We’ve made it!  Ten months of prayer, preparation and planning culminate today.  Our youth mission team has arrived on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Seminary to spend the week with Mission Lab sharing the Good News of Jesus.  Our 49 team members from the Crash of Ebenezer will be going in three different directions tomorrow.  Two teams will be leading sports camps at local parks for children while team three paints the exterior of a house for a senior adult gentleman.  In the afternoon the sports camp teams will also be serving at a local food pantry.  

Tonight as we began our week, the camp pastor spoke on the theme for the week, “Simmer.”  Simmer is a familiar term in New Orleans cuisine… especially in how they cook gumbo.  To simmer something means to slowly cook it.  You can’t microwave a good gumbo.  You have to be patient.  Likewise in our walk with Christ we should simmer on the Gospel.  Faith is not about quick answers, short cuts and the fast way.  It’s a process.  My prayer for this week is that the heart of our students and leaders will take time away from the norm and “simmer” a bit on the Good News.  That as we KNOW Him more, we can be better prepared to make Him KNOWN.

** The cross has been passed so far from Chandler to Ross and tonight from Ross to Reed.

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Four years ago I sat at lunch with graduates from Morningside in Spartanburg.  It was a tough day because I was about to move my family from serving in the Upstate to Florence.  In fact, just days after I left that graduate luncheon I was living in Florence.  Some of the students in this video are among first students I met.  They were in a transition time too.  They were getting ready to start high school and were a bit uneasy about having a new youth pastor.  But God graciously brought our lives together.  Four years later, we’ve had a ton of great memories together and grown closer to the Lord.  These four years have flown by quickly.  I’m very proud of each of you.  Congratulations! Let everything you do in life be about JESUS.

Band of Brothers

This past weekend I did something I never thought I would do.  I completed a GORUCK Light event. Last week I wrote about rucking to the top of Table Rock with my family.  I remember saying it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  This weekend’s GORUCK event may have topped it.  Honestly, they were both very challenging in their own ways.  The mountain ruck was difficult on my heart and was a physically exhausting cardio workout.  This GORUCK Light was tough physically on my muscles. We picked up and put down so many heavy things.  We carried soaking wet sandbags that weighed between 40-100 lbs. We carried our team members in a variety of ways to help us simulate medical evacuations and prepare as US soldiers.  At one point I “fireman” carried a woman over my shoulder for well over 200 yards while additionally wearing my ruck.  It was grueling, but I learned a lot about myself and the band of brothers and sisters that defend this country.

The number one rule of a GORUCK event is to never drop the American flag.  These events are put on by US Special Forces to help civilians train and understand what our men and women in the Armed Forces do to train for war.  The flag should be a cherished symbol to all Americans, but it is certainly cherished by those who serve in the military.  As we marched in formation across Myrtle Beach we were very mindful to carry the flag with pride and let the flag lead the way for our team.  At about an hour into the four hour event, the unthinkable happened.  The flag was not secured correctly and it hit the ground.  You could hear the oxygen leaving the area.  The team was stunned and visibly upset.  Our Cadre, JC Jordan was not happy.  He immediatley  ordered us into the ocean.  We would pay dearly for such an infraction.  As we stood in line knee deep in the surf, we all knew that what was about to take place would be painful.  He ordered us to do burpies on his command.  Seriously…burpies.  The thing I hate the most.  Burpies on land are not fun.  Burpies on land wearing 30lb packs are tough.  Burpies with 30lb packs, in knee deep water, with the waves knocking you down are brutal.  We did burpies for what seemed like an hour (but was probably only about 10min).  Every time I jumped up – I was a little slower than the last.  As JC’s cadence continued on, my legs began to give out.  My strength was pretty much gone.  Each time I got up I was slower than the last.  Towards the end of the ordeal the men on my right and left started picking me up out of the water by my arms.  As I slowly picked my head up out of the ocean the last time I began to understand.

I saw my dad’s face.  I saw Andrew Lee’s face, I saw the faces of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy.  I realized in that moment that this was just practice.  This was just a challenge event led by US Special Forces.  This was not real.  Bullets were not flying.  Mortars were not falling around me.  Men were not dying.  But in that moment I got a glimpse of what our US military does to protect that flag and to secure my freedom.

I am grateful.  I’ve always loved my country.  As an Eagle Scout I have always respected the flag and the men and women who died for it. But until Saturday I never was physically pushed to a point where I could see first hand what it feels like to give my all and be pulled along by a band of brothers (and sisters) by my side.

Thank you JC and Jeremy for your service.  Our prayers are with you JC as you head out this week for your final deployment.  Thank you dad for serving 10 years in the Marines and fighting in Vietnam.  Thank you Andrew Lee for choosing the military over college life and setting the example for the next generation.  If you see a man or women in uniform, tell them Thank You.  This band of brothers and sisters deserve our respect and gratitude.

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