we had turned up one street at a 5 point intersection, when in fact we had turned up a different one. We ended up walking in a nice big circle, and it ended up taking us about 40 minutes to get to the church. Our legs, faces, and hands were so cold and numb. It sure was nice to walk into a warm building! After getting thawed out and settled into our rooms, the team met my dear friend and chef John Long, who is on his 95th mission trip and is here to cook for us this week. He had some delicious hot chocolate waiting for us. After a time of sharing our team had dinner with John and Pastors Ron and Ana. After cleaning up we enjoyed an evening of fun playing Dutch Blitz and relationship building using questions from my book What Would You Do?. Tomorrow we are heading up to The Bronx to work with Pastor Reggie Stutzman and Real Life Church.
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The Necessity of a Forcing System

CalvinHobbsDoes this cartoon ring true for you? It does for me. I have found that I often need pressure to get things done. I find that I thrive when I am faced with a ticking clock. But I know it’s not the best thing for me or those around me if I am constantly living under pressure. It’s not good for my health, it’s not good for my relationships, and it’s not always best in terms of producing quality work. I have found that the challenge is to create a sense of urgency in which I can thrive, but which also allows me time to breathe before actual deadlines. This also provides me space to tweak or edit my work in order to submit the best of my work when it is due.

A number of years ago I watched a DVD on time management. One of the things that stuck with me was what author Brian Tracy called a forcing system. He cited Parkinson’s Law which says “work expands or contracts so as to fill the time available for its completion.” The idea was that we will generally take the full amount of time we are given to accomplish the task we are given. For example, if you are given 2 weeks to accomplish an assignment, you will take the full 2 weeks to finish it. If you are given 1 week to accomplish that same assignment, you will do whatever you need to do to finish it within the week. One of the things you can do in order to relieve the constant pressure of last-minute panic is to create deadlines for yourself which will force you to accomplish your tasks before they are actually due. For example, if you have a paper or a project due on Monday, make it your goal to finish it on Friday or Saturday. You will breathe easy for a couple of days knowing it’s done, or if you realize something could be improved, you still have time to make any minor adjustments to enhance your work without feeling that you don’t have time to do so.

I have found this to be true whether I am planning an event or preparing a sermon. I am not perfect at it, and I find myself up against the ropes more times that I care to admit. But whenever I am able to create a forcing system I find that I am able to relax more, and it causes me to be a more healthy leader.