Wednesday, September 30, 2009

U2 360º Tour in FedEx Field

The above photo was taken a few minutes before showtime last night for the U2 Concert in Washington DC. After putting in a full morning, Jamie and I began the drive from Morgantown to DC hoping we could beat rush hour traffic and get situated in a timely manner. She had to be at work at 7AM this morning, so thankfully she slept the entire way back!

As we arrived at the arena, we went for an exploratory walk where we found a taco bell and the metro where we would later meet a few friends who happened to be in DC including my friends Don Jorgenson and Jake Harriman. They were joining us for the concert, and it was a great opportunity to bless my buddy Jake, who has spent most of the last year in Kenya, with a cool birthday present.

While waiting near the metro, I met a ticket "broker" named Lucas who tought Jamie and myself a few of the tricks of the trade. It was pretty amazing to watch him work--he had a charismatic personality and his story (told between crowds exiting the metro) was definitely engaging. Perhaps something for another post . . .

Anyhoo, the concert itself was phenomenal. I think it was one of the most inspiring concert events I've been part of, and it definitely was a participatory event. From lights, sight, sound, and the personality of the band, this legendary band put on an epic show. Bono began the concert by telling us that we were going to take a trip into outer space together, and I believe that his claim lived up to expectation. The concert was an out of this world experience that were at times comical while other times sobering and even worshipful.

As the concert progressed, I found myself personally inspired, reflective, encouraged, empowered, and even somewhat changed by the experience. There was a magic in the arena, which, if it were somehow able to be tapped into beyond the night, might lead to radical positive change for this world.

A personal high point for me was when Bono sang a verse of Amazing Grace during the second encore. He started with this song, and then the band began to play Where The Streets Have No Name. (On a personal note, that song has had a powerful meaning and sentiment for me both during and after my two periods of extended solitude, silence, and prayer
in the Joshua Tree Desert.

On a different note, I found myself reflecting on the perseverance of Bono and the band. They've been making music together for nearly 30 years, and they've also been engaged in the fight to end extreme poverty for over 20 years. They've leveraged their position in the world of rock and roll to bring about change in the world of people who have never heard of U2. They've lived their faith out tenaciously and aggressively in a way that challenges and frustrates both skeptics and committed people of faith. There's something to be said for " . . . a long obedience in the same direction."

There are still a few shows left for this tour, so if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend checking out one of 'em. And the next time you listen to a U2 song on the radio, think about perseverance. Reflect on the idea of making a tangible change in this world. And take action to make this world a better place.

May you start today, and may you be a tangible taste of God's Kingdom come, and His will being done, on earth as it is in heaven . . .

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kavi The Movie

Kavi - The Movie from Gregg Helvey on Vimeo.

About a month ago, I attended a conference called the idea camp in Washington DC. While at the conference I was able to attend a screening of kavi. It's a movie about a family of modern day slaves who work as bonded labor in a brick kiln in India.

The guy who made the movie has been nominated for an Oscar for best short film. He won the collegiate academy awards. THe film is incredible, and I highly recommend watching it if you have the opportunity. I'd like to see it screened locally in Morgantown, but perhaps you could host a screening in your town as well.

While the film is fictional, the story being shared is all too common. There are over 27 million slaves in the world today. This is more than any other time in the history of humanity. Some are victims of human trafficking or forced into the sex industry as CHILDREN. Many are slaves who are forced to work on cocoa or coffee farms, or brick kiln operations. These are people just like us. THey are made in the image of God. Men, women, and children from families just like our own are living in a world without hope and without opportunity.

How does this happen? Sometimes people are sold by family members in order to feed the remainder of the family. Other times, people are tricked into moving to a bigger city to find 'career opportunities' where they can meet people. Often entire families are forced to work off a 'debt' that never gets cancelled.

It doesn't have to be this way. There are many great organizations that are making a serious difference in the lives of these people. They are eradicating poverty, rescuing slaves and bringing perpetrators to justice. Many of the people who are engaged in this issue are motivated by their faith. They are stepping out and striving to "Love their neighbor as themselves."

Maybe you've been sitting on the sidelines and wondering how you can get involved. Maybe now is your opportunity to step up and become an advocate. Support an organization that's making a difference in the world. Need help deciding where to start, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line. I'd love to help you take the next step.

