May 23, 2007
So here I am, offering seven random facts about myself. Here are the rules of the game for those I tagged.Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to write on their own blog about their seven things, as well as these rules. You need to choose four people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they have been tagged and to read your blog!
I will tag Grant, Ken & Crystal, Mai, and Bev.
Here are seven random facts about me with (almost) no forethought.
1. I once wrote a fictional story about my "dream girl" and then I met her in real life. (And no it wasn't Barbara). Her name in the story was Kej. Her name in real life was Beth and she worked in a bookstore. She turned out to be a little nuts. Sometimes what you think you think you want is not what you really want at all.
2. As a kid I used to chew on the collars of my nerdy collared shirts. Used to shred them. . .
3. As a kid I always used to imagine that I would one day be a pediatrician and drive a yellow corvette. Even though I had no interest in medicine nor much fascination with sports cars.
4. I have virtually no fond memories of elementary school. Sorry Orlando Junior Academy!
5. I really hate apples. I can't stand them--the texture, the hard, waxy skin, the sweetish smell, the way they crunch when people bite into them, the nasty cores and little black seeds. However, as soon as they're cooked, I love 'em. Apple sauce, apple juice, and apple pie, I LOVE. Just the raw apples I hate. So if you want to curry favor with this teacher, better bring me an orange!
6. I've taken two road trips in my life (well, besides driving back and forth to college and other destinations around the U.S. That doesn't count. I'm talking about a trip where you just hit the road with a buddy or two and see where you end up). The first one was during Spring Break of my senior year in high school. Me and two friends drove up the coast of the Southeastern United States from Gainesville to Savannah to Charleston and ending up near Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. The second was the summer after my freshman year in college. My buddy J and I drove from North Florida over to New Orleans. We spent about five days exploring New Orleans than drove back leisurely along the Gulf Coast, meeting two other friends near Panama City before going home.
7. I used to hate U2 in high school. (But that was only because I wasn't really familiar with their music and was too embarrassed to admitt it. That, and it annoyed the heck out of Ester Pierre Louis).
May 21, 2007
. . .and they emerged as men
The First Annual Men's Campout, May 18-20, 2007
You was a boy like I was once,
But was you a boy like me?
I grew up around Indiana, You grew up around Galilee
And if I ever really do grow up,
Lord I want to grow to be just like You
It was Grant's brainchild. He wanted to have a weekend just for the boys. He wanted to take them camping: No tents, or lawnchairs. No radios or coolers full of soda. No this would be a weekend of roughing it. He wanted to test the boys, challenge them, stretch them. He wanted to make them think. He wanted to provide them with survival skills--not just physical, but spiritual survial skills. He wanted them to learn to protect and to provide. He wanted to teach them what it means to be a man.
Our society doesn't provide much helpful information on how to be a man. Pop culture is full of a lot of overgrown boys swaggering about the movie screens, video games, and music videos, swelled up with macho posturing--boys using violence to get their way, using women to get their kicks, using excuses to avoid responsibility. Grant felt that our boys wouldn't learn how to become men unless someone took the time to teach them, and I found had to agree with him. So I, along with our friend Dr. Ken Pierson, director of the SDA Dental Clinic signed on.
It was quickly decided that the boys eligible for the weekend would be seventh graders. Seventh grade--a vital time. Hormones are really kicking into gear, the world is beginning to tilt--to go a little crazy. It's around the age of a 7th grader that young Jewish boys become men. Throughout world cultures and religions, through the ages--that crucial age--around 12 or 13 was often when boys went through their initiaon into manhood. Furthermore, we just happened to have a tight group of five boys in the seventh grade at Saipan SDA School. Most of them had known each other since Kindergarten, and they were the energetic, charismatic center of their class. If these boys stepped up and took responsiblity as men, they could exert a powerful influence on their class.
Of course the boys were super-excited when they were invited on the campout. I'm not sure they knew quite what they were getting themselves into, but the prospect of a camping trip with Mr. Graves had to be an adventure!
"Harry" of REAL Christian Theater fame.
And the guides to manhood. . .
Dr. Ken Pierson
. . .and me!
