This is the absolute last time I will say it...

There will be no more posts at this address.

Please proceed to www.coloradomatty.wordpress.com and update it in your bookmarks, aggregators and especially links/blog rolls.


I'm gone!

I've made the switch...

Below is my first post over at the new site.  Please change the address to www.coloradomatty.wordpress.com...

Finally, I have taken the time and summoned up the courage to end my wavering on the new blog.  The decisions themselves are telling in how I expect to proceed from this point on.  Please notice:
This format has the option of adding and editing additional pages which appear in tabs across the top of the site.  At this point I only have an ultra-brief bio and a page related to Hope Center but in the future this will expand.
The Twitter feed prominently displayed on the top right.  I have already explained that Twitter falls under the category of “micro-blogging” and as such, my thoughts which can be expressed in 140 characters or less will more than likely end up there rather than in the main post area.  You can either join and follow me on Twitter or read my updates directly from this site.
The new address I chose was coloradomatty instead of the familiar coloradogaws.  I intend this to become less a family blog (after all, we are back in the States and communication will be simplified from the Ukraine days) and more of a ‘professional’ production (ridiculous pomposity alert!!!!).  Obviously I won’t get paid for this but my plan is for future content to reflect this directional change.  I’m going to work on getting Sarah to ‘guest post’ after she forgives me for scrapping the old format.
The Hope Center links still exist.  Despite our simultaneous departure from Ukraine and Global Action, I still firmly believe in those ministries and will continue to promote both.
There will be a greater emphasis (though not overwhelmingly so) on politics, current events, faith and history – hopefully with an accompanying improvement in writing quality.  The goal would be to make these subjects compelling, interesting and/or humorous.  Obviously there will also still be posts on family, friends and miscellanea to further liven the mood.
So that’s what this is going to be about.  If you subscribe, link to or follow my blog, please change the address to www.coloradomatty.wordpress.com


Patience, patience

I know it's been a while since I wrote an actual post but I ask you guys to wait just a little longer.

From the input I've received online and in person, I am leaning towards one of the themes to which I linked in the last post.  Now I'm just waiting to post until I get my ducks in row on the new site's layout and maybe even solidify my thoughts on the content format.  I plan to be much more intentional on my post content so I want to be prepared when I actually start up again at the new site

I am hoping for a grand re-launch soon... does that sound to pompous for such an insignificant blog?


New blog input please!

Yesterday I vowed that I would give links to the 2 options for new blog designs that I created this weekend as a replacement for this one.  I imported all my previous posts and comments from here onto both and have played with the formats enough to show basically what the sites would look like after the transition.

They have 2 different addresses, which I am also trying to decide between.

#1 is www.coloradogaws.wordpress.com and it's a 3 column set up.  I like the design but the 3 columns makes the widgets really skinny, especially for Twitter and Recent comments.

#2 is www.coloradomatty.wordpress.com.  It's only 2 columns which makes it seem less crowded.  It also has a new Wordpress only post that I did from my phone (a huge plus in using Wordpress over Blogger).

Be sure to notice that both have tabbed pages across the top which can be edited, stacked (ie. one tab can contain other pages 'nested' underneath), added or removed to provide easier

Check it out and let me know which you prefer and any recommendations you might have for improving either version.  Commenting is mandatory.


I'm changing teams

Our return to Colorado has ushered in a lot of changes.

Some are big - a house we haven't occupied in almost 2 years (which is currently without heat in sub-freezing temperatures), a new job (hopefully soon).

Some are small - new phone numbers, a new email address, etc.

To accompany these changes I am making a clean break from Blogger.

I have set up and begun to manage 2 separate sites (only 1 of which I'll keep) on a Wordpress account and have thus far been very impressed. Primarily, the design is better than anything I've seen for Blogger by a country mile (that's the first time I've ever typed that saying... it's kind of clunky in print). The features a similar but a little slicker and the dashboard is far superior - offering traffic tracking, a quick post feature and easier photo posting. I also won't miss Safari not being able to post URLs in the link boxes in Blogger publisher.

It's hard to see on these pictures (because Blogger won't let me resize them larger like Wordpress does) but here are screen shots of the 2 that I'm working with at the moment.

If you have an opinion on which design you like, leave a comment.

This blog will still be active for a while until I settle on a final Wordpress version.


Dear Blogger,
We've had some great times together.
You were there when I was suffering from MySpace withdrawal back in early '07.
You were there for me when I got 6 hits a week despite passable exceptional content.
You continued to woo me with new features and interesting widgets.
You didn't leave when I went weeks without posting.

Unfortunately I've grown up now and I can't stay with a format whose design options seem so... Miley Cyrus.  You will always be my first host but in order for us both to grow, we must move on.  Please don't cry... much.  Goodbye.



New Email

I know I owe a few posts about our travails travels home and some pics of Yalta and Germany but for now there are more pressing matters.  As of the end of September, I am no longer with Global Action (any job leads would be appreciated) and as such, it would be a bit much to ask to keep my email address.

I can now be reached at coloradogaws@gmail.com while Sarah will still be at gaw.sarah@gmail.com

More interesting posts will be forthcoming.


What a long strange trip

We're sitting in the hostel after a little Italian food (our first in a LONG time) and reflecting on the day we've just had.

To catch you up...  After 2 legs of a 3-legged trip we have been through 3 things that I've never seen first-hand in my years of airline travel.

When we arrived in Simferopol the flight to Kiev was delayed by 1 and then later 2 hours.  This isn't that weird but we later learned that the delay was due to Aerosvit's employees striking.  Sergey told me that he actually saw the striking pilots drinking beer outside the airport while he waited for us at the Kiev airport.  Our 12:15PM flight left the airport at 6PM but not before Cam had puked in the camp car.

We spent a day in Kiev with Sergey on Tuesday which was nice but not quite as productive as we had hoped it could be.

We got up this morning (Wednesday) at 2AM to make our 5:30AM flight.  We got to the terminal on time and proceeded to the check-in line where we waited and waited and waited.  After the line not moving for 15 minutes I realized that the desks (for the second time in 48 hours) wasn't working at all.  The rumors were that the computers were broken.  Eventually the line started creeping - about the time our flight was supposed to leave - and we were issued a hand-written boarding pass!  It turns out Lufthansa's entire global check-in network had crashed.

After waiting for the rest of the passengers to get their passes and get on the plane we headed out... maybe only 2 hours late at this point.  At this point I thought we were home free - as good as in Frankfurt.  As we were getting up in the air an old guy went back to the toilet and as the stewardess tried to explain that he needed to return to his seat, he collapsed.  They helped him for a while including busting out the defibrillators.  Sooo we turned around and went back to Kiev.

This is getting long...

To sum up, after the sick gentleman was off-loaded and we refueled, we took off again and made it to Frankfurt almost 4 hours late only to find our bags were wandering around the airport.  We found them after 2 more hours and then spent a few hours trying to find Kremena and the right train.

