My Best Loved Podcasts

ApplePodcastingLogo

I love living in the city of Atlanta. I love my beautiful neighborhood with fantastic people. I love that my neighbors are more than just people who live next door but we have parties and share in our celebrations together along with sharing our stuff. I love that whenever we go out of town I can count on Neighbor Will (yes that is what we call him) to look after our house and pick up our mail. I love that this city has had an abundance of coffee shops open up that are each unique and the market is not even close to saturated. But there is also the fact that I work about a 30 minute drive away in Marietta and that’s without traffic. Anyone who knows Atlanta will know this place isn’t exactly the best at driving in and out of the city. It’s not exactly great at driving in the city either but that’s for another day. With all this time on the road I’ve discovered music just isn’t always the thing to listen to. So instead I’ve been using this drive time to do a little learning and keeping up to date with our culture. So Today I’m just going to list some of my favorite podcasts that I listen to every day. This is going to be a very diverse mix of pop culture, ministry, coffee, and sports. so without further ado and in no particular order, my favorite podcasts:

Dan-Patrick-Show-LogoThe Dan Patrick Show

I love this for more than allowing me to keep up to date with sports in the US. It’s a national show that also touches on pop culture, TV, movies, and helps me to talk with my community while being informed on the issues they might care about. Many people at the church I work at love sports and since I don’t have cable or watch Sports Center this enables me to be able to be informed and participate in our conversations. I also love Dan’s interview style. He asks tough questions of his guests and doesn’t let them off the hook with nonsense answers. I love that it’s like there’s just a microphone in the middle of their conversation and allows us as the audience to listen in as if they are just friends talking. This also ensures that there is buy-in from his listeners. Audience members can call and weigh in on the topics of the day and sometimes the callers are just as good as the famous athletes that come on. It’s a great sign of a good podcast when a complete stranger like me who has never called in can feel as if they are a part of the team. I would suggest this podcast for anyone who loves sports and wants to keep up with the topics of the day. There are plenty of times when I’m watching an important game and can’t wait until the next day just the hear the Dan’s opinion on what happened. He also has a great supporting cast he calls his Dannettes. 4 people that have a great following on social media and allow the audience to relate to someone who isn’t a big name like Dan Patrick.

threshing-floor-final

The Threshing Floor

This is a ministry focused podcast hosted by 3 young adult pastors and graduates of Asbury Theological Seminary where I went to school. There can sometimes be a lot of tangents in the course of the show but the majority of the time it’s a journey you want to go on. Mean who doesn’t want to find out more information on Bigfoot sightings and how to track him in the wilderness? This show also allows you behind the scenes into the thoughts of pastors wrestling with the same questions we all are. How is it with you soul? How to minister to a hurting world? What is the purpose and meaning of lent? Why do we fast? These are topics that as educated pastors they discuss in depth and don’t settle for easy answers and sometimes can’t come up with any because there might not be one. They invite others into their conversation by having on amazing guests like Adam Weber form Embrace Church, or Alan and Deb Hirsch. As we all think about how the incarnation affects our lives and what it means to be a Christian voice in this world this podcast is insightful, inspirational, and most of all an encouragement for all Christians to try and understand our world with a christian worldview. If you are looking for a place to explore deeper issues for our world and The Church, listen, listen right NOW!

The Cat and Cloud Coffee Podcast

Cat and Cloud is hosted by Jared Truby and Chris Baca out in Santa Cruz California. This is all about my nerdy coffee side. I’m technically no longer a coffee professional since no one pays me to make coffee anymore. But the culture and love of service is something the Church can learn from. Jared and Chris not only describe the super awesome nerdy things that coffee people love like blue tooth enabled scales and La Marzocco espresso machines but also how to change the culture of pretentiousness in the coffee industry by investing in people who love to serve others. Service is something that can get lost in the super controlled world of coffee sometimes. There is so much emphasis on preparing a delicious drink that people forget that the main thing that coffee does is bring people together. Chris and Jared not only remember this but make it their main priority. They have some super cool guests to talk about the competition scene, how to make coffee great, and what really matters when it comes to opening a cafe. I still love to be informed on what’s going on in the coffee industry and this podcast is one of the best when it comes to content and is an overall amazingly entertaining show.

