Malcolm Tyree

A collection of thoughts on things that matter

Archive for the category “Travel”

12 years in 12 days (part 10)

This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, Texas.

As we wrapped up the Spring of 2011, we were in for new steps of faith with Grace Point and our membership. These new steps of faith would send many of our members on some type of service trip.

Channon and Elizabeth joined the team from Houston First Church of God on a trip to Haiti. Their work including a building project and assisting in a medical clinic.

About 25 GPers ranging in age from 7 to 82 began serving with a local homeless ministry team. This team would spend Sunday mornings preparing lunches for 60 people once a month through December.


Some of you may be wondering how we could send a team on Sunday mornings. This was possible because we had changed our worship gathering time from Sunday morning to Saturday night. We made this change for a couple of key reasons. First, we were committed to reaching people not going to church and we thought maybe a reason people didn’t attend church was because of other obligations on Sunday morning. Secondly, we had been unable to find a worship leader for several months and meeting on Saturday nights would allow us to utilize some of our friends in the community who were worship leaders at other churches.

The Saturday night worship gatherings was clearly announced as an experiment. We ran the program through the summer. By late July we had come to see that it was really hard to change your Saturday routines. So, we in August we announced we were going back to Sundays after Labor Day Weekend. The amazing thing, during that season of experimenting, we didn’t lose a single family. Sure, many were not as faithful in attendance as they could have been, but everyone of them stuck through the season and returned with us in the fall!

While we were still in the midst of our Saturday night services, Christy went on a trip to Asia! Working with Project Partner, she was a part of an English Teaching Team. The more than two weeks away proved to be extremely challenging for her. Some of the challenge was physical, some emotional, and some spiritual.


The physical challenge was a result of a car accident we had been in about a week before she was to leave. We were returning from a meeting of Church Planters in Austin, when a pick up truck carrying a 20′ flatbed trailer, rear ended us. At first we didn’t think the accident was that major. We couldn’t see any significant damage to the vehicle and none of us had any visible bumps or bruises. The next day, Christy began to feel the pain. The accident had jarred her body and created significant back pain. In an attempt to relieve the issue, she was prescribed a steroid pack that she reacted badly to and then we had serious doubts as to whether or not she would be going on the trip.

As I said, she did end up going, but as she was flying to Hong Kong, she nearly passed out on her flight. She had the unnerving and movie like experience of hearing, “If there is a doctor on the plane, please press your call button.” She knew that was for her. For the first few days of her trip she could barely participate. After receiving an acupuncture treatment, she was in much better condition for the remainder of her journey.


The physical pain was intensified by the emotional separation. This was Christy’s longest trip away from the kids! She was also traveling with a group that she barely knew and she struggled because she thought she was a burden to the rest of the team. When the trip was over, and she stepped through the secure area at the airport in Midland, she collapsed into the arms of her babies with tears flowing.


Christy’s spiritual challenge was trusting that God could care for her and her family when they were separated by half the globe.

About a month before Christy left, her grandmother, Teena, went into the hospital and the doctors had told the family she was in her last days. After moving Teena to the Hospice House, family members in Texas and Arkansas came out to be with Teena in her final days. After more than two weeks at Hospice, Teena rebounded and was transferred to a long term care facility.


The summer was filled with emotion.

While Christy was away, the GP team served the homeless and also held our final backpack giveaway. This time, instead of hosting a special service asking families to come to us, we chose to set up a booth during registration at Jordan Elementary. We chose to set up at Jordan because this was the community we were directly trying to minister to. Our team sat there each day and offered backpacks to any and all who needed or wanted them. Left over packs were given to the school district’s student assistance and support team to be distributed as needed.

In October, I went to Berlin, Germany, with three others from GP and a team of pastors from the Texas General Assembly of the Church of God. The trip was an educational trip as we learned from missionaries about the work they were doing to help reach residents of this international post-Christian city.

When I returned, we had our first baby boom at Grace Point. We had four babies arrive! So we held a baby dedication for the families.


As Halloween approached, I couldn’t let the previous year’s trick or treating success go without begin challenged. So, once again I brought out the video projector and this time I connected our Wii Game System. We had fallen in love with the Michael Jackson Dance Experience as a family so we shared the game with our neighbors and trick or treaters. Using computer speakers and the video projector shining onto the garage door, we danced to Thriller throughout the trick or treating. At different points there were 20+ kids and adults dancing on our driveway!


In December, I baptized Andrew. He is a bit of a ham and highly expressive. So, when the water turned out to be hotter than expected, he practically climbed up my shoulder like a cat when I went to submerge him. It was truly a moment you had to see.



We made sure the water was warm that day because we had already seen our share of snow that December. But the desert cools and heats quickly!

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After a nice winter, we picked up the paint rollers to help with some spring cleaning at the local YMCA daycare. A team of more than a dozen GPers came out to repaint all the classrooms of the center. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun too.

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Shortly after the work day, Christy’s sister’s family was able to come to Odessa. The wind blew them all the way in from Michigan.

