Friday, June 27, 2008


Several people have recommended to try this thing called Wordle, which basically takes a big block of text and creates a word cloud out of it, based on the occurances of the words in the block of text.

After seeing it recommended so many times, I thought I'd give it a whirl, and it is pretty neat...

Here is the wordle, created from the text of my last blog post.

(ht to Marko, Gavin, and others all via blogs).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mission Trip Redux - St. Francis Table

While in Toronto with Youthworks, my work crew spent three of our four days on site at a ministry in Parkdale called St. Francis Table.

From their website:
St. Francis Table is a restaurant dedicated to providing meals and a welcoming environment for the needy of our community. Patrons receive full restaurant service while seated at tables. For one dollar, they are presented with a meal, a hot and cold beverage, and a desert.
St. Francis Table is run by Brother John Frampton, a Franciscan Monk of the Capucin Order, and also has two employees, Dominic and Sam, who are both cooks at the restaurant. All of the other "staff" are volunteers who come in to help prepare the meals, wait tables, carry dishes, work in the kitchen, and clean up afterwards.

It takes at least twelve people to make one meal service possible, and Brother John keeps a running list of volunteers who come in to make sure the restaurant is able to maintain the nine meals per week served at St. Francis Table.

In the event that there aren't enough volunteers to make a meal service possible, then the food is prepared and passed out at the door ("to go" style) for $1.

Brother John explained to us, that the one dollar donation for the meal is not only to help the restaurant recoup some of it's expenses, but also to give the patrons a sense of dignity in that they have come to the restaurant and are purchasing their lunch as opposed to going to a soup kitchen or shelter and begging for lunch.

While my group was at St. Francis as part of our Youthworks trip, we arrived every day around 10 AM to help prepare, serve, and clean up after lunch.

Our day typically started by helping Sam and Dominic sort and prep the food for lunch, which typically included making a salad (in large quantity), making french fries, preparing the main dish (Italian sausage, pork chops, baked chicken, roasted pork loin, tuna fish sandwiches, etc), and prepping coffee and tea stations so that we could get hot drinks out to the patrons quickly.

While Sarah mastered the art of making fresh cut french fries en-mass, the rest of us became experts at chopping carrots, celery, onions, and lettuce for salads.

One day we packaged pork chops, pork loin, and chicken legs for going it the freezer, which turned out to be lots of fun. (Hey! Some folks just don't get to play with raw meat very often).

After lunch was prepped and ready, we divided up into group to either wait tables, bus dirty dishes, or prepare plates (to be taken out to the patrons). Brother John rotated us through these duties on a daily basis, so that everyone would get the experience of working in a certain place.

Just before noon, Brother John would gather us together for a group prayer after which he would give us the following pre-lunch pep talk...
May the Lord bless you for your service. Any problems, I'm the problem solver. You're here for a good time, I'm here for a long time. This is a recording. Beep.
Sometimes he would also throw out a word of caution about giving the patrons too much salt, pepper, cream, or sugar...
If the patrons ask for 16 packets of salt, just give them two... Sam does know CPR, but we would rather he not resort to using it.
Then he would walk to the front door of the restaurant, ring the bell to announce lunch service had started, and then the craziness ensued.

Having never waited on tables or worked in a restaurant before, the confusion of keeping track of what 8 (or 12) people wanted to eat and drink, how they took their coffee or tea, whether or not they wanted desert, and how many salt, pepper, and ketchup packets they were allowed to have was a little daunting to me (and, I think, to some of the students).

That being said... all of the kids did a great job of greeting people warmly, remembering their orders, keeping their smiles on (even when they were flustered), and taking the time to make real conversation with the patrons anytime the opportunity presented itself...

The one hour lunch rush seemed to move by so fast that it was a blur, and yet through the chaos we somehow managed to learn the names of many of the patrons, we learned who the regulars were, how they liked their coffee, and whether or not they could be trusted to stay out of the kitchen. Through all of the craziness, a handful of high school students from the states made real life connections with the homeless, the poor, the broken, and the marginalized people living in the Parkdale area of Toronto.

