Saturday, November 21, 2009

day three.

sorry about the delay in posting. as it turns out, of all the things I could have contracted in Peru, I came home with what my doctor thinks is strep. Not sure how or where I got that, but I'm already feeling better than I was last night, so hopefully it's short-lived.

On Thursday, we got the opportunity to bookend the day with the bookends of the programs offered by Compassion International. We started the day heading out to one of the Project sites in Lima that has what's called a Child Survival Program. This program is offered to mother/child units instead of children. Everything Compassion does is very holistic in nature and this program is no exception, offering a wide range of care for pre-natal moms through moms with children up to about 4 years old, when they can begin to register for Child Sponsorship. These kiddos were outside the church when we arrived, anxious to greet us in their yellow Jesus shirts!

The home that I visited Thursday was the roughest of the trip, and belonged to a family with two children. The baby was sleeping when we got there so we didn't get to meet her, but her older brother Kevin, below, is 3. He's adorable and has been in the program since March. The Promoters with Compassion visit them in their home often and have provided some toys along with educational posters to put on their walls to help establish a corner of the home that's his 'play' area. As you can see, they also provide a poster with his name on it, which is very sweet.
So, as you can see if you look closely in the pic below, this home has a dirt floor. Most of the walls are made of cardboard, and the ceiling was made of sheets of plastic with what I presume was bamboo thicket on top of it. There IS electricity in the home if you can believe it, but the only thing this particular home had was a single florescent light hanging from the ceiling. The mom was incredibly grateful for our visit, and gave Spence and I beautiful crochet scarves that she had made as a token of her appreciation for our visit. unbelievable. Her husband lives there as well, but he leaves every day to work around 6a.m. and returns around 9p.m. He does odd jobs around the community as much as possible to provide for the family.
Little Kevin was a hoot. His favorite toy (he didn't have any toys at all until they joined the program) is a little xylophone that he loves to play while they sing songs. He's not much into singing :) but they're working on that. When they joined the Compassion project in March, he was only able to say 'mom' and 'dad.' Now he's able to communicate much more, and also can identify colors and numbers and shapes! If you'd like to pray for Kevin, his mom is most concerned about the fact that he's been falling and hurting himself a lot lately. You can see the cuts on his face in the pics above. Just to give you an idea of the environment around these hillside homes, I took some video of our trip back down the mountain after our home visit:

In stark contrast to the Child Survival Program, we were able to have dinner with some kids involved in the Leadership Development Program at Compassion on Thursday night. This was an unbelievable experience, as it points to the ultimate picture of success in Compassion's mission. Elizabeth, below, is just one example of this, and has been in the Compassion program since she was only 5 years old. She's bright, articulate, and is currently attending college studying Elementary Education. She'd like to be a 4th grade teacher when she graduates and hopes she will employed by the public school system in Peru, where she can affect change in the country and culture in which she lives for the better. Elizabeth was at my table, but all of the kids in the highly selective Leadership Development Program were inspiring to say the least. They represent what we all want for our children, and the vast effect Compassion can have on an individual life.

I can't tell you how much this trip has solidified my excitement about what Compassion International is able to do in the lives of these kids and their families. It's simply astounding how far they are able to stretch sponsorship dollars, and the trip was able to show me how the relationships established with sponsor families literally is able to transform these kids' lives--not only for their time here on Earth, but for eternity as well. They approach their mission holistically, releasing children from all kinds of poverty--emotional, physical, economical and spiritual. In addition--and this is my favorite part--they do it using the local church! On the entire trip, with visits to three different sites, I never saw even as much as a Compassion logo on a sign anywhere. The care, the supplies, the visits, the education, the food, it's all given to the children by the indigenous population in their community. We as sponsors provide the resources, but the local church is on the front lines. Awesome.