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Easter 2012, was once again a highlight for the GP family. We celebrated the day with egg hunts and baptisms. We baptized three that day.


Closing out our 10th year in Odessa, some friends gave us a new dog. You may have seen pics of Dee Dee in some of the previous posts. She probably more than the rest of us was impacted the most by the arrival of Theo! I will say, I’m not sure he would have survived house training if he weren’t so cute.


As we prepared for the summer of 2012, we were making a bid on the dream property and I had an adventure to Denver awaiting as well as an unexpected birthday surprise!


12 years in 12 days (part 9)

This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, Texas.

In comparison to the summer of ’09, the summer of 2010 was relatively quiet. We started the summer off by taking two groups to Camp Powers in the Piney Woods of East Texas. I took the teens for the first week, and Christy took the older elementary aged kids the second. Camp Powers was become a special place for our family and for the emerging GPers. For many, it served as a place to hear from and think about God more clearly. Camp Powers was also just a great place for desert dwellers because it is encircled by trees! Trees are a rarity in Odessa and they helped make the nine hour drive across the state worth it.


During the summer of 2010 I began working part time for the local newspaper. The job wasn’t anything glamorous, it was just helping us make the ends meet. This was necessary because after reviewing the finances of Grace Point, the leadership team and I were uncomfortable seeing more than 60% of our income being used to cover rent and staffing. We chose this as a temporary fix. As a family, Christy now became the principal income as I took a 75% reduction in pay. The cut seems dramatic, and it was, but it was necessary if Grace Point was going to continue. Though we had been able to attract people to our Easter gathering earlier that spring, we had not been able to capture their attention to return. Income was down and attendance was too. We had lost about 25% of our attendees in the move from Blanton Elementary, in a central area of town to Jordan Elementary, on the far north edge of town.

In July, we took a trip north. We drove through the panhandle of Texas and Oklahoma to see our friends, the Littichs, who had moved to central Kansas. It had been a year since they had left and we missed them. From their house, we pushed on further to Ottumwa, Iowa. Christy’s parents had met and married in Ottumwa. Cheryl’s family still lives there today. It was fun to connect with Christy’s family. On the way home, we picked up a stowaway. Zachary, Christy’s nephew came back with us to spend a few weeks in Odessa.

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As the new school year approached, Grace Point had saved enough money to purchase 400 backpacks for the community. Additionally, we choose to pre-fill the packs with basic school supplies to cut down on the chaos we had experienced the year before. We worked as a team for about three weeks preparing for the big day of the give away.

Unlike the year before, the economy was headed in a positive direction and the need was not nearly as great. We had just over 200 people show up to receive a backpack. We took the remaining packs to the local park near the Boys and Girls Club and gave them away at the end of their day camp.

As school started, things were changing for our family. Christy had moved from teaching 6th grade to now teaching 3rd. She was excited about the change as the pre-pubescent hormones of 6th grade had begun to wear on her. Andrew was entering Kindergarten and Caitlyn was entering 2nd. The biggest change in this was that Caitlyn would now be attending school at Jordan Elementary, our neighborhood school, and Andrew would be attending Dowling Elementary, where Christy was teaching. This was a big change. No longer would the girls be headed out in the morning with the boys to figure the day out. We were now divided oldest and youngest. Christy and Andrew, both youngest, would head to Dowling around 7am, and Caitlyn and I, the oldest, would walk to  Jordan around 7:25am. We were fortunate enough to have Caitlyn’s Kindergarten teacher, teach Andrew too. Mrs. Evans holds a special place in our family. After all, she’s the one who taught the kids to do The Friday Dance.


With time on my hands, I began to volunteer at Jordan Elementary, hosting the monthly Super Student Lunches. This was a great time to celebrate the accomplishments of students at Jordan as well as to begin to serve the community where we were know hosting our worship gatherings.

In September, my dad and brother came out for a visit. It was the first time they had been out in sometime. With the new house, there was plenty of room to play and they took full advantage of the space. My brother, Grady, introduced the kids to Nerf War in the house!

On 10-10-10, we celebrated Grace Point’s 4th Anniversary. For our official celebration we took a group picture. It is one of my favorite moments of GP.  Some of the faces were first time guests, but everyone jumped in for a great big smile.


As Halloween approached, I wanted to try something different than the usual trick or treat experience. Many had suggested the Grace Point host a Halloween Night Event. This was very common throughout Odessa. Most churches host some sort of fair or trunk-n-treats type event. I wanted to see if we could use the night to get to know our neighbors a bit better.

Partly inspired by Randy Frazzee telling a story of sitting on his door step with a pot of chili, I grabbed one of the video projectors from the church and set up a movie on the garage door. I thought the Veggie Tales episode, Where is God When I am Scarred was a perfect story for Halloween. This was also the first year for Halloween in the our new subdivision. Wow! The streets flooded with Trick or Treaters. It looked like a scene from Norman Rockwall’s American images. In our previous eight years, we might have seen a dozen kids on Halloween, combined. This was different. We ran out of candy had saw over 100 kids. Our neighbors across the street ran out of candy, but they loved watching the kids come up and stair at the giant singing vegetables.