We left our room in Kiev at 2AM and didn't get to our hostel until 3PM... all for a 2.5 hour flight.  Cam is not amused.


I already miss...

... the joys of a hundred orphans running around camp.
... the peacefulness and tranquility of a camp all to ourselves.
... seeing Campbell ride his bike around, "working on camp", and being independent.
... conversations with Tanya.
... hearing Andrey laugh at his own jokes.
... watching Campbell and Andrey yell at each other across camp in Russian.
... Luda's borsch.
... shashlik and banya at Sergey and Rita's.
... watching the guards break a smile as Campbell comes to hang out.
... lil' Sergey and Misha coming over to our internet cafe.
... our humble little home, where our guests sit on our bed to watch football games.
... hearing Russian.
... ears being blown out when I start the car after Jenya's been driving.
... that great feeling of when the lights and water come back on.
... working on the camp... or just hanging out with Matt while he does the work.
... the sea.
... sitting on the porch looking at the trees and feeling the peace of God when life doesn't make sense.
... being a part of programs that change people's lives.

2 hours before we leave. I was wrong Tanya... it's not like when I said goodbye before coming to Ukraine the first time... it's worse. We love each and everyone of you here in Ukraine. You are our family.


End of an Era

As we face down our return to Colorado from Ukraine I find myself already getting a bit nostalgic for our time here.  Not to say that I'm not excited to be back at home but I'll miss Kerch.  I was looking through some recent pictures and ventured upon a few older ones that I don't think I ever got around to posting.  Here's a few....

I found this Soviet-era painting in the back of a storage last year and was told to throw it out/burn it.  It was probably about 7 feet tall by about 10 feet long so I cut the canvass off the frame so that it might be stored somewhere less vulnerable.  It was done with the best intentions but we eventually used the back side to make a huge sign.

There was a time when it was not uncommon for me to work security - even the all-night shift.  Really nights were a better fit for me because it involved less need to talk to visitors.  One night Sergey stayed with me and he took this picture.  It's nowhere close to this light in reality (as shown by how our feeble lighting system look like spotlights) but I like the effect.

It kind of captures the way your head feels about 4 am on a winter morning before the dawn comes.  Also somewhat post-apocalyptic.

Here's some of our recent visit to the 300 year old Turkish fortress of Yenikale with Judith.  She took all of these pictures.

She stitched this one together and I like that it shows a lot more of this side than any of the pictures I've taken.

This was us walking back after a more staged photo op sitting on the arch but it worked better as a casual shot.

I think this may be my favorite.  As we walked the top the fortress wall into a massive headwind, Cam felt like a bird on my shoulders - closing his eyes and flapping away like he was heading to Russia.


Yeah, that'll help the economy....

I just caught on NPR (if your a blogger you should either read or listen to NPR cause it makes you seem so erudite when you quote it) that the FCC is proposing to impose 'Net Neutrality' upon service providers.  ISP's wouldn't be able to restrict high bandwidth uses such as streaming TV shows in favor of other (read, more productive) uses.  The rationale is that large telecom companies might have a vested interest in restricting content that they provide through other sources (ie. cable TV) - which I am perfectly ok with.

So in this time when the economy needs a boost, the FCC feels that this is the point to intrude upon publicly traded, successful, large scale employers, forcing them to act against their own self-interests so that the 10% of the nation which is unemployed can stream "The Bachelor" from their couch.  Nothing motivates folks like unlimited viewing of mind-rotting television.


Best and worst ideas of the day - Dan Carlin and Blog2Print

This began as a 100% positive post, extolling the virtues of a newly discovered addiction but just came across a product on the other side of the spectrum. First the addiction...

Some of you know or have gathered from early posts that I am an avid listener to podcasts. I used to listen to political talk radio all day long until I discovered World Soccer Daily, a 2-hour daily satellite radio show that I subscribed on iTunes (thanks Slick). This and other footy podcasts were fantastic for making menial jobs or long drives go by quickly. Recently WSD went off the air and I was stuck with lots of time and nothing to podcast. Then I stumbled upon a show by a guy named Dan Carlin called Hardcore History.

I love history. I have a degree in history and was turned off to continued study not by the difficulty of further degrees but by the idiotic simplicity of the BA that I received. I have often been told that I explain historical events in a way that makes it interesting and understandable for people who previously had no interest in the topic. If I am 1/10 as interesting to other people as Dan Carlin is to me, I may have to reconsider going into teaching. This guy is fascinating.

I downloaded my first of his podcasts (1st in a series about the eastern front in WWII) on Thursday at lunch and I have already finished that series and another about the Punic Wars. That's over 7 hours of content consumed in less than 36 hours of life. My appetite for footy news was never that voracious. If you sometimes hear something on the news and wonder "What's the back-story to that?" or just feel embarrassed that you don't know much about the world, go to Hardcore History on iTunes and pick a show that looks interesting.

Now the bad...

On Blogger they have a site called Blogger Buzz that talks about new features and related content. Recently they talked about a service called Blog2Print which may the worst use of technological creativity I have ever come across. Basically it gives you the ability to take your blog and turn it into a printed, bound book. How pompous is that?!? If your skills are up to it write an actual manuscript and get published. If not, just keep it online (everyone is trying to go paperless anyway, right?).

It's not that I can't see a possible value to the service (ie. printing the daily entries during the process of having a child or some other important on-going event) but when I catch this update after having perused my blog and others which are equally silly and amateurish, I can't help but laugh.

Update: I found a new bad that's worse than Blog2Print. With Safari, the new Blogger publisher doesn't allow you to paste content into the pop-up windows. That means that you need to manual enter those huge URLs or HTML codes into this blank. Not gonna happen. This post has links but you must view the actual blog page (not aggregator) in order to see them. Sorry.


Rejection will come

Today we had a visitor to camp named Artem.  He's 5 years old but roughly the same size as Cam.  Since he came expecting to have a playmate here, we decided to let Cam skip his nap (something he didn't seem likely to do anyway) and play with Artem this afternoon.

They appeared to enjoy it for a while but eventually they came to an impasse.  Cam wanted to play with cars; Artem wanted to ride bikes.  We advised Cam to invite his new friend (who he still only knew as 'Kid') into the house to play with his cars and tracks.  Unfortunately, he either couldn't convey this invitation or Artem wasn't interested because we soon heard Cam's furtive cries from outside.  He had been rejected...

Sarry and I debated whether he is mature enough to yet feel that rejection or if he was just tired and angry that he didn't get his way.  Whichever it is, his dirty, tear streaked face gave a preview of the day when he will be rejected and will unquestionably understand that someone doesn't want him, value him, love him....

I'm dreading that day but for now all we can do is impress upon him in no uncertain terms that he is wanted, valued and loved - regardless of what this fallen world and its inhabitants tell him.


The waiting game... The Champions League and ACORN

As far as I can tell sometime in the next hour or two (I'm still not so good with working with differences in time zones that aren't CO, the UK or here) 2 interesting things are going down.

