Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nuru--Party With A Purpose

Nuru--Party With A Purpose, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
This photo was taken by my friend ricky beamer last night at a birthday party my friend brittani held for herself and a few of her friends. The friends were Kasey Hott, Brittany Murdock, Curtis Delong, Megan Pavlock, Bethany Cooperrider, Dave Biesecker, Jimmy Shreeves, and Joel Setal.

The party is part of a new theme for gatherings that my friends are doing. We are calling it parties with a purpose. Everybody likes to get together with friends, to catch up, to laugh, and to have fun together. Any good party features these aspects. But we are trying to go a little different route and say that sometimes when we get together, we want to have a purpose beyond ourselves. We want to raise money for a cause or serve the community or the church together.

Last night, everyone was encouraged to bring cash/checks/credit cards. Our purpose? We wanted to raise money for a non-profit many of us are involved with called nuru international. Nuru is an organization that works together with impoverished communities of 5,000-10,000 people who are living in extreme poverty (less than $1/day), to help those communities lift themselves out of extreme poverty in a period of five years. It’s an impressive organization with audacious and yet realistic goals. I highly recommend checking out their website, and even making a financial gift.

So how did this party work? Instead of buying birthday presents we encouraged people to give to nuru. We set up three computers in brittani’s house for people to log-on and give online through nuru’s cause page on facebook. We also had a vase sitting next to one of the computers where people could deposit cash and checks. There were people in front of the computers throughout the evening and lots of giving being done. There were also people playing on a wii, hanging out, laughing, eating great food, sharing stories and all of the normal things that make a get together or birthday party special.

And as the evening came to an end, we found out that our little group of friends had raised nearly $2000 in one evening. (And that doesn’t include folks who haven’t given yet, or whose gifts are in the mail arriving from the other side of the country. To me it’s a great testimony of what happens when people decide to pool their resources, and give their individual gifts. Every single gift adds up, and every measure of generosity, no matter how small or large, gets multiplied when it is given in community.

I’m so excited over what happened in our little get together, and I want to encourage you to consider throwing a “party with a purpose” the next time you get a group of friends together. Maybe you could raise even more money for Nuru? Regardless, there is something beautiful that happens when people unite and contribute to something that is bigger than themselves.

I am still in awe over what I witnessed last night. I hope this story will be an encouragement to you as you read it as well!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last Friday afternoon, I was sitting at my house talking to my good friend Trey when I saw what I thought was a turtle crossing the road behind my house. I started to cringe at the sight of the little fella because I know how people drive in my neighborhood. I didn't think he stood a chance--especially when he stopped 1/3 of the way across the road. When I saw that, it made me want to run down to help him out. I took my eyes off him for a few seconds and ran down to the road, but he was gone (and thankfully there were no cars).

He had crossed the road. Not only that, but he was also making his way up the hill behind my house. I have trouble stepping up that hill and keeping my balance, so needless to say I was impressed. He then proceeded to walk across my driveway, with frequent stops to check out what was going on around him. Sometimes he would stop and look at me too. He made his way across the driveway and under my roommates car, and then continued until he found respite next to my house in some high grass.

I think this little guy was a gift from God. I had been through a pretty long mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting day, and this turtle shows up on my driveway. Instead of rushing to the next thing, I slowed down and enjoyed my visitor. I even touched his back and petted him a little bit.

You know, I believe all of our lives have these little treasures pass through them. Unfortunately we get sooooo caught up that we speed by them and miss out on the little gifts. Have you ever taken time to watch a turtle walk up an 8 foot hill, and proceed 25 feet across a driveway? Have you ever just sat and watched a creature go through it's normal routine as you maintain a role of quiet observer.

Most of us did this a lot when we were children, but something happens as we get older, and we forget to look. We forget to see the world through these eyes of wonder.

Today, may your life be intersected by a simple gift from the Creator of the universe that will enable you to recapture the wonder.

Friday, August 22, 2008

That's Our Town

That's Our Town, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
I took this photo of some construction happening in Morgantown during the days before the students came back. These folks were working on the westover bridge late at night.

I like that image. I like the idea that we work, and we do it often behind the scenes so our environments might improve. I feel like the last few weeks has been much of the same for me personally and in ministry.

For me, over the last several weeks I have been spending greater amounts of time in prayer and the word. Really, what is our life in Christ without prayer and the word. I'm fighting zealously to be disciplined in taking extended times with the LORD that I might have words to encourage others.