Near the end of the trick or treating time, a pick up truck pulled up in front of my house and the driver just sat in his cab. I was busy talking with some guests and entertaining friends, but I noticed the driver was really slow to get out of his truck. I gently stepped to get a better view of the driver because by this point he was beginning to wig me out. As he got out of his truck, he approached me very directly. I intentionally stepped back, away from the party on my drive way to engage with this man.

He quickly said, “I know this is going to sound weird but I need to talk with you. I saw you earlier tonight with your kids going house to house and I knew I needed to come find you. So when I was coming down your street with my kids, I knew where I could find you. I know this sounds weird, but you have something I need! Here are the names of my family.”

He handed me a notebook with his name, along with a woman’s and three children names and contact information. As you can imagine, I am a bit skeptical and partly freaked out by the guy.

I replied, “Well, you should know I am a pastor.”

“That’s it!” he quickly responded. “I’m the black sheep of my family and I need your light.”

We talked for a bit more and I agreed to meet with him at a later date to talk about his situation.

As he left, I remembered meeting him earlier that night, one street over while taking Caitlyn and Andrew trick or treating. I had commented to the oldest of the kids how I liked his costume’s hat. It was a stove top style hat and the boy was dressed as Dracula. Beyond that, I don’t recall saying anything else to the group.

When we did meet, about a month later, I found out the names he had given me where of his common-law wife, her two oldest children, and their shared child. They had been through a major family crisis over the past year and were needing some guidance and help. Eventually, the mother and kids began attending Grace Point. He would pop in every now and then. I was honored when they asked me to officiate their wedding some two years later.

That story is still one I marvel at.

In November, Christy’s paternal grandmother, Teena, came to live in Odessa with Terry and Cheryl.


We had settled into a good rhythm as a family and a church. Attendance was stabilized and many of the folks attending seemed to know each other before showing up for the first time. This was a stark contrast to years before as most of our attendees had never met one another until they came to GP.

It was around this time that I began to look for further opportunities to supplement my still reduced income. I was introduced to two groups in 2009 that paved a way for two conversations in mid-December that would prove to be blessings to my family’s financial situation as well as my development as a public speaker.

The first conversation was with a local business owner who I had met at a Men’s Retreat in 2009. Collin Sewell was working hard to lead his companies in a Christ-honoring fashion and so I offered to help in any way he saw fit. After a few conversations we identified a need among his team for areas of enrichment and development in personal lives, so I began working for Sewell. At first I lead a financial management course and then later I served as the lead trainer for new hire orientations.

The second conversation was in Chicago with a team that trains public speakers. EDC Inc, challenged me as a public speaker in ways I never could have imagined. I had always been comfortable speaking in front of groups, but I did it by intuition. EDC helped break down the mechanics of the best communicators into a reproducible skill set. After the Chicago conversation, I worked with them for nearly 18 months to become one of their trainers.

As 2011 kicked off, Grace Point was coming along and the winter and spring months proved to be pretty stable and quiet. Since that’s not my personality, things needed to change! Easter was coming and we needed to remind the neighborhood that we were here and that Jesus mattered!

So for Easter we hosted a huge Spring Fest in the park on Saturday. We had 5,000 eggs, kites, face painting, feed the elephant, and more crazy festival type events. The turn out was great. Some joined us for Sunday’s worship gathering.

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2011 turned into a big year for Grace Point to serve others. More on how we served others in the next post.

12 years in 12 days (part 5)

This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, Texas.

12 adults! That’s how many said yes to coming on board to help start a new church in Odessa, Texas.

In June of 2006, a group of us came together under the belief that the city of Odessa did need another church, but not like the other churches in town. We would be clear, this would be a place where no perfect people were allowed. It would be focused on making faith seem normal to our lives. The new church would reach out to those not already in a church. We would emphasis family, acceptance, and try to not take ourselves too seriously. We were committed to encouraging others to take the next step in their journey of faith in Jesus.


Early in 2006, I had met Tim Halstead of New Life Church in Odessa. Tim and his wife Melinda, along with nearly 70 others had opened New Life in the summer of 2005. The Halsteads were a huge encouragement to us and were champions of our efforts to launch another new church in town. The New Life Team allowed our team to come and learn from them for three weeks. We participated in the set-up/tear-down routine. We observed how they did children’s ministry and refreshments. We learned how to be a portable church from the new life team.

As we were ramping up our efforts to open the new church, Christy was struggling. She did not know what was wrong, but she knew something was physically wrong with her and it was impacting her emotionally and spiritually as well. She wanted to see a specialist to have some blood work done to see if they could determine what was impacting her. This was very scary for me on a couple of levels. First, I was “busy” planting a new church. I couldn’t imagine being side-tracked! (Bad Husband, I know!) Second, I didn’t know how we would pay for this $500 test. We were barely making our monthly expenses between what little support we had raised and the part-time job I had. We sent out a request asking for some help to pay for the test for Christy. We had three friends from our college and high school days step up and pay for the test! Christy was diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid disorder. It still affects her life today, but at least now we know what the issue is. The response from our three friends was amazing and reminded us that we weren’t alone.