And let me tell you.... It might be one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed!

When brother John rang the bell to end lunch service at 1 PM, the volunteers were encouraged to go ahead and fix ourselves plates and eat before we began the clean up process to make the restaurant ready for the dinner crew. Often there were still patrons (typically the ones who had straggled in right before 1) finishing their meals and having quiet conversations. It was really cool to see the students pull up a chair to share a meal and conversation with these (often) gruff, ragged, old guys.

When the last patrons had moved out the door, we were left to wipe down the tables, get the dishes done and put away, and make our way back to the housing site.

It's hard to believe that three days serving lunch at St. Francis Table could make a deep and impacting change in someones life, yet as my own days return to "normal" and I sit through meetings, answer emails, and go about my day I've caught myself wondering in the mornings what Dominic has decided to fix for lunch today...

Whether the new Youthworks kids managed to cut the carrots up correctly on the first try, or had to do it again...

Will there be enough volunteers at St. Francis to serve dinner tonight, or will Brother John have to resort to take-out?

Did Mr. Kato manage to sneak an extra portion at lunch today after all the other patrons had gone, or did Sam chase him away?

Did Thomas and Louis eat together at table nine again today? Did they talk about American politics again, or have a more exciting conversation?

Will the guy from table eight on Thursday ever actually get to see the top of the CN tower, or will he continue to look for someone who will take him dancing on Friday nights at the top of the world?

Mother Theresa once said that "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love".

Our church's motto is that "Small things done with great love, will change the world"

I was blessed this week to watch God make a difference in the world.

One french fry, one pork chop, one plate, one conversation, one smile, one small thing at a time... small things, done with great love...

Five high school students, one sixty-three year old weight lifter from Springfield Illinois, and one youth pastor from Southern Ohio will never be the same.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mission Trip Redux - Returning to Real Life...

I have so much to say, and so many stories to tell about our Youth mission trip to Toronto last week that as I predicted in an earlier post, things are already slipping away from me...

I've been struggling with how to best describe the week, and tell the story here and have decided that the best way is probably in little bits...

This post will be the executive summary... All the important details with as little story as I can bear to tell.

Want to know the facts, and just the facts? This is them from my vantage point.

  • We left RVCC at 5:00 AM, and made great time.
  • We stopped in Columbus for breakfast, random exits in Northern Ohio and Pennyslvania for gas and bathrooms, and Niagara, Ontario for lunch.
  • We arrived at the Youthworks site at almost exactly 4 PM.
  • We settled in, had dinner, had some student and adult orientation, were given our assignments on work teams for the week, had some time to worship, a devotion, and time to sit and talk in our church group, and then called it a night
  • We met John Reside and the rest of his crew from Springfield, Illinois
  • The other church (from Northern Ohio) had van trouble, and didn't arrive until the middle of the night.
  • First day on work crews.
  • My group went to the Ina Grafton Gage Home for the Aged.
  • We spent the morning hanging out with residents, and potting flowers.
  • In the afternoon, Mason and I powerwashed the back patio while Sarah & Sarah played bingo and socialized with the residents.
  • Some of our students and leaders went to Booth Industries.
  • Some of our other students and leaders went to St. Judes Academy for the Arts.
  • In the evening, we took a Street Walk starting at the Salvation Army Gateway Shelter and visiting both moderately poor and very wealthy areas of Toronto.
  • During the walk, we got to hear from Anthony, an ex-drug addict and resident of the streets of Toronto.
  • At the end of the walk Anthony was open to questions about life on the streets, drug addiction, getting clean, and shared a bit more of his life story with us.
  • We returned to the church for church group time and bed.
  • My work crew changed sites from Ina Grafton to St. Francis Table, where we met Brother John, Sam, and Dominic.
  • We, again, had one crew travel to Booth Industries and one crew travel to St. Judes.
  • On the way home from the work sites for the day the big church van broke down.
  • Chris Moore did an awesome job (with the help of Reed Nutt) of getting the kids back safe, and the van in for repair.
  • In the evening we played kick-ball at the playground behind the church where we were staying.
  • We rounded out the night with worship, devotions, prayer, and church group time.