1457460942-artwork

Youth Culture Matters – A CPYU Podcast

Being in youth ministry you can imagine I spend a lot of time with teenagers and a lot of time trying to figure out how to relate and minister to them. There can be a lot of issues that youth don’t want to talk about or there are things that we all do and need to be able to relate them to youth ministry. This podcast tackles them all. From how to make worship not only relevant to students but also the depth at which they want to worship the creator. To how to deal with crisis situations that aren’t an every day occurrence but if you’re not prepared for them it can be a detriment to a students faith. There is of course talk of social media, blogs, digital information and how not only can parents be able to monitor electronics but why it’s important to The Church to make sure and address technology. We obviously no longer live in the first century church when we wouldn’t have had to worry about Television, twitter or Facebook. Today’s teenagers have access to the best information in the world literally at their fingertips. With all things this can be used for redemption purposes with grace and love for Christ, or it can dive them deep down into a hole of depression and evil. This podcasts allows for discussion on how to help teenagers understand their role in The Church and help them deepen the their faith.

tal

This American Life

Sometimes I just want to hear a good story. NPR and This American Life does an amazing job at researching and telling great stories. Some of this relates directly to my life other things are just intensely interesting. There is definitely an art form to telling great stories and these people know it backwards and forwards. I can’t recommend this enough for people who are interested in the world. It helps to remind me that there are people everywhere living a story. Sometimes our job as humans isn’t to tell other people about us but it’s to listen to one another and to tell the story of someone else. Without this podcast/radio show these stories would probably never be told, it’s the connections that are created through this medium that can empower and encourage others who might be going through similar situations. It also allows us to connect with one another as a human family. There are days like today with me sitting in a coffee shop watching the world go by. It’s easy to think you’re the center of the universe and forget that there are stories waiting to be told all over the place. I’m thankful for a show like this that allows those stories to be told.

Advertisements

Sheer Silence

IMG_5958

This world is full of noise. You can’t go anywhere without something happening in the background. Music at a coffee shop, a podcast in my ears as I drive home, cars driving past. If I ever take public transportation I need some music to listen to and a book to read. Silence it seems makes us uncomfortable. When I start to teach adult and student leaders about leading others in a Sunday school class or small group discussion, one of the first things that we need to understand is that silence is not only okay, it’s needed. When we ask a question, awkward silences can be times when the Holy Spirit can speak the most to us. I feel it all the time when I teach. Students don’t like to be in silence. They squirm and wonder what to say and want to come up with something quickly. I feel that in my own life. Fridays are now a day off for me while I work in a church. I get to sleep in while my wife goes off to her 8-5 type job. I absolutely love to sleep in and I’ve discovered my routine of waking up, taking my dogs out, fiddling around at the house with stuff most of the time is still filled with noise. I want to have a podcast on in the background and I give myself the excuse that I’m learning something. This could be about the sports of the day listening to Dan Patrick, or maybe it’s about youth culture as I love to listen to Youth Culture Matters a podcast by The Center for Parent and Youth Understanding. I might even be supporting some amazingly talented friends by listening to The Threshing Floor Podcast. On a side note, every one of those podcasts are awesome. In an ever changing world with technology flying around at a million miles an hour it’s important to keep up on what my students are dealing with. Some of these things are deep and heavy, others are wondering about what is the best snapchat filter and not so deep. But they are all important to teenagers.