The training with New Life Odessa and through the financial and prayerful help of partners across the country, including Church Multiplication Association and New Life Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, along with the commitments from the 12 adults who signed on board, we launched Grace Point Church in October.


For our first service, our friends at Crossway Church in Midland came and joined us to cheer us on.

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The beginning of Grace Point was probably premature. Looking back on it, I know we did not have a large enough team. Even with our guests for the from Midland, we had less than 70 people in attendance. Some of the research on church planting says you will likely double the number of people of your launch team for the first service. We were within those stats.

Though our opening did not go as planned, we kept at it. After all, we were up and running now. To be honest, when we started Grace Point, I knew what to do on Sundays. What I didn’t know was what to do throughout the week. Even though I had spent some time as a senior pastor, I did not know what to do to develop disciples, lead teams, and invite guests to our services. I did know how to preach and organize a worship service. I did know we needed a great kids’ class and nursery. I did know how to produce marketing material. What I didn’t know was how to develop strangers into community. I had a lot to learn.

In December,we witnessed Josh and Jessica getting married.


We also held our first baptism service. We met at the home of one of our newest attendees. They had a hot tub and we witnessed Fred’s baptism. Later in the spring we returned to that same house for Misty’s baptism. These were encouraging steps we were taking.


In February of 2007, Church Multiplication Association gave us a grant for a mailer to be sent out to our city. We had not done this for our opening due to limited finances. For the first time, we started to see some traction in attendance. We bumped up from averring less than 30 to more than 50.

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For Spring Break, Christy, the kids, and I took a vacation. We drove to Alabama to drop the kids off with the grandparents, then Christy and I drove to Nashville, Tennessee, to fly to San Francisco, California. It was our first time away, without kids, it nearly five years.


As Easter approached, we knew this would be a great time to reach out to our city. I came up with an idea to host what I believe to be the largest Easter Egg Hunt in the city on the Saturday of Easter Weekend. We partnered with Grace Baptist Church in town to stuff some 10,000 plastic Easter Eggs. We purchased door prizes like bicycles, kites, and fun toys for kids. We were going all out!



On Friday, April 6, 2007, the weathermen began reporting a potential problem to our plans. Rain would have been easy to overcome. Instead, on Saturday, April 7, it snowed!

We had some 10,000 Easter Eggs loaded into my minivan. The fumes from the sugary candy and gum was nearly sickening. And as I looked outside around 7am, snow was falling. This was not good. When the snow falls in the desert, people stay inside. The temperature had dropped and the snow covered the roads. Everything that day was cancelled. Including our amazing Easter Egg Hunt!

Now you may wonder, what do you do with 10,000 Easter Eggs? We certainly did. I knew we weren’t going to have enough people present on Sunday, plus the grounds were still wet. So I decided to postpone the hunt to the following Saturday.


As you might have guessed, there isn’t the same enthusiasm for an Easter Egg Hunt after Easter. We got the word out the best we could leading to Saturday. As 10am approached on April 14, six days after Easter, 69 kids showed up to collect the eggs. In case you are wondering, that works out to be 145 eggs per child! We were encouraging parents to let the kids hunt a second and third time!



I’ll never forget that Easter.

As the spring came to a close, we prepared for our first summer as a new church start.

144 Hours • 1,500 Miles • An IYC2012 Adventure (Day 6)

As I write this final entry into my IYC2012 adventure, I’m reminded of how full the week was.  When I finally made it to bed on this last day, I had been rock climbing, rappelling, whitewater rafting, laughing, dancing, surfing, ninja-ing, praying, singing, driving, crying, and just about any other “ing” you can add.

The final day of the conference featured Charlie Hall leading worship and Francis Chan delivering the keynote message.  Francis is very popular on the speaking circuit of Christian conferences.  This would be my third time to see him live.  I’ll never forget seeing him for the first time at the Exponential Church Planters Conference in 2009.  The house band and creative team introduced Francis using AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”

Francis’ message was about the power of being connected in our faith journey.  As he shared about his personal desire to see God work in his day to day life like he did through the prophet Elijah, Francis confessed for that to happen he would have to be in a position where death was a possibility.  He emphasized that we want to see God at work, but we tend to stay within our holy-huddles, aka church, and expect God to do the miraculous.  God never said he’d do the miraculous at church.  The scriptures help us see that God does the miraculous among the world, particularly in the face of persecution.  Francis added that the role of church is to “incourage” us.  We gather and connect as the church to put courage in one another.  When we connect it should be to pray for boldness in one another and to build up each other’s courage.  It was a powerful message to close out the conference.

