Times Square, Karoake, and Lasagna!

I know, I know..Times Square, Karoake, and Lasagna have nothing to do with each other. But, they do describe different parts of our last few weeks. I wanted to share a few highlights through pictures, since pictures speak a thousand words.

Our students at St. John’s planned and executed an outreach on campus completely on their own!  Ya’ll, this is HUGE!! We dream that we can equip each of our movements and train the leaders to where they will plan, lead, and reach out on their campus all by themselves, leaving us to go and launch at new campuses. So, the fact that not only do we have students at St. John’s, but that they are planning and doing an outreach, nonetheless, on their own, is monumental. They packed up about 90 bags of candy and handed it out in exchange for students filling out a survey. For many of our students, this was the first time they were initiating conversation with strangers. I was so proud of the boldness and willingness to trust God to do something with this. We now have tons of new contacts to follow up with and hopefully share the Gospel with!

Then, this past week, all of NYC joined together at NYU for a night of fellowship, worship, and prayer – for their own lives, for this great city, and for the world. It was an hour trek from our students from Queens so we weren’t sure how many would come but 11 made the trek down together!  They prayed together, worshipped together, sat together, and then went to eat at Chick-fil-a together afterwards.

Then, on Monday after Veteran’s Day, the students didn’t have school, so they traveled down to our house and had fun playing games and hanging out. It also helped that we provided a delicious lasagna dinner…college students are always down for some home-cooked food!  Our kids also loved hanging out with them and we love that our kids get exposed to college students who love the Lord!

We traveled into Hells Kitchen for dinner with some friends and ministry partners that were in town. Because of it getting dark early, our kiddos asked if we could go see Times Square at night. Locals to NY (and I consider us this now!) HATE Times Square – like, I think all of them literally. But, they asked nicely and we like our kids to be reminded of this fun city we live in, so we ventured into the madness. And then, they asked nicely to go to the Disney Store, which we agreed to. So, this is our kids loving the Star Wars part of the Disney Store.

In the South, when you go for karoake, you go to a restaurant and you sing on a stage in front of tons of people. So, when I went to do karoake with some friends from my mom’s small group, I was so shocked that we had our own room and could sing at the top of our lungs and no one knew we were off key except those in our small room. It was so much fun!!  We also ate dinner at a Korean-style BBQ restaurant, which was so, so yummy and quite an experience. I am so grateful that there were women with us who spoke Korean and knew exactly what to order – it definitely made the experience much more enjoyable. I will be doing this again soon….so good!

I have some new developments in the case of my stolen wallet, but I am waiting to hear from the detective so I will share more soon!

Clean Bill of Health

This has been a full and fun past few weeks!  I will share some more pictures to tell you more about our last week, BUT before I do, I want to share about the clean bill of health we received.

As some of you know, Blake had a lot of problems in utero but then when he was born, they diagnosed him with Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). which is essentially a hole in his heart. It wasn’t big enough to cause problems or require him to take medicine, but it did require an annual cardiologist appointment to make sure it wasn’t getting bigger. They were hopeful that it would eventually close on it’s own, but some kids live with these holes forever. Last year, at his appointment, they thought that maybe it was closed but they still heard vibrations and he wouldn’t sit still enough for the echo to tell for sure.

This year, he sat SO still and let them do a very thorough echo on his heart. Then, the doctor came back with the good news – the hole is officially closed!!  He still has an innocent heart murmur which is what the vibration is, but we are done with cardiology appointments!  Praise God for how he has continued to see Blake through all the medical stuff and that Blake is a healthy, happy little boy – he has come so far given all his medical issues! And we couldn’t imagine our family without him!

The rest of this pictures are a smorgasbord from Emerson’s birthday, Halloween, and fun times around the city while my mom was in town. Enjoy the MANY pictures (I am so impressed I have actually taken some)!!

This sassy, smart, friendly, overdramatic, excitement about everything in life little girl turned 6!  She wanted an oreo chocolate cake with Star Wars on top, so that is what she got!  She talked about her birthday for weeks before. We also took cupcakes to celebrate her in class.

For Halloween, we celebrated with pumpkin carving, Halloween parties in both girl’s classes, and trick-or-treating.

Ed carved the ghost and I carved Sleeping Beauty (I think thats who she is? I am out of practice with my princesses). Confession: This is my first time actually carving a pumpkin. Ed usually does them as one of us is usually doing the pumpkins and one of us is coraling the kids. This year, the kids helped us and played together so we could both do them. Ed was a little skeptical that I could do the princess since she was more intricate but look at that – she turned out pretty dang good. Go me!