IMG_5970The Threshing Floor has become a great place for encouragement for me being back on staff at a local church. One of my favorite things about podcasts like The Threshing Floor and the Dan Patrick Show is that I feel like I am ease dropping on a conversation. Joshua Toepper, Drew Causey and Chad Brooks, have deep and meaningful conversations with each other and others inviting their listeners to participate. It’s encouraging to hear struggles and joys as they wrestle with how to theologically think about the practicality of ministry. This is huge for me as youth ministry is in the middle of a theological turn. When ministry to youth needs to be more than just something to do and a way to teach others about Jesus. There is a need for others to participate in the Holy Spirit’s work in the world. Teenagers are looking for more than just pizza and a message but desire for questions that shake their soul to be explored. Of course I also listen to random fun podcasts like Dan Patrick, Bill Simmons, This American Life, The RobCast, and others. Maybe that will be another blog post when I just write about my favorite podcasts because there are plenty, don’t get me started on the coffee ones.

IMG_5041Even when I am alone in my house I still want noise in the background, as I shave, cook breakfast, make my coffee, whatever it might be. Silence is a killer. It’s something I avoid whenever I can. These past few weeks I’ve had conversations with a few different people who are asking some awesome questions like how can I hear God. It’s an important question because I think the Holy Spirit communicates in a lot of different ways. I believe that if we are all made in the image of God and many of us have been given the Holy Spirit that lives within us. With that belief then we can experience the voice of God when others talk with us. It can very well be in the noise that God speaks to us, it’s always important to never put God in a box on how or when he speaks to us. But then I read stories like in the book of 1 Kings and the prophet Elijah. He was at one point afraid for his life. He ran away to be alone and wanted to hear from God what to do. He was told to go stand on a mountain because the presence of the Lord was going to pass by and this is what happened:

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

The Lord was not in the loud noises but in the sheer silence Elijah knew that the presence of the Lord was upon him. Our world is filled with noise. There are studies that tell us that ambient noise like that of a coffee shop can stimulate creativity. Which is probably why my last few Thursdays have been spent at one of my favorite local spots here in Atlanta. There is a website that you can go to in order to stream noise that was recorded at a coffee shop in order to help stimulate your creativity. This is to make sure that all you people who might be working at home can enjoy the creative power of a coffee shop without needing to pay for an espresso or cortado. There is always something to hear, so it makes me wonder, have I missed the very presence of God because I haven’t sought Him in the sheer silence?IMG_6034

There are several examples of Jesus being bombarded by people. He would heal the sick, teach and then go off to the desolate places to pray. In the Gospel of Mark Jesus sends out His disciples giving them authority over demons while they also anointed many of the sick among them. They proclaimed that people should repent and then when they returned to Jesus, so excited to tell Him all they had done and taught Jesus immediately tells them to rest, to go to a desolate place where no one will find them and to rest. Everyday there is noise, there are places to go and things to do. There are people that are searching to hear the voice of God. Often my loneliest times are when I’m surrounded by people. I can be out in the world, at a restaurant, even in a church and be surrounded by like minded people. Yet be completely alone. I think we can be in the middle of an earthquake of noise surrounded by people. Yet wonder why we’re not hearing from God. Sometimes there are days like Pentecost when the spirit is like a mighty rushing wind and empowers people to make a lot of noise and we can hear and feel the Spirit of the Lord. Other times it can take sheer silence to discover what His voice sounds like.

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to find more times of silence in my life. Hopefully I start to seek them out so God doesn’t have to force them upon me. In the midst of meetings, in the midst of coffee shop noise, in learning from podcasts or getting pumped up by music. We return to the silence not to feel uncomfortable or awkward but to be at home in the presence of God.IMG_5494

How is it With Your Soul?

13133106_750315320809_8723398100399936632_n

One of the things that I’ve been able to do a lot more in my new role is be reflective. When I was working in coffee everything had to be done in the moment. Customers wanted their drinks, employees wanted their schedule, things needed to get done in a certain order and time was always in a crunch. This was exciting a lot of the time. I’ve found myself missing a lot of what the coffee industry had to offer but one thing that I’ve been very thankful for at Mt Bethel is the time I’ve had to read, reflect, and plan in greater terms than what’s going to happen in the next hour. I’ve been able to set aside time to dream. Dream of what God might be asking of me and what God is asking of the student ministries. The question that I keep going back to is something that was near to John Wesley: How is it with your soul?