At 9:45pm (my time) the first set of Champion's League group stage games kicks off.  I was offered a chance to go with Jenya to the Dynamo Kiev v. Rubin Kazan game tomorrow night in Kiev but our financial situation means that the trip would have been pretty irresponsible.

Secondly, reports are flying around the web that sometime soon there will be yet another ACORN video released that is even more damning than the 3 hooker/pimp/underage brothel videos that have hit this week. I can't say that I place as much importance on the ACORN troubles as many other political folks, but holy Moses (Cam's watching Prince of Egypt right now and I couldn't resist the reference) it's a awfully weird story to follow.

To be honest, I am much more excited about the CL but they probably won't be televised so I gotta entertain myself where I can.


Worst tasks at HopeCenter: a comparative study

I always thought the worst job at HopeCenter was sewer duty (haha, duty...) but today I have been exposed to one that might leap frog it in the standings.  Remember as you read this that I have been blessed - by way of a croquet mallet to the face in my youth - with a very bad sense of smell  so when I refer to stench, it is much worse than you might imagine.

I'll give you the breakdown and you can make the call....

Sewer duty:
Currently the camp has exactly 8 people here consistently.  That doesn't significantly tax our waste disposal system as long as no one flushes toilet paper (especially when some percentage of those utilize the trees as outdoor urinals).  On the other hand, during the summer there are as many as 150 folks here.

Occasionally it becomes necessary to clear out the sewers in order for them to function at peak efficiency - following the proverbial logic of poo flowing downhill.  Around camp there are several dozen manholes for the sewers which all have at least an in-coming and out-going path that runs through them.  When it gets clogged up someone has to climb in and dig out the gunk.  Since what passes through is mostly bio-waste, it decomposes into a black sludge.  The smell is... unpleasant to say the least.

Aside from the smell, the worst part is the headaches.  I think the decomposition releases methane; not the gas on which human respiratory system is designed to function.  On several occasions I've honestly thought I might pass out from what I assume is oxygen deficiency.

Meat room refrigerator cleaning:
This was a new one for me... and I think Yuri too.  Basically, the big fridge in our kitchen's meat room is where the once-frozen raw meat is stored temporarily prior to being turned into goulash or whatever.  A smell had begun to develop so today we endevoured to clean it out.  Apparently, over the past few months the process has been allowing blood and juices (mostly pork) to leak down into the frame at the base - a fact that unknown to us when we started.

Upon pulling the first screw a geyser of a black sludge (there seems to be a pattern developing here) came shooting out, accompanied by an odor that made the aforementioned sewage smell like sugar cookies by comparison.  It oozed, I cleaned, it oozed again, I cleaned up again, I flushed it out and cleaned up again.  By this time the whole end of the building was absolutely rank and I was covered in it up to my elbows.

As I type this, I can still smell it on my hands after washing with (in this order):

  • hand soap
  • industrial hand cleaner
  • dish soap
  • diesel fuel
  • concrete water (lye and sand - for exfoliation)
  • hand cleaner again
  • body wash
  • face wash

All that and it's still there.  If you can smell something over diesel fuel it's quite a smell.  I still don't know if the fridge will ever be useable again.

I debated posting about it but in the end decided that since it has dominated my day (due to the constant odor reminder) I would write it up.  I have tried not to be gratuitously disgusting and I assure you the actually experience was worse than I've conveyed.

What do you think?  Shoveling decaying sewage vs. cleaning rotting pig blood - which is worse?


Mowing the lawn and test post

I'm taking advantage of these pictures Sarry took today to test the new post editing features on Blogger.  This will be wildly exciting for you readers who will see exactly zero difference from the old format.  Enjoy...

Where were you....?

I read a lot of blogs.  I mean, a whole lot.  I suppose it's my connection to the US and method of following current events, my hobbies and my interests (I'm pretty sure I'll keep reading them when we get back to CO next month).

This gives me exposure to a variety of writing styles and voices.  Today is obviously 8 years on from the horror of 9/11 and there's tons of posts about the subject.  As I read a few I realized that there must be a point in the growth of a blog when you can ask honest questions about the lives of your readership without seeming ridiculously pompous - something akin to referring to yourself in the 3rd person.

"Where were you on 9/11?"
"Sitting next to you.... and why didn't you just ask me?"

Oh well, either way I'm nowhere close to that point.  Although, if you have a pressing need to answer the question I wasn't pompous self-confident enough to ask....


Clean and Sober

At dinner tonight I realized that today is the 10th anniversary of me going clean and sober.

Labor Day, 1999.

I was sitting on a boat in the middle of Lake Havasu observing the general shenanigans (very little of it legal) that go on at Havasu or any one of a dozen beach towns during spring break. I was partaking of several substances which have been shown scientifically not to improve brain function...

God opened my eyes in a very literal way. I can only describe it as the feeling of opening your eyes after receiving a concussion - everything's weird, bright and somehow brand new as though you have never seen it before. My immediate reaction was of revulsion - followed quickly by pity....

  • Why did those guys not feel like they could face the real world without being stumbling drunk?
  • What pain must that girl have suffered that she feels the need to prostitute herself for the sake of attention?
  • Where is my life going, sitting here smoking and drinking my mind into numbness?

I tossed out what I was doing and that was the end of my substance abuse. It wasn't through my strength of character, my insight or my will power. It was literally a miraculous moment.

It's been the defining event to which most of who I am now can be traced. My marriage, my family, finishing college, coming to Ukraine - it all stemmed from that semi-road to Damascus moment on a boat on a river....

I can't believe it's been 10 years already.


Last Camp newsletter

If you have a blog reader you will probably have already been alerted that I have posted on this but upon review I scrapped that post and decided to use Apture to link to the original document. So when you click ... HERE... you should be able to read the PDF version of the newsletter just as it would be emailed to people. I don't know why I didn't think of this before....

As a matter of fact, I think I will link to all the summer's newsletters....

When you click the link above it should show you Camp 4's letter but listed across the bottom should also be those for Camps 1,2 and 3 in order. Let me know if that doesn't work.


End of Summer at the Sea

I always have to explain why we consider it a treat to go to the actual sea when we live so close to the beach, but here it is again. Our beach is on essentially a shipping channel. The water is good and relatively clean (sand and seaweed being common contaminants) but it's not the same as the open water beaches.

Usually we go down south to the Black Sea but yesterday we went north to the Sea of Azov. I'd never been to Azov and am kicking myself for not doing it until now. We went with the whole staff and volunteer team. Some pictures.

We were on a cape with a beach that spanned a long linear distance and I think we literally doubled the size of the crowd with our arrival... that's a long way of saying it was empty.

Just off the beach was a wooded area. It was nice to have shade and a bit of break from the wind.

We never did get confirmation either way whether this whole was designed to be a toilet by the previous occupants. Poor Jenya.

This is... not what it looks like. Russian tradition. This a wood burning tea-maker with a small furnace down the center with a water tank on the outside.

Us boys in the water.


Sarah with Cam. I didn't purposely make sure that Cam's huge melon was strategically blocking Sarry's slowly expanding baby bump.