I never got an actual picture on Halloween of the kid’s outfits but here are some separate ones we took the night before when they were trying on their outfits. Imagine the girl’s hair up like their characters and shoes on 🙂 . Another confession:  I have never even watched Star Wars and barely know the characters. Ed has introduced the kids to them, though, and they love all the movies and characters. They ask me questions about the movies and I just say “Ask your dad.” I guess one of these days I need to get on board?

On Halloween, the teachers at the school always dress together in one theme. One year it was the Minions from Despicable Me, last year it was Toy Story, and this year they were all bees. The head principal was the queen bee (she is missing her big blow-up butt she had on that morning) and the assistant principal was a beekeeper. So cute!

It was so fun that my mom was here this year to experience Halloween in Forest Hills, It is so insane and I can’t describe to people how much this is true. Adults dress up as much as kids, adults give out big goody bags to trick-or-treaters, houses decorate more than they do for Christmas, and lines on Burns Street to get candy are so long. People come from all over the city to go trick-or-treating on Burns Street – this year, even Neil Patrick Harris and his kids were there. Here is a picture of a house that was decorated on Burns Street.

We took my mom to the NY Hall of Science for the “free hours” and had a great time. Here are some pictures of the kids enjoying it!  My favorite part are the magic mirrors that make you tall, short, skinny, fat, etc. I took a picture of the skinny mirror for motivation in weight-loss 😉

Then, over the weekend, we traveled to Brooklyn to let my mom see the amazing view in Dumbo and near Brooklyn Bridge park, to let the kids play at Pirate park, to take our Christmas picture, and to let the kids ride the carousel. They had a great time playing, but their favorite part was visiting Jacques Torres. They like to watch “Nailed It” on Netflix, and Jacques Torres is one of the judges on the show. They loved getting to see his bakery and enjoy HUGE, WARM chocolate chip cookies. I tried the “famous” hot chocolate and I couldn’t drink very much, because it tasted like drinking straight dark chocolate. The cookies, however, were delicious.

She is all about squinting when we say to smile. Hoping its a phase 🙂

My mom flew home yesterday and while family leaving is usually really hard for the kids, it helped them to know that she will be back for Christmas and that isn’t far away. Isn’t that crazy?!?!? My favorite part of the year is right now…why, you may ask?  BLACK FRIDAY ADS!!  Thats another post for another day….

 

It Finally Happened

After living in NYC for 2 years, it finally happened. I was the victim of a crime.

When people ask me if NYC is safe, I usually yes, as much as a big city can be safe. And this is true, crime per capita here is much lower than it used to be and compared to other cities in the US. Only a few times have I ever felt unsafe while walking around or traveling around the city. I have experienced many times that people could have taken advantage of me, like when I have dropped something or left a phone out in the open, and they have always been kind enough to help instead of causing harm. In 2 years living here and being safe, it is easy to let your guard down and think it is safer than it is.

Last week, I saw a post on a neighborhood Facebook group about a guy being followed at 1 in the morning along a busy street in our neighborhood by a guy who he thinks was going to rob him. Granted, he didn’t get robbed and he could have been wrong, but when the guy said to him “Whats the matter? I am not going to rob you”, paces out front of the convenience store he went in to get away waiting for him, and walks past him and turns around to come back towards him, it makes you wonder. There were SO many comments on that post where people said the same thing had happened to them or they actually were assaulted or robbed, including one where a man said his wife was robbed at knifepoint on a street block not far from us. It definitely made me stop and reevaluate what I do (walking long stretches later at night instead of taking a bus along that same route, wearing headphones at night so I don’t hear people coming up behind me, etc.) and realize that while our neighborhood is relatively safe, crime does happen.

Then, a few days ago at a team social, the other mom on the team was mentioning to me that she was in a clothing store last week with her daughter and a cop was going around passing out flyers warning people, especially moms, to watch their bags because things were being stolen. My defenses went up even more.