To me this was the guiding principal I see in the small groups in the early Methodist Movement. This also requires a great deal of reflection. Yet I also don’t see a lot of that in this country, people are living moment to moment without a ton of reflection on how their soul is doing. So as I’m asking myself I would encourage you to ask yourself the same thing, how is it with your soul? Have you done all the good you can while avoiding all the evil you can? I’ve discovered that many of these questions make me uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable because I like to think of my life in terms of being easy. And it is easy. I wake up in a house that I own and can afford the mortgage payments, sleeping next to a wife who loves me and 2 incredible pugs who snore a lot. I go to a job that pays me well in a car that’s reliable and if it breaks down I could afford to fix. I live in a city that is booming one that I have the freedom to choose to live in. I have amazing neighbors. I get to live in a neighborhood of diverse interests, ethnicities, sexual orientation, and religious views but we live together in harmony and I am able to work out what it means to love my neighbor like I love myself. Yet the question of how is it with my soul makes me uncomfortable.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never seriously considered it before. There are many functions to a small group. It could be that they are getting together for purely social purposes. It could be a group that studies scripture together but never gets that deep. It could be a small group that holds each other accountable and are truly close enough to get an honest answer when you ask, have you done all the good you can while avoiding all the evil you can? I think it’s uncomfortable for me because I don’t know if I want to be honest with myself about the answer to that question because I’m so used to living this easy and fun life. If I’m honest about my answers maybe life won’t be so easy anymore.

Last night I gave my first message to the high school students at our Wednesday night programing called Inside Out. In it I walked about what humility is supposed to look like and we repeated together the Litany of Humility. One of the lines that stuck out to me was asking Jesus to deliver me from the desire of being approved. Soon after saying these words together I then was wondering if they approved of me and the message I gave. I was searching to be affirmed, since I am new here it makes sense but at the same time, if I was following after Jesus in the way that He wants me to follow then I shouldn’t worry about being approved, or loved in the standards of this world and with that knowledge I can affirm it is well with my soul.

I’m hoping that I can bring this idea to our Life Groups in the fall. These small groups were started and continue with the idea that we’re supposed to “do life together.” Whenever I think about the words life together I immediately think of Bonhoeffer and the intense book that he wrote about doing Life Together. In this he describes reading scripture, praying, working and living together as iron sharpens iron. I wonder if I am capable of asking the tough questions but more than that, am I ready to answer them. This is how people can grow together by asking the hard questions. So often we think that growing spiritually or growing as a person can be easily handled. But I think true growth is done when things are hard. If I wanted to continue doing something that I was comfortable with and was easy then I would have stayed in coffee and that would have been the easy decision for me. But when you are called, you are sent, and God has sent me to the student ministries of Mt Bethel UMC.

To me this means I’m excited to ask the hard questions of how is it with my soul and to be able to answer them as well. I’ve discovered that as we ask the hard questions even in the awkward silence or resistance to answer there can be joy in the freedom to be honest in a  safe environment. To often churches have been places of judgment and dangerous to the people who are honest about their faults. We have an advocate for us when we constantly fall short of being perfect. He is the one who is able to present us to the throne of God without blemish. So as we ask the hard questions and we’re able to be honest with our answers to each other we can sin less and love more. And as we concentrate on loving more we are able to sin less. We are able to do all the good we can, as often as we can, for as long as we possibly can. And that will always make it well with my soul.

TMI – More Questions than Answers

 

IMG_5968

I’ve been able to spend more time on twitter lately. Definitely more than I can honestly say I’m proud of. There is something instantly gratifying about this particular form of social media. You have to be concise, you have a tremendous audience, and you can find more resources then you want or need. I find myself scrolling through and clicking on links all day long. Some I try and read right away, others I leave in a browser hoping I’ll have time later. Some of it doesn’t even interest me that much but I just want to stay informed. Karl Barth is credited with saying something to the effect of: “take your bible and take your newspaper and read both. But interpret your newspapers from your bible” (http://www.ptsem.edu/Library/index.aspx?menu1_id=6907&menu2_id=6904&id=8450)