The centerpiece of the occasion - 25 lbs of shashlik.

Cam's antics

Lately we've been working with Campbell on his talents in the area of the visual arts - specifically photography. He shows real promise with an eye for a good shot but he still struggles with a few of the basics. Here are some examples...

I know this one is his right away due to the telltale finger shaped shadow across the upper left. Too bad, it was well aimed.

This one on the other hand has pretty good lighting (ie. no finger) but he both struggles with the aim and the traditional concept of other people's personal space.

From an artistic standpoint this one is interesting as he utilized the flash to wash out the subject for effect but unfortunately he succeeded in annoying his father and lost his camera privileges for a few minutes.

Honestly this is a cool picture and made even more so in the fact that he actually asked the ceiling fan to hold that pose. This shows excellent vision and foresight.

Beautiful subject but we're back to the finger over the flash.

On a different subject Cam has been working on his bike-riding skills and with the children of many employees and volunteers around, this is vital. Unfortunately there are only 4 kids bikes (a 2-wheeler, a medium trike and 2 little trikes) and they get filled up pretty fast. Cam seems to have the hang of the adult bike mainly because his low center of gravity makes it more stable for him than everyone else. You wouldn't think it would be that easy to flip a 3 wheeled bike but it happens all the time. Here's a clip of it.


Redux: Pride Cometh Before A Fall

I have yet another post from Slick to recycle - this one concerning the same WSD debate that garnered 35+ comments when I posted on it. If you're just checking in for the first time in while skip this one and go to Sarah's post (next one down). It's original and much more important.

Pride Cometh Before A Fall: "On Friday, the top U.S. soccer radio show and podcast, World Soccer Daily, shockingly announced that its broadcast that day would be its last. As a regular listener (and occasional emailer) to the show over the last several years, I was severely disappointed at the news.

The Show

For those of you who haven't listened to the show, it was clearly the best show of its kind in the U.S. and in many parts of the world. The show would broadcast for 2 hours everyday about the sport, offering news, opinions, taking calls, and in general, educating people in this country about the sport. The show had world-class guests and talked almost on a daily basis to leading members of the global media, international star players, first team managers from European teams, and even referees. The show was one of the most downloaded sports podcasts on iTunes. In short, this was no amateur show. It was the authority in this country and largely responsible for growing the game in the U.S. after 7-odd years on the air.

The Controversy

About five months ago, the founder and host, Steven Cohen, made some very controversial and in some cases, incorrect statements about the Hillsborough Disaster on or around the time of its 20th anniversary. For those of you who don't know, the Hillsborough Disaster happened in 1989 and resulted in 96 people being crushed to death (from compressive asphyxia)...all Liverpool fans. However, although he half-heartedly recanted his incorrect statements, as a life-long Chelsea fan (and despiser of Liverpool) he still maintained the simple point that 'he feels that anytime - not just at Hillsborough - when people are crushed to death by their fellow man, those who were part of the crowd must accept some measure of responsibility' (taken from Matt's summary of his stance on his blog). Matt has crafted a wonderful post on this topic, and I'd suggest you read his blog if you'd like even more information on this controversy. Even though an investigation (The Taylor Report) into this tragedy concluded that 'failure of Police control' was the primary cause, I completely agree with Steven's simple point or opinion. In fact, I don't see how any reasonable person could disagree with that statement - it's common sense and fairly obvious.

The Death Spiral

'It's not what you say, it's how you say it'. In my opinion, the show would still be on the air if not for what happened next. Instead of sincerely apologizing for his factual misstatements and dropping the issue, Steven, the host, continued to add fuel to the fire. He was insensitive, he went on rants, he published emails and disparaged those who disagreed with him on the air...so much so that I stopped listening for a few weeks when it all happened. However, Steven isn't the only one to blame. More often then not it was in response to angry calls or emails to the show from people that were wound too tightly. At first, it was in response to his original comments but it quickly got out of control to a point where people were arguing about the previous argument and not really about the point at hand. My point is, both sides continued the debate until it escalated into a dangerous, irrelevant, 'pissing contest' involving the FBI (threats to people's safety) and many people boycotting the show. There were a few groups that went after the show's sponsors, but in the end the show stopped airing due to Steven's concerns for his and his family's safety.

The Conclusion

Although I'm not really going to offer up my opinion on who I think was right and who was wrong (because both sides were both right and wrong at the same time), I'll offer up my one observation. This weekend I had a lot of time to think about this issue while painting my fence and ultimately I concluded it was a classic example of the following:

- Sometimes it's better to do the right thing rather then to be right

As many people have experienced, I feel that both sides in this argument were blinded by their desire to be right at the expense of doing the right thing. Neither side took the high road. If, at any point, either side would have chosen to do the right thing in the way they handled this situation, it would never have gotten this far. In addition, there were many cases where people on both sides of the debate thought they were doing they right thing but lost sight of the bigger, more important picture. As a result, one side was victorious but everyone (both sides, the listeners, the sport, the sport in this country) ended up losing. How neither side could see that coming can only be attributed to one factor: pride.

While searching for Proverbs 16:18 at the start of this post, I stumbled across a blog called 'Sheri's Thoughts On God'. In June of this year she made a post about a sermon given on the topic of pride. Quite frankly, the story she tells is eerily similar to this one. Her pastor 'reminded us that much of the world is in conflict, and for one single reason: pride. Peace, he said, requires humility. But pride demands justice - or what we individually decide is justice.' I couldn't help but be reminded of Jesus' silence from the time he was captured in the garden to his crucifixion.

It's funny...in the end what struck me is not who was right or wrong, who won, or whether or not the show is still on the air. What I'll take away from the situation is a profound lesson learned by observing other people's (thankfully) mistakes. Or, to put it more simply, a reminder of the old saying 'pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall' (Proverbs 16:18).

The Rawness of Living out Faith

I've decided to venture back into the blogosphere, this time more as a therapeutic means for myself. It is so much easier to keep the hard lessons of life and the harsh realities of life private, but then again there is something to purging it once in a while. I also know that we have some prayer warriors out there and knowing that our concerns could be covered in prayer is also reassuring.

Many of you already know, but others do not, that Matt and I are expecting to have another pip squeak enter into our home the end of February. We've been hoping to expand our family, but were unsuccessful earlier in the year as I had a miscarriage in the springtime. Knowing how difficult this was for us and how painful (yet cleansing) it was to talk about it, we've held off on our news of this little one.

It has been a trying few months for us - a roller coaster of emotions as complications have visited us once again. Thankfully our little one is doing well, heart is very strong and is already practicing dance moves, but I've developed an unwelcome visitor, a pooling of blood that seems to be getting bigger and threatening to detach the cozy little sac that junior is in. I of course am getting conflicting advice from the doctors here and the doctors back home as to what should be done. The doctors at home are saying that it's a waiting game and that there is no medicine that they would prescribe.

