Saturday, November 7, 2009

Road Trip- by the numbers

For the past month I've basically lived in a 2000 Nissan minivan.

One of the biggest part of my job at NMSI is recruiting...I mean, it's pretty hard to plan internship projects when you don't have any interns. So to promote our internship programs and to strengthen NMSI's relationships with colleges and universities, four of us embarked on a month long road trip. Here's how it went down:

6347: Number of miles rolled up on the previously mentioned Nissan van

129: Number of contact cards filled out by students or interested parties. (I have a lot of emails to write)

100+: Number of hours we spent driving from one location to the next. (I'm not really sure how much over the + we are, but it's a lot...we based our guess off destination to destination...not including in town driving)

23: Number of pizzas purchased for college students

21: Number of colleges/universities visited

17: Number of states visited

11: Number of sports venues we saw/passed.

9: Number of churches visited

8: Number of homes we stayed in

5: Number of state capitals visited

5: Number of dorms we stayed in

2: Number of times we were pulled over. Once for a "courtesy warning" for failing to signal, and once for speeding on a straight back road in Ohio with a 35mph limit. (I'm still a little bitter about that one)

2: Number of conferences attended

1: Number of computers fried due to a power surge

This trip was a great adventure, though I'm glad to finally be in one place for a while...I think...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

26 thoughts for 26 years

I woke up today as a 26 year old...first time I've ever done that! Last night, Scott, my brother in law asked me what I knew now that I didn't know on my 25th birthday. Thoughts ranging from "you're allowed to pay for a toll with pennies in New Jersey" to "teaching in Uganda completely changed my view of education," flew through my head. The answer I gave him was "Each year I become more aware of how much I don't know...with greater knowledge comes greater knowledge of your own relative ignorance."

I figure that since I'm now officially closer to 30 than I am 20 (really, that seems weird to say) I should have some nuggets of wisdom to share with the world. So here goes...26 thoughts for 26 years!

(by the way, some are serious, some...not so much)

1. The more places I go, the more I see the merits of home.

2a. If you ever call a restaurant to make reservations and upon taking your reservations, the person on the other end chuckles and says "um...sure...yea, we can do that," beware of said restaurant.
2b. If the restaurant is called "Squatters" you should have probably known better in the first place.

3. The life of a Pelican > all other birds. Think about live at the beach, all the seafood you can eat, you float nicely, you're chill, and you can sit around and make jokes about idiot seagulls with your other pelican buddies.

4. We should all aspire to be as loyal as our dogs.

5. Standing on the steps of the courthouse in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and saying "Get over it guys, the Bear died 25 years ago," is taking your life into your own hands.

6. Never take your family or friends for granted. Appreciate every moment you're together.

7. If you can't it anyway...nobody cares.

9. "Choose what you want most over what you want now."

10. Two South Korean boys, 1 from Senegal, one from Jersey, and one from Seymour, Tennessee can make a fine offensive line.

11. Going to Wal-Mart or Waffle House at 3:30AM is completely acceptable and needs no explanation

12. Some people are fat...and that's ok.

13. When stuck in a Kenyan bathroom and you have to decide between a dollar and a bank statement, go with the bank statement...especially if your dollar consists of 3 quarters, 2 dimes, and a nickel (buh-dum-cha!)

14. Never attempt to jump into a garbage'll just get a concussion and lose a lot of blood.

15. The ocean heals and the stars demand your awe.

16. Church buildings are no more than stone, steel, and wood just like any other building. The ocean and stars are God expressing himself to made things are our efforts to capture him. Nothing wrong with that, it's just not nature...God in the raw.

17. If you stumble across Roman ruins in the middle of the night, climbing the fence to enter is not necessary. The gate is probably open anyway.

18. Fat guys can run half marathons.

19. Japanese cars are the most reliable, American cars have the best air conditioners, and European cars are for true car lovers.

20. A half a box of croutons can occasionally pass as lunch (though this may have been the low point of my bachelorhood).

21. If there's no snow on Christmas...and there are kids around that want to go sledding...finding a hill, a kiddie pool, and flinging the kids down the hill in the kiddie pool is an adequate substitution.

22. Take care of the outcasts, the lonely, the ones that are constantly the butt of jokes...listen, care, and respect.

23. Safari ants+your pants=exactly what you'd expect.

24. There is no greater entertainment value than "Bring Your Own Weapon Night" at $5 semi-pro wrestling. A broken neon sign. A flying porcelin sink. Few teeth. Many bald eagle tattoos. I started a "loser cuts the mullet" chant. High comedy, great entertainment.

25. Seeking God and trying to understand him is the wisest thing a man can do.

26. Thinking you've figured him out is the most foolish.

Thanks for's to having better things to share at 27

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


If you keep up with my blog, you've probably noticed that I haven't updated in over a month. It's not like I went without a bloggable thought in the month of September, I just haven't written any of those.

I've had a few newsworthy items, some semi-deep thoughts, and a couple of humorous musings, but haven't brought myself to actually writing them.

Here's why...

I've still been wrapping my mind around the loss of Chris and haven't wanted to share it all. Now, I could have been writing about entirely different subjects, but that's not really me.

Though I often write about indulgent nonsense, I still write about what's on the forefront of my heart/ it legitimate concerns, deep feelings or merely indulgent nonsense.

Losing my friend has been on the forefront of my heart/mind for the past few months, and I haven't wanted to publish those thoughts...maybe some of em later...just not now...

So, the blogging resumes...not saying I have it all figured out, or ever will, I'm just going to start sharing my thoughts in this way again.

First shared thought:

Tonight, TBS ran a marathon of "The Office" followed by the "Serenity Now" episode of Seinfeld...I think Ted Turner sent me a birthday thanks Ted Turner...I stayed up til 3 am thanks to your late night programming!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Boma Tour!

During the summer, we had the privilege of staying 3 nights in Maasai homes. Follow Elise as she gives a tour of a home where we stayed...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rocky Top-Kenyan Style

Over the next few days I'll be posting a variety of pictures, thoughts, and videos from my summer in Kenya...this is the first of these posts.

Every week, it seems, I see something about Tim Tebow doing a form of mission work overseas. I think it's great, and I applaud him honoring God with his fame. He just makes one mistake...Tim teaches all these kids that ridiculous Gator backwards clap...such a shame! Now there are all these kids who have learned the wrong way to clap and will certainly be mocked if they should ever travel abroad!

To combat this internationally, I decided to teach my standard 5 class how to sing "Rocky Top." Bringing a little extra culture to the nations right? I couldn't resist.

I made this with the intention that it would be just for Chris...I'm sad that he never did...somewhere he's smiling about it...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chris is home

In case you've not already heard...

Thursday evening about 6:00 PM, Chris passed away.

I was on the road, headed from Kingsport to Knoxville in a rush. Emily had called me just before, saying to get there as soon as possible...Chris didn't have much longer.

As we reached I-40 the phone rang and I knew immediately...Sue, Chris's mom simply said "Matt, he's gone."

Losing him isn't's not easy for any of us here...especially for Emily. But I can honestly say that I'm at peace because he's not suffering.

Chris had two homes...Kingsport and Maryville, so we'll have services in both places

The first will be in at First Christian Church in Kingsport on Monday the 10th. Visitation will be from 6-7 with the service following.

In Maryville, we'll be at Madison Avenue Baptist Church on Saturday the 15th at 3:30 in the afternoon.