I want to take this to heart especially in youth ministry. Things change a mile a minute. For teenagers what might be considered the cool thing to do right now isn’t cool in about 10 minutes. While it might be hard to keep up with one of the best things I know I can do is continue to be informed about the world around me. I believe that Jesus has called me to be in the world, not to hide from it, while my motivation, my directives come from a source that is not of this world. This might just be me trying to justify being on twitter all the time but I also think it has a point. When we are informed about what is going on in the life of someone we are charged with discipling we know better how to pray for them, we know better how to love them. There is, however, a danger. Information is everywhere. Pastors are preaching to people that are fact checking their statements during the sermon. And they should be, when I am preaching to students I shouldn’t be lying to them in order to make a point, the word of God doesn’t need my help in coming across to students I just need be open to what the Holy Spirit needs to say.

IMG_5955

This information can often lead to some of the coolest rabbit trails. Ask any coffee professional about the coffee industry and most likely they’ll describe a deep rabbit hole that never ends. This happens with youtube videos, you get going on one and then 4 hours later you wonder what happened with the day. When I was in seminary and doing research for papers the world was at my fingertips when all I had to do was access the internet. I’m in awe of how well connected we are in this world. When I was younger I can remember doing a lot of traveling and meeting a bunch of people. there was a sentiment that we always wanted to stay connected. I did my best with phone calls or super old school letter writing but these days with as much struggle as social media and the internet can be for certain things, surface level connection is out there ripe for the plucking. The truth is, I love it. I love being able to send out a photo on instagram and Facebook and receive immediate feedback in the form of a like or a comment. And then there are the articles, so many articles. My news feed is a constant shuffle of blog posts, newspaper articles, inspirational videos, and more new information. It’s gotten to the point that I’ll click on an article, read maybe a paragraph or two, and if it’s too long there’s almost no chance I finish it. Even if it’s something I’m interested I won’t finish it right away. I’ll save it for later when my brain comes back to it. If you’re anything like me you might not even read this far in the post and just skip to the bottom or abandon it all together.

What I think this really comes down to is, with all this information out there, the ability to fact check and read about anything literally in our hands through our phones, are there more answers, or just more questions? I wonder this because I’ve discovered that the more I know, the more I don’t know. So when I’m out there trying to be informed about what’s going on, am I really able to help students understand their role in The Church and God’s Kingdom? In the book You Lost Me by David Kinnaman he explores why so many students are less engaged with the church once they leave high school. There are many reasons for this but I think one of the main reasons is because students are wrestling with deep questions and they feel The Church doesn’t have the answers they’re looking for. So they go elsewhere.

IMG_5972

Part of my job is to wrestle with students and equip parents and other influential adults to answers those questions. One of the goals with this blog is to engage with parents and adult leaders in my church and anywhere really to help students better explore and perhaps answer the hard questions they’re wrestling with. With so much information out there I think it’s incredibly important to be informed. I think it’s also important that we continue to wrestle with the big questions in life. I’m still less than 2 weeks into this new job. I’m not exactly sure what life is going to look like and the thing I keep going back to is that God has called me here. Even when I might be uncomfortable, even when I might not have answers to the questions students have, even when I might feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, God is in control. My hope is that parents, students, other influential adults will allow The Church and the Holy Sprit to try and answer the big questions students are looking for. One of the hardest things I say is: “I don’t know.” I hate not knowing things or being able to look them up in a heart beat through google on my phone or asking Siri. Yet with all the facts and opinions that are out there on the internet there seems to be more questions and fewer answers.