If there is one reoccurring theme God has been teaching me this year it's been living out faith and trusting in Him. These phrases get tossed around so much in our Christian culture that I forgot what it meant to actually live it. He has put me in positions of complete helplessness forcing me to grow in these areas. It's not fun. It's painful. It's scary. There are times of hopelessness. And then, there are times of reassurance.

Yesterday, we decided to go to church even though it wasn't Christmas or Easter. (A whole other topic I won't go into on this one) Since I only can gather a fraction of what is being said and my attention span of a church service is a maximum of an hour and a half vs. three hours, I started to just read my Bible. I was thankful God honored this and he began filling me with peace with lots of verses from Psalms. One that stuck out to me particularly was Psalm 112:7 "He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." Some may take this as God rescuing us from bad situations - if only we will trust in Him. That if bad things happen then we must not have had the right amount of faith. But God spoke to me differently. In my own paraphrasing (because I've yet to actually hear God in a loud voice) he told me "Sarah, you have much fear that bad news is coming. If you would trust in all that I am... that I am all that you need... that I alone will satisfy your every desire, then you will have no fear of bad news. No matter the outcome, you will be filled in every way."

Do I have this kind of trust and faith? Absolutely not. So where is the peace? In knowing that my God is able and wanting to get me to that point.

Our time here in Ukraine is coming to an end. Many have asked what will be next, and quite honestly we haven't a clue. Once again we find ourselves in our helpless state of living in trust. Due to the economic hardships that many organizations have encountered, Matt will not be returning to a position with Global Action. The realities of a monthly mortgage and other bills and needed doctors visits will be coming quickly.

So why do I feel the need to post something so uplifting? It is definitely not to make you feel sorry for us or especially not to ask for any financial help. In fact, those are two reasons why we tend to keep these hard times to ourselves. Maybe it's pride... call it what you may. But God has really been speaking to me lately about taking that step of faith that first requires becoming vulnerable. If I truly believe that He is going to do something through all of this, and hopefully most of that will be changing my mindset and heart, I need to first let you know what He has to start with. I don't want to hold back glory given to God through any of these circumstances, so here I am being vulnerable. We love you all enough that we want you to be a part of the bad as well as the good. Please lift us up with your prayers as we are more human than we want to be.


Moderation over polemics

****Note: This post is rife with links which will only work if you are on the page itself (ie. not a blog reader)

I decided to wait a few hours before I posted on this subject for the sake of trying to gain perspective. Even if you are not a football fan please read this as it is more about free speech and culture than sports.

Yesterday was the last broadcast of the World Soccer Daily radio show/podcast, a program I have listened to for a few years and about which I have posted several times over that period. Host Steven Cohen announced that the decision was based upon threats to himself, his staff and his family by Liverpool fans.

He got crosswise with several official LFC supporters groups over a period of years in which he said some pretty controversial things about the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 people were crushed to death by their fellow fans. His opinions were in part based on his impression of Liverpool fan's involvement in football hooliganism during the 70's and 80's and also the Heysel Stadium deaths which also involved LFC fans. These were the origins of the rift between Steven and LFC but in the past few months it has gotten much larger than that.

Liverpool supporters groups began a boycott about 5 months ago after Steven made some demonstrably false statements that he was forced to retract. It involved people contacting WSD's sponsors and asking them to either support what Cohen was saying (and thus be the subject of a boycott) or pull their sponsorship from his show. It was largely effective and many major sponsors did withdraw their support.

Since then the boycott has turned to getting Cohen off the air completely - which was achieved this week. So that's the situation and here are my thoughts....

Whatever off the cuff statements he may have made, Steven has been consistently clear on several points about Hillsborough:
  • He has always expressed sympathy for the victims and their families
  • He acknowledges that Hillsborough justice groups are right in their suggestions that both Hillsborough stadium officials and the Sheffield Police bear most of the responsibility for the tragedy
  • He doesn't believe that the fans whose desire to get into the stadium eventually led to their compatriots' deaths acted maliciously and purposely caused the tragedy
  • He does feel that anytime - not just at Hillsborough - people are crushed to death by their fellow man, those who were part of the crowd must accept some measure of responsibility
Over the past few years on WSD these have been consistent points in all discussions about the topic. His claims may not be true or substantiated by the facts but they are, in reality, only his opinions.

Steven has claimed that the success of this boycott is a victory for censorship and a defeat for freedom of expression.

I cannot agree with this assessment. Steven Cohen was free to share his beliefs about Hillsborough and in the same way LFC supporters groups are free to share their displeasure in the form of a boycott and contacting sponsors. WSD has been condemned by some of the biggest names in the football world including Liverpool FC itself, Chelsea FC, Heineken (main Champion's League sponsor), 4-4-2 Magazine and others. It's hard to gauge the importance of this but it certainly gives credibility to the boycott side of the debate. That said, when it comes to actual freedom of expression, neither the government nor any other regulatory institution was involved (or asked to be involved) in any way.

If this situation had ended as a battle between two instances of free expression then so be it, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Steven and Kenny [Hassan, Steven's co-host] have made the claim that threats of violence have been made against them and their families. From the other side I have read that those on the Liverpool supporters' side have faced similar threats from WSD loyalists. Steven and Kenny have read out hateful and anti-Semitic emails purported to come from LFC supporters. "Tony from New Mexico," a former regular caller to the show, says that he has an FBI case number as proof of the threats he has received based on an on-air falling out with the hosts.

These things are unacceptable but I have no way of substantiating any of these claims. Thus, while the claims of threats are relevant to the truth behind the situation, it doesn't really do anything for the discussion.


After all of that, here is what I think....

Based on years of listening I suspect (though I've never met him) that Steven can be a snarky and unpleasant kind of person if you get on his bad side. Once the LFC contingent did so in trying to get a retraction, it turned into a tit for tat conflict that spiraled down to where we find ourselves today.

I think that Steven's opinion on Hillsborough is a bit muddled and intermixed with a life long dislike of Liverpool as a place and football team. He makes some valid points but he is also prone to making outlandish statements which are not designed to be constructive.

I hate the idea that this involved actual anti-Semitism or intentional and blatant attacks on the memory of 96 innocents who died but I also think that people need to get thicker skin. Just because you dislike what a person says doesn't mean it needs to turn into a 'campaign' or claim that your ethnicity is under assault.

I also think that LFCNY and all those involved in this campaign have done themselves and all of us US footy fans a great disservice. This is the only show of its type. Even in the UK I don't know of another daily show, let alone one that could get the quality of guests that were regulars on WSD.

I relied on it for much of my football education - not just of the current game but also the history and tradition. They have robbed many ardent fans of an outlet and a forum. It seems to me that because these types of supporters groups have been able to silence dissent so effectively in the UK, it was inconceivable that someone might break the code of silence in the US.

I'm not crying about their demise - Steven made his bed and he has to sleep in in - but I enjoyed their program and will miss it. That's moderation. I'm not going nuts on either side and isn't that where most of us usually stand on things?

Tammi and Slicky, you are free to vent here about LFC supporters and the situation.