On Friday afternoon, we piled our gear--the most basic equipment--bedroll, a bowl and spoon, a change of clothes or two, extra socks, water--into the back of Grant and Ken's pickup trucks and drove out to the remote wilds of San Juan Beach. The place had been the crucible for Grant and me, and now the very same rough beaches and untamed jungles where we'd once gotten lost would be the place where the boys would find themselves.
"Harry" and "T" strike a tough guy pose on arrival at San Juan Beach, the starting point for our weekend of adventures.
Supper's on. Ken kicks back by the fire while the water boils for chili mac and cheese. The food for the weekend, in keeping with the spirit of the weekend was simple, hearty, and filling. Chili mac with bread. Oatmeal. Peanut butter and jam sandwhiches. Apples and oranges. Granola bars. Beef jerky. Potaotes wrapped in foil, roasted in the coals. The food was my area of responsibility and I did my best to keep it somewhat Spartan but still tasty. The sun, wind, and salt air did plenty to build up our appetites and even the oatmeal tasted pretty good(at least with plenty of brown sugar, raisens, and a little milk).
On Friday night, Grant imparts some lessons in manhood while the boys listen intently.
After a short worship talk in which Grant recounted some of the adventures of the mythic Greek hero, Ajax, he had the boys do an activity to illustrate the importance of learning to provide for themselves before they could provide for others. They had to build a fire and the only rules were they couldn't use a lighter or matches. The boys quickly realized they could just take some of the coals from the fire we'd started to begin their own blaze, but pride kicked in and they spent about an hour trying to do it by rubbing two sticks together, before relenting and taking the coals--which was the point of the exercise. Grant explained that the original fire represented their ability to provide for themselves. If they had "fire" of their own, it would be easy for them to provide for others. But if their hearts were cold and dark, how could they provide light and warmth for others?
The boys labor to start their own fire.
Sunrise at San Juan Beach. This photo was taken between five and six A.M. from the vanatage point of my bed on the ground.
The boys on the way to the top of the ridge ("T" is the figure in red further ahead. Ken, Grant, and I are hanging back a bit, letting them "do it themselves").
A picture taken at the top of the ridge. If you look carefully you can just make out the brown rectangle of our lean-to against the cliff face near the open stretch of sand.
However, it was the top of the ridge that the first crisis struck. "Ko" was stung by one of the many paper wasps that haunt these jungles. Instantly, the wind was sucked out of their sails. Every one was pumped up and gung-ho when the going was easy and the activity was fun. But now that "Ko" had a smarting chin, suddenly all this becoming a man buisness wasn't looking so appealing. "Ko" knew just the trick to soothe the pain--a quick trip to the store for a cold soda. Unfortunately for him, there were no stores anywhere near us. The team descended the ridge subdued. This time there was little cooperation. It was every man--or every boy, rather-for himself. "T", a little heavier on his feet than the others, was quickly left behind by his team-mates. On several occasions the team momentarily lost their way, as the trail markings they'd left on the exuberant ascent were insufficient. Still, the we made it back to the beach without too much delay.
"Harry" clowning around at San Juan Beach
"Harry" takes some time to "power up" in the Word while we wait for the rest of the team to finish preparations for the journey into the jungle. (Grant rests in the background).
The heat of the day: Doesn't it look sweltering in these pictures? It was! By the time we were ready to move to Barbara Beach, we were more than ready to get off San Juan Beach which was burning hot and into the relative cool of the jungle. These photos were taken in the early afternoon as we were waiting to begin our jungle trek.
The boys on the overland trek. Check out "Ko's" duffle that "K" is shouldering. They quickly came up with a sytem where they would scout ahead for the next trail marking, then come back and haul the gear to that marker, then leave the bags and search for the next marker. Smart men!
The young men rose to the occasion. They worked hard, without complaint. They kept a positive attitude, and stayed focused on the task. One of the highlights of the trip for me was listening to them talking amongst themselves, hatching a plan, making decisions, checking one one another to make sure everyone was doing okay. No man was left behind this time. Every time I'd hear "Okay, I'll go down here and then you pass the bag to me" or "Harry, you doing okay? You want me to carry that for awhile?" my heart, would just about burst with pride.