Yesterday, on Emerson’s birthday, Ed was off so I went to pick the two big girls up from school and take them to Michael’s craft store (where they had been begging to go) just the three of us. We drove there and when we got to the store, I had my purse over my shoulder and we entered the store. I carried the purse on my shoulder most of the time, but towards the end, I put it in the cart and made sure to never walk away from the cart if I or the girls weren’t right there (I grew up with a mom who always had one hand on her purse when it was in the cart because she was scared of getting it stolen so this was drilled into me). When I got to the checkout a little bit later, I reached in my purse for my wallet and it wasn’t there. I know I had put it in there right before I left for Michaels, but I called Ed asking him to look around the house thinking maybe I had momma brain and totally forgot to put it in. I went outside to the car to double check for it and then came back into Michaels to retrace my steps and ask if someone had turned one in. Then, I headed home to look some more and so Ed could come back and buy the stuff that was on hold.

As soon as I got to the house and walked in, I started getting calls for credit card companies asking if I was trying to make a purchase for $727 at a Foot Locker store near us. Uh yeah, thats not me. At first, I thought maybe it was just a coincidence and that credit card may have had its number comprised online or somewhere else. But, then another card started calling, and another, and it became obvious someone had stolen my wallet. Ed and I both frantically started canceling cards but before we could cancel our debit card, they made the purchase and took our money. We will get the money back from the bank but it will take time and lots of hassle.

Besides the feeling of being violated and taken advantage of, is that it is all a huge, huge hassle. I had so much in my wallet for our family, a VISA gift card with money on it, about $80 in cash that was part of our grocery budget that I am now out, driver’s license, membership cards, health insurance cards, and so on. And not to mention that I had my favorite Thirty-One wallet which is not cheap and which I LOVED! And all of it on Emerson’s birthday. So, we called the police, they came and took a report, and they even went to look at video footage at Michaels. I was really impressed with all they were doing to try to find these people (which they thought were professional given how fast it all happened) and even today, I had a detective call asking questions and going to review the footage. I think it really helps that I have a very clear, small timeline of when it all happened. Apparently, it is happening a lot around here to moms (because they are distracted with kids which I totally was) and is even ramping up because of the holiday season. The crazy part was that the police officer who came to our house was the same one that handed out flyers to my friend in Kohls.

It has been such a hassle (like my bank today almost not giving me a new debit card even though I answered every security question correct just because I had no kind of photo ID – hello! It was stolen!) but I learned some very, very valuable lessons today. Always carry a crossbody bag or a bag that is zipped up (in anger last night I threw away every bag I have that isn’t crossbody) and keep it on you at all times, be more aware of what is happening around you, don’t hang purses on back of chairs at restaurants, and never assume it can’t happen to you. It was a great opportunity to talk to our kids about evil people, sin, theft hurting people, etc. and our kids loved that the police came to our house, and I have thankfully gone from wanting to punch the people who did this to being able to pray for them.

I don’t say this to scare people who come to NYC or any other big city, because crime can happen anywhere and like I said, by per capita standards, NYC is safe, but just as a reminder to be safe and vigilant. I know I will from now on.

Our Week in Pictures

Do you know what makes me happy? Getting back to our tradition of exploring this beautiful city during the weekends. Last weekend, we traveled to Central Park (Central Park is huge and though we have spent lots of time on the south end, there is still so much we haven’t seen) and toured The Mall, Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, the Loab Boathouse, Alice in Wonderland statue, and the pond where they do model boats. Then, for good measure, we stopped by a playground to let the kids run around. It was so fun to see the place where so many movies we know have been filmed, and to see fun things like a girl taking pictures for her Quinceanera, a gondola boat ride with a bride and groom, 2 other brides and grooms taking pictures with their wedding parties, and lots of people modeling for different things. This is probably one of my favorite areas in Central Park!

Emerson’s birthday is this coming week and to stick with tradition, we let her choose the activity she wanted to do. She really wanted to ride a horse but I had a really hard time finding a place around here that wasn’t 1) too far and 2) didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I finally found a place that offered pony rides at an affordable rate at Queens County Farm out towards Long Island. We got there Saturday morning and everyone did two rides around on the ponies, even Brynn!!  The kids loved it, though I have to say I was a little disappointed with how much they rode for the price. It was $4 for a ride but it only went about 3/4 of a lap…that was enough for the kids but I felt like they could have done at least two laps. Blake was here too, but Ed had those pictures on his phone.

Saturday afternoon, we went to our friend’s daughter’s 100 day old party. The wife is Korean and in Korean culture, when a child hits 100 days, you have a party to celebrate (it is a big deal to hit 100 days in their culture because the infant mortality rate used to be so high), so we went over to celebrate with them. We have known these friends from the time they first announced they were pregnant with her, so it has been to fun to see them pregnant, see her be born, and see her grow up. And even more fun to learn more about another culture!