When we give our $$ to charitable organizations, I think our biggest fear is that we may never know how effectively our funds are being used to make an actual, palpable impact on the world. I don't know what else to say except that I saw it with my own eyes in Peru this week. I heard it with my own ears. I hugged these children, laughed with them, prayed with them. They dream dreams just like my own 6-year old does, and Compassion in an amazingly effective way, helps those dreams come true.

Needless to say, it was an amazing trip. One I will not soon forget. Thanks for listening.

Thinking about sponsoring a Compassion child?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

late night, early morning.

ok, so I'm way excited to unpack this final day here in Peru for you all... I have more stories, more pics, more thoughts. Unfortunately, it takes a while for me to process stuff and get it into presentable form, not to much the import/upload of photos. We have to be leaving the hotel no later than 4:30a.m. tomorrow so I absolutely have to get some rest. I promise to blog soon, if not tomorrow in Miami during our layover, then as soon as I can.

This much I will say: God is good.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

day two.

So today can be prettily easily summed up by two things: an eye-opening home visit and lots of time with the kids at another Compassion Project. We arrived to the church and were welcomed with a full out concert from the students. The kids absolutely cling to you, and you'll be able to see that in a few of the pics below. We visited a home on the hillside, visited some classrooms and then had a crazy afternoon on the patio playing soccer & volleyball (about 10 games of each happening on top of each other with pretend lines, nets and rules). My camera broke today, so I have limited pictures, some taken from my cell, but I'll walk through the day a bit with captions:

This is the Compassion Project we visited today. It's at Iglesia Biblica Bautista

some of these kids just love to cling to you and take pictures :)

This was a classroom for 4 and 5-year olds. They loved having their picture taken!

one of the hillsides where we visited homes.

This is Carolina and Carlos and their mom. Spence and I walked up what seemed like a mile of concrete stairs and rocky paths to get to their home. They told us they make the trip at least three times a day. Unbelievable.

a view of a some of the roofs way up on the hillside.

this is a view of an adjacent hill from near the top of our climb.

The mentors visit families up on these hills multiple times a week as well, which is incredibly cool to me. I got the opportunity to talk with Spence last night a bit more about what is provided by the sponsorship dollars that come in for these children. Food, education, supplies, books and a whole lot of love is provided for each and every one. Hearing the kids and their families talk about how Compassion has impacted their lives is staggering. The detail and thoroughness of the files on each of these kiddos is equally as impressive. Bottom line: this organization has figured out how to literally transform families in the communities they serve, and it's nothing less than inspiring to witness.

Tomorrow we close out our trip with the beginning and the end of the Compassion Programs... the Child Survival Program kicks off our day and we'll wrap up having a meal with the college kids from the Leadership Development Program. Until then... Many blessings.

Thinking about sponsoring a Compassion child?


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

day one.

ok, so getting to Peru was certainly a bit more of a challenge--at least in terms of time--than we thought. After waking up at 3:30am, an early flight to Miami, an extended layover (7 hours) and then maintenance-induced delays, the 5.5 hour flight and 45-minute drive to the hotel landed heads on pillows around 3am. I'm certainly not complaining, though, as the hotel is clean and comfy, much more so than most would endure on actual foreign mission trips. Not much sleep in preparation for day one, but we'll make it up.

Today we visited one of the Compassion Projects here in Lima, Peru. The purpose of today was twofold: 1) to educate us on the impact that Compassion Projects can and do have on the lives of the children involved in them and 2) to love on the kids. :) These are just a few of the beautiful children that were awaiting our arrival.

The kids in this area DO have a public school option apparently, so the education offered here is above and beyond what they receive at school, including the ever-important teachings about Jesus Christ. One of the coolest things I saw all day was this tiny little room where some of the teens were hand-making silkscreens for shirts and such. Their creativity was awesome, and with very little to work with. These are just a few designs I grabbed pics of. The first says "Hip Hop" and is a stencil cut out of paper... the second, a complete shirt they had made. I asked what the shirt said and have a general idea, but if you're spanish savvy, please feel free to post a translation :)

After meeting as many of the morning kids as we could, we headed out to a home visit and were able to give a basket of food and supplies to a beautiful family in need and pray for them as they graciously allowed us into their home. We headed back to the church (the Compassion Projects are all local churches) and were treated to a wonderful lunch prepared by the staff there and a small presentation from the afternoon students!

