Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bone Marrow Transplant Update

We are 74 days post transplant and so far, we are doing very well.  At least as well as can be expected. The transplant itself is rather anticlimactic.  You spend months waiting, and waiting, then when you arrived they pump you full of toxins that literally bring you to deaths door before giving you the stem cells, a process that takes all of 10 minutes.  Then still you have to wait and wait and feel like crap till one day, you finally start to feel slightly better.  I have heard a lot of patience explain it like you literally wake up and you physically and mentally sort of snap back into the present, and though you feel better you still feel pretty bad.  Once you get that feeling and know that the cells took to your body and you start the long recovery.  
In the beginning, I honestly couldn't figure out why we would have to be here so long.  It seemed rather straight forward when described to me in layman's terms, but now having been here for nearly four months and having met dozens of fellow patients and caregivers as well as the many Attending, Fellows, Dietitians, Pharmacists, Nurses, and many more, I can appreciate just how complicated and delicate this process is.  

I have come to realize how a compliant patient like my dad goes a long way to moving forward in our recovery and also the consequences of ignoring what the doctors say.  Many people here are patients who did not listen to the doctors and now are paying the consequences by returning to Seattle with more severe cases of Grafts versus Hosts Disease (GVHD). 

Being someone who feels that rules are usually made to be broken, and someone who also views a doctors order not to do something as a personal challenge.  If I ever get something as deadly as cancer, I hope that I will be able to make myself be compliant or at least hope that there are people around that me that will force me to be compliant.  I have been raised on herbs and alternate methods or healing, and I am someone who prefers to just give my body nutrients and simply let it take care of itself.  But I have also spent much time in the hospital being healed by modern medicine and have had many surgeries.  There is a time where alternate methods are fine, but there are also times where the doctors are right and the hospital is the place to get taken care of.  There was a lady in here (a caregiver for her brother) who was talking about trying alternate methods while going though this process.  It was something that I understood, but I also know that you just don't mess with what the doctors are already doing; it is such a delicate process as it is.

Seeing things from a caregivers side and not a patients side is also fairly new to me.  Also the fact that my parent is the patient and me, the child, is the caregiver, is also a little new, though I suppose this is probably part of why couples have kids, so when they need help being taken care of they can call in a favor that they very much earned.  Most of the patients here are between 45 and 65, so most of the caregivers are fairly older ladies with the exception of a 29-year-old guy who I talk with a lot and another older man.  I always crack up when they include me when they say we or try to include me in their gossip or try to set me up with the dietitian.  

In the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit we have our own family room that we all hang out in while waiting to be finished for the day.  I am social for at least a little while every day, but I generally end up at one of the other family rooms where no one else is so I can read, watch a movie or just have some quiet.  However, when I do finally get time on my own in one of the ICU family rooms, there always seems to be other visitors who come in to talk.  We exchange greetings and then before I can get back to reading, I hear that there is a terminally ill family member that they are here to visit and I feel heartless if I got back to reading so I end up talking with them for a bit.  Though Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is extremely dangerous and my dad has nearly died twice since we arrived, I forget how easy we really have it.  My dad was extremely healthy before he got here so he has handled the treatment slightly better than expected and seems to be able to bounce back from these crazy toxins amazingly fast.  We are actually doing so well and we have it much better than lots of people in this very hospital.  Since we have been here, I know of 3 people that were sent home so they can be comfortable, as there is nothing more that can be done about their condition.  In many cases, if the transplant doesn't take, the cancer comes back with a vengeance. 

I remember talking with my mom while I was recovering from my first Aorta Valve replacement about how we can use our experience to help other parents and patents get through their difficult experiences in the hospital.  In fact, while I was in the hospital recovering, my mom told me that the patient next door to me was a 4 year old who was getting an Aorta Valve replacement like did and that he and his parents were a little freaked out.  So we went over and talked to them for a while and them seeing me having already gone through it only the day before and them being able to ask us questions was something that really helped them a lot.  

We have talked about writing a book, or starting an organization and several other ideas.  I don't know if it will even become something that big, but I think that those ideas are something I would like to put into practice. With our experience in hospitals as patents and as caregivers, we feel like there are things we can do to help people that are alone or scared.  

