55 random things

I was tagged by Gabrielle at I’m Free Now. The “55 Things Meme”:

55 Things
1. The phone rings; whom do you want it to be?
Ummmmmm, Publisher’s Clearinghouse.

2. When shopping at the grocery store, do you return your cart?

3. If you had to kiss the last person you kissed, would you?
I think so.

4. Do you take compliments well?
Yes, thank you very much.

5. Do you play Sudoku?
Yes, but I’m not obsessed like some people I happen to live with.

6. If abandoned alone in the wilderness, would you survive?
It seems unlikely.

7. Do you like nipple rings?
Never seen one up close and personal, if you know what I mean.

8. Did you ever go to camp as a kid?

9. If a sexy person were pursuing you, but you knew he/she were married what would you do?
Cough, cough. That happens all the time. I just ignore it.
NW: Hey! *puff, puff* Come back here!

10. Could you date someone with different religious beliefs than you?
I’m married so I quit dating a few years ago.

Behind Police Lines at the RNC

Last Saturday we shut down our super secret chaplain headquarters in downtown St. Paul. I’ve been asked not to name the location, but I can tell what we did. Police chaplains from around the state got together and set up a haven for any and all law enforcement personnel. We provided hot food, a place to sit and eat, bunks, showers, an area to relax with a TV, and most important of all, appreciation and encouragement for men and women doing a tough job. We had cops from Cedar Rapids, IA, Chicago, Tucson, Arlington, TX, and New Jersy, not to mention from all over MN. And those are just the ones I either saw for myself, or heard were here.

Each of the about 50 chaplains who made it through the vetting process were asked to work at least one 4-hour shift during the Republican National Convention (RNC). The shifts were from 2-6 and 6-10 every day, however, after day one, it became apparent that we needed to be there much longer than those hours. There were also many people from local churches who volunteered to work in our impromptu kitchen and mess hall.

We had a huge grill set up in back of our building and 15 or so tables inside. We set up two buffet lines: One for burgers, brats, dogs, and sometimes steaks, and one for desserts, mostly homemade. Everything was provided and paid for by the chaplains and their ‘faith-based organizations’, or by people and companies with which they were affiliated. Nothing we provided was paid for by the RNC or local police departments.

As chaplains, it was our job to connect with the law enforcement personnel and let them know what we had available for them and that we were praying for them. Monday, I worked the first shift with about 18 -20 chaplains from various cities. That day I chose to work the ‘outside’ perimeter which is anywhere on the street. The ‘inside’ perimeter being actually inside the X. We had been encouraged to take care of our own cops first, so I wanted to head to Fleming Field, So. St. Paul’s airport, where I knew one of ours was stationed. Since we were required to use the buddy system I went with Clyde, who is with the same department as I am. We took bottles of water and candy bars along to distribute. When we got there, we saw the police car out in the middle of the field and we couldn’t get to it because it’s completely fenced and locked. So Clyde called dispatcher and asked them to radio the car and have them meet us at the terminal. It turned out to be a lady who I know pretty well, and with whom I have done ride-alongs. We chatted with her for awhile. She had been on since 11:30am and was scheduled to work until 12:30am. Ugh. The St. Paul and So St. Paul airports were closed down for the duration of the RNC, so this was a pretty boring assignment. While we were talking two air marshalls arrived and we passed out water and candy. They seemed happy to have a break as well.

Clyde and I then made our way back downtown and began stopping on any corner where we saw cops gathered and handing them water and candy. That was just about every corner. We informed them of the super secret chaplain headquarters and mess hall available only to law enforcement. This was the only time it got scary for us. I turned left onto old 7th Street, which is a very narrow one-way. There was a police car ahead of us and ahead of it was a group of protesters in the street, some of whom were wearing black scarves over the bottom of their faces. This group looked like they might cozy up to a touch of anarchy. Clyde and I agreed this would be a good place to leave, but we were blocked in and had to wait til the protesters cleared the street. It was a very weird feeling watching these people whose intentions were unclear and maybe less then pleasant. Two of them stopped in the middle of the street and just stood there. This couldn’t be good. Then I realized they were posing for their friend who had a camera. Somehow that made them seem a lot more human. Hey, they just want to get their picture taken protesting in St. Paul. Who wouldn’t?