  • Transportation was tricky today because we were short one large van.
  • The work crew from Booth was transferred to St. Judes, and the St. Francis crew was dropped off enroute.
  • This placed 12 of the 16 members of the RVCC team at St. Judes and 4 of us at St. Francis.
  • Due to transportation issues, we had to split getting the crew "home" from St. Francis into two groups. The girls went first and Mason and I waited for the return trip. Had a good time talking to random folks at St. Francis while we waited.
  • Van was fixed by mid-afternoon. Reed, again, assisted us in picking it up.
  • Went to China-town after dinner for some random shopping and wandering around. Our time there was very short, but fun.
  • Worship, devotions, prayer, and church group time rounded out the night before bed.
  • Two RVCC crews to St. Judes
  • One crew back to St. Francis Table.
  • St. Judes crew had a very moving day, and it sounded like many tear-filled good-byes.
  • Myron volunteered at St. Francis today. He made our day!
  • After showers (and before dinner) I managed to squeeze a walk and talk in with a couple of our students, was a great time.
  • After dinner, our evening activity took us to a local park to play games (frisbee, red rover, freeze tag) and watch a local Christian artist play music (Jason Moon).
  • Had great conversations at the park.
  • Back at the church for the evening. Worship was followed by a foot washing service. This was very moving for many of our leaders and students.
  • Church group time was very emotional as well, with some really cool thoughts and revelations by members of our group.
  • After church group time there was pizza, ice cream, and crazy fellowship in the midst of sad good-byes. (Thanks to CMoore and Reed for the snacks!)
  • Eric tried to wake the guys up two hours early because he misread the clock.
  • We got up, packed, cleaned the church, filled out evaluation forms, took some photos, and loaded our vehicles all before 9 AM.
  • We said good-bye to the Youthworks staff, and the other churches and headed for Casa Loma, via Tim Hortons.
  • Got a little lost looking for a Tim's, which wasn't where the GPS said it should be.
  • Made it to Casa Loma by 10.
  • Sight seeing and exploring at Casa Loma till noon.
  • Went to the Eaton Centre Mall downtown for lunch in the food court, and walking, talking, and shopping.
  • Headed to SkyDome (a.k.a Rogers Center) by 4 PM.
  • Took a large group up into the CN Tower.
  • Had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, in Skydome.
  • On the road by 9PM headed for Niagra Falls.
  • Arrived at the hotel a little after midnight due to bad road construction and traffic.
  • Crashed.

  • Did breakfast "on our own" and met to leave the hotel by 10.
  • Did sight-seeing (Maid of the Mist, Journey Behind the Falls, and walking around) till noon-thirty.
  • Crossed the Rainbow Bridge back into the US at 1 PM.
  • Chris had an interesting discussion with the border crossing gaurds. This will be the source of much laughter for years to come.
  • Drove home pretty much straight through from Niagara Falls to Waverly Ohio.
  • Stopped for dinner and gas a couple of times along the way.
  • Drove through crazy rain between Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio.
  • HUGE thank you to Sarah for talking with me and keeping me awake for 6+ hours.
  • Started having transmission (??) trouble with the white van on 71 south of Cleveland.
  • Chris did a great job of getting the van and all of the occupants home safe.
  • Arrived at RVCC around 9:30, unpacked, said good-bye, and headed home to crash.

Once again, this is the bare-bones version of what happened during the week. If you read this blog and you have any access at all to one of the kids that went on the trip, please take the time to sit down with them and hear their stories.

My plan from this point on is to blog some of my own stories, and encourage the kids (and other leaders) to find an outlet to tell their own.

I honestly believe that people were changed this week. I know that I was.

Can't wait to keep hearing more stories.

Praying that everyone is adjusting to "real life" without letting go of the things that impacted you while we were away.

That's it for now.

- Roogles out

Thursday, June 19, 2008

And so it ends...

I am so overwhelmed that I don't even know where to start...