I have been looking into getting a dog for a while and being the animal fanatic that I am, I kinda became obsessed with the idea of having lots of pets.  My dad tells me, after freaking out when I see a dog or any animal, that I am having animal withdrawals because I haven't been able to hold my snakes and only am able to pet animals infrequently Okay, moving on dogs, right. Katelyn and I have been looking at different breeds.  I want a German Shepherd, she wants a Golden Retriever.  Both of us grew up with the dog we want and constantly point out to each other why the breed we want is awesomeso I think we are going to end up getting both, once I get back to FL. I really want to get the Golden Retriever trained as a therapy dog so we can take him with us to hospitals to visit people. I remember people doing that while I was a patent and I see people bringing dogs into this hospital all the time for the same reason, though not in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. They are really careful about germs here because everyone is on immunosuppressants.   But there are places where you can bring them.  I brought up maybe even bringing my snakes to visit people too, but my mom and Katelyn were both skeptical as to whether that would be allowed :) 

Things definitely get a little lonely here at times. As you all know, I am a man not known for is endless supply of patience but I am known for doing crazy things and staying very active.  Well, the only places to be active are a volleyball court (I played once a week that is now finished for the season) and at a gym. Fishing is crazy awesome up here, but I left all my fishing stuff down in FL. There is a rock climbing gym not far from me, but it costs a bit of money that I am not willing to spend.  I did manage to catch deal at a gym about 2 miles from me, so I am starting to workout there as an outlet. 

Up here, we all are out of state, so we constantly talk about what we next have to do to get closer to going home. I find myself doing the same, but that just brings me to think about the stress of going back to FL and having to find a place to live and my worries about my lack of income here and how my life is on hold until this is over and more inconveniences in general.  In retrospect I can see how dumb I was being and how loose of a hold I kept of my tongue and how much I was looking at practical things and leaving God out of the picture. I didnt realize this until my dad told me, very humbly, that he was in a stable enough condition that if I wanted to go back to FL and start working on getting my feet back under me, he could ask his family in Utah if they could go to plan B and each of them come up in 2 week increments to care for him until this was over. I was dumbstruck. I felt horrible that I would even say things that even resembled dropped hints anywhere near my dad that I didn't want to be with him during this trying time. I had called home to a few people just to vent and get my thoughts out, but I didn't realize just how far I had let it go. I would never leave in the middle of this, unless there was a medical emergency that required my attention in which case we could have someone else cover me here until I could return.  I felt horrible that I would be more worried about getting home for me and not my dad, who's life is going to be changed forever now since this treatment.  

That was a humbling conversation and as I already knew and Paul had to remind me, this is what I signed up for. I knew it was going to be a long time up here and that this would become another one of my homes. I knew that it was going to be hard for Katelyn and mines relationship. Our entire relationship has been long distance; one of us is always out of town.  I knew all of this, and I hope to avoid putting someone in that awkward position in the future and just trust my situation to God.  Thank you all for your prayers and support though this adventure.  I really cant thank you enough.