GPTeens preparing for the ride home

The Grace Point teens and I enjoyed our last meal in Denver as scarfed down some amazing burgers from Red Robin’s Burger Works.    From there we packed it up for our 11 hour drive home.

We took a different route home.  This time we spent more time in eastern New Mexico.  It rained a few times and we were fortunate to see close to six different rainbows.  The two-lane highways of New Mexico were desolate, but they held their own enchantment.  It’s easy to underestimate the terrain of an area, especially elevation, until you come across a big change.  That’s exactly what happen as we made our way down a 1,000+ foot drop.

We stopped for dinner at The Annex in Logan, New Mexico.  Who knew there was a state park and lake there.  We didn’t until we saw all the sunburnt people and water craft.  We had hoped to get a peek of Ute lake, but the sun had set and we needed to get home.

We can see Texas from here!

We approached Farwell, Texas right at midnight.  As we were getting ready to cross the New Mexico-Texas border, a train came barreling down the track.  We sat and watched as this train crossed in front of us for nearly 7 minutes.  We were ready to be in Texas and the train was holding us up.

Pushing through the empty roads of west Texas, we arrived in Odessa just after 2AM.  After dropping off all the teens at their homes or pick up points, I made it home and into bed by 3:15AM – 144 hours after I had woke up to begin this journey.

It was worth it!

Here is our highlight video of our entire trip.  Thanks to GPTeen Abi for putting this video together.

144 Hours • 1,500 Miles • An IYC2012 Adventure (Day 5)

Much like Day 4, our team headed out in different directions, except this time I was the only one going my own way.  The teens were to attend a conference with Steve Fitzhugh and Kim didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to hear him again.  She was sure the teens would love Steve and they did.  Steve’s delivery style is best described as Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock meets Jesus.

Bill and I are from Tennessee, so we’ve always felt connected.

While the others headed to the main meeting hall, I connected with other pastors and ministers from across the US. We gathered together in a lobby area catching up on life.  Most of them were MACU alum.  As we talked it dawned on me and a few of them, I had been a youth counselor for most of them during a summer camp.  In the summer of 1998, I traveled on behalf of MACU as a member of a camp team.  The team traveled to youth camps in Texas, Kansas, and Missouri.  Today, these guys & gals were youth pastors in Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Virginia.  Fourteen summers ago, God placed me in the lives of these men and women.  Today, I was privileged to stand in their presence and listen to their stories.  Without a doubt I was filled with gratitude and a measure of grace and mercy.

Before heading to lunch, our team reconnected at the XBox Dance-Off.  I wasn’t afraid to make a fool out of myself, so I signed up.  I was a bit disappointed as I didn’t get out of the first round. You watch the video and let me know what you think.  I’m guessing I stepped out of the camera zone one too many times.

After lunch, we headed out for a tour of Colorado Christian University.  Outside of a trio to the gym or theater at our local community college, the teens had never been to a college campus.  Derry Ebert and his team did a great job of making us feel at home.  As our tour was wrapping up, the rain came pouring down.  I hope that a tour like this will help GPTeens consider earning their college degree though a Christian school.

A long shopping trip to Forever21 and H&M led to a late entrance into the worship service.  On this night, Charlie Hall and band were leading worship.  Charlie mixed his songs with new renditions of hymns like “Rock of Ages” and “Jesus Paid It All.”  Once again, The Skit Guys brought forth truth through humor. This combined with stories of God’s healing on an Ohio youth pastor and his wife and the live call to a teen in Mississippi unable to attend the conference due to a health battle set the stage for Harvey Carey to remind us of God’s Spirit.

Harvey shared how God was empowering him and the congregation of the Citadel of Faith in Detroit to work to clean up the streets and families in their neighborhood. He reminded us that God’s presence isn’t about “goose bumps” but rather living in boldness and standing up to the oppression and evil in our world.

To close out the worship time, each group of the more than 4,000 participants moved into a time of communion.  This is one of the more memorable moments of the conference.  For many groups it serves as a time of confession and commitment. For our group, it was a moment of deeper connection.  Our week together had reached this fulcrum and Christ was the center of it.

Back at the hotel, we shared a late night dinner in the hallway with the groups from Parkgate Community Church and Ira First Church of God.  We knew these groups from summer camp and other conferences we attend in Texas.  Over the slices of pizza our groups connected and encouraged one another as we prepared for the journey home.

Check out this highlight reel of the day.

144 Hours • 1,500 Miles • An IYC2012 Adventure (Day 4)

Sleep on my adventure had been hard to come by, but when I woke up on Thursday morning, I was refreshed and alive!  The bed at the hotel was vastly superior to the air mattress of the previous two nights.

After a quick breakfast, our team was breaking up for the first time on our journey.  This morning, the teens would have the option of choosing from different IYC breakout conferences, tailored to address specific issues.  Kim (the other adult counselor) and I would head to the YMI session.