In my previous post, you read of God speaking to me through the song "Fix You." In the moment my phone rang with the news awaiting, we were listening to that very song in the car. I don't know how much clearer God could be...He fixed Chris.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What I never wanted to write- update on Chris

This is an update on my best friend Chris update I never wanted to write.

About a year ago, Chris began his fight with brain cancer. Encouraged by the support of his family and myriad of loving friends, and strengthened by his unwavering faith in Jesus, Chris battled with titanic courage. Despite setbacks and struggles, Chris continued to fight. Before his third operation he was confronted with the fact that the procedure could render his left side motionless. Chris didn't care. He kept on...all with a positive attitude.

Three brain operations in one year has just been too much for his body to endure. My heart breaks to write this, but the time has come. He's not responding to treatment and his body is spent. Now it's time for him to be comfortable, to rest, and to go home. The doctors estimate now that it will be a matter of days.

The news is devastating for Emily, for Gracie, his baby girl, for his family, and for the rest of us. We want him here...we don't know how to handle what comes next. And on our own, we can't.

My heart breaks for Emily and Gracie and his family...and he's always been beyond a friend to me...he's a true my heart also breaks for me.

I have no profound or insightful take on heart just hurts. So let me tell you of a moment when God spoke to me about Chris...

Back in December, Chris had his second operation, and I was afraid then that we were going to lose him. I caught a flight to Knoxville to be by his side and as my the plane was landing, God had something to say to me.

I fell asleep listening to my ipod, thus not turning it off as the plane landed. The wheels hit the runway and I awakened to the sound of "Fix You" by Coldplay playing through my headphones. My stomach then sunk with the reality of the best friend's life was on the line. As the song continued I heard:

"High up above or down below, when you're too in love to let it go"

And I thought, yea...I'm not willing to let him go...and neither is anyone else. He deserves to be here...his wife needs him, his baby girl needs him, we all need him.

It continues:
"And I will try, to fix you."

Then I kept saying to God, "Fix him...fix him!! Fix his body! I know that doctors can't, God but you can fix him! Please Lord...fix my friend."

The lyrics progressed:
"Tears stream, down your face, when you lose something you cannot replace."

I said to God "He's not replaceable...don't take him. He cannot be replaced."
And then the conclusion of the song:
"Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you."

At that point, God said to me: "Matt, I've already fixed him."

He's right. Jesus already fixed him. Chris is ok. He was fixed the day that he gave his life to Christ...he's been fixed ever since. His body was broken then and is more broken now...but so is your body and mine...we're all broken.

In the end those bodies don't matter...the Father of lights will guide him home.
God gave me that solace in December, and 8 months later as he's on the cusp of seeing that glorious remains.

I'm not used to this...I'm used to being on the other end...listening to someone share of a loss, my heart breaking for them and feeling useless and helpless-both are difficult. So in reading this, you may feel the same way. But you can help. Here's what you can do.

1. Pray for Emily, Grace, and his family.
2. Send Emily letters of love and encouragement and share stories and memories of Chris with her. To do so, write on the guestbook at his caringbridge page at:
3. In lieu of flowers, send a contribution. For information on how to do so, contact me.

To conclude, paul said it well:

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Monday, August 3, 2009

Car Shopping... the Glorious Injustice

I'm a car guy...have been for as long as I could be called a guy and not a boy. I come by it honestly, my dad has always had cool cars...none of them were expensive, just cool. So from childhood I always appreciated a good that stands out among the drudgery of Chevy Cavaliers, Ford Tauruses, Toyota Camrys, and Honda Civics overwhelming the road.

So now, here I am 25 years old, and need a car. My old car (a sort of cool 97 Saab 900s) bit the dust in April and I sold it in May. Understanding that I have a limited budget ($4500 max), and need something both economical and reliable, I've prepared myself to cross the line between cool car (something European/rare) and mundane. I've even accepted the idea that I could be driving an American car, which I usually find to be entirely inferior to their Japanese and European counterparts.

With those things in mind I set off today, feeling like I'd find a gem.

My optimism was soon quelled...

A local dealer had a 1997 Nissan Maxima for sale. It was loaded up, in great shape, and 100,000 miles. Mildly cool car, but still bland. Even so, bland often equals reliable so I felt good about finding something mildly cool (not to mention it had leather seats and all the bells and whistles that my Saabs have had).

I'm no dummy...I came in armed with the knowledge that the value of this car, even in it's exquisite condition is $4000. Considering that I'm a wheeler and dealer and a generally likable guy, I figured $3500.

Now for the gory details...
The salesman and I were walking to the car and the following transaction took place:

Salesman: Matt, what are you looking to spend
Me: Under 5k
Salesman: *Silence* Well, um, we should probably not even look at this car
Me: *confused* Huh?
Salesman: The price is $8700 but our Internet price is $7900
Me: What? Really? This is a $4000 car! (I was a little off...but not much)
Salesman: Yes, but it's really nice.
Me: *half confused half incredulous* I know you're not the sales manager, but why is it so much?
Salesman: Where else are you going to find a 97 Maxima with only 100,000 miles?
Me: It's 12 years old! I can find a 12 year old car with 100,000 miles anywhere
Salesman: Yea but it's really nice.
Me:'re asking almost 9 grand! Your competitor down the road has a 2000 Saab 9-3 Viggen for 9 grand.
Salesman: What's that?
Me: *shaking my head* A souped up Saab...very rare it was over $40k. (not to mention it's definitely cool)
Salesman: *blank stare*
Me:'re asking double it's value.
Salesman: But it's really nice.

I was dumbfounded. The sad thing is, some poor sap who doesn't know better will go in and pay 7 grand for that car. He'll be surprised by the clean leather, responsive engine, and various features and make a terrible financial decision.

For the next several hours, I scoured the town for the perfect ride. Unfortunately, the only cars in my price range fell into one of these categories:

Has Beens: cars that were once nice, but were maintained by either vikings or bears
Trash: cars that were never good...the day they left the factory they were as quality as a week old gas station cheeseburger
Beaters: ripped seats, no a/c, and a slipping transmission. "Honest Bill" says it was owned by his late grandmother

I feel simultaneously rich and utterly broke with my $3500

So the search continues. I'm stubborn. Really stubborn. I won't be ripped off and I still want to toe the line between responsible purchase and cool car.

I could get a Land Rover Discovery...which is about an 8 on the cool chart. But considering their terrible reliability record and ghastly 16 mpg, it's about a 1 on the responsibility chart.

I could get a Ford cool as Rick responsible as Aunt Bea

Anyway...for all of you who have fought and lost...that have succumbed to the agony of car shopping and relented to paying for rust proofing...that have driven off in a car you liked for 2 weeks...I'm gonna win one for us all.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back in the US

Jambosana rafiki! (hello friends) After two months in Kenya, I've safely returned to the US. My time in Kenya was remarkable...affirming and encouraging. Thanks to all who prayed for our team this summer, we were blessed with safety and provision throughout. Anytime a man leads a team of 3 girls, extra prayer is needed for all parties...turns out boys and girls are different! Our team functioned wonderfully...the ladies had terrific attitudes and made my job an easy one. I was blessed to have the privilege of leading them.

Over the next few days, I'll be posting about a variety of topics regarding summer 2009. I have a ton of things to share and I can't fit them into one blog. Instead, I'd like your help! If you have a question (specific or general) or topic (specific or broad) that you'd like to hear about, please email me ( or contact me any other way. These can be serious, completely absurd, or anywhere in between (for example: I'd be glad to discuss the generosity of the Maasai, the beauty of the scenery, or the fun I had watching chickens & donkeys). I intend to write 10 posts about this summer, so please send the ideas/questions/requests in. Thanks in advance!

For now, here are a couple of pictures from the summer to whet your appetite for Kenya stories...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Vintage Land Rovers and ipods

Today I feel old...not because my knees creak a little more than they used to, not because my clean shaven face reveals a wrinkle or two, not because I now reflect on the proverbial "good ole days," and not because I now check the 25-39 demographic box. But for a moment today, I've identified with things of the past...a time before I was born, void of ESPN and long before Facebook. For a considerable amount of time today, I drove our group around in a 1965 Land Rover, a vehicle built like a fort with the amenities of a tricycle. No power steering, no power brakes, no working telemetry, and a whopping 80 horsepower at my disposal to propel the behemoth over roads that even the Lonely Planet Guide to Kenya describes as "detestable." Strangely, I enjoyed the adventure thoroughly. As other scurried around in town in modern Toyotas and newer buses and compact cars, I reveled in my ability to maneuver such a vehicle in forward and backward in tight spaces. Aside from the continuous "atta boys" in my head, I felt a sense of accomplishment for merely driving. This was merely transportation...driving from point a to point b, not the luxury it has been for me in the past with a sunroof, Sirius radio, cruise control, A/C and 80 mph speeds. This 1965 Land Rover on unpaved roads was hardly required full attention, 4WD, and some creativity. It all fit.

Hours later, I relaxed for the day and listened to my ipod (perhaps the mascot of the 2000s) and turned it on shuffle. A mix of artists began...first Coldplay, the Fray, and Matchbox 20, and then James Taylor, Jackson Browne, and the Beatles. Though I'm a huge fan of Coldplay, I related more to the youthful (when written) musings of Taylor, Browne, and the Fab 4. Browne didn't know how he ended up where he was in life, Taylor missed an old friend, and the Beatles bemoaned the futility of money. Sitting on a musty couch in Africa after just reading a letter from my mom summed up my life much better than any of the newer artists. Maybe I was born at the wrong time? Given to the wrong ear? Perhaps. Maybe I just like old cars and old music. Either way, today, 1965 feels like part of my past and the 2010s seem no nearer than a colony om Mars.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Initial thoughts from Kenya

A full week has passed since we arrived in Kenya. The beauty of this place is as I remember...sweeping plains, distant mountains, dusty-pitted roads all dotted with exotic wildlife. I've been staying in a wooden shack with a concrete floor...simple for sure, but the view is breathtaking. A green plain slowly descends for several kilometers until it turns into a small valley, where it then gently ascends to the feet of sloping mountains. Along the way, shrubs, trees, and the occasional herd of cattle join the landscape.

We're in the village of Morloo, and the people here have been amazingly hospitable- offering their chai and their thanks at every opportunity...we're so blessed to be here.

Even so, much of the magic of the place has departed for me. Before, on my first visit, all these things were mysterious and romantic. Now, I'm Over the past three years it seems that Kenya, at least this part of it, has not really changed...I sure have.

And it's all ok...I'm happy to be here...and thankful to know that I was supposed to go here three years go, and that I'm supposed to be here now...but wasn't supposed to move here. Confirmation is freedom from wondering "what if?"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

From a Kenyan Internet Cafe

Hey everyone!

We made it safely to Kenya last Friday night... had no difficulty with flights, grumpiness, or anything else!

Later today we head off to the bush to the town of Morloo. (pronounced mor-low) We'll spend 3 weeks there teaching, preaching, building relationships, and helping out however we can. Please pray that our presence is a blessing to the Masai people and that God uses us for his purpose.

In addition to this Kenya team, we sent out teams to 5 other locations around the world. Please join with us in prayer for them.

To see a more detailed update from team Kenya and to see updates for all NMSI intern teams, visit:

Thanks so much for your love and next update won't be until we return from the bush at the end of the month...until then...


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Last Day of Teaching

After 9 days at a frenetic pace of study, we finished the book of Acts this afternoon. As the we concluded, I read from the first Chapter, verses 4-8 where Jesus is quoted:
"Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
6So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
7He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."the commission Jesus give to his Apostles, to be his witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
We then compared this with the conclusion in chapter 28 where Paul is in Rome boldly teaching the gospel "without hindrance." Throughout the book we saw all that Jesus commanded come true. The Spirit came at Penetcost and the apostles were his witnesses to all these places. As for the 2nd coming? We don't know the times and dates any more than the apostles did. So...we're waiting and serving as witnesses...just like the apostles.
At that, the class applauded. Not for me, I deserve none...but for this great work, penned by Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Reflections to come...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The best I can do at the moment

Warning!!! Late night ramblings...may contain randomness, idiocy, and disconnectedness.

So right now it's 1:55 am Uganda time...meaning it's 6:55 pm at home...but, yea I'm still up. I've been sitting at this table for hours, maintaining a minimal, but steady sweat. As hot as Uganda is...Florida is way worse. I know I live in Florida, and I know I've complained a lot (more than I complain about anything else), but the more places I go the more I'm convinced that Florida in the summer is the worst place on earth.

The heat and humidity wrest your breath from your lungs, turn it to moisture, and return it as sweat on your brow.

But now I'm not in Florida, I'm in Uganda and the past week has been amazing. I have so many thoughts running through my head. They range from of great importance (theology, missions, the church) to significant (simplicity of life, what will the next few years hold) to irrelevant (beans & rice, Turbo-Diesel Mitsubishi Pajeros, the chord progression for "Crash" by Dave Matthews).

All that to say, I am full of reflections but currently without the mental organization to process them. Eventually it'll be sorted out and you'll read about my questioning of the idea of systematic theology as a whole and my heart for the American church. (ooh! I think that was a "teaser")

As for other things....

Tonight I had several great conversations w/ friends via Skype. Is it bad that I'm thankful for the technology we have? I think it's not. I'm blessed with great guys support me, laugh with me, roll your eyes at me when it's needed, and care about my well being. So I'm thankful for what keeps me in touch with you.

All the time I think about Chris...he's battling cancer and I'm praying for him constantly. Please take a moment to pray for him too.
I wasn't kidding.
Thanks...if you know him personally, send him a message.

So just a few minutes ago I finished writing the final exam for the Acts class. All things considered, I'm pretty proud of the exam. Though, I'm finally sympathizing with my former professors who would be aghast by their students lack of knowledge on a relatively rudimentary subject.

I remember being clueless in Old Testament Poetry class and Doc Reese being semi-flustered that his students weren't getting the difference between anthropomorphisms and anthropopothisms. (for the record, I spelled each of those correctly on the first try...I have never been so impressed with myself at 2:22 AM)

Anyway, I'm up too late, have to get up too early, and have been saying things that may or may not make sense...that's my cue to end this

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Weekend pt. 2...The Source of the Nile Marathon

About a month ago Jeff, my gracious host, told me about a 1/2 marathon along the Nile, taking place on May 3. He said if I was up for it, he'd sign us up. Now, Jeff is an avid of these guys who wakes up at 5 am and runs 6 miles at a sub 8 minute pace every day. I'm a much more casual runner. I run every now and then in the evening, for however long I can stand it and whatever pace I feel like. Sometimes this is 8 miles at a good kick, sometimes it's 2 miles almost walking.
I'm not in 1/2 marathon shape at the moment, but fortunately, they also offered a said giddyup! Considering that my previous "running diary" blog was a hit, I decided to go for it again.
5:00 AM: Alarm goes off.
5:01 AM: Realize my alarm is going off...but have no idea why
5:02 AM: Remember that we have a 2 hour drive to get to the race...climb out of bed
5:03 AM: Stand in a stupor and suppress angry thoughts
5:10 AM: Take anti malaria medication while continuing to suppress thoughts...
5:17 AM: Jump in the Land Cruiser w/ Jeff and roll out
5:19 AM: Jeff chooses Coldplay...always a good decision.
6:00 AM: Roll through the Ugandan countryside in the pitch dark
6:01 AM: Mention something about the lack of the stars in the sky...a moment later the Coldplay tells me "Look at the stars, look how they shine for you." Liars...
6:30 AM: Cross the Nile Jeff accidentally skips past a Police checkpoint
6:50 AM: Make it to Jinja, the town hosting the run.
7:00 AM: Scout out the coffee shop for out post-race celebration
7:15 AM: Drive around looking at the's beautiful
7:20 AM: Use a map that is slightly more specific than a globe to try and locate the race starting point.
7:25 AM: Realize that the map is useless...but it does tell me that medical staff will be at the start and finish. Good news. I'll just make sure to not die during the race.
7:30 AM: Have yet to see anyone in running attire.
7:31 AM: Decide that we can't find this place on our own and ask a policeman who may or may not have been able to read the paper we showed him...he sent us off in a general direction.
7:33 AM: The general direction led to some goats and chickens.
7:35 AM: Find a taxi driver, and pay him $1 to take us to the starting point
7:38 AM: He takes us to a "fitness club" that is essentially deserted. He leaves and we are greeted by a sad looking dog and an older man...whose shirt is 1/2 buttoned, and is possibly hungover. We ask him about the race...he looks as confused as I was when I walked in Didi's World. We conclude that this is not the starting point.
8:00 AM: Continue to drive around aimlessly...
8:03 AM: Spot a poster for the race which reads: 31 May, 2009
8:04 AM: Realize that today is not 31 May, 2009. %&#*@#!
8:05 AM: Laugh for about a minute solid
8:06 AM: Jeff declares this one of his best African moments.
8:07 AM: Jeff realizes that they had initially set the date for the 3rd, but after a low sign up, must have decided to move it to the 31st and add a 1 to the posters...without telling anyone! This isn't really a big surprise.
8:08 AM: Decide to go to the coffee shop anyway
8:15 AM: Arrive at the coffee shop to see that it doesn't open til 10
8:16 AM: %#&$*#@&!
8:17 AM: Down, but not out...we decide to head back to Kampala
9:30 AM: Get coffee and breakfast at a great place in Kampala
10:00 AM: Return home 5 hours after leaving and without running, but with a story to tell.
10:01 AM: We decide it was a good day anyway
9:00 PM: Still a little disappointed that we didn't get to run, but know it was an experience I'll never forget. Seeing the Ugandan countryside was great...crops, hill, rainforests, and the Nile!
9:01 PM: Realize I probably woulda passed out by the 6th km anyway...

Weekend pt. 1...Didi's World

Over the years, I've done some ridiculous things in some ridiculous places (playing paintball in Bulgaria and singing "Summer of 69" in a Nairobi food court come to mind immediately), but Saturday's experience may have been the most bizarre...
Nestled in the middle of Kampala, about a 5 minute drive from the Atherstones' house, sits Didi's World amusement park. Yep, that's right, an amusement park in Uganda.
The legend of Didi's World begins over ten years ago, when these same rides and structures resided in Italy. Evidently, someone was killed on one ride, so the generous Italians donated all the equipment to Africa. So, it all sits in the middle of Kampala, and for a mere $2.50 USD you can enjoy the fun all day!
Saturday, we took Noah and Kadin (Jeff and Christine's two boys) to spend the whole day running around and riding rides. I spent most of the day simply in awe of the mere existence of this place. Didi's world boasts a mini rollercoster (not operational on Sat.), a Ferris wheel (turned off), a swinging pirate ship (pretty awesome), go-karts (there was one), bumper cars (4 of em), and about 50 of the best video games the mid 90s had to offer (including "Out Run" and a John Deere game).
Though this might sound rough, Didi's world certainly has an appeal all its own. Let me take a moment to compare Didi's World with Disney World:
Admission: Disney $70, Didi's $2.50
Lines: Disney 1 hour, Didi's 0 minutes
Sodas: Disney $6, Didi's $.50
Lunch: Disney $14, Didi's $3
Rules: Disney, if the ride is locked, it's closed. Didi's, if the ride is locked, climb in through the window and turn it on yourself.
Ride Operators: Disney, way too many, often surly. Didi's, 1 per 3 rides, usually friendly, sometimes asleep.
Mascots: Disney, Disney characters only. Didi's, Disney characters, Looney Tunes, and even some random new ones (see below picture)
All in all, Didi's World was a great time. Now if only all the rides worked...
This is me with my favorite mural...a Computer man super hero...complete with mouse hands, a CRT head, and the best attached chainsaw and cougar. I spent an hour trying to figure out the chainsaw + cougar combo...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Day 5...I'm blessed

I've been an affiliate with NMSI for around 15 months that time, my understanding of missions, culture, and cross-cultural communication has grown exponentially. So, one would think that by now I'd know to leave my expectations in the airport. However, as I came to Uganda, I didn't remember that foundation of short term mission projects. My expectations were that teaching would probably be a disaster...that I didn't have enough information and that I wouldn't be able to adequately communicate with the students.

God took care of all of that...I actually have too much information, and it's turning into a struggle to fit it all in during our two weeks! Communication hasn't been an issue...the Ugandans have done an excellent job understanding my Tennessee drawl. Getting to know the students has been a true blessing.

Friday afternoon as class began, I asked the class to pray for Chris Morgan. If you're reading this, odds are you know about him and his battle with brain cancer. Thanks to frequent emails with Chris' wife Emily, I've learned that this has been a really hard week for him. There are so many side effects of chemo that I never could have imagined.

Stepping before the class at 2 PM, my heart was heavy...burdened for Chris and Emily. I told the class what was going on, and every eye that met mine was filled with compassion, concern, and care. After asking them to pray, every student prayed aloud fervently and ears and heart heard a concert...asking God to heal Chris. Roughly two minutes later, voices quiet and my eyes no longer dry, I said thank you and amen. 8000 miles away, Emily found some peace and Chris some strength.

People who have never met Chris, and will never meet Chris care about him and prayed. Perhaps we should all be so moved to care for another...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Days 3&4 "You're non denominational? Are you sure?"

So I'm almost halfway through this adventure of teaching in's hard to believe! Yesterday, I gave my first quiz, and the class did excellent work. Over half of the class made a 100! So that tells me that the quiz was far too easy...the next one will be much more difficult. Turns out that repeating information is no problem for Ugandans...critical thinking is much more difficult. So for the next exam, we'll have more essays.

Currently the college here has 2 guest professors. As you know, I teach the afternoon Acts class, and in the morning, a gentelman named Evan Turley teaches the Church History class. Evan, happens to be Irish...and he's about as Irish as St. Patrick! There are several students who go have Evan's morning class and my afternoon class. That means the poor students are subjected to a sharp Irish accent in the morning and a deep southern drawl in the afternoon. Again...English is not their first language. I'm amazed at their linguistic skills.

One of the best students came to Jeff, my host and the Academic Dean and said "Brother Jeff, my white professor in the afternoon doesn't speak so fast, but I don't understand him sometimes...and my white professor in the morning...I don't even know where he comes from!"