Your brother in Christ,


Saturday, June 29, 2013


To my wonderful supporters,
The last two months have been very eventful.  I have procrastinated in writing this post to you all, but now, I have no excuse to not write it and every reason to write it.   If I were to tell you everything that has happened in the past couple months, this post would be a long one indeed, however, I do plan to do my best to convey to you where I am at and how I got here.  There were many huge decisions that I had to make, all of which affected my life in larger than normal ways.  I do not feel that I have missed God in any of them, He has brought me here and has directed my steps in each instance.
I do not work at I-TEC anymore, I now work for a company called Slack Construction.  I met the owner of Slack Construction through I-TEC, he is good friends with Steve.  He was here this last time helping with the plans for this new big addition for I-TEC.  I actually met him around the first couple months after starting to work with   I-TEC.  Slack Construction is a very versatile construction company,  we do almost everything from digging footers, to roofing, to drywall, to airplane hangars and more.  He also started a side company that is actually surprisingly booming.  We make corian window sills and the occasional countertop. Im kinda the rover who swaps between the two companies depending on where the most help is needed.  I’ve been there for a couple weeks and though I have had some rough days, I am really enjoying it.
So how did I leave I-TEC, a ministry organization that God definitely sent me here to work, grow, and serve with, to working with a bunch of guys that, though I love them, curse like sailors and smoke a frightening number of cigarettes a day?  Well, it was not an easy decision, by any means.  There were many sleepless nights, talking with many people from home and here at this church and at I-TEC to finally come to it.  What it really comes down to though, is I want to get married.  Katelyn and I have known it for a while now, but we are waiting until she graduates.  Basically, that gives me two years to be stable financially, and have enough saved to pay for a wedding and honeymoon and in general, money for us to get started with our life together.
It took a while for me to realize that I would have to work somewhere other than I-TEC to make this happen.  I tried to make deals or figure out ways to stay there and still make enough for us, but really it just couldn’t really happen unless I raised more support.  The support I have had for the past nearly 3 years has been awesome and there is no way I could have done anything I’ve done without it.  But that was just for me.  It was perfect for me living on my own, I was able to pay my bills, buy food, put gas in the car and even give a little.  The only money I was able to save was from side work that I picked up here and there,  those funded my fun trips and savings.  But as I said before, that was good for me by myself.  Katelyn’s parents have also been sure that they didn’t want their daughter marrying someone whose sole source of income was other peoples’ donations.  I did not make this the basis of my reasoning; I know that God will provide (I’ve seen him do it over and over) but it was a factor I needed to consider.  Many of the men I talked to were very understanding of that point of view, seeing as they had daughters themselves.
Someone who works at I-TEC told me that the only reason he was able to work there full time was because he had everything paid for.  He already bought his cars and house and had worked at companies before I-TEC and was able to save.  He didn’t see how it was possible for me to get married and stay at I-TEC.  Then there was another talk I had, also with someone from I-TEC, a father of 4 daughters, that also encouraged me to probably find a job and start working full time. I was starting to get the feeling that the managers had already talked about the idea.  In fact, I found out later that it was discussed a little while they were down in Ecuador this last time and they seemed to think it was a good choice.  
I had considered the possibility of leaving I-TEC before, but dismissed it every time because I liked working at there and I knew that God had lead me there.  But there are times when it is just time to move on to something different, there are people that have left I-TEC while I was there, and you knew, though it was hard to see them go, that it was time.  Missionaries will usually take a furlough every few years to raise support or simply to take a break and recharge.  I feel that my time in ministry is far from over, I still want to fly and I-TEC has given me permission to still use their plane to train in when I get my medical.  I still want to give to ministry and help them when I can.  But in all humility and in all unselfishness, I feel like I need rest.  I feel so drained, emotionally, physically, and most of all spiritually. I think I will get that rest when I go to Seattle to care for my dad. There will be quite a bit of free time and also time to get to know my dad a lot better than I do at the moment. But getting that alone time away from everything is going to be good for me, I think.
My plan was to wait till I got back from Seattle to quit because I assumed that I would need to vacate the room I lived in, but when I told Steve I was going to quit, he said I could stay in the house, so I decided to start working for Slack Construction now. I will move either to Gainesville or closer to Ocala when I return from Seattle. The truck I was driving belonged to I-TEC, though it was in my name, so I signed it over to Paul and bought myself a little ’02 Mazda protege with all the cash I had managed to save.  No car loan. I also paid the insurance through the rest of the year.  
So I started working for Slack construction and the hope is to pay off my only debt which is medical bills.  This is not me being foolish with money debt. (I listen to the Dave Ramsey Show everyday)  I have had that debt and paid it off several months ago, this is “changing health insurance companies and still going to the doctor” debt.  It comes to about $4,800 and though I know I’ll have to put my plan on hold once I get to Seattle, i should be able to pay $600 or $800 before heading up there. I want to get as much of it paid off as possible before heading that way, so we will see.  That is my reason for leaving so quickly.  Living off support, I was only able to make enough to put minimum payments or a little more, so the only way to pay it was from side work.  The plan is to knock it out as fast as possible, then save all that money I’m currently paying to on this medical debt.  
As for the support that Rose Creek Village has been sending me, I think it would be great to continue sending it to I-TEC to support Paul and Tipharah.  They will continue on at I-TEC for now, but we plan to try to stick close together as far as living goes. We have already talked about trying to make sure we schedule time to see each other several times a month depending where I decide to move to.  But what they do for I-TEC in caring for the guest house and taking up all the construction and maintenance around I-TEC is a lot of work and they are doing amazing.  They certainly could not do it without your support.
If any of you have any questions or anything, please feel free to call me or email me, I will do my best to get back with you as soon as possible.  I feel like I covered everything, but if I failed to answer anything don’t hesitate to contact me.  Once again, thanks so much for all the support, both financially and spiritually, that you have given me for the past 3 years. I truly am blessed blessed.