The end of a recession

I just sat down at the computer a bit ago and laughed when I saw this....

Not seeing the humor yet? Because I'm a kind and generous soul (who wants you all to stand in awe of the comic gold I supply occasionally), here's a close-up of the particular section:

Really?!? We're saved! The sale of existing homes in the US has jumped all the way to two! What a relief. I was starting to get a bit concerned about how I might find employment in the current economy but apparently I have nothing to fear. Plus, even if we were to encounter financial trouble, I'm sure our house could be one of the two sold off nationwide per month.

Legal Trouble

Warning: The following is a test of Blogger's new feature which allows me to read something online and then immediately (in 3 clicks or less) transfer it to my blog - right down to the font type and size - to pass it off as my own content. In retrospect I should have started with a post that isn't quite so obviously written by someone with a different name than my own.

I actually don't know how this will work but this is good post; worthy of being re-posted.

Legal Trouble: "This email went out at work today in connection with the news that the NCAA has revoked all wins associated with Memphis' Final Four run in the 2008 NCAA tournament. The university and I plan on appealing the ruling. I'll keep you posted. Otherwise, no comment.


It has come to our attention that the winner, Aaron Sudduth, unethically achieved a victory.

Aaron’s suspected involvement in allowing another student to take Derrick Rose’s ACT test for him, allowed the Memphis Tigers to reach the Final Game of the 2008 NCAA Championships earning Aaron an illegitimate 31 points. After stripping these 31 points from Aaron, the official winner of the 2008 NCAA FOF Finance Basketball Title is Kevin Angell.

It is with great sadness that we come before you with this announcement but we felt in light of the egregious actions taken by Aaron, that the record must be set straight. Aaron’s role as NCAA Office Pool Commissioner is under review and details to his future involvement will be revealed as decisions are made.

Aaron has chosen at this time to issue no statement and we request that you honor his right to privacy concerning this issue.


Almost farewell

Ok, it's past midnight the night before the UK team leaves and we have our last entry from their designated blogger....

day 13, 7.00

so this is incredibly late, and we go home tomorrow, but i figured that i would catch up now in the ten minuets i can esrape together between the last ever trip to the beach and our bbq this evening from the Gaws.

two days ago was the last full day at camp and we did beach Olympics, but the waves were to big so we did them on the football pitch as the weather was gorgeous and we had quite a few water fights and it was really good fun, we also did the closing ceremony in the evening and ward fours dance was amazing, they are the youngest ward and they were pretending to be chicks and were so cute! the international team did various funny skits organised by hannah and claire, one of which was the game guess who, where we pretended to be characters of the team. i was babs, the kids enjoyed all the acts greatly, the evening finished with a binfire and a slideshow of all the kids, altogether an immense final day.

yesterday the kids left, it was so sad to think what they might be going back to and that we probably will never see them again, i had to remember that we had given them all we could in two weeks, hope, what the camp is named after and the reason for our lives, jesus christ. we may not be able to solve any of their problems or give them an easier life but we can give them someone who will hold tight to them and never let go, a reason to live and a reason to laugh. i will continue to pray for the girl in my ward and the children who touhed my hearts and names i remember, for every other child, god nows but your prayer for their lives now is always always needed and welcomed.

today we did touristy stuff, the cam felt so empty without the children so we went down town for a meal and a tour of a near by fortress, i will miss this place so much and i think that they do such an amazing job here, well done!


The Twitter Effect

Never afraid to be behind the curve on something, I'm going to be the 3rd person on my blogroll to post about Twitter in 24 hours.

In short, I realized that what used to be my 'short, funny, incidents-type posts' have now been largely transfered to Twitter. It's a stupid name but the concept of "micro blogging" is interesting and I like to use it for certain things (especially easier posting of pictures). If you are used to reading my blog only for the main text posts, you might think about visiting occasionally to check out the Twitter stream in the right column.

You can click through to see all my recent thoughts.


Team 4 update #3

Wow, the team is now writing prolifically. Next installment...

day 10 - 8.30

today was the sandcastle competition, it was great fun the kids got split into there three teams, and were really inventive, one team themed there castle 'egyptian' complete with larger than life size turtle and smaller than life pyramid! the leaders also made one, with mote and balcony, i thought it was the best but then i am a tad biased as i was one of the main castle builders along side josh and holly!
as it was a sunday the kids dnt have to do morning exercises o we got a half an hour lie in, but as my body is finally getting used to the time scedule i woke up at 6 anyway! typical, but i enjoyed thehalf an hour in bed that i woulnt have normally gotten.
we made picture frames this evening, and the kids all got a picture of there ward to go in the middle, they are so careful with there craft, give a 13 year old boy in england some sequens and cardboard and the likelyhood he would spend longertan fve mins on it is little, however al the kids take everything with such grace and thankfulness, it reminds you how much we've got and how little they have.

only two days left, i shall miss them all.


Camp team 4 update #2

Here is the latest from Catherine, our designated blogger for team 4.

Day nine: 7.00

craft competition and talent show happened yesterday, first the talent show, I was posh spice from the spice girls! One of the many ‘bad cats’ put on by the adults to make the kids acts seems even better, the show was complete with Britain’s got talent style judges, one of the kids acts was a beautiful rendition of the prodigal on to dance, really good, another ‘bad’ act was swan lake complete with men in leotards and an evil hunter killing the swans! V.funny. The craft competition had three age categories and within that prizes for girls and boys. They kids could make anything they wanted but for it wto be a valid entry it needed to include a paper plate a sheet of paper and a lolly stick! It was crazy good!

Day nine: 10.30

Today the talk was on jesus and there was a time for response afterwards where many many kids asked for prayer over there live. It was immense, very special. In the evening we played the infamous ‘biffer’ where there are 10 stations hidden around camp and the kids have to do the activities at each camp and then run between each making sure that they never let go of their partners hand. There are however biffers. These are people (me included) who run around wearing war paint and generally being scary throwing flour at the kids. If hit with flour, they have to sit down and call for a doctor who will tie a bandae round there arm, before the can get up and keep moving again. It was great fun, but im exhausted, so goodnight J

2009-10 Premier League Predictions

Here they are as far as my sub-par IQ can calculate them.

  1. Chelsea
  2. Manchester United
  3. Liverpool
  4. Arsenal
  5. Everton
  6. Aston Villa
  7. Manchester City
  8. Tottenham
  9. Fulham
  10. Sunderland
  11. West Ham
  12. Stoke City
  13. Bolton
  14. Blackburn Rovers
  15. Burnley
  16. Hull City
  17. Portsmouth
  18. Wigan
  19. Wolves
  20. Birmingham City
This would mean that the same 4 teams will go to the Champions League again, that Everton and Aston Villa will once again be the leading contenders for the Europa League and that Wigan, Wolves and Birmingham will be back down in the Championship (second tier football).

Not a very bold or interesting prediction other than that I think the Mankers will fall from grace a bit with the departure of Christiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. They will not be claiming their 4th straight title which is small consolation if indeed Liverpool make it 2 full decades without a league title.