Then, Saturday evening, we left the kids with a babysitter and headed to the Queens Night Market with our small group from church. We love doing life with these friends, experiencing diversity and learning about other cultures from them, and experiencing authentic community that isn’t just once a week. These friends are important to us and are becoming like family in this foreign place. And what better way to build community than to chow down on delicious foods from around the world?

I also got the opportunity to go on campus this week (it has been WAY too long since I have done this) and had a great time doing some staff coaching, getting to share my story with a girl who is questioning whether she can lose her salvation, digging into scriptures, and learning more about a cult that we are running into a lot about Queens College. I am excited for more opportunities to do this and pray that God gives us/me wisdom on how to best reach this campus.

Weekly Update

After battling a cold this past week (and watching it trickle through the rest of our family), I am finally feeling well enough to update you on our last week (well, a little over a week but who’s counting?).

I love living in such a diverse place and learning so much about other religions and people groups. For instance, seeing these tents at Jewish houses and synagogues over the last month reminds me that it is time for the Festival of Booths, where Jewish people remember and thank God for their fruit harvest and also remember how God provided shelter for them when they were wandering in the desert. I also did a culture report for our staff meeting where I shared more about the Chinese Exclusion Act. Our team is going to take turns doing reports on different cultural things that have happened in the US and the racism different people groups (that we work with daily) have dealt with as a result of it.  It was very humbling to learn that American prohibited Chinese immigration for over 60 years back in the 1800’s – it was the first and only time in US history that a group was singled out by name as being undesirable. They never shared about this in history while growing up and I feel it’s a very big deal!

We had our annual Fall Retreat last weekend in New Jersey with all the NJ and NY Cru students. We had 12 students attend (7 from St. Johns, 4 from Queens College, and 1 from Stony Brook Univ.), which is an increase from last year!! I did not attend for a variety of reasons (which I am glad I didn’t as I came down with nasty cold) but it was neat to hear stories of how God grew the students, connected them together, and got them excited about going back to reach their campus. While Ed was gone, we explored a new-to-us park near our new place, we went to church, and we spent lots of time playing and relaxing. At church last weekend, they opened a new library for the kids where they can check out Christian books and return them to get more. I think its a great idea to introduce Christian authors to kids, especially when they start reading chapter books and Christian authors aren’t as numerous. Kinsley got to do the ribbon cutting (along with another friend) for the new library, and of course, their favorite part were the cupcakes and juice boxes to celebrate.

Ed got Monday off – one, because it was Columbus Day and college campuses were closed and two, as a recovery day from Fall Retreat. So, because the girls were out of school as well, we headed to the Bronx Zoo. We love this zoo – it is huge (we have never been able to see everything in just one day) and we love that they really care for and provide great habitats for the animals rather than just putting them in a little cage. We also have watched some of “The Zoo” on Animal Planet which has connected us with the animals as we see the behind the scenes things they have done. They were having “Boo at the Zoo” and our kids loved the Candy Trail and the Costume parade (shown below).

Brynn has been having a hard time sleeping through the night and we thought it was in large part to the fact that she would lose her pacifier and couldn’t get back to sleep without it. So, because we were planning on taking it away soon anyways, we decided to go ahead and do it while we weren’t getting sleep. I am excited to report that we are like 5 days into no pacifier at all and she is sleeping through the night and sleeping longer and better than she has ever done. So thankful! That being said, it has been fun to even see her personality come out more since she doesn’t have a pacifier in her mouth. For instance, she is always finding little places all over our house to hide herself. For instance, one day we found her under the bathroom sink and another, we found her hiding in our pantry. This kid keeps us laughing and I pray it continues.

One thing I am not liking right now – dealing with bugs again!  When we moved to NYC, I already had expectations that we would deal with bugs and ants in our apartment (we had a major problem with ants when we were here for the summer a few years ago). But surprisingly, our apartment was great and we only ever saw 1 water bug. However, moving to a house has been a totally different story. Spiders, creepy crawly bugs that I can’t even name, and ants have been constant since we moved in. Ed is doing some major spraying this weekend to try and get the problem under control, but man, I didn’t miss this!