We eventually made it back to HQ and decided to walk around town and talk with cops we ran into. They were everywhere. We saw some making arrests and I got the strange sense from the arrestees that they were satisfied with whatever it was they had done — as if being arrested proved that they had succeeded in their protestations!

We spoke with one cop, stationed on the street, who told us they were happy to see chaplains around offering them food and water because they knew they could trust whatever we gave them.

That was Monday.

I worked the first shift again on Thursday and during our briefing, our head chaplain told us that the protesters planning a real ruckus, since it was the last day. He said the cops would be using ammo like paintballs, only larger, to mark protesters to be arrested. He warned us that if we got caught in the middle of something and ended up getting painted, we should just lie down, otherwise we might get a cracked skull. Thursday seemed like a good day for me to stay and work food service at HQ. I spent my time cleaning tables, wrapping sandwiches, and serving food to law enforcement, who were unfailingly grateful for what we were doing for them. I greeted a cop who had ‘Arlington’ on his arm patch. I have friends who live in Arlington, (MN). When I heard his voice I knew he wasn’t from around here. “You’re not from Arlington, MN, are you?” I said. He said “I thought I was doing such a good job not sounding like a Texan. I’ve only said ‘Y’all’ once.”

Altogether, the leader of our group estimated that the chaplains served more than 10,000 meals (in the land of 10,000 lakes) to the police during the four days of the convention and Saturday morning’s clean-up. It was interesting being behind the scenes of something like this. I really had the feeling, any time I drove downtown, that there were just a lot of people who didn’t look as if they belonged in St. Paul. The police had a tough job trying maintain order and protect property and people (including those protesting) in a high pressure situation while under a lot of scrutiny. They really were a long-suffering group. In the end, I’m very happy to have been able to encourage some men and women with peace and kinder words than they were hearing on the streets and I hope our prayers and presence helped create a more positive outcome for everyone who was downtown last week.

I Join a Motorcycle Gang

That is, if three a gang does make.

The thoughtful Night Writer suggested I spend a day at the spa during our recent Arizona odyssey. I looked at the price of a day at the spa and decided that was ridiculous. Especially since I am the Finance Minister at our house. Then he suggested I rent a Harley Davidson. I’m not a big fan of Harleys, but I discovered you can rent pretty much any kind of bike you want, if you’re willing to pay the price. And it was about the same price as a day at the spa, but a much better value, if you ask me.

There I was on the beautiful morning of Wednesday last, picking up the BMW 1200 RT which I had reserved before leaving MN.

BMW 1200 RT

It’s a huge bike, the biggest I have ever ridden, weighing in at 600 lbs, wet. Did I mention it’s a bit top heavy? At one time in my life I owned a BMW motorcycle which was probably almost as heavy as this one, but it was shorter and had a much lower center of gravity. Does it sound like I’m defensive at all? I hopped on this thing after being briefed on its various accessories (heated seats, heated hand grips, car-like cruise control, vertically adjustable windshield) and functions (LED screen that lets one scroll through more information than anyone could possibly want to know). The owner and his admin. assistant had gone back in the building and, hopefully, weren’t watching me because I couldn’t get the monster upright off its side kickstand. Boy, did I feel stupid. Then I realized I had my foot too far away from the bike and if I moved it in as close to the bike as I could get it, I could gain just enough purchase to shift the bike upright. I took off looking, I think, exactly like I knew what I was doing.

I rode around the block and started to get the feel of the bike. I could tell it was weighted differently than what I used to ride, but other than that it felt like riding a BMW. It felt great. The BMW shifting has always sounded a little clunky, and still did with this model, so that was normal. I rode out of town on a route that would take me into the mountains.