The final approach to Barbara Beach involved a treacherous slope down to the beach. It had been challenging for Grant and I when we did it with no extra baggage. These young men would have to do it with all their gear. Amazingly, they were able to do it, working together (and at one point even rolling the bags down a particularly steep slope). Here "M" (foreground) and "T" and "Harry" work the bags down the hill.
The slope the boys had to navigate to get to Barbara Beach.
It took close to two hours but the men made it! Now it was on to the second testing trial. The young men would have to set up camp without any help from us. They would need to erect shelter, find firewood and start a fire, dig a latrine, and prepare their suppers.
Harry works on our shelter at Barbara Beach.
Sunday morning, May 20, 2007. Ken prepares for the day. Below, Grant sleeps in a bit. Grant decided to stay out in the open all night long, pulling the extra tarp over him when the rains swept through.
Saturday night was one of fitful sleep for me. There was the rain though the shelter kept us basically dry. There were the ants that crawled into bed with us. There was the tide which rose to mere feet from our campsite during the night. I could hear the water lapping, seemingly just on the other side of the tarp during the night. I woke a lot and often had trouble going back to sleep, and finally woke up for good around 5:00 A.M. as the day began to dawn.
"T" takes some timefor private reflection Sunday morning. For a sense of how close the tide got to our camp overnight, you can see the edge of Grant's tarp at the bottom of this photo.
--Song Lyrics from "Boy Like Me/Man Like You" by Rich Mullins.
Get Grant's perspective (and some gorgeous photos) on the weekend over at Grant's Blog. Just click on the link at the bottom of this page!
May 20, 2007
REAL Christian Theater tour to Guam, May 3-7, 2007.
"The Creation" on Friday night at Agana Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church, above, and "The Machine" a very high energy, spontaneous skit at Guam Adventist Academy below.
At the beginning of this month, REAL Christian Theater took our end-of-the-season tour to Guam. Words that come to mind when describing this tour: "smooth", "joyful", "powerful", and most of all, and perhaps, strangely, "quiet." This was a tour distinctive by the absence of stress, haste, and commotion. It may be one of the best tours we've ever had.
I was a little worried in the weeks leading up to the tour. The group seemed to be losing focus as the end of the season approached: actors were showing up late for rehearsal or skipping rehearsal all together, team members were failing to study lines, not listening to announcements and missing vital information. All of this had me worried, but of greatest concern to me was the spiritual tenor of the team. I just felt like we weren't where we needed to be as a team.
But God was faithful as always, and the tour came together into something sublime. The team gelled, came into sharp focus. Our performances were some of the best of the year, the audiences were enthusiastic and genuinely appreciative, and best of all the kids on the team seemed to embrace the spiritual aspect of what we were doing.
We arrived in Guam about 10:30 P.m. Thursday, May 3 after a 40 minute flight from Saipan. The Education Suprintendent for Guam Micronesia Mission (GMM), his wife, and some other mission personnel picked us up and took us back to the Mission housing where we would spend the weekend. The women had one apartment, and the men had another just down the hill. After a late night run to Taco Bell and to the grocery store for breakfast food, we hit the hay to rest up for our first day of performances.
Friday afternoon performance at Guam Adventist Academy (GAA), Friday, May 4, 2007. From left to right: "Little Sister", "The Man", Grant, "The Gentleman", "Holly", "Harry", and Keisha a.k.a "Bono Girl" during the anti-drug sketch "You Think You're Alone"
Friday, May 4 got off to a peaceful start. Our first performance wasn't until the afternoon so we were able to have a leisurely breakfast, an inspiring worship led by Grant, and begin rehearsing for our afternoon shows around 10:00 A.M. Rehearsals went well, and by 11:30 we were performance-ready. We went out for lunch and then drove out to GAA for our first two performances. We did two shows, back to back, one for the younger students and one for the high school. Both were very well received, and as if knowing this would be one of their last opportunities to perform these sketches the kids gave it 100% on each sketch. By about 3 we were finished, and we headed back across the island to rehearse for our next show scheduled for Friday evening.
