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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Good Friday--Good Night!

Good Friday is a huge day—it commemorates the death of Christ, the payment for sin, and sets in motion the cycle for the resurrection of Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  People nationally and internationally focus in on remembrance and new life.

My Good Friday was straight up crazy.  The day started out normally enough—though I was a bit tired and behind in preparations for the evening.  We had two tournaments/events at The Gamers Guild, the Dojo didn’t have classes, but we did have a reflection we were going to set up that people could go through on their own to meditate on what Christ had gone through and how it impacted their lives, and some people were coming up to serve Root Beer floats out of Common Grounds Coffee House and Free Store to anyone who might want some as a Good Friday act of generosity.  The Gamers Guild was a mess—we had cards all over all the tables as we were sorting the collection as part of our project to make the ‘common and uncommon’ cards in The Gamers Guild free (kind of like our free store).  The idea is that the community can help itself by trading with the collection, donating to it, or taking from it—much like the early church in Acts helped itself by sharing what it owned.  If a kid wants to build a Pokemon deck, he or she can do so for free now—and older players can quickly find cards they need due to the organization system.  Plus, anyone can donate extra cards into the collection to help others out or trade cards that they don’t want for ones that they do.  It’s also completely opposite to the way that any card store runs, so I hope that the concept itself helps people ask about why we do what we do and helps them see Christ.  (It already has, by the way).  Suffice it to say, with several thousand cards stacked out on all of our tables, we had a LOT of cleaning to do.

Early in the day, I met with a friend who manages a local radio station, and we got to work on the back room to get things out and ready for the reflection (and for the tournaments).  It was a pretty monumental task, but we made good progress.  Our progress was further helped by a volunteer who has begun assisting at the Free Store who began to tear into some boxes of donations that were in the way and that needed processed prior to the evening.  By about 4PM we had two more volunteers up there helping get the cards where they needed to go, and about 5PM, when we open to doors for Pokemon League, the place was in tolerable, though still rough shape.  My wife had been helping organize, but she was having a rough day, so I spent some time chatting with her.  While I was comforting her, one of the other volunteers indicated that he REALLY needed to talk; I needed to be a few places at once by now, so I finished talking with my wife, then I headed outside to hear him share.  His situation was complex and private—and too much to put into this entry.  However, it involved several complications that were ultimately going to result in someone calling the ministry that evening for an emergency ride out of a neighboring town to a safe house in Hays.  While we were talking outside The Gamers Guild, he was sharing about how he had been reading the Bible and praying for the first time in his life, and about how things were going well there.  At that point, the two Mormon missionaries who have been attending my Monday morning Aikido classes showed up and said hello—they were meeting with an individual who had requested they talk with him about faith inside The Gamers Guild.  Once they had passed, my friend who was sharing about how he was growing with God looked up at the sky and said something like ‘Quit messing with me, man!’, which cracked me up.  Then another guy came up needing to talk.  Once I’d finished with the first I headed in and talked with him.  Meanwhile, our small group Bible study had showed up and wanted to know if they could help out—I told them it would really help if they could assist with sorting the Free Store donation boxes while I finished setting up the Christ reflection in the Dojo.  As I finished there, the Mormon missionaries came up and asked about it.  One of them was very touched by the reflection and went through it himself; the other thought it was interesting and read several of the reflection stations.  Both also asked if they could join our small group Bible study for the evening, to which I replied—sure.

The first volunteer who had been helping with the Free Store boxes also joined our small group Bible study, as did the father of a kid from Pokemon League AND the second guy who wanted to chat with me.  Soon, we had no less than five new people in our Good Friday small group.  We started late, and it was a bit awkward with so many new people, but (thank God for answered prayers), the conversation soon started flowing naturally.  It got better and better as we went, and we ended on a good prayer; when I looked up, our two volunteers to serve Root Beer floats were there.  We got them set up, and I heard them have several excellent life and faith conversations with some of our regulars at our Unite Game Night.  While this was all happening, I got the expected phone call that someone from a nearby town needed a ride to a safe house.  My wife was very gracious in that she covered The Gamers Guild while I stepped out to pick this individual up (along with a relative of the individual who went with me to pick them up), and I started on a further interesting journey.  I enjoyed getting to know this person a little better on the ride to pick their family member up, and I also found an interesting coincidence in the fact that we were picking up an individual from a bad situation on the anniversary of the day Jesus died to pay for all of our sins.  Letting that thought fall aside, I continued to chat with this individual; we then, picked up their relative and started the ride back to Hays.

The ride was very strange—I could sense that the person I picked up was lying to me about multiple details, but I wasn’t sure what they were or why.  It was spiritually almost oppressive, but they did need a safe ride to a safe house, so at the end of the ride when I dropped them off, I felt like it was still the right thing to do.  At that point, I was utterly drained in almost every way—and I was extremely famished.  I returned to The Gamers Guild and took over for my wife—working late into the evening.  Eventually our friends serving floats headed home after more good conversations and after they led several people through the reflection.  After that, my wife and I got some food and continued working.  Near the end of the night I was finally able to do something that I’d wanted to all night—I went through the reflection myself. 