I've also been working hard to discipline myself in my eating, sleeping, exercising, and relaxing. I tend to go pretty full bore most of the time. Of course I take a sabbath but other than that, I tend to always be going. Because for the last seven years I have used my bedroom as an office, it has made it hard to relax. I get up, and work is right there. I go to bed often times working on some project. I'm learning to slow down and separate; I'm learning to make my home a place to live, and to enjoy my wonderful roommates. I'm also being disciplined about regular exercise normal eating (read that as NOT HUGE AMERICAN PORTIONS), and consistent sleeping/waking.

Also, since February i've been working with my friends Trey, Mark, Cameron, and about a dozen other guys to think about ways we can improve the way people ages 18-35 in morgantown get connected to community and begin to contribute to improving this world. We've had a lot of dialogue and in the end we have eliminated a number of meetings so we can have one great event that helps young married couples, young professionals, and college students connect in biblical community. As our church grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to connect, and so we are creating environments and systems to help folks connect.

What about you? What environments are you improving? How are you better focusing your life so you might bring greater glory to the King? Consider as you go through this day, the ways you can improve the environment around you. The Son of Man didn't come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

As we live out this life of faith, let's strive together to make the changes necessary so that we might have something to offer the world around us that is truly worthwhile and world-changing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sozo Coffee Shop

Sozo Coffee Shop, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
It's a beautiful day in Morgantown, and I had an incredible night's sleep in spite of an onslaught of allergies all week.

Right now, I'm sitting in sozo, a coffee shop we were able to open not too long ago in downtown morgantown. It's sooooo cool to see this space getting inhabited by people from all over town--kind of a dream come true.

You know, our space is really about three things and they all kind of wind into one big goal of making our world a better place, but here's the skinny.

We are a coffee shop located at 473 High Street Morgantown, WV. Our goal is to provide a space for people to experience community, to enjoy creativity and the arts, and to pursue making this world a better place..

First off community. There’s something about a coffee shop that allows people to relax, to be themselves, and to spend time talking, laughing, and crying with friends.

Then, the arts. We host art installations on a periodic basis, and host an open mic every Friday night. We also have a variety of local, regional, and national acts make their way to our stage and perform here.

And finally, making the world a better place. To start with, we offer a variety of fair trade, shade grown, organic coffees, so simply by having a cup of coffee here you are helping to make the world a better place. We also recycle. Last year, hundreds of pounds of paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass were recycled because of sozo's work toward being a green business. Lastly, we host a number of special events that showcase local, national, and international non-profit organizations likeInvisible Children, International Justice Mission, and Nuru International.

During this whole venture I feel like I've really been learning the value of team, and of doing things together. It's an amazing space, and it's value comes from the people who inhabit it, and the many hands that contribute to it's successful mission.

If you find yourself in downtown Morgantown, come on in and be a part of all we are doing at sozo. Hope to see you real soon!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Big Heart.

The boy in the center of the photo above, which was taken by John Leyba of the Denver Post, is seven years old and will be a dwarf when he grows up. But his heart is huge. My brother sent me this link to Denver Post article where you can read more about this little guy.

I think the story is a great reminder that we should never let what we aren't able to do stop us from what we can do. This seven year old boy knows this, but something seems to happen to us as we get older. I don't know if it is self-pity or what, but for some reason we fail to acknowledge the ways in which we are gifted and spend our time lamenting what we are unable to do.

For instance, you may not be able to run a four minute mile (or an 8 minute mile) but it doesn't mean that you shouldn't make a daily habit of exercise.

You may not be able to read a book in one sitting, but maybe you can read a page.

I don't think God is going to have a conversation with us at the end of our lives about all of the things we were unable to do, but He might talk to us a bit about the things we were unwilling to do.

God has given you huge opportunities. He has given you His Son. He has given you His Spirit. Let's make the most of the limited resources we have to bring Him glory and fame. Let's not get caught in the trap of what we can't do, but rather let's get busy doing the things we can do--making the most of every opportunity.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

FALLfest 2008

FALLfest 2008, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last night, I went to FALLfest. It's the annual concert event that welcomes students back to morgantown. Literally thousands of students and guests attended the event. There was a wide variety of artists on stage including this guy, Lupé Fiasco. He was the only person who I watched the entire set for. While his lyrics were not always the most eloquent or family friendly, he provided a high energy performance, and even took a moment of silence to remember all of those who were killed in the previous year as a result of campus violence or who were victimized in campus rapes. I was actually really impressed with the way he was able to rhyme while running and jumping at a fast pace as he and his crew danced while they rapped and sang.