After we wrapped up lunch and the festivities, we just tried to get around to as many little ones as we could to talk with them, engage them, find out more about their experience with Compassion and such. That's when I met Rebecca and Donna. Rebecca caught my attention first as she had an insatiable curiosity about all of us that led to a myriad of wonderful questions (thank GOD for the wonderful translators there). She was sharp, with a bit of an edge about her, and ended up following me all the way to our bus as we left. Among the many things we were able to talk about were music, famous people, favorite countries and our families. Donna took the conversation to another level when she sweetly and selflessly asked how they could pray for me... I gasped a bit, answered her, and reciprocated. She asked that I pray for her father Jose--that he would change--that he would ask Jesus into his heart. Rebecca asked for the same for her father Moses. The only words I could come up with as we closed our conversation were that of assurance, something I felt they wanted. I simply promised that I would pray for them and their dads, and that I would never forget them! Once on the bus, I was able to shoot one last shot of my two new friends, Donna on the left and Rebecca on the right, waving 'goodbye' to me.

More tomorrow, as day two brings a second Compassion project, more home visits and hopefully more pics to show you.
God bless.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009

my week at re:create

I just got back yesterday from an amazing week at a think-tank unconference called re:create in Nashville, TN. This is my 3rd year attending and it's been great every year. This year was certainly no exception... I don't wanna bore you, so I'll fly through what the week looked like for me.

Monday - day 1
5 hour drive followed by an initially awkward (not a socialite) but eventually awesome time of elbow-rubbing with fellow re:creators and people of influence in Nashville. Fantastic dinner followed and then Adam Nitti and band... they were stupid good. Ended the day on the treadmill at the hotel... good for me.

Tuesday - day 2
started with a worship set by Carl Cartee, in which I literally ended up on my knees adding to the tear-stained concrete floor. Didn't expect it, but I guess I really needed that. :) Phenomal discussions led by Steve Guthrie and Ian Morgan Cron followed. Another great dinner, this one followed by Michael Farren, Meredith Andrews & Matt Boswell in the round and capped off with an intimate acoustic worship set by Michael W. Smith. Crazy cool night, although a little rough for me being sponsored by the label I'm no longer on. Just bein' honest :)

Wednesday - day 3
woke up late, missed 10th Avenue North's worship set to learn some tunes for a Eucharist service later. Amazing session by re:create founder Randy Elrod on the curses of the blessings of God. whew. Ken Davis somehow made laughter and tears flow mingled down, then I got the privilege of leading worship during an intensely spiritual time of sharing the Eucharist led by Ian Morgan Cron. Dinner is followed by Carl Cartee, Travis Cottrell and former American Idol contestant Chris Sligh, who's voice is just amazing enough to be dubbed 'wrong.' Another night capped off with the treadmill... go mark.

Thursday - day 4
started with worship by new EMI artist Sarah Reeves, then a great session led by Anne Jackson... you should go buy her new book. In the afternoon, Josh Wilson found a way to extend a whole room full of musicians' jaws all the way to floor. wow. We talk about how the week went just before I head to the Predator's game with Chris from Canada. Predators won, but let's be honest. boo. I'm a St. Louis Blues fan. :)

Friday - day 5
spent the day at EMI in Brentwood (bonus day at re:create) talking mostly about songwriting. Had the distinct pleasure of hearing Audray Assad sing a few songs for us and lead worship as well. Coulda listened to her sing all day. Great voice, great songs, and I don't use that word lightly in either case. Left EMI at 3ish, had a quick meeting with some at Zoe's, grabbed a skinny vanilla latte and hit the road. Driving, I felt renewed, refreshed and a little bummed to be leaving the week the behind, while simultaneously extremely anxious to see my family again. It was a tough week at times, incredibly encouraging at times, and really everything conferences should be but too often aren't.