 

Changes Everywhere

Wow!! Because of moving, it feels like it has been a while since I have posted about real life. So, I plan on doing some of that today, especially since it feels like so much has changed in our lives recently.  But first, I would love to update those who have partnered by praying for my hometown.

Praise God my parent’s hometown barely flooded!! There was minimal flooding in a few areas, but compared to the 5-10 feet they were expecting, it was nothing. Our town came together for a big prayer rally a few days before the flooding was scheduled to get bad and a lot of people say that is when things started changing. The forecast started changing and even though they were saying there would be flooding, the amount of flooding was significantly lowered. But then Thursday and the weekend came and went, and hardly anything flooded. Which is HUGE and such an answered prayer!  Just up the road about 30 minutes, houses were flooded in water up to their roofs, but when it got to Georgetown, the water slowed down and spread out in to the marshes. It has been really fun to see so many people in Georgetown thanking God and recognizing that He was the one that spared our town. And my grandmother moves her stuff back into a DRY HOUSE today!!

As far as updates on our lives, so much has changed. We are officially moved into our new house we are renting and so far, we absolutely LOVE it.  I love having our family spread out a little more amongst the different levels and letting them be able to be kids a little more instead of constantly telling them to be quiet and to quit jumping, running, etc. We also found out that our neighbor across the street is a family with a little girl Kinsley’s age AND she was in Kinsley’s first grade class. She started attending school in Manhattan at a speciality school for 2nd grade, but Kinsley was so excited to be reunited and there have already been tons of play dates!

Our new place is in a slightly different area of town (still in walking distance to where we were but closer to different stores) so it has been fun to do some exploring around it. I joined a new gym that wouldn’t have been an option where we were living before and we even get to wander onto movie sets like this one.

They were filming “The Godfather of Harlem” (or something like that) 2 blocks away so we walked there hoping to see Forest Whitaker. While we didn’t see him when we were there, we saw the set, saw parts being filmed, and saw this post from a person in our neighborhood which did show Forest filming. So fun!

After searching for over a week and having lots of frustration related to dealerships and prices (whole ‘nother story for a whole ‘nother day), we bought a new-to-us van!  We were able to drive to church this week (it took us 20 minutes versus 50!) and to the grocery store yesterday. While we will still be doing tons of walking and not driving the car every day, I think it will be life giving for our family to drive out to Long Island or to drive and get out of the city and be able to get a break from the city. It will also help Ed will getting to campus quicker and carrying things and students should he need to. Praise God for this very sweet blessing!

Our church small group now has 2 new babies! They are adorable and while I am done with having some of our own, the girls are loving getting snuggles from them.

Lastly, I am really thankful for God’s hand of protection over Blake this past week. We had heavy pantry delivered to our house and when they delivered it, is was placed leaning agains our entry way but in the neighbor’s driveway. Because I knew they would need to get out and because Ed wasn’t going to be home until late that night because he was leading the Athlete’s Bible study at St. John’s, I decided to try and move it. After struggling up the steps, a neighbor helped me carry it inside and we leaned it up longways against a wall. The kids were getting ready to take naps so I thought it would be okay there for a minute, but before I could really even walk away, Blake pulled the box over on top of him. I lifted it off of him and the neighbor helped move the box to lay down. He had a HUGE knot on his head and his nose bleed a little and he kept screaming that his nose hurt. So, I took him to Urgent Care and after looking everything over, they though that his nose would be okay without going to an ENT and that he didn’t have a concussion. He has continued to have bruising and a “bad look” but thankfully, it wasn’t anything more serious. It could have crushed him! Or Brynn if it had been her. In hindsight, I should not have put the book like that even with it leaning but in a split second decision, sometimes you just don’t think. Lesson learned! When I ask him how it feels now, he says “It feels awesome!”

Thanks for all your prayers for my hometown and for our family. I feel like we are starting to come out of the moving fog and digging back into life here. More updates to come!!

Urgent Prayers Needed

After a busy week, we are all moved in!  Moving is such a long, tiring, fun, exciting, tiring, costly process.  We are loving our new house we are renting and can’t wait to post updates about how it’s going. I will say that not having to tell my kids “Shhh…be quiet…people are still sleeping next door” is a very, very freeing thing. I will also say that we had a whole lot stuffed into closets into our apartment – geez, it held a ton! We started our new house off with a bang – we moved on Wednesday (not getting everything in until 4:30 that day – mostly because taking things down 21 floors on an elevator takes quite a while and Parker Towers wrote down the wrong day we were moving and stopped our movers and tried to charge us $1000 for moving on the wrong day even though it was their mistake), had our small group over on Thursday night, had staff meeting here on Friday, and had 4 friends from Raleigh stay in our basement Friday am through Sunday am. So fun and so crazy!