This has been an absolutely amazing week. Twenty-six teens, eight youth leaders, and five Youthworks staff came together this week to create an experience of worship, fellowship, and service that I will never forget.

There is not a single person in our group who hasn't undergone change this week.

New friendhips were made. Old friendhips were renewed. The hands and feet of Jesus were made alive a the kids fixed meals for the homeless, made convesation with the elderly, and befriended those who struggle because of mental and emotional disorders.

I am so very proud of our kids, for stepping out on faith into new and sometimes very uncomfortable situations on order to show love and compassion to the marginalized people of Toronto.

There are so many stories to tell, and so many memories to look back on that I will never be able to record them all before they start slipping away.

To all of you parents, River Vallians, and friends, who have been thinking about us, praying for us, or wondering how we are doing....

Your kids are safe and happy, and maybe a little worn out.

We had an awesome week. All of us.

We are getting up in 5 hours to pack up, clean up, and head out for some sight seeing and touristy stuff. We are anxious to be home and will see you all on Saturday.

Blogged from my iPhone

Monday, June 16, 2008

Going great...

Hey all... Sorry I've not updated. Things here are, as you might expect, crazy busy. (and while the iPhone is indeed a great device, it takes a long time to type on this thing.)

Things in Toronto are going very, very well. We are settled in to the church, making new friends, and being the hands and feet of Jesus in both big and small ways.

There are way too many things going on, and too many stories to tell to type them all on here.

I will share one thing though, and then I have to crash...

The last thing we did as a church group this evening (which means it was just us RVCC-ers in the room) was go around and (with no explanation or supporting statements) rate the day on scale of 1 to ten.

16 responses were 7 or higher.

To quote Eric Tiu when we had all gone... "Not the best day ever, but deffinitely a good day"

I am very very proud to be here with all of these kids, and can't wait to see God continue to move in them this week.

Good night.

Blogged from my iPhone

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Still movin'

Well. We are now in New York State. Breakfast at McDonalds went very well. The manager seemed a liitle shocked to see the 16 of us wander onto his otherwise deserted restaurant at 6:30 on Sunday morning, but he took pretty good care of us.

We were back on the road and made it around Cleveland with no mishaps and in pretty good time. Northwest of the big C we ran into a pretty bad auto accident that had traffic at a stand still for about 30 minutes.

Once traffic got flowing again, we made a pit stop just outside of Painsville for snacks and bathrooms.

On the road again from Painsville, we pressed on and made a stop in Pennsylvania to get gas and let Mason use the bathroom.

We're mking pretty good time still at this point, although the 30 minutes we lost sitting still outside of Cleveland is going to make our lunch stop pretty tight.

Should be in Buffalo in about 20 minutes. Planning to grab lunch, stretch, and make preparations to leave the country.

Until next time.

Here we go.

Well... The RVCC summer mission trip to Toronto is underway.

What a crazy short night. Jenn and I made of back home about 10pm after packing vans, eating dinner with some of the Youth, and gassing up. We had a few things to do (some last minute laundry, run the dishwasher, take out the trash) and we managed to get to bed about midnight.

3:30 came way too early. We rolled into the church about 4:35 and were pleasantly surprised to find that more than half of the kids were there and ready to roll!

Steve and Mike Diener prayed for us and we snapped some group photos before a 4:55 roll out. Awesome!

While I can't speak for the occupants of the other van, most the passengers in the Roogle wagon either slept or feigned sleep from Chillicothe to Columbus.

The sunrise at 6:00 (6:03 according to the Nuvi) was beautiful. All of the fog has burned off now and we're getting to stop for breakfast at Mickey D's just north of Columbus.

I'll try to update when I can from my phone. Spell check and typing on here are sketchy, so please bear with me.

Blogged from my iPhone

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Adventures of Friday the 13.

First of all some back story... Who would have dreamed that it would be so difficult to get American currency changed into Canadian currency in Southern Ohio??

In preparation for the RVCC Summer mission trip, the Youthworks staff has suggested that we get as much of our money changed to Canadian before we head into the great North. Local banks gave us very mixed responses about changing currency, which mostly went along the lines of "It is too much hassle, so we'd rather not".