(Rev.) Motorcycle Mama

It was a gorgeous day, about 65 degrees, clear and sunny. Why had that couple who had rented a bike just ahead of me put on all that gear? Nylon pants over their jeans, heavy jackets, big gloves. Jeeez, it was a nice day. I began going up, up, up, into the mountains and, oh my goodness, the temperature started going down, down, down. Still, I didn’t feel cold until my first stop at Jake’s Corner Store, after riding about 60 miles. I got off the bike and went into the store to get coffee and check out the facilities. And I started shivering. I hadn’t even realized I was cold until I stopped riding. The coffee felt really good going down. As I was standing by the bike drinking coffee and eating a banana I saw two bikers I had passed earlier at some wayside stop pull in. They didn’t stay, however, and pulled right out and drove away. I noticed, however, they were both riding BMWs. I got back on, managed to right the bike, turned on the seat and hand heaters, and took off.

Another thirty or forty miles through the mountains and I came to the Roosevelt Dam, where I decide to stop for the view. I took a right into the parking lot and, lo and behold, there were the other Beemer riders and a few other bikers, as well. Of course, I wanted to look very cool as I pulled around gracefully into a spot, positioning myself so I would be pointed in the right direction when it was time to leave.

Just as I came to a full stop, however, my balance shifted slightly left and … the bike and I went down. As my (helmeted) head hit the pavement the thought ocurred to me to just lay there till I died of embarrassment. I didn’t think it would take too long. But I heard the bike was still running so I leapt up and hit the kill switch. At that moment another rider ran up and said “Let me help” and lifted the bike up for me. I was mortified. I started chattering about how I hadn’t ridden, really, for years, and was rusty and anything I could think of that would make me look less of an idiot. But he, and his friend who also came over, said this could happen to anyone. They were very gracious and did their best to make me feel better.

We began admiring each others’ bikes (turns out they were the guys on the BMWs) and just talking motorcycles, my recent lack of knowledge of which would fill large volumes. We rode together to another view of the dam from the other side, and then, because we were going the same direction we all rode on in a group. Thus, a gang. Of three. All on BMWs. Pretty cool. Especially since I had the biggest bike. If you’re wondering how intimidating a gang of BMW riders, picture this: “Hello, we are Hans, Franz und Eva, and we are here to … pump you up!”

We stopped in Superior, AZ for lunch and got to know each other better. I found out Leon was a retired ironworker, living in Scottsdale and Doug was a Baptist missionary on sabbatical for one year from his work in Taiwan. I knew that God had sent them to watch over me and I was very glad of that.

We continued on after lunch, heading back in the general direction of Scottsdale where I had rented the bike. At some point, Doug had to leave us and head home, but Leon stuck with me all the way to the rental agency. When we stopped at a gas station so I could refill the tank I actually had to have Leon lift the bike to upright for me because the combination of very smooth cement, my very smooth-soled boots and a small amount of weariness from riding 200 miles all left me unable to raise the machine to vertical.

Here’s a photo of me and my guardian angel and his immaculate (1976, I think) BMW 1000.

Leon and his bike and me.

Results in Romania

Patience and I are now safely back in hot and sticky Garden Valley, TX.

The preliminary results of the ministry that we are involved with in Romania are very promising. Every day, our two teams went to two different parks and put on a Vacation Bible School for any children who were there. That means four different parks and four different groups of children. After the first day the children were waiting for our teams to show up and there were more children each time. Over the course of the four days the gospel message was presented in a progressive way beginning with what God had made, progressing to how man had sinned and been separated from God, and then to what Jesus did for us, then to what God now requires of us. At the end, on the last day, the children were given the opportunity to offer their lives to God. Many, many of them did.

What will happen now is that Salem church, with whom we have been working, will send teams of people back to those same parks one day a week to meet with the children and continue teaching them about Jesus. Their hope is to actually find an opportunity, at some point, to visit each child’s home and invite them and their parents to church. What a marvelous thing it has been to be involved in the very beginning of an outreach like this.

My Big Adventure

Last March or so I stumbled upon this webcam while doing some online research on Oradea. I made it one of my favorites and occasionally I would open it up and just look at this city that I was going to eventually visit. Today I decided to not go with any of the ministry groups, but, instead, do the tourist thing. My goal was to find this area of the city and see if I could locate the bridge and intersections I could see from this webcam. My sense, from our bus ride to the church here, was that if I headed west down the main street near the church I would eventually come to the river that I could see from the webcam.