I talk to the audience between sketches during our Friday evening vespers performance, Friday, May 4, 2007,
Here, we encountered the only real moment of stress that I can recall over the course of the weekend. Friday afternoon tends to be a tough time during REAL tours (see last May's tour to Palau). The team is usually wiped out from a late night and a morning of performing and there is always a Friday night show that we desperately need to rehearse for. This tour was no exception. We began rehearsing, but I soon had to leave to drop Keisha off at the airport--she was flying back to Saipan to take her SATs the next day and would return to Guam to finish out the tour, Sabbath afternoon. When I returned, the rehearsing had stopped--the kids were just too tired, Grant said. He also said that the performances were rusty. We hadn't done these sketches in at least a few months, and in some case not sense the Rota tour. It was now close to 5:00 P.M. Our performance was two hours away. We decided Grant and Britni would take the kids who didn't need extra practice with their lines down to Taco Bell for supper while I stayed back and worked with those who needed more rehearsal. They'd bring back food for us.
By the time the rest of the team returned, my actors were ready, but we were about 30 minutes from the opening curtain and we still hadn't rehearsed our keynote performance, the "Creation/Fall/Redemption" pantomime trio--and this performance would feature three guest actors filling in the gaps left by team members who couldn't travel with us to Guam. These actors had never even seen this material performed, and now it looked as if they wouldn't have a chance to rehearse it, even once. Sure enough, by the time we had everyone together, the sanctuary was already filling and it was too late to rehearse. We hastily talked our new actors through their parts and prayed hard. Our situation was reminiscent of our Friday evening show last year in Palau (click on May 2006 in the blog archives)--same material, same lack of time, same need for rehearsal, only this time the stakes were even higher. Last year, we could only rehearse once or twice--this time there would be no rehearsal at all. But once again, God came through in the clutch and the performance went off without a hitch!
"Harry" during the monologue "My Secret Pal" at the Friday night vespers performance.
Friday night vespers performance: "The Fall" From Right to Left: "Photobug" as Eve, "The Gentleman" as Adam, Me as Jesus, and a guest actor from Guam Adventist Academy subbing in for "CK Girl" in the role of an angel. All of us are looking in the direction of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The world gets Created in Sabbath School: Just before the performance, "The Gentleman" and "PhotoBug" get ready to go into "uncreated" mode lying flat on the floor until the sixth day. Britni sits at her laptop in the background, ready to provide the soundtrack to Creation and as for me. . .
The team took the morning "off" for the main church service, though "Holly" and "The Vice President" sang special music, and "Harry" told the children's story. They did such a great job!
"Holly" and "The Vice President" sing "Seek Ye First" for special music at church on Sabbath, May 5, 2007.
"Harry" tells the story of David and Goliath for the children's story Sabbath morning.
After a delicious potluck lunch, we had some downtime to rest. The kids napped for awhile and then Grant and Britni took some of them on a walk to a nearby park while I went to pick up Keisha from the airport. At 5:00 P.M. I presented a drama seminar at the Agana Heights SDA Church entitled "Parables of the Kingdom: A Rationale for Drama Ministry." The kids did a couple of sketches as part of the presentation as well.
As soon as the seminar was over we shifted the focus to preparing for our final performance, the adaptation of Bridge To Terabithia which we'd just debuted the previous weekend in Saipan. Bridge to Terabithia, a novel originally written by Katherine Paterson, tells the story of the friendship that develops between two fifth graders, Jess Owens an avid runner and artist, and Leslie Burke, the new girl in the neighborhood. By swinging on a rope across a creek bed near their homes, Jess and Leslie enter their imaginary kingdom of Terabithia. It's a touching story, with a sad yet hopeful ending, that focuses on the themes of friendship, dealing with loss, and especially in Grant's adaptation, walking in the light God gives us. The main characters of Jess and Leslie were played by "Harry" and "Holly" respectively.
From Behind the Scenes (Britni at her command center from which she ran the lighting for our production of Bridge to Terabithia. The large light in front is a strobe light). . .
. . .To Center Stage (Britni takes on the role of "Ellie" opposite the Vice-President's "Janice Avery.") Three of our actors are Chinese nationals and due to U.S. immigration rules, they cannot travel to Guam. So we all scrambled to cover their parts. Britni covered CK Girl's role of "Ellie" in Bridge to Terabithia and did a fantastic job.
"Harry" and "Little Sister" in the final scene of Bridge to Terabithia.
The team plus new friend, Dan (in blue t-shirt on left) celebrate at T.G.I. Fridays, Sunday, May 6, 2007.