If you're anything like me, go to re:create next year. seriously. just go.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

worship confessional (2.01.09)

This weekend was the first in our new series 'Bringing Sexy Back' ... no, the band won't be playing the Justin Timberlake tune, but the intro does make a cameo right before the message :) Anyway, the series is about sexuality and this weekend our pastor delivered a great message to kick it off.

The front setlist was back to three songs this week... Here's the setlist:

As Long As I Have You - (M. Roach)
Joy - (John Ellis)
May the Words of My Mouth - (Tim Hughes, Rob Hill)

feature tune - Wrapped Up in You (M. Roach, Mike Weaver)

From the Inside Out - (Joel Houston)

It's been a little while since I've played electric in worship, and I opened with a tune on electric which was fun. We played a new song that I wrote a little while ago with Mike Weaver (from Big Daddy Weave) called "Wrapped up in You." It's based on my life scripture, which is Philippians 4:8, and it got pretty good feedback. It was the first time we even attempted it, so I'm sure it'll eventually evolve more in terms of arrangement and such. Anway, that's all I got for this week. I'm actually typing this confessional from my hotel at re:create in Nashville, TN, and I'm looking forward to my first weekend off since November this week. I'll try to blog a bit this week about the conference--it's always a great time... this is my 3rd year. Until I post again...

this post is also a part of Sunday Setlists

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

worship confessional (1.18.09)

Ok, so services went great this weekend overall, but I did have my most embarrassing worship moment of 2009 (so far) ... I'm wondering has anyone else ever done this? We were singing Matt Redman's 'You Never Let Go' and you know how the bridge lyric is kinda borrowed from the second verse lyric? Well... I was singing the second verse--my mind was really resonating with the truth in the words, too--and I just totally abandoned the verse and ended up just singing the bridge, albeit an octave down. I looked up at the rear screen and realized it and I did two things: 1) I stopped singing. 2) I said into my mic, "let's sing that 2nd verse one more time... sorry about that." (at that point, I felt like I had to kinda apologize for basically ignoring the form of the song with my eyes closed) yeah... it was a bummer, but only at one service. :)

Setlist went like this:

Hosanna - Paul Baloche, Brenton Brown
Forever - Tomlin
You Never Let Go - Matt/Beth Redman
The Wonderful Cross - Tomlin & co.

feature tune - Gone by Switchfoot

Filled with Your Glory - Jon/Tim Neufeld

As you know if you've been reading my confessionals for the past month or more, we've been trying to really spend time making the transitions meaningful in our sets lately. This week's transitions were especially fun, one in particular. The set started in G with 'Hosanna,' and we pushed the tempo just a bit so we could just leave it there (122) into 'Forever.' We do the key change a la MWS at the end of 'Forever' so we landed in A on the final downbeat, which is where 'You Never Let Go' starts. When we ended 'You Never Let Go', we got rid of the click just for the final down chorus and then restarted on the final chord with the tempo for 'Wonderful Cross'... we slowly moved through the A, F#m, E progression of 'You Never Let Go' (2 measures per chord) and then when we struck the D, our bass guitar player immediately went into the melodic piece at the beginning of 'Wonderful Cross.' The other thing that was cool (at least I thought) is that I kept my capo on the second fret and played 'Wonderful Cross' with C voicings, using the C/G chord as the primary one chord. If you've never done that, you'll find that it produces an amazing undertone and actually sounds you're playing a note lower than your guitar can even play (without re-tuning of course)... anyway, try that sometime, it's kinda fun.

'Gone' was a blast... that's just a great song, and Ryan, the Associate Music Director, made tracks with a bunch of the loops, tams and digital artifacts in the song. That's always fun. Hey, I'd love feedback on some of your embarrassing worship moments if you have any like me :) Hope all of your weekends went well and God was glorified above all else.