So let’s keep wrestling. Keep bringing up tough questions and expecting tough answers. In the end it might be that we just won’t know the answer until we get to heaven and by then we probably won’t care. But just as Jacob wrestled with God in the book of Genesis we should continue to strive for discerning the hard questions. If that’s through google, through the newspaper, through scripture, through dialogue, or any other means I hope to continue the conversation and wrestle with God with you. Maybe we’ll find a few answers along the way, I’m just excited to be on this journey with you and with the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

IMG_5960

Random Thoughts on Discernment

IMG_5940

I was recently asked if when I first started in the coffee industry if I was running from something or running to something. It makes sense for many that it can be one or the other. I tend to be of the mindset that we live in a both/and world. The Kingdom of God is here and not yet, we can be prideful about how humble we are, coffee can be good hot and cold, I can run away from a job while running to something better. I’m not sure what it was that truly prompted the change to start my life in coffee, I do know my heart will always be in it. But what I’m hoping to do today is explore some of the reasons why I have decided to change directions back to a world of full time ministry in a local church. It’s something that might seem like it was going to be my choice all along. I was waiting in line doing coffee until I was able to find the right way out of it. Coffee might have started as a holding pattern until something better came along but I can’t bring myself to think that’s how I feel about it now. My choice boils down to a few incredibly important things.
What am I supposed to be doing with my time? I don’t know how many of you who are reading this feel like you have a vocation. This is much different than an occupation, a job, a career, or what most might define as the thing that earns them money. Money ultimately has something to do with it because it’s impossible to pay bills without it. A vocation to me is a calling, something that is not only embedded in your bones but a passion that exudes from you. For me interacting with people, trying to develop them, disciple them, that’s been in me since I could recognize it. At the coffee shop I was able to do this everywhere. Strangers walking in looking for an exceptional experience, an awesome drink, a fun time. My staff was hugely influential. They impacted me more than I would admit and much more than they will ever know. I enjoyed knowing that every day there was something very familiar waiting for me. Even if the people who walked in the door were different it was comforting knowing I was going to take orders, make orders, and ensure the shop ran smoothly while increasing stability and a culture of hospitality. Yet I ultimately decided to leave making the move to Mt Bethel UMC in Marietta. This was supremely impacted by a simple question that came from one of my favorite customers. 
He came in late one night as he often does seemingly like he was determined more than usual. Walking up to the counter in the empty shop he questioned me: “Hey, are you doing anything in youth ministry any more, doing anything with kids?” I had to think about it for a minute before responding, “Well yeah I got my staff here, I get to see great people like you around, it’s a pretty good gig.” His response kind of jolted me for a second, “Then tell me, is that your will or His?”
It seems like a question we need to always be asking ourselves. Why are we doing what we’re doing, is it our will to do it or His? Like plenty of people I hadn’t thought about it in a long time. I’ve loved my job, I get to work in an industry that values transparency, works to improve the lives of farmers all over the world. I get to see change because of sheep. Literally sheep come into the lives of farmers and it can change everything. Yet I didn’t have an answer to this question when my customer brought it up to me and it began a sense of wonder. It kind of excited me to begin exploring what truly is the will of God for my life in these moments. And then an opportunity presented itself.
If you are ever interviewed by a church I hope you also at the same time are interviewing them. I think of it being a bit different than most other jobs, it’s so relational that it needs to be a good fit for all involved. Something I’ve taken to heart was what a Seminary Professor told me that if you’re not 100% convinced of your calling to that particular church then don’t go. You don’t have to feel comfortable about it, you don’t have to be 100% certain about everything that might happen but you need to be sure you’re called to be there because there’s going to be a point when you’ll need that assurance to fall back on. I felt like I took notice of everything since this could possibly be where I went to work every day. It took a few weeks but from the beginning there was a sense of calling, a sense that essentially my gut was going to decide. It was never a money thing, it was never running away completely and it was never running towards something completely. It was as most life changing choices often are, motivated by the Holy Spirit. 
After I was offered the job I thought about it for about a week. In reality I could have given my answer right away but I wanted to be sure. Leaving a place where I knew exactly what to do and one that I was really good at it in order to go to a place that I don’t really know that much about seemed, scary. I’ve heard things about what the community thinks of the church, I saw a little of the inside scoop asking as many questions as I could of key volunteers, I wondered constantly as I tried to get some time alone to simply think. I dreamed of what it could be. I contemplated why I thought I was the right person, why was God calling me to this place at this time, and was I hearing Him correctly? These questions were never answered with an audible voice or really much of anything with the exception of: peace. Reminds me of all the Masses I’ve been to and each one begins and ends with the same sentiment. The Peace of our Lord be with you always. That is what I had and what I needed. PEACE.
IMG_5941
I’ve been here 4 days, so many questions still to be answered and a lot more to soak in. Learning the cultural lexicon and mostly just drinking in everything I can. It’s easy to look back on what I was doing last week. Especially since it felt like it ended so suddenly. One minute I’m making coffee for people the next I’m trying to remember the names of the tremendously large, tremendously gracious and hospitable staff I’m now a part of. I’ve tried to navigate through exactly what made me push the button and make this type of life change. It’s interesting, I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing or really what I’ve gotten myself into. Yet that’s the most comforting thing about the whole decision. It’s one of the main reasons why I feel like it was the Holy Spirit driving this choice and that I feel so great about making it. Even though I might not have any idea what I’m doing, He does. And that, is the most peaceful I could ever feel. 
IMG_5946