But even in the midst of moving in, my heart has been so heavy. Even though Hurricane Florence hit over a week ago, my hometown (Georgetown, SC) is just now facing a crisis from it. As you can see from the map, one of the things I love best about Georgetown is all the water access – rivers, inlets, ocean, creeks, etc. That’s because 4 major rivers run from all over down into Georgetown and take Winyah Bay to get routed out to the ocean. Because many of those rivers got flooded and overrun with water because of Hurricane Florence, all that water is making its way down to Georgetown as I am typing.

Think of it like this – when 4 lines are trying to merge into 1 on the highway, traffic backs way up. Essentially, 4 rivers are waiting to get out into Winyah Bay and since they are overloaded with water, the water has to go somewhere, which is going to cause intense flooding. They are using words like historic, catastrophic, unprecedented. It is one thing for them to use words like this, its another for the town to be flooded with Army National Guard building a raft bridge to use to get across waterways when bridges are overflooded with water. Its another to see a local church housing tons of state troopers who have come in for this. Its another for search and rescue teams to be assembling from places as far away as Texas to help people. My friend showed me this picture she took as she was driving through Georgetown yesterday.

They sent out a website where you could go and see your house and see how much flooding was expected. My parents look okay right now even though a creek will overflow into their yard, but my granny is expected to have 5-10 feet of flooding, so they moved out all her furniture and heirlooms and put other things up high on shelves. The intense flooding isn’t scheduled to start until Wednesday and then take 3-4 days until it crests, so this event will be happening for over a week. School was canceled today because they are using it as a shelter and is closed indefinitely.

Would you pray with me? Pray that the flooding isn’t nearly as bad as they think it will be? Pray that people would heed the warnings and get out of dodge? Pray for so many dear friends and family members who are being affected by this? Pray that even something like this will cause people to turn to God and trust in Him like they never have before and that He will be glorified even in the midst of something so bad? I have lived their my entire life and nothing like this has ever happened – it is insane and so scary! Thanks for praying!

Fall Campus Update

Ya’ll…I love the fall on campus. Students are so eager to begin the year and get involved in things on campus. We get to do lots of club fairs and survey tables where we meet tons of students. We get to engage in lots of spiritual conversations and help students get plugged in to Cru and their local church. Excitement is high, for us and for the students.

This year, our staff team has been hard at work organizing, hosting, leading, meeting, discipling, texting, calling, emailing, planning, aligning, casting vision, etc. We talked this morning in staff meeting about all we have seen the Lord do so far in only about 3ish weeks on campus. This list was so encouraging that I thought it would encourage you too!  God is at work and we are so privileged to be a small part of it!

  • First Athletes Meeting at St. Johns University – 9 students showed up INCLUDING a guy! The new students that came came because OLD students invited them. 3 soccer girls had stood up in their soccer practice and invited their whole team and one girl brought 3 freshmen soccer girls with her to the meeting. We haven’t done any publicity but students are hearing about us and coming anyways!
  • Weekly meeting at Queens College – ice breaker was “nope, dope, hope” and two girls expressed that their hope was that they would get to go to Fall Retreat in October with us.
  • With our normal Cru movement at St. Johns University, students are finding Cru, rather than us finding them since we have done no publicity (3 students did this). Students are coming because they know friends involved with Cru at University of Tennessee Chattanooga or because they were flaky last year and want to be more committed. One girl brought her friends and one girl blocked out that day so she can come. Most of the students from the previous week came back to the Cru meeting the second week.
  • We have a potential guy at St. Johns who is leading a small group with Indian pharmacy students and he desires to reach the whole campus so he may be jumping on board with us. This is exciting!
  • The weekly pizza social at Queens College has been really encouraging. Kelly, who has been attending, brought a friend. 9 students have been coming regularly and most are freshmen.
  • Noel and Frank made decisions this week to place their faith in Christ!!! Tim (brother of Chris, a former student of ours who is serving short-term overseas with Cru like mentioned in a previous prayer letter) was with Doran, a staff guy on our team and they were following up a survey from welcome day filled out by a guy named Noel. Upon sharing the “Knowing God Personally” booklet, Noel realized that he wanted to be the circle of the person who has surrendered their life to Christ but knew he wasn’t and understood that you moved to that circle by by receiving Christ through faith. He said he wanted to keep growing and learning and pursuing God and he prayed the salvation prayer and even changed the words to make it his own. It was so sincere.
  • Frank was another followup from a survey that God had been doing something in – he had had two friends/mentors who were Christian who have spoke into his life and encouraged him to pursue Christianity. He has been coming to the pizza social (we shared about him at our last prayer letter). Praise God…he made the decision to place his faith in Jesus and become a believer!!
  • A big-time basketball player at St. Johns University named Greg Williams circled 10s and yeses on his survey (this means he had a high interest in exploring God, being a part of a Bible study, learning more about Christ, etc.) and Ed was able to have a small conversation with him and exchange numbers. Ed is hoping to connect with him this coming week and potentially get him involved in our Athlete ministry and have a spiritual conversation. He could have such an impact at St. Johns because of how well known he is.
  • Ksenia, a girl from Queens College who knew some Cru staff at her church, was introduced to us on welcome day, she came to the ice cream social, and said she wanted to be a part of Cru and wants to help us become an official organization. She is so excited to reach her campus. She also signed up for Fall Retreat.
  • 4 students are registered for Fall Retreat so far…we are praying for 10!! What a great start!!