What do you guys think?


British Team Update

For this last camp of the summer we have a lot of folks from England (London and Cambridge) and a brave soul from amongst them is blogging on their behalf. Catherine Rogers has been writing daily updates and has emailed them to me. Here is exactly what she has to say... unchecked or edited by me...

kerch - Day one; 7/09, 10.55 pm

Its very late and we've just come back from a late night swim in the sea ! the water had phosphorous in it and shimered like the reflection of thousands of stars from the night sky. The last few days have been crazy; we left at 1.30 from cambridge, meetng the london bunch at heathrow at four. We then caught the 6.25 plane to frankfurt to catch the connection to ukrain. However the first flight took longer than expected, so it was a bt crazy trying to get twenty two people's passports checked an securtified (is that a word?) in forty five minuts, it seems ok, but frankfurt is massive and we were runing all over the place. I forgot to take my watc of at secrurity in this minor panic and ths got stopped, allothough i did explain that i could take my watch of and walk through the gate again they insited of patting me vigourously all over, which i wouldnt have minded as much if they hant made me take my belt of first and i happened to be wearing the baggiest linen trousers you ever saw! i ended up in a crouched position so they wouldnt fall down, whilst the rest of the youth continued to watch and laugh! ah well, at least we made the plane :)

Today all we really did was organising the next ten days an adjusting to the culture. The people here are lovely; you really feel their imense hospitality . I kow it may sound odd but everyone is so welcoming, you cant help but feel comfortable.

I can't wait for what tomorrow holds:

Day three: 09/09, 07.00 am

Yesterday was very reaxing, and despite the thunderstorm warnigs the wather was very good for eglish standards, so when you wernt i one of your various meeting subjects (crafts/sports/morning exercise) the beach which is only ten minuets away was visited by nearly all. The evening activities envolved eating smurs, an american concoction envolvng melting you marshmallows over the campfire (yeah, there was one of them too) and squising it with chocolate inside two crackers thus melting the chocolate. a delicious , different, tasty snack. We also played numerous campfire 'bonding games' as well as limbo and the occassional line dance! I found myself surprised at how early it was, as the sunsets so eary here, even when its hot, so after about an hour and a half in arkness i realised it wa only 9.00!

This morning the children arrive so i thought i would fill in the blog before my 'roomies' wake up! hmm breakfast at 8.15...

Day three : 09/09, 11.00 pm

Today was D-day, the kids arrived!

I am aboutly wacked so this gonna be short...

They arrived in dribs and drabs some time between 10 and 3. They were immediatly checd for lice and infectious deseases. I was put on baloon modeling outised the queue for the 'hospital' to entertain the chldren whie the were waiting, and afterwards, with the children who did have lice (the kids with infectious diseases were immediatly sent home, although i dont think there were any) as the children with lice had to have there hair shaved of, i think i found it much sadder than any of them, one girl had long wavy blond hair down to her waist, but didnt seem that thrown by it to me, i guess i just kept giving her balloon flowers and dogs and the occaional hat, to be that upset, also they have probaby been through much more than i could dream of, and by loosing their hair they get to come to the camp! I was on ward 2, which was the second oldest ward out of four, so ruffly 11/12 year olds, althought there was an 8 and a 12 year old, as they had siblings/friends in the ward. I put them to bed with Eliasah and we told them about ourselves.

day four: 10.09, 10.50.

aparently it was to 'cold' go to the beach today but on english standards it was pretty warm, instead we played scavenger hunts with them and various sports, this evening we had the opening ceremony which was simply hillarious! we all dressed up as super heroes, i was batgirl, but among the bunch there was a superman a wonderwoman and a bannana girl! the kids all had to be invloved, naming there wards (the dorms were they slept and did most of the activities, ward 1 being the oldest and ward 4 being the youngest) super kids, super family, super village and happy teenagers. it was a great evening, and a brilliant firt 'full day' my day ended by reading to my ward the story of ''the happy prince''

day six; 7.00

devotional start at 7, and my whole rom was up and so i got woken up to, but i decided not to get out of bed so i filled in my journal istead, an explanation of why i am up so early. In the mornings i go to my ward at 7.30 and do there hair and then do the morning exercises at 7.50 with breakfast at 8.15, however yesterday it was tipping it down, so we gave the kids some wht of a lie in as we can do morning exercises, getting them up at 7.50 to do the girls hair, due to the rain we watched a film (the tale of desperoux the mouse) and in the afternoon interest groups inside, such as needle work hair and make up, christmas tree making, some completated constructinthe boys seemed to enjoy envolving LEDs and duck duck goose. i myself did facepaints. despite the rain it was good fun. the story today was ruth an wasvery inspiring.

day six:8.20

so the rest of my team are clearing up the crafts, which were duck puppets, that everyone loved, so i thought i would fill this in now to get out of it (i did help te last few days) iknow i know, excuses! the story today was david and goliath and was acted out very funnily by two men in skirts, great fun all round! as it was raining gain, i found myself watch the incredible in russin with various children on my lps, a very bizarre situation, but we have it at home and i have watched it enough to know the plot and the good jokes so i didnt feel that left out. it was james birthday today o this evening we are going to the beach for a late night campfire (he sun came out around 12 and 'dried up all the rain') but as you arnt llowed to come back on your own and they threw around 'latest 1' i thought i would catch up on some sleep, as i am feeling a bit sleep deprived and generally exhausted, what with the hypernes of the kids and the long days and late nights. i hope the wether stays good for tomorrow o that we can finally take the kids to the beach!

day eight: 7.00

yesterday was the midpoint of the kids being here, the first day we went to the beach and for the bedtime stories in my ward, the best evening yet. we were teaching them how to use the bible they were given, then had a competition to see who could find the verse the fastest and then asking what they thought the verse meant, the were so responsive, some of the answers we got were so insightful, for example one of the girls admitted that she finds it hard to believe in god, when he doesnt appear to answer her prayers, and another explained that by loving god you can love other people more easily, these are 8-12 year olds, who are not necessarily from any biblical background, the speed at which they have grown with us and god amazes me, for example, on the first night, one of the girls prayed, by the second night we got giggles, third we go a sentence, but yesterday we had a volunteer! among all this joy one of the lads in my ward broke his arm in two places during the wide game on day 7, and will have an operation on tuesday, meaning he will miss out on the rest of the week. prayer always needed.

I hope that gives you all some idea of how the team is doing. Please pray for us.

Early warning

If there's one thing I've grown to hate about blogs, it's a long drawn out explanation for not posting, so.... sorry. Moving on...

The English football season starts in roughly 24 hours and 42 minutes from right now... and counting. That means you might have to endure another 10 months of posts about football and Liverpool. Or - as I have clearly demonstrated recently - maybe not.