I took my ticket and got on a tram going in that direction. I kept a close watch, making sure that the tram didn’t veer off, but kept following that main road. If it turned any other way, I was going to get off because I didn’t know anything about this city and didn’t want to be lost here. It didn’t turn and I started seeing buildings that looked more and more like the ones I had been looking at for five months through the camera lens. When we stopped and I could see a bridge just ahead I hopped off. This area looked very familiar to me, even though I have never been in this part of the world. What a strange sensation. I walked across the bridge and suddenly realized I was on the very bridge that was in the camera’s view. What an amazing coincidence, because there are many bridges that cross this river. The busy street that I have been on every day to buy bread and run other errands is the very one that runs across the bridge I had been looking at.

The camera is attached to this building.

The camera is in the dark recessed area with the arched top, just under the clock.

Here is the view the camera sees, only in this case, from street level.

This whole area with the lovely old architecture is called the city center and these are government offices. Across the river is a mall like the Nicollet Mall. I walked quite a ways on it until I came to this building.

I turned and began to make my back, stopping only to buy pastries and coffee. The pastries were wonderful but the coffee is always a disappointment.

As I wound my way back to the intersection where I had left the tram I realized I didn’t really know which one would take me back. It would make sense to get on a tram with the same number, wouldn’t it? Did the color of the tram mean anything? Did I have to get on a #3 blue or would a #3 of any color suffice? Should I just walk? It must be miles. The places a tram stops are listed on a placard in the window. Why didn’t I memorize the name of the station where I had picked up the tram? Finally, I chose to get on a red #3, believing that the number must be more important than the color. Sure enough, it followed the main street all the way and ended up at the station where I had caught it. Thank God. I’m not hopelessly lost in a country where I can’t speak the language.

Light in a Dark Place

This same apartment building can be seen everywhere.

Here are a couple of photos of Romania. It doesn’t all look this bleak, but the effect of the communist era is still very apparent. The factories and apartment buildings built by the communists all look the same. I saw this exact architecture when I was in China in 2005. The factories are built entirely above ground, including any pipes for moving any liquid, sewage, etc. The landscape is now bisected by these enormous, ugly and decaying pipelines. Instead of taking them down, the Romanians have simply built new houses and stores around them. Romania is still fairly poor, trying to recover from the communist years and the ten years following when the communist leaders remained in power, but called themselves socialists. They do not have one lei to spend on urban renewal.

Romania has recently joined the European Union and will soon be changing their money system from the lei to the euro. They think that this change will bring prosperity to their nation. My personal feeling is that their economic salvation does not lie in aligning themselves with much of the rest of Europe. But nobody asked me.

If we can bring the light of the gospel to Romania and cause them to desire to serve God in spirit and in truth, then the prosperity that comes with that will follow. Here are some photos I took last evening as the team that Patience is on performed their VBS skits in a dirty park surrounded by communist era apartment buildings.

Romanian children have come to VBS.
The taller ones are part of the ministry team.

Matthew acts out being stuck in sin with ‘the sin chair’.
Patience has come to tell him how to get free.

Two photos from a skit called Ragman
which is an analogy of the gospel.

A Little Slice

Here's the bldg. Salem Church has built. It has dorms we're staying in.
Here’s the bldg. Salem Church has built. It has dorms we’re staying in.

Hello from Romania. We arrived safely after about 27 hours of traveling. We slept the first night about 10 to 11 hours. It wasn’t enough. The young missionaries have been doing a little training here in country and tonight (Sun.) will run their first Vacation Bible School (VBS) event in two park locations in the city. We have two teams to do VBS, and starting tomorrow morning each team will run VBS twice daily in two different locations. One will be done in the morning, and one in the evening because parents generally will not let their kids out during the afternoon because of heat advisories. This evening we’ll see if all their training pays off.

As for myself, I have been busy running errands, doing administrative activities and trying to be helpful wherever I can. I am in the fortunate position of being part of what’s going on, but not being directly responsible for any young people. Today I got to do one of my favorite things while in a foreign land, and that is going to the store.