 

Settling Back into Life

DSC_9022It’s been almost a week since I left the airport in Kigali for America. It was most definitely an interesting trip home. The good part being that everyone made it home safe and all of the luggage did too, eventually. Life hasn’t stopped back home. The shop continued to make drinks, customers continued to buy coffee. Yet, life can’t be the same. Everyone has asked me about the trip obviously and it’s changed me for many reasons. One of them being that this trip was the best combination I’ve known of my experience in Church leadership, my love of coffee, and my passion for community development. Stories come in bits and pieces as people ask questions and situations trigger memories I wish to ensure never leave my brain.

IMG_3301

I’ve been able to make a lot more coffee lately. Measuring out each bean no longer feels  like only a necessary step to grinding and brewing. Each roasted coffee bean now has a face of a farmer. Chuma picking cherries from one of his 1500 trees along with his kids, 20 years of experience under his belt. Laurent wearing a Drink coffee Do Good shirt and a sport coat. Joy overtakes possible customer frustrations and smiling doesn’t seem to be so difficult in the face of tough situations. What becomes difficult is quantifying in words a trip that changes your disposition. Soon after arriving home I received an e-mail from a friend I met in Kigali. Our night security guard named Lucien at Altis, the hotel we stayed at in Kigali, wanted to make sure we didn’t forget about him. One way of ensuring that reality was leaving behind one of my hats for his use. The Detroit Tigers logo was surprisingly present in Rwanda. Walking around seeing a few t-shirts made me wonder. I noticed they all said “2013 American League Champions.” The only problem was that the Boston Red Sox were the American League Champions in 2013. This explains the mystery of where those t-shirts went.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking through pictures and memories, handing out the little trinkets I bought, small things that keep me holding onto the trip in my memory. Before we left Lake Kivu I told the group that now that they have experienced the people of Rwanda we now have the responsibility of telling their story, to explain to others who weren’t there the reality of the country. Last night was a great example of that. About 15 minutes before we closed a couple ordered a few drinks. As they were waiting for their tea to brew I told them about my recent trip in which they were incredibly surprised by the peace, joy, and love I described. They had been in other African countries and expected the turmoil of the past to forever affect the people. I refuse to allow others who are bent of negativity to miss the reality of what I experienced. The story of Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Co. is one of engaging the reality in Rwanda. That people have been forgiven, love has been offered, peace and unity are the only options they seem to entertain as possibilities.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALOTH has given me the opportunity to take this trip and make it a reality for those who are engaging in the same story through their coffee and cafe selection. By coming to our shop, even if they buy tea they are saying to us that they believe in our decisions to make possible opportunities in Rwanda that didn’t exist before. I have made it a goal to make sure that I never pass up an opportunity to express my thanks to the people that frequent my shop. Not necessarily because my job depends on their patronage. It is because the farmers and other people I met in Rwanda asked me to. In this mutually beneficial coffee relationship the farmers didn’t stop thanking me for making possible their livelihood and it is my job to pass that on to you. Coffee is a beautiful thing, it creates some of the best sensory experiences I have ever had, but it is also a living thing. And with it’s life from the tree it creates more life in the hearts of people who experience the beauty of the real land of a thousand hills. It creates life in the smiles of Rwandan people thanking me for experiencing who they are. As much as I try to explain these things to you, it can only be experienced best first hand. Communities are formed from this life giving tree as we all can engage in the redemption of Rwanda. One cherry, one bean, one cup at a time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And Just Like That… It’s Over