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Kim posing for a picture with Steve Fitzhugh

YMI is a youth ministry institute sponsored by the IYC team.  This year, it was pretty amazing to see volunteers and paid church staff who had been working with teens for three decades.  One or two of the adults in the room were approaching four decades of youth ministry.  I had to sit back and think, how long have I been working with teens.  It was then that I realized I’ve been leading ministry for teens for  17 years.  Honestly, that through me for a loop.

As we sat in the YMI session, Steve Fitzhugh was introduced as the speaker.  Steve was one of the first speakers I ever saw at a youth conference.  Add this to my awareness of working with teens for 17 years and was a very memorable time.  Kim was blown away by Steve’s passion, humor, and honesty.  I remember having that same feeling in the early 90’s when I first met Steve.  As a matter of fact, I still have notes from Steve’s “Nail It” messages in my first study Bible.  It felt like some of my ministry was looping in on itself.

After connecting with some friends and being encouraged to keep at the work we are doing with Grace Point, I met back up with the teens.  They each shared about their breakout conferences.  As they came back, it was cool to have them say “I met ________! They said to tell you ‘hi!'”

The GPTeens working with others to prepare meals for Honduras

The GPTeens working with others to prepare meals for Honduras.

After lunch at Sam’s No.3‘s (highly recommended), we headed over to the food prep station.  The were preparing meals to be taken to Honduras.  Basically, we were taking dry ingredients like rice, vitamins, and seasoning and sealing them in bags.  Each bag would provide food for 6 people.  Our team helped prepare more than 200 bags.

As we made our way in for the evening worship gathering, we were anticipating great things.  Matt Papa and the band did another great job of helping us sing the scriptures and directing our attention to Christ.  The Skit Guys brought down the house with their humorous approach to telling real-life places of faith and life interacting.  Their skit of the Sunday School with Cancer was powerful and moving.

Margaret Feinberg was the keynote speaker for the night.  Her message was focused on how God’s voice awakens us was very timely and appropriate for our group.  Margaret shared these five ways to discern if God is speaking to us.

1. Does what your hearing align with scripture?

2. What are the guides (the people you trust and listen to) in your life saying about this?

3. Does this bring peace?

4. Is this blanketed in love?

5. Will this increase my dependence upon Christ?

After Margaret finished, I went to serve as a prayer counselor.  This night, I was asked to pray for a couple who was struggling with purity.  As I prayed with them, I challenged them to reach out to their friends, pastors and others to help them in their struggle.  My experience has helped me see that we struggle with purity when we are off on our own.  When we are with others and know they are with us, the struggle is still there, but it can be overcome.  Setting boundaries seems weird, but it is the only way to battle this issue.

As our group took in the Skit Guys and FireFlight performances in the Late Night Venues, I took the chance to connect with a former colleague from Mid-America Christian University.  Derry Ebert and I had worked together for two years when I was the director of the chapel program.  It was great to catch up with Derry and Brenda and hear about their new life in Colorado, working with Colorado Christian University.

Then it was back to our rooms for our late night wrap up and devos.  Elizabeth West shared and we were all moved by her honesty and transparency.

Friday was coming! So we made our way to bed and looked forward to the things God had in store for our last full day in Denver.

Here’s the highlight video from the day:

144 Hours • 1,500 Miles • An IYC2012 Adventure (Day 3)

Our second night felt colder than the first at Noah’s Ark.  The fresh rain and increase in dew point brought much needed water to the Colorado area, but it made for a colder than expected night.  Three of our girls had decided to share their bed space and blankets in an effort to stay warm.  This would have been a great idea if the girls had connected their air mattresses or even slept parallel with on them.  Instead they slept perpendicular and the air mattresses slowly slipped out from underneath them throughout the night.  This created drafts of cold air coming in underneath them, making their sleep less than desirable.  Once we were packed and breakfast was in our bellies, we loaded up the van and made our way to St Elmo.

Standing on a rock in Chalk Creek

Barefoot, enjoying the water & rocks!

View to St. Elmo

Our playground on the way to St. Elmo

The drive up the mountain was great.  There was a scenic overlook for a waterfall feature, so we took the time to take it in.  At first we settled for a group picture from the overlook, but the water and rocks were calling out to us.  We had to go down and see how far out we could get.  Most of us took off our shoes and experienced the cold snow melt water rushing over our feet.  Our adrenaline kicked into full drive as we climbed out to the rocks in the middle of the Chalk Creek.  Timothy, our only boy on the trip, ventured out the furtherest.  He had the advantage of being 6’4″ so his legs allowed him to stretch beyond that of the rest of the group.

After our time at the scenic overlook, we continued up the mountain to the tiny town of St. Elmo.  Today, it’s a little more than a quick tourist spot, but at one time it was bustling with mining activity.  We ventured off into the woods, taking in the trees and stream.  Being from the desert, it was too tempting to pass up this magnificent ecosystem.