The market, which is family-run stands, is closed today because it’s Sunday, but the large department store is open. It’s always fun to see how these things run a little bit differently in different places. Here you have to rent your shopping cart for 50 lei (maybe 29 cents). You put the coin into a device with a coin slot which is attached to the cart itself and then it’s released from its chain. The store is huge, maybe the size of a Super Target and it sells everything from a drill press to women’s underwear to food. I had gone in first, without a cart, to scope out where everything was, or so I thought. When I was ready I went to the Information desk (like customer service) and got some change because I didn’t have any Romanian coins. I got my cart, looking just like I belonged there, I’m certain. After all, someone mistook me for a Romanian yesterday. I went and gathered up my items, including six big loaves of bread, for our daily PBJs. I got some red paper for one of the VBS projects.

Then I went looking for some personal items. Sunblock: Patience had hers confiscated because she put it into her carry-on luggage, mints, Kleenex. Why can’t I find Kleenex? I decided to ask a woman I saw wearing a store smock. I asked her first if she spoke any English. No such luck. So I acted out blowing my nose and she caught on right away and took me to the correct aisle. An aisle which I had already been down, of course, but the Kleenex weren’t packaged the same as at home and 90% of them aren’t the Kleenex brand.

Its great fun looking at all of the different products and packaging and I could spend a lot of time in here. I also came across an espresso stand so a bought a cup of espresso for less than 50 cents. It was interesting. It came from some kind of automated machine, not an espresso machine. It tasted ok for someone who hadn’t had any coffee in two days.

When I got to the check out I unloaded my items onto the belt, but the woman didn’t start ringing them up. She looked at me and said ‘you must have card’. I motioned to my stuff as if I wanted to leave it there and she indicated that was fine. Back at the information desk I gave them my passport. They made a copy of it and input some info from it into a computer. What in the world is this all about? They gave me a sheet of paper with my name (spelled wrong) and some other information and I gave that to the checkout lady and she rang my stuff up. Then I was stopped by security on the way out so they could match my purchases to my receipts. I know I look pretty suspicious. But at least I got my 50 lei back when I returned my cart.

It’s interesting how they track foreigners. They got my passport info when I exchanged currency earlier, and now they know what I did with some of that money. This is supposedly a ‘free’ country. Well, at least it’s no longer communist.

Weekend in Romania

Ah, the Paris airport in the early morning. Can you tell which one managed to sleep on the airplane?

The Reverend Mother and Tiger Lilly’s team rolled out of Garden Valley, Texas on Thursday for a five-hour ride to Houston for the flight to Europe. RM stopped drinking anything the night before the bus-ride; it was a five-hour drive with no bathroom in the bus and no stopping! Friday they caught an overnight flight that laid-over in Paris and then terminated in Budapest, Hungary. After that it was another six-hour bus ride to Oradea, Romania where the team is staying and ministering. I didn’t hear if there were toilet facilities in the bus or rest breaks in the trip to Oradea, but RM filed this email to me:

Hello, We made it after only 27 hours of traveling. I slept, last night, for 10 hours. I have been sick with a cold which I think I got from Emmie, one of the Project Directors. We are staying in a building built by the church. It has dorm rooms that sleep four. We are the first people to sleep in the beds because it’s brand new. The bldg. has a kitchen, an auditorium, the pastor’s offices and lots of other rooms, the purposes of which I don’t know, and maybe they don’t either, yet.

The travel was fairly uneventful, which is good. David, the other Project Director told us his favorite part is taking the groups through the airport because of the logistics and problem solving challenges. I’m fairly certain he’s been in the military, because of the way he runs things. He looks like ex-military too.

While we were waiting in the Houston airport he told us stories from some of the trips he’s been on. For instance, on a trip to Albania, a girl had half of her hand cut off and he had to go to amazing lengths to get her the appropriate medical care within 24 hours so her hand could be saved. They managed it. Emmie told me those were the early trips and every time something happened GE would make a new rule to prevent things like that in the future. They do seem to have a lot of rules, but now I know why.

Global Expeditions is a ministry of Teen Mania, formed to introduce young people to the missionary vision and to send them around the world. This summer GE had 58 trips planned to 21 countries (including the U.S.), and the trip my family is on was one of four to Romania. When they arrived at the church they are staying at in Oradea there was already a previous group there that had been working on various projects, including organizing a neighborhood block party for Sunday evening that would kick-off the church’s Vacation Bible School this week. The VBS will be the main focus for Tiger Lilly and her cohorts, though other public ministry in streets and parks is planned. Sunday at church they had a special visitor, Ron Luce, founder and head of Teen Mania.