photoWe have less than 24 hours until we are on a plane headed back eventually to US soil and back into my loving wife’s arms. While I do have very sad feelings about this today was a day of rejoicing on the things we have experienced and can’t forget. The morning started before my alarm. Which has been interesting, it’s like my body wants to get started before the rest of me each day. Taking my breakfast by the lake I was entirely amazed and what has transpired for more than 2 weeks. Soon I was joined by Eric. Eric is a citizen of 3 countries. Born in Uganda, with family from Rwanda he came over after the genocides before living in the US for the last 6 years and became a citizen. He worked in some capacity with the Rwandan Government so I began to ask him about the transition of a violent Rwanda to the peaceful, joyful one we see today.

Once the war was over Eric came to Rwanda and was able to see the transition within government first hand. From the very beginning of the non-genocide regime, unity was desired. They knew they needed to be one country from the top to the bottom.

This was a relaxing day. Manu reserved us a boat to go to coffee island but we had a minor detour to another washing station first. We went to Ingoboka, which is where we tasted coffee from at the beginning of the trip. We walked around and saw some parchment drying. Some of it nearing the end of it’s drying was significantly lighter in weight than the coffee near by that still had some drying to do. We walked around the coffee plantation and I could visibly see the difference in expected quality in the trees producing on this lake. Being at a lower elevation they matured quicker and had less time to develop flavors. This means that the harvest starts earlier and they had more green cherries for their second harvest coming in a few months.

After exploring the washing station we headed nearby with our boat to coffee island. Manu told us that they story behind this island is that people were living there in very bad conditions leaving their children with little security and a very dangerous working commute. So the government helped to move the people from the island and planted more coffee trees while helping to relocate them to safer territory. The policies to help the people seem so simple here. In the US we make things so complicated, so much red tape and people to jump through that many have not seen congress do much lately. Yet in Rwanda they see an issue and solve it the best way they can even helping the people relocate homes in order to be safe and give them more economic improvement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe played a lot of games when we got back to our resort. Card games have a way of bringing a group together. Once the games were over, well, suspended. We spent some time in reflection over this last week. It’s been emotional, so many things have happened and it’s been my experience that when a significant trip like this occurs a person needs to begin to process what has happened to avoid hardship when reintegrating to “normal” life in the US. The time spent reflecting on the genocide memorial, cupping lab, Ruli, Mbilima, Liberation celebration, Akagera, Church, Forgiveness school, Vocational School, Traditional Village, Kivu, it was a ton of things to do. I wish I had words, maybe on the plane ride home I’ll be able to write a poem or somehow put into words what this trip has meant. A significant question I asked the group at the end of our discussion is “ now that you know what you know, now that you’ve experienced what you have, what are you going to do about it?” My answer comes down to 2 main things. One is that the people work here so incredibly hard and we can have a tremendous impact on their lives by simply creating great experiences for our customers. So the frustrations that might come with being a barista don’t seem so significant when you have seen the children and farmers I am affecting by making sure those frustrations don’t get the best of me. Next is telling this story. I told the group that now they are our ambassadors and they are Rwanda’s ambassadors. It is up to us to go back to the states and explain that the stereotypes aren’t true. Rwanda is a place of peace,forgiveness and love. Rwanda has taken my heart and reshaped it into more of a complete being.

When I return home I will better be able to write a reflection on the whole trip but for now, let me assure you that this is a place that must be experienced. It must be known to the world. My joy will be to share that with you. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA