Monday, March 27, 2006
1) I'm going to get a little bit waylaid today, and I may not get to a full ten things that I think. That's because I've got a few major things I'm thinking about: capital campaigns, renovation projects, the Hispanic community in Lima, a proposed casino for our community...... let's get started.
2) First and foremost, Xavier's birthday was Saturday. My wife created an "Astronaut Training Center" in our living room with about 10 rolls of aluminum foil and some mattresses on the floor. A good time was had by all. Hard to believe Xavie is four already.... I wish they didn't grow up so fast (99% of the time).
3) We're in the throws here at the church of a proposed three-year Capital Campaign geared to paying off our current mortgage (a little over $500,000). I don't have any ambivalence about this campaign. I think it makes good fiscal sense to pay off the mortgage early. And, for that matter, I've never regretted any financial campaign I've run for a church because I believed, and believe in its mission and ministry. But, I have to admit, I fear becoming recognized as one of those pastors who "care only about money". I just always try to remember that the moment that someone decides to support a ministry, and makes a contribution, is sacred, because money is the thing you got in trade for a moment of your life and service. It is this, the image of hardworking people making a sacrifice on behalf of Jesus' kingdom, that gives meaning and weight for me, a pastor who had better utilize those resources to their fullest potential. Doing so, helps me sleep well at night.
4) Speaking of money, did you read Ronald Lederman Jr's article in The Lima News on Sunday? Lederman has come out in support of bringing a casino to Lima, which is his right, but check out this comment from column this Sunday (read the whole column here at http://www.limanews.com/story.php?IDnum=23962 ):
"Perhaps we can understand local religious leaders who oppose gambling. If your churchÂs stance is that gambling is a sin, it makes sense that youÂd oppose a casino. ItÂs still a shame some pastors have lost faith in their own messages, instead opting for the muscle of government to save us all."
Well, here's my reply to Mr. Lederman:
As a local pastor, I'd like to respond to your column in the Sunday Edition of The Lima News. Your assertion that a member of the clergy who voices their opposition to this project is somehow acting in faithlessness, is absurd. Those in Christian ministry must adhere the message from the Epistle of James, which states that faith, without action, is useless. Since we live in a free society, where we encourage people to participate in the political process, not acting, it would seem, would truly be the faithless act. To insinuate otherwise is to have little sense of what a working faith actually is in the life of a believer.
How else can you explain why a good Libertarian, like yourself, is advocating the use of government land and resources to prop up a private business? It seems to me that if you had any faith in your own message, you'd tell the Eastern Shawnee Tribe to go to court, find their own land, and fight their own battle on this issue. Faithwise, for a Libertarian, wouldn't that make more sense?
I would hope, also, that as a member of the press, you would do a little more research on this issue beyond a couple of trips to a casino in Northern Michigan and your own simple deduction. If you had, you'd realize, for example, that the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Rapids, Michigan established, after commissioning a study by the Anderson Economic Group, that the economic promises made by a tribe like the Eastern Shawnee, are often largely unfounded. http://www.andersoneconomicgroup.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=display_aeg&doc_ID=665.
I invite you, Mr. Lederman, to take some time and look at this, and other studies regarding the effects of casino gambling on local communities at www.NoLimaCasino.org. There, you will find that those with and without religious convictions actually believe that casinos can be detrimental to the economy of a local community.
And finally, like you, I too have visited a casino. It was on a riverboat in Shreveport, Louisiana. While casually taking in the scene, I ended up standing next to a young woman who was popping dollar coins into a slot machine. As she did this, I overheard her on a cell phone asking her mother to please watch her children just a "couple more hours". And then, in mid-conversation, the machine paid out, and she exclaimed, "I got my rent money back!". Then, she hung up the phone, and started putting more coins into the slot.
Thus, in closing, I will advise that all those opposed to this casino for religious, or non-religious reasons, to write, email, or phone Mayor Berger, the Allen County Commissioners, the Shawnee Township Trustees, and the Perry Township Trustees to let them know how they feel on the subject of casino gambling in this community. And they can write to this paper, show up at political meetings dedicated to this subject, and not worry one whit about the validity of their faith. For, as Abraham Lincoln said, "To sin by silence makes cowards of men", and, in faith, I think I ought to heed his words, as opposed to your own.
Rev. Bryan Bucher
5) I also had the pleasure, last week, of attending a forum hosted by the Mayor on the subject of the influx Hispanicsics into the Lima community. Passions on the issue were running high on both sides, but the information presented to us by the various law enforcement officials from the local and federal officials, as well as the experience of various public officials from the town of Goshen, Indiana, was first rate.
You might remember that we moved here from Goshen two years ago, and you might now be asking, what, if any, connection I might have had in Mayor Kauffman, Superintendent Staley, and the others who came with them coming to Lima to speak on the subject.
Well, to be honest, while he gave me credit in the presentation itself, my connection to this event couldn't have been more flimsy. Dave Harris, pastor at Trinity UMC and the force behind this forum, and I had a conversation one day about tHispanicnic issue, and I let it slip that Goshen had already been through the transition a community goes through when thousands of non-English speaking people start calling your town home. After telling him a little of Goshen's story, I just suggested that he ought to go to Goshen and buy Mayor Kauffman a cup of coffee to talk over the subject. Two months later, Allen is in front of over 200 community leaders fielding questions about law enforcement, Mexican ID cards, and temporary drivers permits for illegal aliens.
The lesson in all this: That Dave Harris is one go-getter. Maybe next time I should suggest that he talk to the President of Barnes & Noble about building a store in Lima. Which takes me to this...
6) I would have never believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, but the owners of the American Mall are currently discussing dismantling that facility, and constructing a new shopping plaza in its place. And wouldn't you know it, they mention bringing, by name, a Barnes & Noble to this community. Now, I've been emailing these people for the last nineteen months, so to even have just the smallest bone thrown at this hungry, old dog has re-energized me. Let's hope we get a decent bookstore that serves legal stimulants before we get a place to chuck dice on the 87% certainty that the "house" will win.
7) And finally (because time is short), the new Solid Rock Cafe, a meeting place here at Shawnee UMC, opened this Sunday to much fanfare. The decorators on this project, Kelly Balyeat and Vickie House, did a fine, fine job, accomplishing the "impossible": Creating a space that is appreciated and admired by people of all ages. Just a great experience watching the surprise in people's eyes as they layed them on the Cafe for the first time. First rate and kudos to all involved.
Monday, March 13, 2006
1) Made a great four-day pilgrimage to Indianapolis to watch the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament. While the "fairy tale ending" would have been the Buckeyes winning the whole shebang, they fell apart down the stretch, and were outplayed by Iowa who deservedly took home the trophy. However, when you're traveling with Eric Stalkamp, Tim Yunker, and Dad, you can't go wrong. A big "thanks" to Horizons of Faith UMC, who offered their retreat center, "Horizon House" to us (it was a good experience - if you'd like a weekend of renewal I'd encourage you to check out http://www.hof-umc.org/horizonshouse.htm ). Just a great weekend all-around.
2) My take on the State of Basketball in the Big Ten right now is that you won't have to worry about any Men's team from the conference making a run at the NCAA Tourney. Every team either lacks the necessary height (OSU, Indiana), ability to score (Michigan State), consistency (Iowa, Illinois), or talent (everyone else) to win the "big one" this year. The good news for Bucks fans, however, is the ongoing development and maturation of Jamar Butler. While I never had the chance to watch him while he attended Shawnee High School (we moved here the summer he graduated), the improvement in his game over the course of this season has been tremendous. Now, as their point guard, he has become the glue that is holding this team together, which is exciting when you think about next year's incoming recruiting class. He'll be the perfect leader for these young guys.
And, you never know when a team could get hot from the field, and make a serious run.... let's just hope the conference (and particularly Ohio State) makes a good showing in the tournament.
3) Not to bore you with all the details of the weekend, but I'll let you in on one more. On Sunday afternoon, we're walking down the street, looking for a place to get lunch, when out of nowhere woman hits me in the chest and screams, "Bucher!". I look around, and standing in front of me is Noelle Bollinger (well, the last name isn't Bollinger, it's Szydlyk, but I can barely spell that name, let alone say it). Noelle is the Event Coordinator for the Indiana Sports Corporation, which is a non-profit entity that organizes sporting events (for more info on ISC, go here: http://www.indianasportscorp.com/ISC2/index.php ) . Apparently, the ISC is organizing the Men's Tourney, and Noelle is in charge of the event. In my chance meeting with her, I learned two things...
First, Noelle always wanted to go into some form of management for a group or organization that's does sports. When she was a teenager in the youth group I pastored here at Shawnee before the dawn of fire, that was really her only professional goal. Now, years later, after earning a couple of degrees, working in a variety of jobs that paid her very little but provided much experience, now she's living her dream. Just a neat thing to witness over the course of these past 15 years.
And second, she could, and would have, procured me with better seats. Not that our seats were bad (although we could see the dust on top of the scoreboard hanging over center court). Kinda of lousy thing to learn after an event is over, but will be one of those pieces of information I'll tuck away for later!
Remember kids, it's not what you know..... it's who you know!
4) We kicked off a Capital Campaign this Sunday geared to paying down, or off, our current mortgage ($534,000) over the course of the next three years. To be honest, as a pastor I've always been uncomfortable asking for money. Mine is the generation who witnessed the irresponsible behavior of numerous TV preachers (think of Oral Roberts asking for millions or God would "take him home") and I don't want to be associated with that kind of behavior. But, the bottom line, is the bottom line. Without cash, this institution wouldn't last long, and since I believe that this church truly makes a difference in the world, I have no problem asking people to support its mission. This campaign is designed to help pay our current mortgage down, or off, over the course of the next three years. The result will be freeing up more money for ministry and mission..... in other words, to invest in people. Please keep it in your prayers.
5) Interesting story today out of Hollywood, where Isaac Hayes, the voice of the character named "Chef" on the show "South Park", announced today that he is quitting the show over it's intolerance of religious beliefs. Apparently, Hayes, who is a devout Scientologist, is upset over an episode from last season entitled "Trapped In The Closet" that took direct aim at Scientology, and couple of its biggest proponent, Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
Hayes, in a statement said he's leaving the show because "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins. "Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored," he continued. "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."
The creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone were quick to respond, and what they had to say was interesting. Matt Stone said, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem, and he's cashed plenty of checks, with our show making fun of Christians." Trey Parker added that he, "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."
Considering that the show has mocked, among other things, Mel Gibson and his motives for making the "Passion of the Christ", (in a scathing episode) the Church of Latter Day Saints, Jesus in a multitude of situations (including winning a rigged boxing match against Satan), and also in the last season, Mary the mother of Jesus on an episode so offensive that the President of Viacom (who is a Catholic) has promised that his network, Comedy Central, will never show the episode again. The show is notorious for playing off of stereotypes. They even shot one episode where one of the show's main characters undergoes plastic surgery to become a tall, black man so that he can make a local basketball team and added a semi-permanent character named "Token Black".
So, why now, is Isaac Hayes so offended? Has he been watching the show? It was built on being offensive and vulgar. Just seems like strange timing to me, and makes me question just how secure the leadership of Scientology is about its image. Heaven knows that Christianity can take a beating on a number of fronts (and another one is about to hit with the release of "The DaVinci Code" movie), and somehow we're still standing. Can Scientology survive the same kind of scrutiny? My guess is that they don't want to know the answer to that question, and hence, now South Park no longer has its Chef. Just a strange turn of events....
6) It seems that the situation in the Darfur region of the Sudan is growing increasingly desperate. Now, the government of neighboring country, Chad, is asking the UN to intervene militarily, even as it has, over the years, been accused of supporting the murderous Islamic militias that have been slaughtering Sudanese Christians.
Which takes me back to an early post, where I wondered out loud, how in the world Islamic extremists can believe this can kind of behavior will do anything but turn the world against Islam. With actions like this, and now terrorist activity in Iraq designed to promote a Civil War between Sunni and Shiite Muslimsms who have lived together for hundreds of years largely in peace, I don't know how you promote anything other than fear and loathing among those living outside of your circle. This message must be getting across because imams all over the world are calling for an end to this kind of violent behavior. While the US can't ignore the plight of so many Muslims living in poverty in this world, at some point, a two-sided dialogue needs to takes place so that we can work toward solving, instead of creating new, problems.
7) Can the weather this winter get any weirder? The worst hurricane season on record, followed by an absurdly mild winter, and now tornados in Illinois in the month of March. If you've never lived in Illinois, then you don't know how strange this is, so just take my word for it. Now NASA is saying that the polar ice caps are getting thinner, which is an indicator that the world is getting warmer (read here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11745704/ ). This article also states that in the past, that scientific research like this would have been edited or not approved for release, which is somewhat unsettling given the fact that nobody in Ohio really wants to own ocean-front property here anytime soon. Don't want to be a "Chicken Little" but something strange does seem to be afoot in the world climate.
8) I stated earlier that this past weekend we stayed at a retreat center owned by Horizon of Faith UMC in Indianapolis. Now the quality of most of these kinds of places usually rivals the living conditions of your typical cottage at a small lake, and since this house had no TV, I wondered aloud last week if two of my traveling companion, Eric Stalkamp and Tim Yunker, would be too "fu fu" to survive such living conditions. I had no worry about Dad, who has slept on many a floor on many a mission trip with numerous loud, obnoxious teenagers.
Well, I'm pleased to announce that both Eric and Tim can travel cheap with the best of them. Tim provided our breakfast for the weekend (PopTarts) and Eric brought the cards and peanuts so we could pass the night away with a little Euchre. No whining about a lack of TV. No complaining about the simplicity of our surroundings..... just real men enjoying a weekend of male bonding around basketball.
Although the weekend was not without its "fu fu" moments. In the interest of time, I'll only list two...
We noticed that during a time out at Conseco, that Tim stuck around for the duration of the Time Out to watch the "Kiss Cam" on the main scoreboard. The "Kiss Cam" basically is a way of getting couples to kiss, on camera, as it's being broadcast live in the arena on the big screen, and all the little screens out in the concourse. Tim waited until the "Kiss Cam" was done, and the Time Out over, to head out to the restroom after the game had resumed! To miss part of a game to watch the "Kiss Cam" is definitely a "fu fu" moment.
And, the other "fu fu" moment of the weekend occurred when Eric insisted we needed to return to the Godiva Chocolate store so that he could pick up a sugarless chocolate bar before we headed back to the arena. Now that he bought a sugarless chocolate bar is more than forgivable, as he needs to do this for medical reasons, but anytime a man insists that he has to buy Godiva Chocolate, and its not for the purpose of pacifying or bribing his wife, that, my friend, is "fu fu". A real man would have rather eaten bark.
9) Watched the finale of "The Flavor of Love" on VH1 last night. (NOTE TO MY GRANDMOTHER: "The Flavor of Love" is set up kind of like "The Bachelor" in that twenty young women were vying for the affections of one single male, but it's different in that the male is "Flavor Flav", member of the "Public Enemy" rap group, and pretty much one of the weirdest people on the planet. For more info Grandmother, go here to www.vh1.com and click on "The Flavor of Love".) Watching twenty women throw themselves at Flav is kind of a surreal experience, but to watch two of them rip one another apart to "win" being with Flav (in what I'm supposing will be another reality series called, "Rollin' With the Flav") was just bizarre. Truly one of the lowest moments in reality TV history, and yet wildly entertaining to this humble preacher. I don't know what this says about the culture, or me. Come to think of it, staying up until 11pm to see who won Flav might have been the most "fu fu" moment of the entire weekend. I am not a man.
10) And finally, it's late, and I need to go home. Hope you had a great weekend, and I'll see you next week!
Monday, March 06, 2006
1) An amazing coincidence of events occurred this weekend here at Shawnee UMC. First and foremost, we confirmed 19 teenagers as members of the church. Now, for those who don't know what "confirmation" is, for churches who baptize infants (like ours), we do the baptism with the caveat that at some point, the child will need to make the decision on their own to accept the responsibility for the baptism. In other words, it's like when your parents took out loans so that you could go to college with the understanding that when you graduate, the responsibility for those loans would be yours. Since God has no grandkids (the subject of a future blog, as I am intrigued with the notion raised in Donald Miller's new book that everyone wants God to be their Grandfather, and not their Father), at some point kids who are dragged to church every Sunday need to make the decision for themselves that being a Christian, and a church-goer (which are linked.... another subject for another time) is something they want to do for themselves.
The process for confirmation put together here at Shawnee this year was very well-organized, and obviously very meaningful to the confirmands. In listening to them speak about their experience, they obviously had given much thought to their experience, and decision as to whether or not make the "confirmation". I'm sure the affair was a positive one, and will stick with these kids for many, many years. Kudos to Marty Hutchison for all the work she put into the experience (I hope her young proteges, Brent and Andrea, recognize the planning, execution, and organization that went into making this a success), all the mentors from the congregation, and the parents. I trust that results of this year's group will have longer lasting effects, in a positive sense, than most other confirmation experiences. I have great confidence that it will.
2) Thing number 2 that happened occurred either late at night, or early in the morning before our services. Somebody, or some group of people, decided to "tag" our church with some offensive graffiti. You can imagine our dismay, as a church, when we drove up for worship to be greeted with multiple symbols for the occult and an "anarchy" symbol. Throw in the expense and time it will take to remove these crudely spray-painted objects, and you've got the makings for one unpleasant set of circumstances.
I put these two events together because I'm relatively sure that a mature adult didn't tag our building. Someone in their teens, or a period of extended adolescence, decided it would be a good idea to risk possible jail time, a fine, and the costs of clean-up, to anonymously let the public know that they disagree with our faith-choice, and that a system without governance is better than the system we have now.
In short, this person is young, confused, and disturbed.
Which brings me to this conclusion: There is no other time of life (with the possible exception of a midlife crisis) where you are more susceptible to making a stupid decision that will destroy your life than between the years of 13 and 23. I say "23", because after having worked with a number of young adults, I have recognized, as have a number of sociologists, that in an affluent culture like ours, that really has no "rite of passage" where young people can be recognized as adults (getting a driver's license, signing up for the draft, and being able to buy alcohol legally really don't fit that bill) we are now experiencing the extension of adolescent behavior in years that would traditionally be considered "adulthood".
If the church could give society any gift, the greatest it could bestow would be figuring out how to partner with parents to help young people navigate these difficult years. It ought to be one of our hallmarks.... one of our great success stories. We ought to be "the place" people come to help youngsters figure out who they are, and where they are going. While it takes money to do this, the greater expense is time.... time on the part of those not paid to be with kids (think about it.... besides parents or family members, what other adults spend time with teens without being paid to do so?). Christian adults who seek to be in good relationships (with good boundaries) in the context of a controlled, safe environment.
When a church puts this together, it becomes a dynamic place where kids who tag churches are sought out, welcomed and embraced. Where decisions to live lives of self-sacrifice, mercy, grace, and love are made by teens who are, and aren't dragged by their parents to worship on Sunday morning. Where confusion can be talked out with people who have lived enough life that they care little or nothing for what popular culture says is cool, or defining.
We lived that dream for two months during this confirmation experience. I hope we're wise enough to figure out ways for it to continue.
3) Watched the Oscars last night with my grandmother. Here my thoughts in no particular order...
- Jon Stewart did a credible job as host, but he didn't make anyone forget Billy Crystal.
- I'm sick of Brokeback Mountain, and I haven't even seen the movie.
- One of the actresses (I can't remember which one) who was up for "Best Actress in a Leading Role" wore a dress with a pillow on the shoulder. My grandmother described it as "a terrible mistake".
- Best line of the night: "For those out there keeping score, that's Martin Scorsese with zero Oscars, and the 3-6 Mafia with one."
- If you just showed the categories people cared about (Best Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor Actress, and Best Picture), the whole deal could be over in 30 minutes.
- I'm sure if Jack Nickelson E-bay'd a chance for a guy and three of his buddies to hang out with him in Vegas for a weekend, that he'd raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity. The guy is walking party.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman is a brilliant actor. Have liked him in everything I've seen him in, but I thought he took it to another level four years ago in in the movie "Love Liza", which is described by IMBd as "a searing look at grief". Anyone that can pull off a movie about a guy who starts huffing gasoline after the unexplained suicide of his wife is pretty brilliant (and, that being said, this is not necessarily a recommendation that you rent this movie. You've got to like independent film, and be willing to be depressed for a number of days to watch this puppy).
- I never thought the word "pimp" would ever be used at the Academy Awards.
4) Went to the "Vision Life" retreat hosted by Bishop Ough on Saturday, and while I won't say much about it, I will say this: If someone from the Conference Office had showed me a way to re-organize itself into a ministry that was "distinctive and additive" to what is supposed to be done at the District level, all in the name of developing/planting local church, and CUT the budget by $200k (as opposed to raise it the same amount), all in attendance would have been intrigued and impressed. That truly, would have been thinking outside of the box.
5) And another thing about the Vision Life retreat...
The featured guest speaker for the day was Bishop Huie, the bishop of the Texas Annual Conference (one of six Annual Conferences in that state). One of her greatest concerns (echoed later by our own Bishop) was the declining percentage of clergy in the UMC that are under the age of 35. The number, which nationally has declined from 15% in 1985, to about 5% in 2005, reflects the decrease in the number of people (like myself) who went to seminary straight from college. Largely, our ranks have been filled with "second career" folks, which isn't necessarily bad, but since national studies show that churches tend to bring in people who are, on average, about seven years older or younger than the Senior Pastor, many are afraid that this trend will exacerbate an all-ready rapidly aging denomination. Thus, conferences like Texas are going to concentrate efforts to try and turn this around largely by trying to offer appointments that pay better in more "happening" communities.
I'll make an observation here: Right now, if you were young and had great potential, you could go to a number of denominations that would give you money to start a new church. While starting a new church is a challenge, trying to fit in one that's already established (and may have developed some bad habits) can be ten times harder. What's more, you don't necessarily need a seminary education (and the massive loans people take out to get one) to plant these churches, as these denominations are finding new ways to train and apprentice young pastors that can successfully lead a congregation. I mean, we have two UM-seminaries in the West Ohio Conference, and somehow that kind of proximity to training and education hasn't produced the results desired by those in charge, so I have to wonder...
- In an effort to recruit new pastors, will we alter our expectations regarding education and experience when it comes to credentialing?
- Will we make available appointments in new church, or multi-site settings that have the kind of potential for growth that will excite young, entrepreneurial pastors?
6) Am making the long trek to Wilmore, Kentucky tomorrow to try and hammer out some sort of schedule and plan regarding my doctoral work that will be acceptable to this church, the conference, the Beeson Institute, and Asbury Theological Seminary. If we can reach some sort of agreement, this will force us all to commit to a fixed schedule in the coming year. Pray for us all as we seek a compromise that will bring glory and honor to the Kingdom of Heaven.
7) Met with Robin Andes this morning to get a handle on what I should be doing during my daily workout. If you want any idea of how it went, I found today that I warm up and stretch incorrectly. Talk about having a lot to learn. I'm looking forward to the pain.
8) This Thursday, yours truly is heading off to Indy to see the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament. Accompanied by Eric Stalkamp and Tim Yunker (my dad will make the trek on Friday, and my old friend Steve Clouse, a Goshen compadre, will sit-in on Thursday), we will venture forth into the great abyss that is 10 games in four days, and a number one seed for OSU. Because I am cheap, we are staying at Horizon House, a home owned by Horizon of Hope UMC in Indy for the express purpose of providing pastors and church people a cheap place to stay and re-charge. Which bring me to this thing I think:
There are two kinds of travelers: The kind that need to stay close to the arena where they drink "double chocolate creame" coffee in a hotel room complete with a king-sized bed and 42" plasma screen TV, and the kind that are thankful when they don't have to sleep on a floor, but will, if necessary in a place where you boil your own water for instant coffee. You obviously know what kind of traveler I am.... we'll see how "foo foo" or how tough my traveling buddies are this weekend. There should be a good time had by all.
9) Elijah started crawling this weekend, so we're getting ready for another mobile child. Now that they outnumber us, we'll need to outsmart them. Here's hoping that we can.
10) And finally, spent some time at the rear of our sanctuary observing 30 young people from our church worshipping in faint candlelight, and was personally, very moved. I remember many such evenings as a student, and leader, myself, in many different places in the world, where it was obvious God was present, and active. In the faint chance any of those kids are reading this now, store up the experience, and count it as a treasure. The memory of the experience, and the people you experienced it with, will someday warm your soul. Thanks for the gift, kids.