Timothy took the lead on a lot of our exploration.  As a Boy Scout with the rank of Life Scout and preparing to earn his Eagle Scout, he was more than excited to explore.  Additionally, Timothy had just returned from hiking two peaks near this exact location.  His adventure spirit was in full swing.  It turns out, he was a bit too adventurism as he made his way into the foliage alone and slipped while crossing the stream.  He was well ahead of the rest of us, so when he slipped, and his wallet fell out of his pocket, he was left to search for it on his own.  Unfortunately, it was lost.

After making our way back into the center of the town, our teens took the time to feed the chipmunks.  Without a doubt, these furry little guys were the celebrities of the town.  Kids and adults alike were gathered around with handfuls of sunflower seeds, feeding the chipmunks by hand.  Our girls loved this! By all accounts, Alvin, Simon, Theodore, and the rest of the chipmunks were big fans too.  After picking up a few souvenirs, we were on our way to Denver.  My memories of the event were free, but for Timothy it cost around $35.

The drive to Denver was uneventful, and very enjoyable.  Being surrounded by the mountains, snaking our way up and down their sides, provided for some great views.  When we reached the Sheraton Hotel in downtown, we were all anxious for a hot shower!

The IYC sessions began that night.  The conference is as much a concert and pep rally as it is a family reunion.  Many who attend the conference attend it every two years.  Half of our students had been to the conference in Orlando so they more or less knew what to expect.  I was as excited to see my fellow MACU alum as I was to take in the great music and speakers we had paid to see.


IYC Worship DAy 1

Matt Papa on stage leading us in worship during the first worship gathering of IYC.

The Matt Papa band opened the night up, leading us in worship.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t familiar with Matt Papa coming into the conference.  As the band lead us in worship, it became apparent that they were not just worship leaders but lead worshippers.  Their songs featured powerful lyrics straight from scripture reminding us of the power and victory of Christ over sin and death.

Zane Blackwas the featured speaker and was tasked with help us see through Christ we are free.  Zane shared his personal story and testimony of Christ freeing him from a life of addiction and recklessness into a life of passion and purpose.  Zane illustrated his  full story through a smaller story in his life.  An avid snowboarder, Zane was out with his friends on day after a series of record breaking snow storms had come through Washington.  He and his friends would challenge each other to go the extremes.  On this particular occasion, Zane and his friends saw an area that had caution tape placed around it.  Rather than obeying the warning, Zane chose this area as his new playground.  His friends elected to find a different area to play.  After jumping one of his more intense cliffs, Zane was very excited about his new playground, until the avalanche.

Zane Black and his wife

Catching up with Zany Zane following the first IYC worship service.

Zane managed to free himself from the avalanche, but he then witnessed another man struggling to free himself.  The man nearly died.  Had it not been for the rescue efforts of others and the life saving CPR administered, Zane indicated the man would have most likely died.  Zane’s escape and the rescue of the man helped Zane illustrate the need each of us has to escape the avalanche of sin in our lives.  Our freedom from this avalanche of sin comes through Jesus Christ.

Zane was careful to note that not everyone in attendance would have an avalanche of sin in their lives.  He reminded us that sin, by its very definition sin is not something overwhelming, but merely the idea of missing the mark.  In the Greek, sin is associated with archery or target practice.  Whether you missed the bullseye by an inch or a mile, you still sinned.  You have still missed the mark.  Spiritually, you are still in need of Jesus, even if you sin is just a little off the mark.

As the Matt Papa Band returned to the stage to lead the crowd in worship and response, I made my way to the prayer room to work as a counselor.  After Zane’s message of personal addiction and struggle, I wondered what the response might be like.  I was privileged to pray with a young man who expressed his desire to stop drinking and smoking marijuana.

When the service was over, we made our way out of the convention center, hitting the streets of Denver right around 9pm.  As we came out, the streets were full with people celebrating the 4th of July, including a bicycle parade.  We were a bit surprised by the parade as it consisted of all sorts of people riding their bicycles in celebration of America.  The levels of freedom expressed were diverse.  Some were dressed in costumes like Captain America, others in everyday clothes, and their was at least one person who was naked (minus the strategically located stickers).

When we got back to the rooms, our Sara-duo lead us in a devotion and it was lights out! The beds were great! The air mattresses were effective but these beds were heavenly.

Check out this official Day1 highlight video of the conference.

144 Hours • 1,500 Miles • An IYC2012 Adventure (Day 2)

Our team consisted of 6 females and 2 males, only the girls slept in the weather-dome tent at Noah’s Ark.  The guys slept outside, under the stars, like real men!  When you sleep under the stars, there is one star that gets your attention, the Sun!  It was about 5:30am when the Sun began to rise.

Waking up by the river

Early Morning Start for Malcolm

Kim, our female counselor, was up and taking in the view of the sunrise and the serenity of the Arkansas river.  I began to slowly make my way out of my bed and I was looking forward to a shower.  The facilities at Noah’s are adequate, but it is more of a campground than a resort area.  My shower required that I pay for the water in advance, so I put in my $1 for 10 minutes.