As you go through your day today, you might get cut off in traffic. Your order might be a little slow at the restaurant. Someone may not have smiled at you as you passed them on the street. Another person may have taken 22 items into the express line. As you encounter these obstacles, remember that in our very same world, there are people who walk for hours daily to get drinking water, who can't afford a car or a trip to the grocery store, who are trapped in slavery and need someone to be an advocate, to care about them.

Remember them. Please.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rose Among Thorns

My brother was back on the east coast for a ten day period that ended on September 15th. Since it has been over two years since he or any of his family have been back home, you would have thought we would have gone crazy snapping photos, but that was not the case. We were so busy making memories over that ten day period that we hardly took time to capture them.

I guess we were relying on our minds to capture the memories, but every once in a while, it's nice to have a camera around to supplement those memories. This photo was taken on the last night that me, my sister, and my brother were together at my dad's house.

My sister get's a fair share of grief from her brothers (I think that's the way it typically happens), but you know what? My sister is an incredible lady. She puts up with me and my brother's teasings, but she also simply sacrifices her time and energy to help others. She's incredibly disciplined, and puts her all into anything she does.

It was incredible spending time with her and my brother, but I want to dedicate this post to her. She truly is a rose, and as much as I tease her (as most brothers do), she has my utmost respect for the woman she is. If you ever get a chance to meet her, you'll understand what I mean.

So this post is going out to all of you brothers who give your sisters a hard time. Maybe take a minute or two today and let your sister know how special she is. Call her. Write her a note. Blog about her. Whatever it is, just take a moment and let her know she's loved.

Seriously. Do it.

17three Retreat

This past weekend, I traveled to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland with between 60 and 70 leaders from the various student ministries of our church to pray, to plan, and to grow in our community as we prepare for the coming year. The exciting thing about the retreat was the simplicity around which it was centered. It was also pretty sweet to spend time in nature enjoying things like waterfalls, black bears, fall colors, and campfires.

The goal of the retreat, as well as the goals of all all the leaders was to help people know God better. Instead of long messages and strategic plans, the retreat was a bit of a hybrid. The central theme was this--"What do you LOVE about God?" And that's exactly what our church's college, young professional, and student ministries will be asking of people and talking about.

Here's the key concept. John 17three says "This is eternal life, that you would know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent." So these local church ministries are centered around helping people to know God better. One of the best ways to get to know anyone better is to spend time reflecting on what you love about them, and special memories you've shared with them.

Think about an old friend or a family member. What is it that you love about them? Are there some cool memories you have shared? What is the most exciting thing you have done with them together?

Beyond that, what could you do to get to know that person better? Of course spending time together with them would be great. How do you get to know anyone better--spend time together.

So, the entire weekend was centered around a group of young folks learning about God and spending time with him and with each other. But that's not the end of it all.

You see when you are with person you care about, it makes it easier to go out and be bold and serve others. I get kind of excited about the implications of what this little group is doing. Folks are talking about adopting service agencies with some friends, and getting beyond the walls of the church to go out into the community to lend a helping hand.

There is a world that is hurting, and there are huge problems that need people to care, to love, and to serve in order to solve them or at least mitigate them.

To me, as I reflect on the weekend, I get excited for the potential good that can come out of helping people to grow in their love for God and their love for others. It's not a fancy or flashy mission, but it seems like this echoes the word's of what Jesus told folks to be about back when he walked the earth--loving God and loving others.

This blog has been just a short snippet of ideas from the retreat--sorry it isn't more detailed. I want to leave you with this thought as you start your week though. Take a moment and reflect on this--it might breathe fresh wind into your Monday. What is it that you love about God? You don't have to write an answer on this blog--just think about it. What is it that you love about God?

Have a great Monday and a great week.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Saw The President!

Ok, well I saw his limo drive by. Yesterday around 2PM as I was attempting to take my brother to the airport in Pittsburgh, traffic was halted altogether. Curious as to why traffic was at a dead stop, I pulled into a parking lot overlooking the highway I needed to drive on to get to the airport. People were standing and looking at the road. I asked what was happening, and they said, "President Obama's motorcade is coming through!" Just as they uttered that statement, I saw motorcycles coming down the road. I quickly pulled out my iphone and snapped the photo above with the presidential limo heading to the airport.