Your brother in Christ,


Monday, April 1, 2013

Projects Beginning

March draws to a close and there are several new things under way.  The big news is that the new I-TEC hangar addition is finally underway.  We have been planning for quite some time, and after all the trouble that we have run into with the permits and stuff, we are finally starting!  There are several trees that have to taken down and asphalt to be torn up as well as a DRA to dig, just to start.  This is my first large project as Site Manager, and I am looking forward to the learning experience.  

The workers running the excavator have had some issues with one of the tracks and it has slowed us down 2 days.  To be honest, it is kind of annoying to be slowed by something right off the bat, but it is beyond any of our control.  Any prayer that could be sent that direction would be very much appreciated by I-TEC as well as me.

The other big news is that one of our planes is going to be flown to Ecuador on Friday.  It is going to be a 3 to 4 day flight, and there are several dangers along the way.  Galo flew up here from Ecuador on Sunday and is leaving with Jesse in the Cessna 182 to Ecuador on Friday.  The plane has been completely rebuilt by Jesse, Ethan, and Galo and has had no problems on the flights.  However, that is a long trip in a little plane.  Please pray for them!

My sister just returned from Utah and being with my dad, who just finished round one of Chemo and is starting round two.  The plan at this point is for me to go with him to Seattle as soon as a donor is found for his bone marrow transplant.  I will be with him for 4 months and be trained by the hospital as a "caretaker".  I am looking forward to the time with my dad, getting to know him more and just getting to be with him.  There are many challenges ahead, but I look forward to them.  

My dad is fairly optimistic that a donor will be found quickly and we will be in Seattle by the beginning of May, but it could take longer.  The truth is, we really don’t know when they will find a donor, but we will roll with it, no matter what happens. I’ll definitely have some free time on my hands, but it will be good to have that free time. Maybe I’ll get to see some of Seattle. Neither of us have been to Seattle before.

Thank you all for your support, both financially and prayerfully.  I couldn’t do what I do without your help.

Your brother in Christ,


Thursday, February 28, 2013


It has been a while since I last wrote, things have been pretty busy this past couple months.  Since Paul’s arrival, things have been pretty non-stop, in fact, as soon as we got Paul moved into the guest house it has been slammed with guests!  looks like we got him moved right in time.  

During the month of January, we had a team in Bolivia. They had a great success in training students the I-Med, I-See, and I-Dent programs.  We even had someone from Ecuador meet us there.  His name is Ralondo, he was one of the first students to graduate from the I-Dent program in Ecuador and now continues to do dentistry and teach it to others as well as spreading the gospel.  I had the pleasure of meeting and going into the jungle with him while I was in Ecuador.  He is a very good teacher and a very humble man.

Speaking of Ecuador, we have a team headed down there during the 2nd and 3rd week of March, I believe.  Please keep the team in your prayers.  They will be at the training center I built last year training the Ecuadorians in most of our programs.  It has been very successful in the past, we are praying for another success this year too.

Brian, our video guy, made a video of their trip to Bolivia and we got all of I-TEC together today before lunch and watched it.  I was not on this trip and had heard very little about it.  It is often difficult to realize that you are making a difference when you work day to day on simple construction projects or running errands or whatever. I have, more than once, looked at what I originally came here to do and then look at how much has changed, both in my view of missions my priorities and personal life with God.

So I say all of that to emphasize that seeing the video of Bolivia and seeing all the tools that I have helped organize and put together being used and people’s lives being touched was extremely encouraging!  Way too often, all this turns into just work, but then you get little reminders of what you are really doing. I am not belittling anyone or their job.  No matter what job you have, you have the ability to touch lives, it is up to us to realize this and use that ability for the good.

Just recently I was informed that my dad has Leukemia.  I’m sure it was certainly more of a shock to him than it was for me, but it did take me aback.  I love my dad, and the fact that he is 2 time zones and a couple thousand miles away has been difficult. I’m honestly used to being the victim when medical/hospital stuff is involved, and now being on the other side of things, I feel rather helpless.  The distance isn’t helping. 

We have not been as close as I, or he for that matter, would have liked, seeing as we have lived so far apart for all of my double-digit years.  But that doesn’t change the fact that we are father and son.  We had planned on doing a mountain biking trip this year out in Utah, and we still plan on doing it at some point, but it looks like I will be trying to go out there before we get that chance.  In fact, the first thing my dad said to me when I was telling him I was going to come out there was, “You are supposed to be coming out so we can go mountain biking, not to see me in the hospital!!”  Anyway, any prayers you can send my dad’s way would be very much appreciated.