This post is also a part of Sunday Setlists

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

worship confessional (1.11.09)

2009. seriously.

anyway... I've been back into 4-song sets again recently, so that's what we did this weekend. The set felt great, but as it turned out I pro'ly should have done a 3-song set... we went ├╝ber long (is that geeky to include the umlaut? hmmm.) at any rate... setlist looked like this:

Happy Day (Tim Hughes, Ben Cantelon)
From the Inside Out (Joel Houston)
You Are (M. Roach)
You Gave Your Life Away (Paul Baloche, Kathryn Scott)

feature tune - God and Money (Jill Phillips)

Here With You (M. Roach)

When we rehearsed the set on Tuesday, my first concern was the massive jump in tempo from 'Happy Day' to 'From the Inside Out'... you know I've been very cognizant about transitions lately. We do everything to a click and we were jumping from like 144 to 74 I think. At some point it occurred to me that 72 is exactly half of 144 and if we could get away with that for the second tune, we could actually do the transition in time... we'd just change from quarters to eighths on the metronome. That helped a ton and it ended up feeling great. We run tracks on 'You Are' primarily for the drum loop (which I would totally give to you worship leaders if you ever wanted it by the way... I've given it away to some of you already) so that transition is a little harder 'cause we were moving from Bb to G and I had to add the cut capo... drummer did a good job reading exactly when to trigger the loop on Sunday after we had a little bit of an awkward pause on Saturday. Not a huge deal, but if you know me you know I don't like to allow any obstacles into the worship set. Pauses aren't obstacles in worship... awkward pauses are :)

After 'You Are' we seemlessly went into 'You Gave...' and... I'm telling you... that's probably my vote for worship tune of the year. It's just so amazing in it's simplicity. I'd still love to pen a worship tune with Paul Baloche... who knows, maybe 2009 is the year for that... Our message was about debt and the lyric my sins are gone | my debt's been paid really resonated with me in worship, so I discussed that a bit before we sang the last chorus... it's funny, we so readily accept Christ's death and resurrection for the most overwhelming, uncontrollable debt imaginable--the debt of our own sin--but we're often so tentative about seeking freedom from other types of debt from the same divine source. I think that prepared some hearts in a different way for the message that Pastor Mike delivered--which was awesome.

We were all set to do a song by the single most influencial artist/songwriter in my life Glen Phillips... the song is called Don't Need Anything -- it's on an amazing record called 'Winter Pays for Summer'... anyway, we switched gears at the last minute, less than a day before the Saturday service run-through, and decided to go with 'God and Money' by Jill Phillips (not related to Glen, we just really wanted to do a song by a Phillips, I guess) and, of course, my wife tore it up. :)

Ended with my newest tune 'Here With You' which is the only song mentioned without an iTunes link, since the song is not available yet. Can't wait 'til it is... I'm excited to hear what you all think of that one.

This post is also a part of Sunday Setlists

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Conner plays and sings 'A Thousand Hallelujahs'

ok... this is simply too much for me to handle :) hope you enjoy! Make sure to watch 'til the end as you'll see the 5 year-old in him really show :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

worship confessional (1.4.09)

well, after after a Christmas season littered with music and media galore, our first weekend of '09 started off with a fairly simple, straight-forward service. We kicked off a brand new message series about money, of all things. As odd as that seemed to myself, our Worship Design Team and much of the congregation I'm sure, I have to give plenty of kudos to our pastors who prayed diligently months ago about this and have felt called to launch the new year with this, the topic on just about every single person's mind in America. I can't begin to question such prayerfully executed planning.