FALLfest had a little something for everyone, and the headliners even included a Christian band called Day of Fire.

I spent yesterday evening going back and forth between sozo and the mountainlair--trying to connect with students as many made the return trip to morgantown just in time for classes to start.

All in all there were about a dozen of us who spent the evening together wandering through the crowds and standing packed like sardines for the event on campus.

The semester is on it's way now. Folks are scurrying all about campus as they strive to make their way around and learn the ropes.

And, in the middle of it all, I was able to join several thousand others in enjoying a free concert with friends.

Monday, August 18, 2008

New Beginnings

New Beginnings, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Well, it has been difficult to write with any consistency these last few weeks. I have still written, I have still photographed, and I have reflected much on the goodness of the LORD in my life in these past few weeks as I have put over 10,000 miles on my car traveling to various conferences, training programs, and events.

But now I'm back. I'm back in Morgantown. I'm back at sozo. I'm back at Chestnut Ridge Church. And the semester's just starting today.

The flower in the above photo was captured at the North Carolina Aquarium in Fort Fisher. I visited it during one of my stints at GCM's Leadership Training program in Carolina Beach, NC.

I like this photo. It reminds me of new life. The kind of new life one experiences in a town like Morgantown when 28,000 students return on a single weekend. The kind of new life one experiences when one spend the entire weekend connecting with old friends who one hasn't seen for months. The kind of new life one experiences when one is able to spend time experiencing and sharing the love of Christ freshly.

So this is the first day of school hear at WVU. There are 28,000 students going to class today. There are thousands of people walking by the storefront at sozo. There are people flowing in and out of this space, and I feel like it's going to be a wonderful start to a great year.

I'm settled in a bit now, so my goal is to write a bit more frequently in the coming weeks. I'm also hoping to take a bit more photos.

in the meantime, I realize you might not be able to relate to 28,000 students arriving in your town in a weekend, but you can take today as an opportunity for new beginnings yourself.

Take a walk, and connect with the Creator of the universe. Ask Him to open your eyes to His goodness, His beauty, and his wonder.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bhopal Disaster Revisited

This photo isn't pleasant. I believe it was taken after the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India in the early 80s. Through the social networking website of facebook, I was invited to join a cause called Students for Bhopal. For those of you who don't remember the disaster (or weren't alive), here's the student group's synopsis of the event;

On December 3rd, 1984, thousands of people in Bhopal, India, were gassed to death after a catastrophic chemical leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant. More than 150,000 people were left severely disabled - of whom 22,000 have since died of their injuries - in a disaster now widely acknowledged as the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster.

More than 27 tons of methyl isocyanate and other deadly gases turned Bhopal into a gas chamber. None of the six safety systems at the plant were functional, and Union Carbide’s own documents prove the company designed the plant with “unproven” and “untested” technology, and cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to save money.

Today, twenty years after the Bhopal disaster, at least 50,000 people are too sick to work for a living, and a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirmed that the children of gas-affected parents are themselves afflicted by Carbide’s poison.

Carbide is still killing in Bhopal. The chemicals that Carbide abandoned in and around their Bhopal factory have contaminated the drinking water of 20,000 people. Testing published in a 2002 report revealed poisons such as 1,3,5 trichlorobenzene, dichloromethane, chloroform, lead and mercury in the breast milk of nursing women living near the factory.

I recently received this email from the group on facebook citing a major victory.

The Government of India has announced that it will take legal action on the civil and criminal liabilities of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical for the ongoing disaster in Bhopal, India. This landmark announcement comes after over 5 months of campaigning by Bhopal survivors and their international supporters, which included a 500-mile march and a 130 day sit-in on the streets of Delhi by survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster.

Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers Ram Vilas Paswan announced that the government will vigorously pursue Union Carbide and Dow Chemical, when he visited the Bhopal sit-in camp today. Dow Chemical has not presented Union Carbide in Indian criminal court, and has been fighting to avoid cleaning up the toxic site left by Carbide in Bhopal that has poisoned the drinking water for 25,000 people in Bhopal.

Paswan also announced the establishment of an empowered Commission on Bhopal. The Commission will address the health and welfare needs of the Bhopal survivors as well as environmental, social, economic and medical rehabilitation. The Commission will be empowered to allocate resources to different rehabilitation schemes or research projects, issue tenders, identify implementing Central or State Government agencies, and change the agencies if their work is unsatisfactory.

Read more:

I know this is a lengthy entry, and i appreciate you taking the time to read it. I posted this for two reasons.