After a failed run to the Columbus International Airport on Thursday... ( "I'm sorry, we just ran out of Canadian Currency"... doh! ) I called the 5/3 Bank currency exchange center at the Cincinnati Airport on Friday morning and was told that changing US currency to CN would be "no problem" even in large amounts.

I was at work on Friday morning, because things at work always tend to be a bit crazy when I'm going to be out of touch for any extended period of time. By the time I touched base with Cincinnati and decided they would be our best bet for currency exchange, it was already 11 AM.

Jenn was pretty tied up in Chillicothe for the afternoon, so I decided to make the trek to Cinci solo, despite it being a crazy boring drive and at the minimum a four hour round trip.

Twitter to the rescue!

I wrapped up at work, managed to split by 12:45 and met up with Luke at RVCC.

That's when the real adventure began...

The drive across The App was relatively uneventful as far as drives go. Luke and I haven't had a lot of opportunity to hang out prior to yesterday, so the round trip to Cinci gave us an opportunity for epic conversation.

Down 32, around 275, enter Kentucky, nearing the air port.... no problems! Then BOOM! Crazy pouring rain started pounding on us, causing some quick brake application and the engaging of the windshield wipers. Well, that worked OK, until the passenger windshield wiper pealed off of the arm and started flopping around in a very dramatic way.

Thankfully the downpour was quick, and we made it into the airport parking garage safely.

Quick park, quick walk, right up to the counter at the 5/3 Bank.

"Hi, we would like to change some currency to Canadian."

"No problem, are you the guy who has been calling all day?"

Reassuring smile to persuade that I'm not a crazy person... "Yep that would be me".

Ten minutes later Luke and I were standing back at the van packing a large envelope of Canadian currency... It struck me as amazing that several days of stress had culminated in a less than 10 minute extremely painless experience, that was obviously no big deal at all for the girl behind the counter.

The exchange rate was $1.05 US to $1.00 Canadian. We started with almost $1200.00 American ( almost entirely collected from Youth going on the trip, who wanted their spending money changed ahead of time) and ended up with $1140.00 in pastel pink and blue bills.

Anyway, where was I...

Oh yeah, we managed to re-affix the errant windshield wiper and pull back onto the highway.

We had pre-decided that it would make no sense at all to visit Cinci without having Skyline Chilli. ( An obvious conclusion, I think anyone could agree ). Now that our main objective for the trip had concluded, our secondary objective [Destination SkyLine] was in high order.

No problem.
Punch up the NUVI.
Nearest Skyline, 3.2 miles.
Go there!

The NUVI, I've noticed since we've had it, really doesn't care how crazy or indirect the route is to get your from point A to point B. It has never really failed in getting me where I was headed though, so I tend to just trust it and move on.

An immediate turn off of the highway, and a crazy, curvy, steep, road through the woods brought us to a stop sign.

The NUVI says "Turn right".
No problem.

The NUVI says "Turn left".
No problem.

The NUVI says "Proceed 300 feet and board ferry".


Who knew that you could cross the Ohio River on a ferry? Luke and I certainly didn't know it was an option until yesterday.

Here are some other iPhone shots of our experience...

Although extremely cool, the ferry crossing was pretty uneventful. The lady in the car next to us was obviously a regular ferry rider and looked quite bored as she relaxed during the crossing. We surmised that she was probably on her way home from work.

Quick gas station stop. Skyline was right where the NUVI predicted it would be.

Half-a-dozen conies, a large three-way, an order of fries, and a few sweat teas later we were both quite content and ready to head back home.

The entire ride was filled with great conversation, and trying to get from the out of the way Skyline back onto the NUVI's recommended route home proved a little distracting to me. I missed several of our turns heading out of Cincinnati, but we eventually found our way back to route 32.

Traffic leaving Cinci was crazy around 5:30 on Friday afternoon, but great conversation prevailed as we made it back into familiar territory.