President Obama was visiting Pittsburgh because next weekend (Sept 24-25), Pittsburgh will host the G20 Summit. "What's the G20 Summit?" Glad you asked. Here's a link that explains a bit about the G20. Essentially these are the leaders of the 20 most populated and financially powerful nations in the world. They essentially come together to talk about ways to better manage and influence the global economy. Here's a wikipedia article that tells more about who these leaders are and why they are meeting.

The Pittsburgh area is really excited for the event. If you live near Pittsburgh, I think some of the major roads will have limited traffic as the event gets under way. For me, it's pretty exciting to think that a group of twenty world leaders will be meeting just a little over an hour from my house. Of course, as you can imagine, the G20 event will draw in a variety of protestors and participants. I'm sure there will be some great news coverage in the days ahead as well. Personally I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of these meetings.

In the meantime, I'm glad traffic got back to normal quickly after the President drove by, and my brother was able to make his flight back to Orange County.

The Idea Camp

ICDC Behind the Scenes from The Idea Camp on Vimeo.

A few weeks ago, I had an awesome privilege of participating in a really cool idea that was created by my recently made friend, Charles Lee along with many, many others. The Idea, a FREE conference that would bring together some of the top minds in non-profits, churches, and social ventures to share ideas, to create, and to collaborate. The idea camp's tagline is "a collaborative movement of idea makers" and the conference experience is dissimilar to any conference in which I've ever participated. The theme for the idea camp conference in Washington DC I attended/participated in was "Compassion and Justice" and was hosted by a group called International Justice Mission

During the conference a group from Nuru International participated, and then Nicole Scott and myself "led" an idea session. The session was called Lessons from Silicon Valley: Innovation and Collaboration with "Competitors", and the discussion was centered around the idea of partnering with other organizations in one's area of focus to accomplish more and to do so in a better way. Click the link to find out more about the session, and some of the ideas that were generated during it.

That's one of the cool and different concepts around the idea camp. Rather than listening to a person talk for an hour and fifteen minutes, the facilitators share a brief introduction to the topic and then open the room up for questions and discussion from the entire group. This allows for people who are "attending" a session to participate, and to hear from each other. Not only that, but new ideas and collaborations form as people discuss an idea or concept in the session or beyond a session.

I understand that there is another Idea Camp forming in Portland Oregon on November 20-21st. The theme will be "Being Present with the City" If you want to find out more, check out the idea camp website.

I think there is a lot to be said about collaborating with other idea makers, dreaming big, and seeing ideas become implemented.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Family Time

My brother came into town Saturday September 5th for a ten day surprise visit . . . and surprises were all around. I was surprised Saturday September 5th in the morning when I found out my dad spent the night in the ER in Parkersburg with stomach pain and was being transported to Charleston for further examination because of a weird EKG. (He turned out to be alright, and the hospital staff believes he had food poisoning or some type of virus).

My dad was surprised when a familiar voice asked if about joining dad for lunch as my dad sat down in my car when I picked him up from CAMC Sunday morning.

Later that day, my sister was surprised when my dad and I joined her and her husband to go for a walk in Parkersburg's City Park. It was so awesome because neither my dad or sister had a clue that my brother was coming in. Thankfully, my dad didn't have to spend much time in the hospital either.

As we were finishing up our sixth mile of hiking, we saw a couple of familiar children sitting by the city park pond. They were my best friend in the whole world, Willie's, children. And they added to the surprises. Willie and his wife Sue came walking through the park and it was a pretty awesome time of reunion.

Later on, Jamie and her mom came down to visit for a bit, and we had a big surprise meal to finish off the evening.

I was able to spend two whole weekends with my brother and my family and there is something richly satisfying in that. The surprises were great (except for the hospital visit), but the greatest thing for me was spending time with my family. It has been a little over two years since my mom went to be with Jesus, and she is still deeply missed. Even though there is an empty spot where she would have sat in the photo above, and an empty spot in all of our hearts, I know she would be glad that we still love one another deeply and simply spend time laughing and enjoying one another.

Family and friends are a great treasure for me, and I will cherish the many simple memories I was able to share with my sister, my brother, and my dad over these last couple of weekends. I don't know when we will all be together again, but it will never feel soon enough or long enough. Time together is a rare gift indeed.