I love Evan's's great to hear him speak...maybe the students are amused with our respective takes on the English language. The student didn't seem too bothered... he made a 100 on the quiz!

Last note of the I was helping one of the students with a question about Cornelius in Acts 10. This is an older lady of about 65, her name is Mary. After I gave a few answers that she liked, we had the following convo...

Mary: So...are you Baptist?
Me: No, I do not belong to a denomination...non-denominational
Mary: Whaaaat? Are you sure?
Me: Um...yea...non-denominational
Mary: But know so much about the have a view of the whole book.
Me: Well thank you, Mary, I appreciate that.
Mary: And you're sure? Non-denominational?
Me: Yes ma'am...I'm sure.

Funny...I guess she had a bad non denominational teacher before! Maybe I'm helping out the reputation out here. haha

Anyway...tomorrow is Uganda's Labor Day, so I promised to end class a little early. Then it's the weekend, and the 10k run along the Nile on Sunday.

Thanks so much for the prayers...God is doing great things.

More later.

Hope ya'll are well.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Day 2 "Professor Matt, you assign too much homework."

Throughout my career as a student, I always thought that the amount of homework a teacher assigned was directly proportional to the amount of contempt said teacher felt for his or her students. Now that I see from the teacher's side, it isn't the case.

In the hours that preceded class today, I heard several times (and from a variety of sources) that I had assigned too much homework for one night. At one point, I had a student come up to me and say "Professor Matt, this is so are killing us!"
First of all...until recently, I never expected to be teaching in this, or any other context. Secondly, I certainly couldn't have imagined being the teacher that gives too much homework! After some review with Jeff, the academic dean, it turns out that I'm not giving too much...a good amount, but not too much.
When class began, I promised the students that my grading would be fair, that the exam would be objective, and that the homework wasn't so tough. After a few minutes of convincing, we went on with class. Again, today went really well...ended better than it started!

Here are some pictures from the Bible College.
1. The front of the building
2. The view from the classroom (that's Lake Victoria)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Teaching...Day 1

I had no idea what to expect for my first day teaching...

As I had suggested to over the past few weeks, I really felt unqualified to teach at this level. I had visions of disaster running through my mind...students being totally confused, their minds wrecked by my southern accent and lack of seminary training.

Alas, none of that far.

I began, like any class, by calling roll. Now, I do my best to pronounce everyone's name the correct way. If you're reading this, you probably know that my biggest pet peeve is someone mispronouncing Appalachian. For real. Don't get me started. Especially if they're from somewhere else and tell me how to say it (I'm looking at you Justin Hemming)...ok so I guess I got started...back to today...

So yea, I do my best in this department, so looking down at the roster, I saw names like: Tukacungurwa, Twijukye, Muwanguzi, and Ndayirajige. Yep...not exactly Smith and Jones. I made my apologies before opening my mouth, and thankfully, the Ugandans were gracious and understood that this white dude didn't have any idea.

Past that first bit of awkwardness, we jumped right in. Acts is about as straight forward as any book of the Bible can be, but that didn't stop the students from going into predestination, spiritual gifts, and the end times. How we got from Peter healing a crippled man in chapter 3 to the second coming of Christ is a mystery to me...

All in all, 2 hrs and 50 minutes later we finished for the day after covering 3 chapters and discussing plenty of tangents. I feel so blessed to be able to do this, and look forward to another busy day of study and teaching. More to come later!


Friday, April 24, 2009

Headed to Uganda

Last spring, while I was going through the COAT program at NMSI I met the Atherstone family who were going through the program with me. Jeff and Christine Atherstone have been missionaries in Uganda for the past few years and are leading an exciting ministry there. Jeff is the academic dean at Gaba Bible Institute, an organization that teaches and trains pastors.

During our time in COAT, Jeff asked if I would be interested in coming to Uganda to teach a course at GBI. I had turned down the opportunity a few times, thinking that I'm unqualified.

I was right, I haven't been qualified...but in February, I felt called to go anyway...that God would equip me if I went. So...that's what I'm doing!

For the next two weeks, I'll be in Kampala, Uganda, teaching the a two week course on the book of Acts. I ask for your prayers, as I still feel totally unqualified...but at the same time I'm confident that God will provide all the needed knowledge and wisdom .

So, I ask for your prayers for this opportunity. I'm honored to be able to do this, and ask for your continued prayers.

By the way, I'll have good internet access in Uganda, so watch out for updates!


Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Saab meets its end...and so does an era

On the side of Alligator Alley, at mile marker 43, I sat in the dry, prickly grass calling Geico roadside assistance. Thirty feet in front of me, she sat, silent and forlorn....perhaps the best looking broken down car I've ever seen, with her clean 3 spoke alloys, armor-alled bumpers, and glistening 12 year old paint testifying to its previous life apart from the Florida sun.

Moments earlier I was driving in serene comfort...sunroof open, sipping on a Cherry Coke Zero, listening to March Madness on Sirius radio, with the cruise set at 82 mph. Suddenly, the car jerked and popped out of 5th gear...the tach needle lay limp, telling me all I needed to know. Turning on my hazard lights, I steered across the rumble strips and into the grass, away from harm. I gave the key one more turn-just to quench my remaining shred of hope. She gave her last half hearted groan and that was it. The Saab met its bitter end in South Florida, due to a seized engine.

After making the necessary calls (Geico for practicality, McClure because he was waiting on my arrival, and Dad because he's the only person who really understood...not to mention, he's Dad, that's who ya call) I moved to a lone patch of shade to escape Florida's wrath. Earlier that day, I had invested a $500 in the car to replace some leaking axle seals, so I was pretty mad about that, knowing that it was essentially $500 wasted. For me, $500 is a considerable amount of money, but oddly, I wasn't all that concerned about it. With nothing on my hands but time (and a fair amount of grease) my mind drifted to the journeys that took place in my Saab: the blissful post-purchase drive from Atlanta, the countless ventures through Tennessee's windy back roads, the long hauls to the beach culminating with the intoxicating aroma of ocean air, the kamikaze journey to Kansas and back in a weekend, dates-good ones and bad ones, the drive to South Florida with my life packed in the trunk, and its final journey to Miami that ended 50 miles too short.

Considering that this was the 5th time the car had been towed (which is 5 times more than either of my previous Saabs), my relationship with this car could be defined as love-hate. But despite the frustration, its untimely end was sad.

I know...a car is just a car...not of any real importance...but for 5 years, my Saab provided the scenery, background, and soundtrack to a variety of meaningful memories. The significance in this isn't that my car physically transported my friends and me on those late night food runs in college, but in the fact that it was simply there for all of those, for the beach trips, for the moves, the dates, and on the long and lonely drives when the illuminated dashboard was my only companion. So for me, my Saab represented an era in my life...2004-2009...a rare constant an era when I moved 6 times, had 7 different jobs, and changed life plans countless others.

Maybe now, this era of transition is over.

Now, I have to sell her to someone else...most likely to be parted out. When that time comes, a constant, insignificant as it may be, will be gone. And many of my memories, some of the fondest and some of the hardest, will be just a little more opaque.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ruminations From the Front Porch

Ordinarily I'd be typing from my usual comfortable spot in my recliner, but tonight, circumstances force me elsewhere. Right now, our internet at NMSI is being switched Pretty much all it means to me is that we don't have wireless on campus tonight. Since I still had plenty of internet related things to do, I couldn't be deterred from using the internet by a minor detail such as no available wireless connection. About 9:30, my buddy Ty and I walked a few blocks to a 24 hour Dunkin Donuts...only to be kicked out at 10 because it was "closing time". That was the first time I've ever been asked to leave a 24 hour establishment. (it took 3 minutes of racking my brain to confirm this)

Returning to the house, I found that some kind soul near here has an unsecured wireless I'm typing from my porch, borrowing the signal. Even though it's the front porch, I'm still sitting in a pretty great I found on the side of the road a few weeks ago. Thanks to a little dusting, a bit of stubbornness, and a substantial amount of Febreze, this tweed rocking chair makes for some pretty sweet porch sitting.