By the way, feel free to vote in this week's webpoll, to the left there. It's a bit provocative and none of my business, I know... but it's anonymous :)

The series, brilliantly titled "The Other 90%" (I thought it was brilliant, anyway, and no, I didn't come up with it :) is really meant to focus on how Christians are supposed to live with, deal with, steward, etc. the 90% of everything we are blessed with that we're actually allowed to keep. Using the tithe as sort of a underlying premise but not the focus is an interesting take so far.

Setlist looked like this:

Filled With Your Glory (Jon & Tim Neufeld)
Be Glorified (Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio)
Holy Lord (M. Roach)

feature tune: One Pure and Holy Passion (Mark Altrogge)

Mighty to Save (Ben Fielding, Reuben Morgan)

Again, nothing terribly interesting or unique in terms of the songset this weekend. Doesn't mean the Holy Spirit didn't show up in a big way, though... the set felt great. We served Communion this weekend, which is sometimes tricky to program in terms of music if attendance spikes. It did this weekend--particularly at our last service on Sunday--and we found ourselves desperately trying to stretch 'One Pure and Holy...' and 'Mighty to Save' to fill the time required by the Communion piece... it was already a bit tight on Saturday and the first Sunday, so I should have known better. We got away with it, but not without a few miscommunications in the lyric display dept. and such... looking forward to the rest of 2009 with great anticipation. I'm confident God has some amazing things planned for this year.

this post is also a part of Sunday Setlists

Friday, January 2, 2009

worship confessional - Christmas 2008

ok, so I got just buried enough in the craziness of the Christmas season at the church, making sure that I was able to spend time with my family and, of course, my outward ministry that I completely defaulted on like, three straight weeks of worship confessionals. So, I'm just gonna recap some of my thoughts on the end of the holiday season with you in one big 'ol Christmas confessional.

December 14.
The weekend of the 14th was especially fun for me 'cause of the feature tune we did. My wife sang 'I'm Letting Go' by Francesca Battistelli which, oddly enough, works perfectly with the story of Mary. I, myself, am a huge fan of using non-traditional Christmas tunes to communicate the many layers of the Christmas story. It was a really tough tune to learn how to play on the piano, and I always dig a good challenge, so that was uber fun. More of the fun Christmas-tunes-interwoven-in-worship stuff, too... I had a really good time with that this year.

December 21.
another weekend I was excited about primarily 'cause of the feature tune. This fall I presented at a national conference that happens to be right here in my backyard in St. Charles, MO called "Write About Jesus"... at the writers' night on Friday, a guy by the name of Don Poythress got up and sang an unbelievable tune called 'Joseph' that silenced the crowd before manifesting a standing ovation. I asked if there was any way he could send a demo my way so I could try to squeeze it into our Christmas season and he burned me a CD right then and there. Unbelievable guy, unbelievable song. I didn't do it justice, but I loved the opportunity to do it... we also did an original video of a modern day Joseph story... kinda based on the idea that if Joseph were here now, faced with the same situation, and decided to self-submit a video for some intervention reality show type thing, here's what it might look like:

December 24.
Ok, so Christmas Eve was probably one of the most special services I've ever been a part of at MSC--for a myriad of reasons. It started a few months ago when we began unpacking the idea of doing something different for Christmas Eve... not different complex, different simple. acoustic. no band. That began to seem a touch lazy, so we thought about how we could do it with some intentionality. We ended up clearing the entire stage and bringing in a Steinway (& Sons) baby grand piano for starters. As it turned out, it ended up being my grandmother's piano that we brought in, which made it very special for our family as it's been in her house since before I can remember. Anyway, we brought in 3 string players and some percussion and filled the stage with candles and it was very cool. We did three original video pieces including this one:

My wife (who is an amazing vocalist) sang an arrangement that I did of 'O Holy Night' with an acoustic guitar, the piano and strings... very cool. Then we sang 'Silent Night' with candles and the whole deal... cheesy? maybe. I love it.

Anyway, so that was our Christmas season... hoped yours was incredible and I look forward to continuing connect with all of you here in 2009! Happy New Year!