If you are far from your family and friends, I pray you have time very soon that you can spend with them. If you are close, give thanks for the opportunities you have to create memories together. Time together with loved ones is truly a precious resource.

Birthday Wishes

That photo is of my good friend Meghan Baird. Not sure if you know her or not, so I'm going to give a brief introduction. Meghan received her undergraduate degree in Art from Shepherd University. She then proceeded to come to WVU and added a degree in International Studies with a specialization in Africa and International Development. While here, we became friends through the college ministry of Chestnut Ridge Church. It's called 17three and if you are ever in Morgantown, you should check it out.

Anyway, Meghan went on to spend a year teaching in Sudan after graduating. While she was in Sudan, some other friends were starting Nuru, and so I told her about the organization. She applied for a posiition working with Nuru when she came back from Sudan, and was hired as the first education program manager for Nuru's project in Kuria, Kenya. Now part of Nuru's model is that anyone serving on the ground in the developing world will do so for a period of six months, and then will return to the USA for a period of about 10 months and work in one of three areas. Meghan is working with me in Morgantown on our grassroots team.

So why all of that introduction? Meghan's Birthday is in a couple of days. And she, along with a couple of other friends, Tara Rickard and Stuart Godwin, have decided to use their birthdays (all are happening this month) as an excuse to fight extreme poverty (which, if you didn't know, is exactly what Nuru does!). So they joined Nuru's cause page on facebook. This cause page has a cool feature. It allows you to "make a birthday wish" and invite people to give to your favorite cause instead of giving you a bunch of presents.

So if you want to join in celebrating Meghan's, Tara's or Stu's birthday, here's an opportunity to give. Here are the links to follow. For Meghan's wish click that link. If you want to help Tara's birthday wish come true, then click this link. And if you want to pass on birthday wishes to Stu, well, you know what to do.

Or, maybe you have a birthday coming up pretty soon. Ever thought about using the day you were born to bring hope to the lives of others? Now is your opportunity. If you are on facebook, join Nuru's cause and invite others to contribute. If you aren't on facebook, you could still do something creative like this with your birthday or another holiday. Think about it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chasing Rainbows

Last week, I was traveling through the Canaan Valley/Dolly Sods region of West Virginia when we saw this beautiful image show up in the eastern sky. It was a vivid rainbow, and as we pulled our car over to capture a photo of this natural beauty, we noticed three cars behind us do the same thing. For folks on facebook, I realize that many of my imported blog entries don't show images, but feel free to visit my blog here.

There's something wonderful about rainbows, and to see one like this that filled the sky, well it was more than a little bit captivating.

As i stopped to consider the rainbow, and our journey along the road, I thought about the old saying "chasing rainbows." The saying is used to describe a situation where a person is pursuing a goal that can never be accomplished--like finding the end of the rainbow and getting a pot of gold. Sometimes I think the same phrase is used to describe someone who is a dreamer or who fails to accept the status quo and the "way the world is."

People probably thought Mother Theresa was chasing rainbows when she started to serve lepers in Calcutta, India at the age of 40. Some people probably thought she flipped her lid. While they were accusing her of chasing rainbows, she was out changing the world.

I bet people said that about Martin Luther King, Jr. when he shared his dream. And now, look at the accomplishments that have been made for civil rights because of that man's dream.

And then I think about my buddies Jake Harriman and John Hancox. They started a non-profit called Nuru International. It has the goal of ending extreme poverty. It seems like a ridiculous and insurmountable goal. But already, a community of 5000 people in southwestern kenya are beginning to lift themselves out of extreme poverty for good. Thousands more are beginning to engage this issue back here in the states. I wonder what will be said of my friends in forty years.

I encourage you today to chase rainbows. Dream big, but as you do, take action steps to make that dream a reality. This world needs more people with vision, more dreamers of dreams, more people who can imagine a different way of living and life. There are some massive problems like extreme poverty, slavery, human trafficking, disease, the environment, genocide, and more. And there are solutions out there. The world is waiting for some people who are daring enough to dream big and who will put their dreams into action.

May you pause to ponder the possibilities that present themselves to us every day, even on the road in rural West Virginia on a rainy sunny day.