So I've been sitting here, working on flight itineraries, emailing people, and searching for a replacement for the Saab (an entire post devoted to how it met its bitter end will be up very soon) in my chair, on the porch. And in the past hour or so, I've decided that I'm still not used to Florida. Not at all. This place is so muggy. So oppressively hot. I can't even chew gum without sweating...and it's March. Even though I'm sitting in a tweed recliner that has at best a questionable history, the mugginess that is Florida compels me to sit here shirtless...which I would do if I were in better shape or had less concern for passers by. Alas, I sit here fully clothed and fully drenched.

Yea, so I'm still not a fan of this state...

Even so, I have found Florida's silver lining.



Yep, a grocery store...not the beaches (I've seen better), not the sun (I already have enough freckles for a connect the dots book), and not the culture (cause it's mostly manufactured). But for real,'s the best thing about Florida...and that's not even a knock on Florida.

For example, today I went into the store and the following things happened:
I saw my reflection in the clean floor
A nice lady gave me a free sample of some kind of great chicken
I saw a ton of buy one get one free deals (including Gatorade and Cheez-its)
I bought bread for $1.30 and a gallon of milk for $2.80
And now the kicker...they have great sushi....I went to the sushi desk, and again, encountered a very kind lady who offered to make me whatever kind of sushi I wanted! So she did...she made my salmon/cream cheese roll on the spot, and it cost me $6

If grocery stores were cars, Publix is a BMW.

Yep...Publix. The best thing about Florida. I think that should be their new ad campaign...shoot I'd even volunteer to be in the ad!

So that's I have to confront the fact that my life has come to spending a considerable amount of time writing about a grocery store...and other inane details. And now you have to confront the fact that you just spent 2 minutes reading about it...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Baby, It's 3 am I must be lonely...

Sleeping has never really been a problem for me. Unless you consider sleeping too much a proble. I slept a lot in High class that is. My Spanish II teacher once gave me a detention for sleeping, even specifying when I was asleep. For example, she wrote on the detention slip: "10:20-10:30 nodding off," and "10:30-11:15 head down." (I still find that super creepy)

I also remember the following dialogue:

Random girl in my Spanish III class: "You sleep a lot in class huh?"
Me: "Um, yea...I guess so."
Girl: "But you make A's in here don't you?"
Me: "Um, yea...I guess so."
Girl: "So, do you have like...a problem? Or something? With sleeping?"
Me: "Like narcolepsy? just get extra sleep when I get the chance."
Girl: "Oh...are you sure?"

From then, not a lot has changed...pretty much anytime I want to take a nap, I shut the ole brain off and I'm out like Cecil Fielder trying to steal 2nd.

So when insomnia filled nights like this arise, I'm alarmed. I needed sleep, I was room was dark, cool, and peaceful...yet I just couldn't manage to find slumber. So at 3 AM, I got out of bed wanting to find a Waffle House, get some coffee, and talk about life with a friend...but it was 3 am, and normal people sleep at 3 am. I had plenty of time to think...sometimes I like being alone with my thoughts. So I thought I'd give you a few of the random things I thought...

*I don't want to get a FL drivers license
*I want to see Asia and Australia
*I wish I was better at car repair
*I need to work on my guitar skills
*I wonder if the roaches in the cabinet are dead now? (Ty put some roach killer out)
*I wonder if that guy will accept my $300 offer for his 1993 Saturn
*I think I'd like a Flux Capacitor
*I'd like to go play basketball
*I'd also like a Blizzard

Well, there ya have it..instead of simmering in those random thoughts, I went on over to the office to get started on the day...and here I am! Now, I think I'm going to go to Dunkin Donuts for a Bagel and Coffee. I'm rarely up this early...I think I deserve a reward.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My gripe with Kashi:

To the people of Kashi,

The other day I ambled into a CVS, in hopes of finding some Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Apple Jacks, or some other deliciously indulgent cereal on sale. Instead, I was surprised to find two of your products on sale, for the astoundingly low price of 2 for $6! In an effort to be both healthy and frugal, I purchased a box of Kashi Go Lean! Crunch, and a box of Kashi Heart to Heart. The Go Lean! Crunch box displayed the cereal with blueberries spilling into a bowl. Both the blueberries and the exclamation point made me think that the contents of the box may include considerable flavor. Better yet, the Heart to Heart box said “Honey Toasted Flavor.” Who doesn’t like honey/toasted? My brain told my stomach to anticipate something like Honey Nut Cheerios, only good for you! After carrying myself with a newly found upper caste cereal eater’s walk back to my house, I opened the box of Go Lean! Crunch. I was appalled at what I found…rather, what I didn’t find.

The box contained exactly 0 blueberries and nothing meriting an exclamation point aside from disappointment. This cereal’s flavor was strikingly similar to that of off brand Smacks. Imagine Smacks, minus the stuff that makes it not taste like a tree, and you have Kashi Go Lean! Crunch. Foolishly, I was expecting blueberries and exclamation points…I suggest you consider renaming this cereal “Kashi Liar :o( Crunch.” Truthfully stating that the cereal box lies perhaps evens out the lie itself. The sad face :o( accurately depicts the consumer’s expression upon consumption of the product much better than the exclamation point previously did. These subtle changes should not only give your integrity a boost but also improve the accuracy of your advertising. I figure you guys probably believe in karma anyway, so this will be a good change.

In hopes of chasing away the aftertaste of stale tree bark, I opened the box of Heart to Heart. I was pleasantly surprised to see both “O” shaped nuggets as well as heart shaped ones as the box depicted. Could it be that the first box was an aberration and this box contained the true essence of Kashi products!? Hurriedly, I poured milk into the bowl and dug into Kashi’s second chance. Immediately, the bite made me sad. Sad because it tasted like Puppy Chow (I say this as one who, as a kid, tasted Puppy Chow)…sad because it made me miss my dog. Both my parents’ dog, and my dog who died when I was in high school. Then it made me sad because I was eating it…and not Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Sad because I could have bought 3 Wendy’s Double Stacks for the same price. Sad because at that very moment, I was still really hungry. Though I cannot fault your advertising for this product, I can sure fault the product itself. I hope that this stuff really did help my heart…because it definitely made my heart sad. My submission is that you change the name of this cereal to Kashi h”O”rribles. You should pronounce the “O” with an “o-h” as in “ho-rubbles.” You may sell more that way.

My conclusion: the healthy cereal lied to me, made me want multiple fast food cheeseburgers, and made me miss my dog. Next time I’ll pay double for some Apple Jacks.


Matt Hickman

Sunday, March 1, 2009

An Unexpected Hug

Ok, I should warning you that this is a sort of stream of consciousness rambling. So if everything isn't tightly connected, I apologize...I wanted to get these thoughts down before I lost them.

Before I had an opportunity to react, or even realize what was going on, I found myself in a tight embrace with a withered, elderly Haitian man. His balding, scratchy head barely reached my chin and he lingered for longer than I expected. Next, with passion and gratitude in his voice, he said 3 or 4 things in Creole that I couldn't understand at all...then walked off. About 20 minutes before I preached a sermon as a guest speaker on the first night of a revival week in Bon Repos, Haiti. Though I felt like much of the message was lost in translation, something apparently touched him.