We tried stopping at the Starbucks in Batavia, but lack of electricity stopped them from being able to serve anything. A few miles later we tried a McDonalds to get a couple of coffees, but brewing a small, black, decaf proved too much for them and after having us "pull up to the curb", so they could bring it out, Luke finally had to go inside to track his coffee down.

We pulled back into RVCC a little after 8PM.

It was a great day, a grand adventure, phenomenal conversation, and a fantastic way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Luke, thanks dude for keeping me company, for the conversation, and going along for the ride.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another hair post.

Hopefully blog posts about my hair will not become a normal feature on this blog.

It seems to be generating lots of discussion and commentary lately though, so why not roll with it.

It was suggested earlier this week, that when the humidity gets to me, and the product has worn off, that my hair (which is very bushy and wavy ) makes me look like Syndrome, the villain from The Incredibles.

I'm not sure I see it... I mean, the man has great hair, but it is
definitely going to take me a few more weeks (months?)

What do you think?

Once I've given the hair a few more weeks, does anyone know where I can get a black and white spandex suit?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Yes, I was bald (expounded)...

I made a quick post over on my tumbl blog today, about the weirdness of people noticing that I am letting my hair grow out. You can go there and read the quick version, but I wanted to expound on those thoughts a little here...

First, some background... When I was in fourth grade dad was getting his hair cut at Weaver's Barber shop on Water street in Chillicothe. I guess Josh and I must have been getting our hair cut there as well.

One time we were in there, and I really wanted to get my head shaved (bald). I don't remember what the motivation was, or why I wanted to get it done but mom and dad said they didn't care, so when it was my turn to hop up in the chair that day and Mr. Weaver said, "What'll it be" my response was "shave it off".

I seem to recall that he chuckled, got the clippers out, attached the number four guard, and gave me a "buzz". After that he spun me around to the mirror and said "How's that?"

"Can you make it shorter?"

Glance at mom. She nodded. Number 2 guard.

"Can you make it shorter?"

Longer glance at mom. Grin and nod. No guard.

"Ummm.... Can you make it any shorter?"

Question to mom. "Is it really ok with you if I shave his head?".

Smile. Nod. Head shaved. Spin to mirror. Tentative feel.


If I recall, Mr. Weaver didn't even charge us for the cut because he was so taken back by having a fourth grader wanting all of his hair cut off.

After that, Dad bought some clippers and from then on he just shaved our heads at home with the clippers as short as they would go. Once a week or so, the whole time we grew up dad cut our hair.

When I got in college, I bought my own clippers and every Saturday morning I went down to the bathroom and just clipped my hair (again, as short as the clippers would go) right into the trash can.

Sometimes, in order to make it more neat, I would use shave cream and and a razor to actually "shave" my head after the clippers had done their job.

Ok... Enough background. I'm bored and I'm sure you are.

Sometime back in late February or early March, someone in the Youth group challenged me to see if I could grow my hair long enough to put it in dreds before our summer mission trip in mid-June.

I don't remember if it turned into a bet, a wager, a dare, or exactly how it panned out, but by the time the discussion was over I had agreed that until July 1 there would be no cutting of the hair.

This coming Saturday (June 7) will be 12 weeks since I've cut the hair.

About two weeks ago Jenn got me some stuff to make my hair stand up. Now it doesn't look like a shag carpet is stuck to my head.

Here I am pre-hair, and currently.

Some interesting observations I've made since the hair started to grow, and people started to notice.
  • Many people tend to assume that if you shave your head, you must be naturally bald and/or unable to grow hair... They seem to be shocked to discover this is not the case.
  • Many of my friends claim that I look friendlier, am more approachable, am not as intimidating, blah, blah, blah, since I've let my hair grow out.
  • Jenn prefers the me with hair, as opposed to the bald me.
I guess the hair is growing on me, pardon the pun.

I've decided not to get it cut after the mission trip, and just to let it keep going until I simply can't stand it anymore.

I think it would be really cool to let it get long enough to pull back in a short pony-tail.

Anyhoo... This post has gone on far too long.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the hair, no hair issue?