This is some awesome things happening in just a few weeks. Please pray that God continues moving and we are able to share more awesome things like these that glorify His name!!

Remembering

Isn’t it funny that even as the years fly by, some things never fade from your memory? For me, today, those things that I can’t get out of my head are Hurricane Hugo and 9/11. What triggered these memories today?

Even though we now lives hundreds of miles away from my hometown of Georgetown on the coast of SC, because of Facebook and family still living there, we can stay very connected to what is happening there. For instance, tonight, I have learned that people are making real-time decisions about whether to ride out Hurricane Florence. They are watching the TV like a hawk trying to figure out where the hurricane is going (can we ever really know?). They are boarding up windows and stocking up on food and sharing tips about how to best store water in case they don’t have it for weeks. I also learned that they are closing down the hospital and Wal-Mart in Georgetown as of tomorrow, which NEVER happens there, even with past storms. My brother is officially working crazy insane hours as he is on hurricane duty with his law enforcement agency.

Most people have no idea what it is like to live through a hurricane. When Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, it made landfall south west of Georgetown, putting our area on the northeast side of the storm which is the worst for catastrophic damage. Not only do I remember huddling and sleeping in the hall at my grandmother’s house with my aunts, uncles and cousins, but I remember the sound of the wind, how long it took to get places because roads were wiped out, the trees that hit the house, the insane hours my dad worked with law enforcement adn relief efforts, and the absolutely horrible damage it did on all the places that I knew and cherished. Hurricanes have fond memories for me as a time when our family would come together and spend time playing games and hanging out, but lets be real…they are super scary and damaging. So tonight, I am remembering and praying for all of those in the South we know (Georgetown, Charleston, Raleigh, Wilmington) who are bracing for this big monster of a storm.

9/11 will always be a time that is etched in everyone’s minds….where you were when it happened, how you felt, what you did afterwards, how it has changed your life, etc. It is bizarre to me to think that this year’s college freshman was barely a year old when it happened and only know it as “that time my parents talk about.” I was in college, getting up to cram for a test, when I heard that I needed to go check out the communal television. Obviously, classes were canceled, convocation was held, tears were cried, people were stunned, and our worlds changed.

But living here in NYC, 9/11 has taken on a totally different meaning for us. And not just because we regularly walk past the memorial or see the One World Trade tower. We are living life next to people everyday who lost their father, mother, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, friend, etc. in 9/11. We are living next to people who looked up and could see the huge towers of black smoke leading to the sky. We are living next to people who went to help in the relief effort, who comforted their neighbors who didn’t know if their loved one was dead or alive, and who walked past missing posters everyday as they walked to work. We are living next to people who endured major racial profiling and feared for their safety simply because their ethnic background matched those of the terrorists. We are living next to people who share their stories about their mother who is alive because she “happened” to be late to work that one day when she usually never was. We are living in a place that has humanized 9/11 in a way that it never was for us. So, as I think about the 17th anniversary of 9/11 tomorrow, I pray for those who are continuing to grieve the loss of those who were so dear to them.

