Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Thirty is an interesting number. It's not that big, but it's not too small either. When children first start learning to count, it's a number they struggle to get to and often mispronounce. As I was talking to a friend, he submitted that the main difference between thirty and twenty-nine, and what makes it vastly superior, is that it is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 15 and 30 while twenty-nine is merely a prime number. He may be right in his assessment, but I am prone to wax nostalgic at times such as these, so I'm going to briefly assume there is a little more to the number thirty than that.

30 years ago, I was being delivered and placed in the loving hands of my mother and father.
30 months ago, I was packing up all my belongings to start a new life in California.
30 weeks ago, I was in Arizona, building homes for Apaches.
30 days ago, I was fighting to preserve what I believed was the most important thing in my life.
30 hours ago, I was at work emailing friends and partners all over the world.
30 minutes ago, I was on a run dreaming up this post.
30 seconds ago, I was probably typing that 30 days line.

As I look at the points in time above, there is one that jumps out to me more than any other. My life certainly started thirty years ago, but my life as it is now began when I made the decision to take an internship with Amor Ministries, building homes for the needy in Mexico. This was the most difficult choice I had made in my life to that point. I went to San Diego to serve with Amor extremely excited and hopeful. I was convinced that I was aligning myself closer with God's will for my life. It was incredibly difficult leaving so many people and things back in Virginia, but the fruits of my decision came immediately. I moved in with Drewmate, who instantly became my best friend. I started my internship with Nick who also became my best friend (I also have a couple of best friends from back home). Flavin, Bobby, Jon, Blair, Dan, Jeff and so many others came along side me and led me as well. God blessed me at every turn. I have never felt at home in a place so quickly. I learned to truly serve others. Mexico was beautiful, and the people even more so. Every week was a new adventure as I took unique groups down south to build homes for poor families. The experiences were so impactful and frequent that I barely had time to process all of the wonderful things that God was doing in my life. I fell in love more deeply, richly and authentically than I ever had in my life. And just when I thought the blessings were over, I found beautiful mountain bike trails in Mexico. And then there was the music that enriched my life so much: Mike Barnet, Mumford, Bon Iver, Florence, MGMT, Fleet Foxes, Isa, Gotye, The Temper Trap, Future of Forestry, Sufjan Stevens and The Black Keys are just a few artists featured in the vastly improved soundtrack of my life. I was truly at peace.

Then came the hardest decision of my life. I had fully hit my stride and was totally happy in San Diego. I loved what I did, I loved the people I was surrounded by and I loved where I lived. Despite all this, I believed God was asking more of me. An opportunity arose with Amor to manage a remote location in Arizona, building homes on an Apache reservation. After much prayer, consideration and counsel, I decided to apply for the position. The truth is, I wondered why I put so much consideration into this decision, as I believed I had no chance at being hired for the job. Amazingly enough, I was given the opportunity to take over the program. Within a couple months, I was once again on the move, to live in Phoenix and build homes on the Apache reservation in San Carlos, AZ. I was wonderfully taken care of by my boss, Andy, and his wife and daughter, Erin and Avery. They gave me a family at a time when I really needed one. After living with them for about two months, I moved in with my new roommates, Colin and Ryan. These guys are total bros. My experience living with them couldn't have been more different than living with Drewmate and Nick, but they fed a totally different part of my soul and I love them so much (Cardigans at the Dark Horse!). The work on The Rez was much more challenging and really stretched me in ways that I wanted to be stretched as an employee, man and believer. I was growing and being challenged. Oh yeah, and Florence released a new album and that was cool too.

Then came the hardest decision of my life. I felt so much allegiance and love for Amor and it's mission, but my mother was getting sicker. I was consistently hearing things that made me wonder how much longer she would be around. I had a Christmas visit with the family when she spent the entire time in the hospital, then she had another three month stint in shortly afterward. I didn't want to leave San Carlos or all the wonderful people and places I loved in the southwest. I had to do what I felt was right for my family at the time, so I decided to leave Amor. About this time a close friend, Justin, told me about an opening working with international savings groups for HOPE International. The job seemed like a dream: International microeconomic development. I would get to travel all over the world spreading The Gospel and equipping people to better their socioeconomic conditions. The icing on the cake is that HOPE's headquarters was located just 25 miles from where my parents lived. I applied and interviewed, again with very little confidence that I would get the job. However, it was offered to me. Leaving Amor and the southwest seemed like one of the hardest things I could ever be asked to do. Once again, I packed all my things and with Nick at my side, made a two and a half day trip from Phoenix to PA (I finished with Amor on a Friday and started at HOPE the following Monday).

Of all my transitions, the one back to the east has been the toughest. I thought that with my experience in missions and accounting, I would hit the ground running in microeconomic development. However, it's been a little bit tougher than I expected. This sector is full of incredibly gifted, intelligent people who I am fortunate to be around and with whom I struggle to keep pace. However, I have joined a wonderful new family at HOPE. I also have my actual family with whom I now get to live and see every day. Since arriving back, my mother's health has improved considerably. I was also able to be around when my father suffered from a mild heart attack. Still, I'm struggling to find that feeling that I had when I was driving my beat up Tacoma in Mexico, helping teenagers and church groups build homes for the poor. Life's not always about how you feel though. Peace is often fleeting. It's the decisions you make and how they affect others that matter far more than how you feel about those decisions.

So here I am, watching the clock tick down to thirty. An age that just a month ago didn't matter to me in the least, now seems more significant every second. What have I learned? Time gives perspective. It also gives experience. These should add up to clear lessons. However, sometimes a glut of the two can make life very confusing. I've certainly had a lot of both in just under three years. I don't know if I've made all the right decisions and I don't know what's going to come of all this. What I do know is that there is redemption and opportunity available in every step of life. I can also say that I'm not always proud of the man I am but I am proud of the man I'm becoming. What else have I learned in the past thirty years? I don't know, I guess I'll take thirty more. And maybe another thirty after that. I'm a tough study.

One thing I do know is that I am so thankful to all the people that have gotten me through these past crazy thirty months. My life is so much richer for you. The soundtrack is better. The scenery, from Mexico, to the Arizonan high desert, to Haiti, India, California, The Philippines, Alabama, Virginia and Pennsylvania, has been incredible. To my family, all the people in this post, those that supported me at Amor, my old coworkers at Amor,  all the other friends along the way (Emily, Stacey, Jessica, Danielle, Bailey, Scotty Does, Matt, Bobby, Nicole, Stephanie, Karen and so many others), and my new family at HOPE, Thank you. God has shown himself to me through you and I hope that in this way I will be blessed to be a blessing. Cheers.

A tip of the glass.
Now picture me fully bearded (It is no shave November), running full steam into the future with this song blaring in my headphones, just as I was earlier this evening.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wise Words

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

-Abraham Lincoln, September 30, 1859

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eating Balut

I've been in the Philippines for the last six days. I've met some incredible people and seen some breathtaking sights. Let's face it though, my long-winded ramblings don't necessarily produce a lot of page views and I'm very sleepily laying in my hotel bed. So, here's a video of me eating a balut. Balut is a partially germinated duck egg. They are boiled for about thirty minutes and then served, half yolk and half developed bird. There were definitely organs in mine. Crack the egg open and throw a little salt in. Drink the "syrup". Unrap the balut. Throw a little vinegar and salt on that and you're ready to go! Thanks to my awesome hosts who didn't let this opportunity slip by. Note, to self: turn the phone sideways to get that great 16:9 aspect ratio Apple keeps talking about rather than a tall sliver.