1) It's exciting to see change taking place even if it is taking over 20 years. Change doesn't come easy, and it takes the efforts of many standing up and contributing.

2) This change is taking place because of efforts of everyday people like you and me. You see, contrary to what you might believe or lies you may have been told, by the choices you make in this life, YOU can make a difference in the lives of people you may never meet.

All that to say, let's dream big about how God might want to use each one of us to change the world!!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Three Missionaries

Three Missionaries, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
Last week, during a flurry of events, I had the privilege of meeting up with three ladies who served h2o as student leaders during the recent past. Of course, meeting with leaders is always a great thing, but these three aren't your typical leaders.

You see, each one of these ladies has served the Lord for a year on foreign soil. Two of them served in Amsterdam while the third served in Sudan and Kenya. The one on the right is getting ready to serve an additional year in Nicaragua.

It was great catching up with these ladies, and hearing about all that God was doing in their lives in recent times. I'm amazed at how these individuals are choosing to serve Christ in all that they do, and how their experiences abroad have given them keener insight as to how they might better serve Him wherever they are.

There's a tinge of pride I feel as well, when I am with folks like these three. These folks came out of our tiny community in Morgantown--and they are impacting lives half way around the world. I love hearing what God is doing through people with whom I have been privileged to cross paths for a season.

I know there are many more stories of former h2o folks who are changing the world in their respective areas both locally and globally, but I just couldn't keep quiet about these three.

While you are reading, stop for a minute and thank God for the service that Melissa, Meghan, and Greta and countless other missionaries render in devotion to our king. Also say a prayer for each of them as they work to adjust to living in America. And while you are praying . . . pray that more young people would be willing to lay down their lives for the glory of knowing God and making Him known!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

100 Pushups?

So I saw this link on my friend noel's blog, and I figured I would check out the site. When I was in high school, at one point I could do 100 pushups. But that was a long time ago. In the coming weeks, I plan to make some significant changes to my lifestyle in an effort to lose weight and become more physically fit. Currently, I weigh more than I have ever weighed in my life. Beyond this, I'm definitely not in my peak physical condition.

I recently had a minor surgery, so I want to start out gently initially. Once I get the ok from my physician, I plan to turn up the intensity. Hopefully by sometime in October I will be able to do 100 push ups--and maybe I'll be able to run a decent 5K. What about you?

JR and Christy

JR and Christy, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
It's taken me a while to get my bearings again, but I did take several photos during the last month, and subsequently have not been successful in blogging about those photos/sharing my life in that regard.

Hope you are well! I think I set a personal record with over 10000 miles of automobile travel between may and august. So much for my environmental plug (at least I did most of the miles in a hybrid, and many of the miles were with other people too!), but now more than ever I am ready to stay in one place for a wee while.

Earlier this summer, I was given the privilege of officiating a wedding. On July 5, 2008, my friends JR and Christy Pittman tied the knot. They are truly a wonderful couple, and I am tremendously thankful for their friendship and their commitment to keep Christ first in their lives.

If you don't know these two, you are missing out!!! I didn't really know their families well until the weekend of the wedding, but let me tell you something--they come from incredible families, and I am sure they will continue that tradition of good family upbringing for their own children.

God has given me the honor of being able to stand alongside some really great people in my life, and these are two of them. I can't wait to see what God does through their life together for Him!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Please Pray

THis weekend a few of my friends went to an island on the cheat river to hang out and camp. Friday night a huge storm blew up and left my friends trapped. I don't really have words for what has happened, but I will try to explain.

One of the guys tried to ford the stream and was swept away by the current. He hasn't been seen since Friday. Search and rescue teams are looking for him. The waters are still too high for search to take place in the water. Teams have been scouring the banks since saturday afternoon.

Please pray for John Wesley 'Wes' Thompson. Pray for his family and friends. Pray that the Holy Spirit would comfort him and his family. Pray that the rescue teams would find him. Pray for the waters to subside in the Cheat River.

I'm sorry that I don't have more details, but here is an article from Saturday that was posted on a couple of news websiteshere and here.

Thanks for your prayers for John and his friends.

Addendum: I just found out that Wes's body was found monday evening where the cheat river flows into cheat lake. A tragedy has occurred, but we have confidence that as Wes was leaving this world, he was being swept into intimate fellowship with his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Please continue to pray for family and friends as they mourn the loss of Wes. Especially pray for the handful of friends who were hanging out with him. I can't even imagine what they are going through, but I take solace in the fact that our God who is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.