In the midst of lots of packing, the start of school craziness, and the fall semester rat race that is part of campus ministry, I am choosing to stop and remember that there is so many other things going on for so many other people that go beyond my immediate world and worries. Thank you Jesus for being the one who controls the winds and the waves. Thank you Jesus for being the one who can comfort us in a way that no one else can. Thank you Jesus for giving us the great privilege of praying and interceding for others who are preoccupied with so many heavy things.

 

Moving Already?

Something pretty big happened in our lives this week. Having tons of surveys filled out by students on campus? Yes, that happened, but that’s not it. Connecting with new freshmen and getting to share the Gospel with them? Yes, that also happened, but that’s not it. Surviving in above-record heat here in NYC? Yes, again, that happened, and we survived, but that’s not it. So, then, what could it be?

We signed a new lease on a HOUSE!!  For probably 6 months or longer, Ed and I have been praying and thinking about moving. We love our apartment and complex and neighborhood, so our list of what the new place had to have was quite extensive: we wanted to be closer to the girl’s school (we found out last spring that Kinsley, now in 3rd grade, doesn’t qualify for bus service anymore and we would be walking the kids to and from school every day, about 3.5 miles round trip), we wanted to be in the girl’s school zone (so when Blake goes to pre-school and kindergarten, we wouldn’t have to worry about him being on a waitlist or not getting a spot), we wanted to potentially be on the bottom floor of a place so we didn’t have to worry about kids running and jumping and making too much noise for people below us, we wanted to still be close to Forest Hills shopping and the subway. If we could find a place where we could park a car without a hefty monthly price tag (our parking garage in our neighborhood was $300 a month and street parking is almost non-existent) and a place where we could host our weekly small group and groups of students and guests better, that would be the icing on the cake. But again, because we loved our apartment, it would have to be the perfect place. We also knew the timeline would have to work out as we had signed a lease on our place until October 25 and couldn’t pay for two places for long.

We have asked family, friends, and ministry partners for wisdom for us as we looked and decided, and when we returned from our summer travels, we loosely started looking. Then, this past week, we amped up our looking. Houses in the girl’s school zone are pretty expensive so finding something in our price range was pretty challenging but we looked at 3 great options. One was a townhome with a little too much space with a bigger price tag, one was a townhome with a little smaller than we have now with a lower price tag, and one was a house that was in between on everything. It also came with a finished basement, a garage, a driveway, a closer walk to the girls’ school, and a tiny yard. It is still pretty small like NYC places and compared to houses in the South, but it has the garage for storage, which is nice. After putting in an offer and the owner originally saying no (there was some confusion about our income because we have minister’s housing allowance which makes the income on our tax return look lower than it is and she didn’t think we could afford it), she changed her mind and said yes!  We meet her a few days ago to sign the lease, get to know her, and to get instructions and such. We found out through talking that her daughter is a Christian but her daughter says her mother is Hindu/tolerant of all things, so we are even praying that God allows us chances to minister and share the Gospel with her. We are seriously so thankful to the Lord as she had so many people interested and we were not the most attractive on paper (others had way higher incomes and could move in sooner), but she changed her mind and leased it to us. Even after she accepted our offer, she had diplomats look at it and love it so much they wanted it. We are praying this house gives life to our family in so many ways and allows us to minister more effectively here. It also looks like we will be able to get a car soon too!

I am a little apprehensive about the next few months – in the midst of the beginning of the school craziness (our campuses started last week with the exception of St. Johns which begins this week), Ed taking a seminary class in October that requires a lot of reading, the girls starting school, and us focusing on growing our team of ministry partners, moving is just something else to add to the list and make life more crazy. Would you pray that we don’t get overwhelmed and that God provides all we need to make it through? He provided this place so I am trusting He will provide everything else.

For the icing on the cake, my cousin and his wife from SC came up to stay with us to go to the US Open and to spend time with us. We had a GREAT time with them and even in the midst of crazy schedules, looking for a place, signing on a place, etc, it was easy and very life-giving. We took Sunday to travel to Governors Island with them….to get there, we had to travel to lower Manhattan and take a ferry, but it was so beautiful there and we loved getting to walk the island, eat lunch by the water staring at the Statue of Liberty, see the unicycle festival, and let the kids slide on the longest slide in NYC.

Thank you for your prayers for wisdom – we definitely felt them and feel that God led us to just the right place. Continue praying as we continue the beginning of the school year craziness and as the girls start school this Wednesday.