RM’s role is as the assistant to the two Program Directors leading the trip. There are 30 youth (ages 11-13) with an adult Missionary Advisor for every four or five kids. RM handles the travel logistics, daily itineraries and other crucial details such as going to the market daily to buy bread for the main course of most of their meals: peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.

This morning in church Ron Luce, the founder of Teen Mania, spoke. He flew in last night. Teen Mania has been working with this church for 10 years and this is the first time Ron has been here. I heard a little of his testimony of how he started Teen Mania and GE. After the service was over I had him pray for me as a youth leader. I’ve attached a photo of him with his translater, Ted, on the right.

I did see some gypsies here in church today. The church has some ministry to the gypsy culture, but no one talks about them much, I’ve noticed. I followed two down the street a ways, on my way to market to buy bread, and I wanted to take their picture but I thought it would be rude; as if they were not real people, but animals in a zoo or something. They were very colorfully dressed, but looked very downtrodden.

Yesterday I was mistaken for a Romanian, but today when I left the store I was stopped by security so they could check my purchases against my receipts. There were many security people standing around, but I didn’t see them stop anyone else. I wonder if it was the visor I was wearing or what clued them in that I was an unsavory individual. While I was in the store I heard all kinds of American music played over the PA. some of it was very old. I heard Baker Street. Isn’t that funny?.

I have to go almost every day to buy bread for our daily PBJs.

In addition to emails, I can follow the trip’s progress from a parent page on the GE website. The Project Leaders upload photos and news regularly. They posted the following as the group packed up to leave Texas last week:

The juniors learned how to communicate their faith using their personal testimonies and the basic principles of the gospel. We watched dramas that depicted how to tell others, who are from another culture, about God.

Evening worship, once again, was amazing. In fact, many of the students moved out of their seats and went down to the front where there was more room to express how excited they were about God.

After an excellent final service, the young people got ink, and put their finger print on a map of Romania. It symbolized their commitment to use their unique abilities to leave an impression on Romania, and make HIM known.

Packing went until around midnight, and now everyone is sleeping. We will be ready to leave campus around 7am in the morning.

Pray that God will help us to travel smart, and to pay attention to detail. Pray that our leadership team stays energized and alert, as we load these teens on the planes!

Dave and Emmie
Project Directors

P.S. We want to honor Marjorie, who is our ‘Country Assistant.’ Marjorie spent all day organizing passports and travel release forms, getting team lists together, and prepping games for the students to play while we travel on the long bus and plane rides. Thanks to Marjorie we have everything ready to go! She rocks!

Amen to that!

Update: Out of solidarity, I decided to have a PBJ for my supper tonight as well. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm!

Update: The Reverend Mother writes: I’d like to point out that we’re only eating PBJs one meal a day. We have cereal or pastries for breakfast and today’s menu included fresh peaches. We have a large meal, prepared by some wonderful person, for lunch. Today we had roast beef, mashed potatoes and a salad of cucumbers and home grown tomatoes. The potatoes were kind of golden in color and very tasty. The tomatoes were probably the best I have ever had.

Biding my time

The crickets here in Texas are so loud, even during the day. Their voice box and vocal cords must be mutated.

All the rest of the missionaries arrive today. I’m approaching this with some trepidation, because I don’t know what they’ll be like. The people already here are really nice. I’ll have random people coming up to me and saying, “Hi, you’re Patience, right? I know your Mom.”

There’s a guy named Angelo here that I had a really good talk with this morning. He just turned 20 yesterday. He’s really nice, and he’s going to Romania with us! We were talking about Teen Mania and what we wanted to do in life. He said he wanted to travel around the world and preach in different churches. Future husband prospect? Hmmm… just kidding! I wouldn’t want to submit him to the usual torture for prospective boyfriends … disembowelment… decapitation… having a harpoon run through him. Or even being thrown out the window by my Dad, wearing his Haggar pants.

Well, I’m off to check the blogs.

Ciao for now!