I had an expectation of a shorter than usual, but typical morning shower.  Brrr, was I wrong.  The water was cold and never warmed up.  I’m certain I didn’t use my entire 10 minutes, but I was clean.  The discouraging part was the water in the sink where I brushed my teeth seemed warmer than the water for the shower.

After a breakfast of french toast, we made our way to Bob.  That was the name of the rock we would climb and rappel.  For some of our

Climbing Bob's Rock

Climbing Bob’s Rock

crew, the idea of climbing up a rock 30 feet or rappelling down 70 feet was very intimidating.  Kim wasn’t sure she could make the climb due to her arthritis and Abi was scared to try because it involved heights.

Abi had already demonstrated her fear of heights on day one, as the walk around the rim proved to be more than she was really comfortable with.  After watching nearly everyone else on our team climb the rock, we talked Abi into taking the climb.  I encouraged her to take the rock in stages, identifying various points that would count as successful markers along the climb.  Abi made it all the way to the top!

Kim also made a successful climb to the top.  As a matter of fact each of us made it to the top in our own time.  The Noah’s Ark guides were great in helping us reach our goals successfully.

After grabbing a bite for lunch, our team prepared for the whitewater rafting adventure.  Unfortunately, we would need to break up into two groups for this stage.  The rafts are limited to six people plus the guide.  Three of our teens had been rafting before.  The Greggs, Elizabeth, Timothy, and Sarah, had each gone rafting with their family and the Boy Scouts in years past.  Like the rock climb and rappelling, I was experienced in these things, but it had been more than 15 years since I had done either.  For Kim, Abi, the other Elizabeth, and the other

Whitewater Rafting on the Arkansas River

Hitting the rapids with Sara, Sarah, Kim, and Dave (our guide)!

Sara, it was their first time to try any of these activities.

Each group had a great time on the water, even if one of them took a few unplanned stops on the rocks.  Our guides, Liz and David, made sure our team had an exciting adventure.

On our way back to the basecamp, we were introduced to the ghost-town of St. Elmo.  It is an old mining town near Mount Princeton.  It would be part of our adventure on Day 3.

After the full day of adventure, it didn’t take long to get to sleep.  In the middle of the night, Timothy and I were recipients of answered prayers.  As we slept out under the stars, we awoke to find our sleeping bags wet.  It hadn’t rained, but there was a strong dew settling in on us.  This was an answer to prayer because Colorado was in desperate need of moisture.  The wildfires were a major threat to the area.  Though the moisture was a bit inconvenient, it was welcomed!  Plus, living in the desert as we do, it was an extra bonus to our adventure.

144 Hours • 1,500 miles • An IYC2012 Adventure (Day 1)

On July 2, at 3:15am, my alarm sounded and the adventure began.  We were on the road by 4am, though our group of eight (6 teens and 2 adults) might have been short two pillows and a sleeping bag.  Our destination was Noah’s Ark Rafting in Buena Vista, Colorado.

As we made the predawn journey through the rural panhandle of Texas, we noticed the smell of money was quite different for our fellow Texans the closer we got to Interstate 40.  In the Permian Basin, the smell of money is a pungent sulfur or rotten egg smell.  It can be especially strong on cold mornings.  It’s the smell of the oil patch.  In the panhandle, money smells like urine mixed with poo.  They have cattle in the panhandle, lots of cattle.

Picture of the GPTeens entering New Mexico

Entering New Mexico

Exiting the nation-state of Texas through it’s northwest corner, we entered New Mexico.  It was there that we began to notice a change in elevation.  The ground seemed to have pimples.  There were large mounds rising up from the surface.  West Texas is known for its flat landscape.  We joke that it’s so flat, you can watch your dog run away for five days.  These pimples turned out to be volcanic mountains.  That’s right, there are volcanos in North Eastern New Mexico.  We took a short, unplanned expedition up the Capulin Volcano National Monument.  After walking the rim of this once active volcano that reached nearly 9700 feet above sea level it began to feel like we were really on an adventure.

The walk around the rim turned out to be more challenging than expected.  One of our teens became overwhelmed by her fear of heights.  Others expressed the challenge of walking the near one-mile circle of varying elevation points.  Outside of the little gnats that followed you from the top into the van, it was a remarkable view and a neat find on our journey.

Our trip still had several hours of driving before we reached our resting stop.  As we made our way into Colorado on Interstate 25, we knew we were in a foreign territory.  The road was surrounded by mountains and along the way there were warning signs. I am familiar with the deer warning signs.  I was not surprised by the elk sign.  But when we saw the yellow diamond with a black bear in the middle of it, I knew this was a different territory! I wish I had been able to get a picture of the sign, but there was no shoulder and the cars were whizzing by us.

After 13 hours of traveling (including our stops at Capulin, Wendy’s, and the restrooms) we arrived at Noah’s Ark Rafting.  This simple camp was right on the bank of the Arkansas River.  We unloaded our bedding, enjoyed the meal of chili, played some “ninja” and volleyball, and then went to sleep not long after sunset.  Our physical challenges of the adventure awaited us in the morning.

Day 2 will post tomorrow.

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