I would like most people’s prayer to be toward my dad, but the only other prayer request I have is for discernment in when to go out there. I feel like I need to time it perfectly so that I will be of some help and not a hinderance.  From what everyone I have spoken to has told me, it is extremely unpredictable to say when that would be.

As ever, I am extremely grateful for your support, financially, yes, but more importantly, spiritually.  There isn’t any way at all that it would be possible for me to be here doing what I do without such a great family supporting me.  Your prayers are felt, and I am grateful.

Your brother in Christ,


Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Next Chapter

So after many meetings and even more prayer, Paul and Tipharah are moving down to join Team I-TEC!!! We are all very excited to have them join us down here and help us in our work.  I have already been told by several people that they are glad that I am finally getting some help which will help I-TEC tremendously.  Most of my friends and family however are not happy that I am taking their niece and nephew or grandchildren or friends from them.  As my dear mother told me, “You are taking my grandchildren from me, there is nothing you can do to get back in my good graces.”

Paul and Tipharah are going to be living in one of the ITEC Guest houses, partially because it is the only open house at the moment, but mostly because we need someone to keep it up.  I maintain it as best as I can, but really there is not anyone that lives there to look after it.  It generally is left to me or Ginny when guests come and since Steve’s accident, it has become too much for her.  So now Tipharah will be able to keep it up as a home and Paul and I can continue to make repairs and maintain it.  

Paul will also be helping me with my responsibilities at all of ITEC’s buildings as we continue to grow.  There are several houses and buildings that need repairs and maintenance as well as additions to the Maverick Shop and the main ITEC hangar.  I basically can only hold things together and make things livable but there are simply too many projects and responsibilities for me to keep up with on my own.  We are also taking on the responsibility of assembling the Dental Chairs that ITEC has developed.

The big challenge that we had to overcome was finances -- how to support Paul and his family.  God has blessed me with support that has been very consistent since August this year. There are several people that have been consistent since the beginning, I thank you very much!!  

So what we came up with is something called the Projects and Assembly fund.  We thought that it was funny because those are the first letters of mine and Paul’s names, for one, and also for a side job we did we wrote A and P Carpentry on the invoice we gave to the customer.  The Projects and Assembly fund is basically where our salary is going to come from. Between my existing support and the support of some people ITEC knows we have been able to come up with about 2/3 of the minimum Paul and I need to support ourselves.  We are exactly $800 a month short of the bare minimum.  To make up that last bit, we are taking on side projects outside of ITEC and also looking for donations. The hope is that further down the road we will be primarily working for ITEC and not having to look outside for work.  To do this, they have agreed to give a percentage of the dental chairs profit to our fund.

How can you help?  You can donate to ITEC online at and specify the Projects and Assembly fund. Or you can mail in a check to the address below with Projects and Assembly fund in the memo.  Either way, the money will make it to Paul’s and my fund.

Attn: Austin Park
10575 SW 147th Circle
Dunnellon, FL 34432

Thank you all so much for all of your support and prayers. Paul, Tipharah, and I are extremely grateful!! 

God Bless, and Merry Christmas


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Alabama and More

This is my second week back home after nearly 7 weeks of living in Alabama.  I was by a member of the ITEC board to come up and finish remodeling a house for him.  It was a favor to me to help me make some money and get out of debt; and a favor to him because the two people managing it before me were called back to their former jobs. The job was dragging out, so he asked ITEC if he could have me.

As it happened, a 2-week trip turned into 7-week trip and possibly heading back up for one more week of finishing the punch-out list after the painters are done.  It had been quite a long time away from ITEC. Not as long as my trip to Ecuador, but when you add up all the time between just these two trips, I’ve been away from home more than a quarter of the year.

It was definitely a blessing from God to give me that opportunity.  I was able to visit home in Tennessee, make some new friends in in Alabama, and get some great advice from my boss up there who is a huge part of supporting ITEC and is even on the ITEC board.  I am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to make new relationships with men who are further along their walk with God than I am and are much wiser than me.  It was also really great to get the experience of managing my first professional construction job which I know I’ll need to know how to do.

I have returned home debt-free, my truck is fixed and I have my emergency fund back in place.  I am taking the Financial Peace University program with one of my best friends to try and learn how to be a better steward of the money that God has given me through all of you.

Another thing that is in the works and that I am hopeful of, is the possibility of having a partner to work with.  The story is long, but I will do my best to condense it.  