Later that night as I walked out of the small church, my mind began to dissect the past 2 hours of singing, dancing, praising, and praying. Though I had much to ponder, I couldn't leave the thought of the random hug from the random man. What prompted his action? Why was he so excited? I've preached my fair share of times and I've never had someone who I had never before seen bear hug me.

Then I had a might have been his culture.

If I were an outsider standing across the street from this Haitian church, a person who knew nothing of Jesus, of religion or of culture, I couldn't keep from venturing in. I'd hear vibrant music, voices singing, and passionate messages. I'd see people walk inside a drab concrete building and make it come to life. If I had to give one word to characterize the environment, it would be joy.

I can see how Christianity could become cultural here...and in Africa or's because it sure seems like the church is the place to be! Dancing, music, people who are sounds like a good time.

So, does this apply to America? We could probably work to make the church the most popular place to hang out during. Though I can't say I'm opposed to the church being a popular hangout, I don't think that coffee shops, open mic nights, and Christian dance clubs would ever bring a revolution.

As one who doesn't have a great appreciation for liturgy of any kind (by the way, I've been called plenty of names for this: shallow, ignorant, unappreciative, rebellious, uneducated, even stupid) I struggle to see how Christianity is/has become cultural in much of America. Yet, I read Jesus and all he does is shake up the culture.

So I say these loosely connected thoughts to say this rather concise one:

Liturgy or spontaneity, reverence or exuberance, if motivated by culture isn't's merely culture.

So when he hugged me, what was it Jesus or culture? Considering that roughly half of all Haitians still practice voodoo...

I say Jesus.

Friday, February 27, 2009

That was February

So I've done a terrible job updating my blog this month. Ordinarily I update weekly, but as of today, the next to last day in the month, a solitary post stands (and a brief one at that). To make up for my negligence, I'll post a review of the month today, and some deeper thoughts about Haiti tomorrow. That should help out the ole average right?

Highlights from February 2009:

Feb 2: Ryan and I attempted to go to the Super Bowl. We had was 2 hours away, Springsteen was the halftime show, and oh beloved Steelers were playing for their record 6th title! Alas, we came upon a total of 6 tickets...none of which were cheaper than $2000. So, tails half tucked, we found a place serving all you can eat ribs, wings, queso dip, and other glorious things. We had a blast, and watched an incredible game (you all know I could devote an entire blog post to the SB). The Steelers hoisted their 6th Lombardi Trophy as I hoisted my 20th(or so) hot wing...I feel like I should shed a tear here...

Feb 4-10: I spent a week in Haiti...meaningful thoughts on this tomorrow. (Preview: God pretty well kicked me in the pants in a Haitian church)

Feb 10: I returned from Haiti to a glorious 1997 Saab sitting, not in a garage in need of a clutch replacement (as it had been for 3 months), but in the driveway, wheels on the ground ready to roll. Dave Fontana fixed her up for me while I was gone! I was/am so grateful. Over the previous 3 months I had driven several different minivans in various states of disrepair and it had gotten depressing. It's nice to no longer get the "check out that loser by himself in the minivan with no hubcaps look." The "what kind of car is that?" look, or the "that guy doesn't look like he should be driving a Saab" looks, fit much better.

Feb 12: I spent a day recruiting at Florida Christian College with Ty and Amy (my traveling buddies). The day went well, and as a bonus I got to see Emily (my sister)...who nearly tackled me and later swung a bat in my general direction...we're tight you know!

Feb 13-15: I burned up my 15 minutes of fame by having my ridiculous valentine's day video featured on Sports Illustrated's website. Yep, my video was sandwiched between Kurt Warner's and David Letterman's. So now, 7000 people have seen/heard me singing my heart out to a 19 inch TV. Aren't you proud mom and dad?

Feb 21-24: Ty, Amy, and I went on another recruiting trip, this time to Charlotte and Atlanta. In Charlotte, we went to UNCC and met some great people. I was also able to hang out with Awal, one of my best friends from college. Allen (his real name, but it's weird if I call him that) leads worship for Impact Campus Ministry at UNCC, and is truly gifted musically. We had some great times playing intramural football back in the day. Awal was a great defensive back, but I think my lumbering self had more receptions on offense.
As for the rest of the trip, our NMSI friend Katie met up with us at my sister's house in Atlanta, and we went recruiting at Atlanta Christian College. My niece and nephew greeted me with their usual excitement...I love those kids. While we were there, I was reminded of one of my favorite Will Brady quotes: "I don't like crabs...crabs don't have butts."

So that was February, I'm going to do a better job in March...potential profundity tomorrow....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Haiti Project

Every time I go on a short term mission project I leave with a heavy heart. Perhaps that is just the nature of such things…even so, I’ve been on my fair share, and foolishly suppose that those feelings would become increasingly fleeting with every project. Yet, as I walked the 200 yards across the tarmac to the American Airlines jet that would take me home, my stomach sank and my heart felt heavy. In front of me stood a not quite green but not quite brown hill as a visual appetizer to the collection of mountains behind. Alone, those hills were pristine and beautiful. However, the preceding week availed me to the hardship lying within those very hills. Haiti’s landscape is lavish and its people are kind and genuine, but the economy is dead and the situation dire. During the week I had a lengthy conversation with a man who is proficient in three languages and also possesses a degree in computer science. He is from the more rural areas, but moved to Port-au-Price in hopes of finding a job…any job. None are to be had.

Very easily, I could give the “what we all want to hear” update on our project. In fact, our short term project was a major success and blessing. We constructed a total of 130 church benches and led a revival at the local church in Bon Repos, Haiti. Those benches will be used in rural churches throughout the country…replacing dilapidated pews, splintered and rotten benches, and in some cases merely allow people to sit who previously had to stand. (not having a place to sit is something we’d never imagine in an American church) Also, Jude, pastor of the church in Bon Repos considered the revival such a great blessing that he wanted to know if he could count on us being back at the same time next year. I’m thankful that God used us how he did…and I’m glad that the project was a success, but walking away, my mind’s focus was elsewhere. My heart remained with the people who need clean water, nourishing food, a roof, education, and hope. When I go on a project I tend to want to change the world…then I remember that saving the world is not my job.

So I thank Jesus that he took that job. I thank Jesus that he is the hope for you, for me, for Haiti, and everyone else. I think Jesus that he is using me to be a part of his redemption. And I thank him for the opportunity to be a part of the process.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

25 random things about me

So this has been going around facebook for some time, so I decided to incorporate it into my blog. Here ya go!

25 random things about me:

I remember most everything…so long as whatever it is I’m remembering is of little consequence. (old convos, things I did, sports trivia, music trivia, etc.)

In middle school, I was a scholar’s bowl champ

I’ve never broken a bone

I’m rarely nervous…unless I’m doing anything involved with music…where I have 0 confidence

Speaking of music…last week a man came into our office to ask if someone could sing at a funeral…right then. So, with some help, I did.

I really like bowling

I really like lime Jell-O…it’s totally underrated

I think American cars are poorly made…and with a friend correctly predicted GM’s bankruptcy (including the reason) 5 years ago

Every day I filter what I say less and less

I love spontaneity…and feel like planning is overrated

I want to be a published writer one day…though I feel like I rarely get unbiased feedback

I’ve been called girlish regarding my shoes…I have a good few pairs, but none that are particularly nice

I dislike The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and the like…and often catch flak for it.