The time in the candlelight reflecting on Christ was time very well spent.  It brought a variety of good thoughts to mind, and it also provided me some rest after a crazy day.  While I was reflecting, I got a kick out of all of the faith-based things that had happened that Good Friday.  Several volunteers got to help us out, and I got to know them all better.  One man had shared with me how much Christ was helping him grow, while at the same time two Mormon missionaries were having a loud and somewhat awkward set of faith discussions in The Gamers Guild.  Several people—including the two missionaries and a guy whose faith was undecided had experienced a small group Bible study.  Several individuals who are not usually served received free Root Beer floats and caring conversations—some of which included a faith component.  A woman had gotten out of a bad situation to a safe house.  My wife had been (briefly) comforted.  Several kids had gone through a Christ reflection, and at least one Mormon missionary was surprised by how heavily we reflect on Christ…. and more—even more had happened that night.  It led me to think about the phrase “Good Friday, Good Night!” because both meanings of that phrase were true.  It was an excellent night—I wouldn’t have traded it for anything—so many people were blessed and blessed others.  It also was extremely exhausting—more exhausting than any such holiday in recent memory for me—which made me feel like saying ‘Good Night!’  It had been so crazy that I felt like I didn’t have anything left and just needed to sleep.  Still, there in the candlelight at the end of the day, I felt peace, and I knew that it had truly been a ‘good’ Friday, in every sense of the word.  Thank God for such a hectic, yet blessed day.

A Long Sunday

My Sunday on April 10th started early—I normally teach Spanish after church service to a few friends who may one day join us on a Mexico mission trip, but Sunday we did it at 9AM before second service since the Dojo quarterly party was after service.  We had a European breakfast—toast, meat and cheese, and hard-boiled eggs—and some excellent conversation.  My wife and I then left right away to pick up a college student friend (and student at the Dojo) to go to service with us; afterwards, I saw that I had two missed texts and a voicemail.  In the 45 minutes that we had to get our potluck crockpot meal prepared, a gentleman from out of town wanted to meet me to pick up some things at The Gamers Guild, Vin (the previously homeless fellow that we’ve been helping from my previous newsletter) had left a message that he urgently needed food after returning from a brief stay in prison, and a friend who attends The Gamers Guild messaged me that he urgently needed to talk before 5PM.

I chuckled to myself and told my wife what was up.  Some days like Sunday feel like God is really moving.  She said she could prepare the crockpot recipe and start the Dojo cleaning at the beginning of the party if I was a bit late, so I took her up on it and headed to pick up Vin.  We caught up a bit while I took him up to the Unite Common Grounds Coffee House and Free Store.  We had a recent food donation from North Oak Community Church, so we were well stocked—we also had extra commodities from the Federal food distribution the week prior—as such, we got him a large crate of food.  The other fellow who needed to pick up items met me there while I was helping Vin out, and we got him his things.  Then I dropped Vin off and headed to chat with my friend at his job.  Once there, I waited until he could take a break, and then we chatted about some very serious things happening with a roommate of his; he wanted advice, but more than that, I think he just needed someone who genuinely cared about him and his roommate to listen.  I was glad to do that, and he said things were better after even just sharing some.  This, to me, was one of the most important parts of my day.  After being there for him, I picked up a Salted Nut Roll from his place of work (I figured I should buy something since I was in there, even if I was just talking to an employee on break) to split with Tella, since neither of us had eaten lunch, and I headed to the Dojo.  Cleaning was already underway, and we had a great meeting afterwards and an enjoyable party.  By the end of the night, everyone had fun, and the Dojo had grown as a community.

After the Dojo party, we briefly met with some friends at our house to celebrate a birthday and a recently attained job.  This, too, was very good.  After everyone had departed, my wife and I collapsed in our chairs and rested—it had been an excellent, but very LONG day.

As I reflected on the day, it did make me smile—so many excellent things had been accomplished in such a short day, and I do think that some of them involved God directly.  It also had the kind of crazy air about it that sometimes indicates His involvement to me.  Such things are greatly reassuring to me—to know that He still accomplishes His will through me and with me despite all of my flaws and all of my failings.  I don’t know how much, or how little what I do accomplishes in the long run—but I do know that I dearly love every person in my life and want to see every last one of them after the resurrection.  I also know that God loves them even more than I do and wants to lose not one; as such, I do very sincerely want to be available for whatever He may have for me.  I also hope that sharing about some of what He does encourages others to be open for God to use, as well.  You, yourself, have connections and relationships that can reach some people in ways that no one else can—may God help you be sensitive to the opportunities that you possess to love someone with God and to help further His Kingdom on earth!