Either way, as soon as I finish this post I am going to type up my predictions for this year's season. My goal is to best my performance last year, which was somewhere around an average of 3 places off, depending on how you calculate it. I think I should be able to do it but this season the league appears to be packed with absolutely dreadful clubs just waiting to be stomped by mid-table teams and beat Liverpool at home (see Stoke City 2008-09).

The next post will hit as close to the kick-off of the first match (Chelsea v. Hull City) as Blogger can possibly make it. Anyone who would like to put in their guess for the season (I think that is probably limited to about a half-dozen of you at best) feel free to post it yourself or comment it on this or the following post.

PS - Anyone who wants to join in on the fun online game called I Know the Score can sign up here and we can keep track of how well we actually do know that score.


My boy's the jam

This was just today. We had a station with line dancing for the kids and Cam was a co-leader.

Please note his crazy fresh style as he feels the beat.

Also note the extremely short attention span when it comes to the Macarena which he inherited directly from me.

I forgot one

In the process of recommending stuff to read on the interwebs, I neglected to point you towards the craziest story I've heard this month. Excerpt:

I sit up and observed my left pant leg bleeding around the ankle. I attempt to raise my left leg, see the limp and swinging jelly foot that is my left leg. Okay – double compound fracture of my left tibia / fibia. Bad news – no structural support, and I can feel and hear the bones rubbing together. Good news – I can feel my foot and move my toes – and I don’t feel the pain yet.

Read all of Mark's wilderness "adventure" here.

...and I quote "....

I've been woeful at posting during camps. Some is that I'm busy and the rest is a lack of motivation and content. To get you through my slump I'll give you a handful of intern blogs which you can check out for the latest at Hope Center. Here you go...

Because I made a promise - Tommy (from LA)

Here I am, Send me - Judith (MN)

Sarah and Charisse's Hope Center adventures (from VA)

Hope Center Summer 2009 - Naomi (MN)

These cover the whole gamut; from serious to ridiculous with plenty of pictures. All are worth checking out.


Kerch graffiti

I posted here about the homage to Sarah written on a nearby wall by some unnamed Anton. Since then I have been considering posting some of our other Latin-lettered messages so here are a few along with a guess at the mindset that was behind it. These are all on exterior walls in our neighborhood. Please feel free to guess if you have a theory.

Shoo Roop (peace) Rap... I wish I had something witty to say about this one but I'm stumped. Maybe I should have started with one on which I had some idea. Anyone else?

I like this one - it combines cryptically poor penmanship with an obvious drug reference and a hippie afterthought... very American. I read 'shaml' but I could see some other options too. None of the variations that I see make a word of any sort. At the bottom we have some Cyrillic which could actually come out as Gaw. The 'r' letter is a G but the W shape makes a 'sh' sound.

This 'staff' one is in several places and I don't really know why. I suspect that it was written by someone who heard the word at camp and decided that it sounded cool.

This and the next one are some of my favorites. I am shocked to discover that ODB is alive and well. Perhaps he made it over here after his faked death but someone recognized him.

As mentioned, ODB may not have counted on people in Kerch recognizing him after his 'death.'

Similar hand writing but I'm not sure I know much about the South Dakota rap scene. I'm nearly certain that Wu Tang Clan do not hail from the Great Plains.


Why it's great to be independent

I just came across a post at Powerline blog that clearly articulates why we as Americans are justifiably proud on this day - the 4th of July.

It references an Independence Day speech by Abraham Lincoln in 1858 regarding his ideological stance on slavery (and institutional racism for that matter) that eventually lead to its abolition after he was elected President.

I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop. If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book, in which we find it and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it!

Read the whole thing at Powerline.


More tough news

I don't know exactly why I decided to delay this post but I did. I always planned on writing about it - I'm just a few days late.

We got news on Monday morning that one of our amazing summer kitchen staff died of an epileptic seizure. Natasha was only 33 years old with a husband and a 12 year old son. She was quiet lady with a pleasant, shy smile. She was on the summer cleaning staff 2 years ago and seemed to enjoy being in the peaceful confines of our camp.

She has been a Christian for about 5 or 6 years and her husband had just begun attending church in the past year.

She was such a humble servant that we didn't have many pictures of her. This is her in the kitchen:

Natasha's death is our second in the Hope Center family in the past 6 months or so. We lost Yuri the security guard to a car accident in early December and I figure this is a good time to remember and memorialize him as well. We all take some measure of comfort in the fact that this brother and sister are with our heavenly father and free from the immense difficulties that challenged their daily lives.

Yuri with Cam and Alosha:


Gotta be on guard

A few days ago I noticed this scrawling on a wall near the camp.

Though it appears to say that Ahtoh + Capa = Love, transliterated from Cyrillic it says that Anton loves Sarah. Due to Sarah being a very uncommon name here and the graffiti's proximity to camp, I am guessing that this is indicating MY Sarah.

I'm a big enough man to let this one slide but Anton better be careful....


Camp 1 highlight

This is a picture that will always have a special place in my heart. It's a long story but I'll do my best stay on track...

In this photo, left to right, is Sergey (camper), Sergey the translator (who will be called Seroja for the rest of this post), Kolya and me. The two boys are from Vasilkov orphanage and came with the toughest groups of boys I've dealt with at the Hope Center. Directly disobedient and constantly disrespectful... even the young boys would laugh at you and run off if you asked them to follow the scheduled events. They actually booed pictures of people they didn't like at the final slideshow - a universally (so I thought) loved event.

For these reasons and others, I am nearly always asked to adopt the oldest boys at most camps and these were some tough boys. Sergey and Kolya weren't much different for the first week they were here. That was when Seroja started taking an interest in getting them to follow the rules.

Initially it started with some butting of heads, raised voices and threats of being sent home but gradually there was a softening. A few days before the end of camp Seroja and Kolya took a long walk around camp and talked about life and what I had been sharing (through Seroja's translation) with the boys. He encouraged Kolya with what he knew of the Bible and advocated for accepting Christ. Here's the weird thing...

Seroja wasn't a Christian. He'd heard the gospel message ad nauseam at camp over the years but never really made a serious commitment.

After this talk and some deep soul searching on Kolya's part, the boy accepted the Lord with open arms. It was a beautiful thing to hear him talk about the strength and peace he felt for having made the decision. Seroja was so moved by this that he accompanied this group of orphans to the train station. As he was saying goodbye to Kolya, this young Christian encouraged Seroja to also make a decision; "You're ready, I can see it in your eyes," he told him.

It was at this point that younger Sergey came and asked Seroja and one of our interns to pray with him to accept Christ as well.

If you're following this, my boy Seroja has now played a major role in leading 2 people to Christ - prior to having accepted Him himself!

As you can imagine, this made for an amazing 24 hour period, but it gets better. Last night I was honored to pray that same prayer with Seroja as he finally let down his barriers and accepted the Lord himself.

He spoke on the phone with Kolya this evening and the young orphan told him, "I'm praying for you and Matt and you need to pray for Matt too."

What do I say? Shocked, humbled, broken, rejoicing, weeping... all at once.

Can't wait to see what the next camp has for us.

What I used to think