I often think about coaching football again

I love to play basketball…and love it when I’m the last pick…cause I’m a lot better at it than I look

I once brought a rusty brake rotor, a panel from a washing machine, and a porcelain sink to a $5 “rasslin” match.

I laugh at Strong Bad emails way more than I probably should.

My days with Los Locos were among my best days ever

My taste in music is really eclectic...though I don't like country, but I do like bluegrass

My favorite job I’ve ever had was when I was a mower repairman for JBC

I plan on running a full marathon this year

I often am stereotyped…and they never seem to fit

I am totally ok with living without much of a bank account, knowing what my life will look like next year, and not owning much of anything.

I didn’t start drinking coffee til a little over a year ago…now I love it

I’m a jack of all trades, master of none…sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s really frustrating.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cheap Flights, Bright Lights, and the Least of These

Sorry, this blog is a few days late…the past week at NMSI has been rather chaotic. The second week in January is our “blackout week." All Florida based staff are required to be in the country at this time for crucial meetings, discussions, and vision casting for the year. We were able to get a lot accomplished in our division meetings and I’m looking forward to what this year holds!

The weekend prior to blackout week was one that I won’t soon forget. Ryan and Kyle (two of my housemates and closest friends) nearly share a birthday (Kyle’s is Jan. 10 an Ryan’s is Jan. 11) so we were looking for something great to do for a celebration. The week before, I wandered to and found flights to Atlantic City NJ for $57 round trip! Since neither of these guys had ever been to New York City we decided that it would be a great place for a celebration. We combed the internet for a couple more deals needed to complete our journey ($50 bucks for 2 nights at a hotel, and just over $100 for a rental car) and set our sights on the frigid northeast.

So now, I could write, telling you of the sights we saw, the food we ate, the sketchy place we stayed, the convoluted NJ highway system, or the adventure of driving a PT Cruiser full of 5 guys…but I’ll pass. I’d rather tell you about where I saw Jesus while we were in New York/New Jersey.

I saw him at 3am in the kind smile and cheery disposition of the server at Denny’s
I saw him in the eyes of the 4 strangers who sat across from us and kindly gave us directions on the subway. (yet never spoke to one other)
I saw him in sincerity and sharp mind of the older man wearing the preverbial “NY” hat who spent several minutes telling us the best way to get to Washington Square.
I saw him in the moment when we got immediate seating at the ESPN Zone in Times Square during a Saturday night NFL playoff game after being told the wait was 90 minutes. (it was like God's birthday present for Ryan and Kyle)

Where I saw him most, however, was on the subway at 11PM, while headed back to Jersey. The five of us jumped aboard the train, our bodies tired and our bones chilled from 17 hours of devouring NYC. I took my seat and several seats down, a man caught my attention. His white, unkempt hair fell to his bony, slumping shoulders that didn’t so much support his thickly bearded, blank face, as it did keep it loosely attached to the rest of him. The man’s clothing was tattered and disheveled, partially falling off his frail body. I confess, my immediate reaction was not good…I assumed he had drunk himself into a stupor and was now suffering the hell that comes with that sort of abuse. How arrogant of me. After a couple of minutes of seeing this man sway and shake with every movement of this subway, his body giving no resistance, my heart softened. Kyle, Ryan, and I shifted eye contact between us, each feeling that we had to do something. After a few minutes, Ryan made his way over to the man and asked him a few questions. Turns out he was sick and weak…so weak that he said he could hardly move and probably needed to go to the hospital that night. Though his body suggested otherwise, his mind was sharp and his speech articulate…he was in bad shape and needed help. Our stop approached and we had to get off the train, but not without giving him a couple of jackets and covering him up. As he thanked us, we made eye contac and his vibrant blue, coherent eyes struck me as strong, competent, and well. As soon as we got off the train we found a subway employee who directed help to this man. And that was it...

I’ll not soon forget this moment…we had compassion…but could we have done more? I feel like I was directly confronted by Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

So did we deny Jesus? Did we deny man? Neither have defense. This question remains.

Grace for me abounds...should my grace for others not also abound?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom

On Tuesday my Mom had a birthday….so in honor of that great day I made her a cake! But since I couldn’t be there for the festivities, here’s a post for my mom! (and an old school picture haha)

10 of the top things I’ve learned from Mom:

10. If you’re gonna be a Hickman, it’ll go a lot smoother if you’re a football fan.
9. That App-ah-latch-ian is correct
8. That dusting is important (even though that one didn’t really take haha)
7. That God speaks loudly at the beach
6. James Taylor, Jackson Browne, The Temptations…that’s all I need to say
5. That an absolutely perfect meal can be adequately complemented with burned bread :o)
4. To appreciate the stars
3. Starting out on a road trip in the middle of the night is completely appropriate
2. That serving others is far more important than serving yourself
1. To love others with abandon…no matter the risk

From Mom I've learned more than I could ever type…thanks…
I hope these 10 made you smile!

Your youngest/craziest kid.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Farewell 2008

Every December, the one line from a particular song played at Christmas haunts me. “So this is Christmas, and what have you done…another year over, and a new one just begun.” When I hear John Lennon’s melody I tend to look back and see what all has gone on in the previous year. Some years I’ve felt fairly accomplished…others, not so much. So here goes a recap of all that’s gone on in 2008.

In 2008 I:

*Left a ministry I loved
*Went to the 24 hrs of Daytona race with my dad, nephew, and brother
*Moved to Florida
*Loved watching the Patriots go down in epic Super Bowl XLII
*Spent 9 weeks in a missionary training program with NMSI
*Learned that a guy from Brazil and a guy from Tennessee aren’t all that different
*Understood what it means to be “open, honest, and vulnerable”
*Affiliated with New Mission Systems International
*Fell in love
*Moved back to Tennessee
*Had the privilege of being the best man in my friend Jeremiah’s wedding
*Had the privilege of helping out (in a minor way) with my friend JoHila’s wedding.
*Had the privilege of being the best man in my friend Logan’s wedding
*Re-examined my theology
*Got a job at Applebee’s…and met a lot of good people there
*Saw the birth of Gracie, Chris and Emily’s baby girl
*Went to a CD release party for my friend McClure, and his band Northfork Switchgrass (seriously, check em out…they’re great!)
*Lost 30+ lbs
*Was devastated by the news that Chris had brain cancer
*Was overwhelmed by God’s answer to prayer when Chris came through the surgery
*Co-lead a mission project to Costa Rica and saw God at work in that nation
*Had a fight with Delta airlines…which I lost
*Somehow got Mono
*Was overwhelmed by the love and support of my friends and family as I raised finances to come to NMSI
*Moved back to Florida…into a house with 4 other guys
*Learned that there are 4 seasons in FL: Crowded, Hot, Fire, and Hurricane
*Spent a week in Bulgaria at the NMSI Triennial conference
*Turned 25…and had a blast doing it
*Spent a week in Greece for the 2nd half of Triennial
*Went to the Tennessee-Alabama game with Chris
*Saw Coldplay for $5…again…Coldplay!
*Was devastated by the news that Chris had another tumor…and it didn’t look good
*Went to the National Missionary Convention
*Ran a half marathon
*Was absolutely floored by God when the doc went to remove Chris’s tumor…and couldn’t find it
*Watched a sunrise in Palm Beach
*Had a great Christmas with people I love…and did so without giving gifts!

So there it was…my 2008. It went in a blur. So, here’s to 2009…there’s reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last…