About a year ago, my brother-in-law, Paul, came down for a week to help me with the construction of a cyclorama wall for ITEC.  I had been working with ITEC for a year and was used to being a one-man-band.  I had forgotten how great it was to work with my best friend and brother.

We spent a week together building and having a blast doing it. It felt like old times, just like the thousands of projects we had worked on over the years, from the long hours, to the Irish music, to the hundreds of inside jokes we’ve built up over years of being friends.  

We finished the project according to plan, which gave us a few days to fish off the Skyway pier in the Tampa bay. Surely there is not better way to finish a job.

Paul left on Sunday morning about the same time I was leaving for church.  It was one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever had to make--even harder than when I left home to start working for ITEC.  We joked about him moving here as he got in his car and headed home.

I wasn’t really able to focus at church for a number of reasons, but near the forefront of my mind was Paul and all of the great times we had together during this past week and when we lived together in TN.  It was hard to imagine that he had to go home, not to mention that I missed my older sister, niece and nephew, and all my family for that matter.  

Later that afternoon, Paul game me a call. He was still a few hours from home.  Even after spending a whole week together, we still managed to talk to each other for 2 hours!  It was brought up in more seriousness the possibility of him and his family moving down.  In all honesty, it is something that we have never really stopped thinking about to this day.  It is brought up regularly, and we have made efforts here and there, but up till now, nothing has been able to come of it.  

Upon my return from ITEC, I was given quite a bit more responsibility, and even the guys at ITEC realized that I was probably not going to be able to keep everything going and do all that they wanted me to do by myself.  So they asked me if there was anyone I know that could help me.  Of course I did.  

At this point, we are still praying about it and asking God to make it clear that this is what he wants Paul to do.  It has a lot to do also with if ITEC is able to help make this happen financially.  We have so much going on.  But ultimately, it comes down to whether or not God wants it to happen.  We would move in a heartbeat, but we want God to be making this happen, not us.  

We would certainly appreciate your prayers as we strive to find out what God’s will is for us in the matter.  I also am so thankful to all of you for your support both spiritually and financially.  

God Bless,


Monday, September 3, 2012


A couple weeks ago I was a part of helping at a teen camp that our church does every year. Last year was my first time and apparently they liked me enough to help this year too.  I was part of the service team.  We mostly set up the activities for the kids to play as well as keep an eye on them during free time.  

The camp ground and cabins are some of the nicest I have ever been to.  There is a pretty nice game room, complete with Foosball, Pool, Air Hockey, and Ping pong.  There is a huge field for Soccer or Ultimate Frisbee, and behind that field is a huge mud pit. There is a lake to canoe and kayak in as well as goals for water polo.  There is a pool with a big slide, and another pool with a volley ball net. Then up the hill a little, behind the cabins is a pavilion with a basket ball court. Then you have a beach volley ball court and an octagon for dodge ball.  There are actually many more activities to do, that is just most of them.

I point all those out to firstly say that we have a bunch of fun but also to say that we have to keep an eye on a lot of stuff that is happening, on top of set up stuff in many of those places.  Camp was really great and I got to spend time with and meet many new people.  I know a lot of people from church, but many of the kids were not from my church and I loved getting to know them at meal times and during free time.

The camp theme this year was the armor of God.  We took the passage from Ephesians 6:10-18 and actually memorized a few verses a day till by the end of camp we had the whole passage memorized.  Each day, the kids were supposed to challenge the counselors and service team on the memorized verses.  If they win, they get 5,000 points for their team, if they lose, their team loses 2,000 points.  If you both get it right, you tie and nothing happens.  I was challenged by a friend of mine and we tied, and afterward I was telling my friend that she should have challenged me on today's verse instead of the day before's verse because I wasn’t confident with it yet.  Well, my mouth got me in trouble and a student heard me say that. She came up to me with another counselor and challenged me, and I lost.  As it happens, this camp was the girl's first camp ever, and her first exposure to God and the church in any way.  She is normally very shy and was an abused child.  The counselor who invited her came up to me and told me that, and I was so excited at my loss. I knew that there were some abused children there, but wasn’t sure who.  I am sure that her victory over me probably was a big part of making that camp something special for her, and of course, teaching me a lesson in humility.

This year, I walked away from camp not as filled up as I did last year, and it wasn’t until my first meeting with Neil (The man I do discipleship with) that I realized why.  Last year, I was one of the speakers.  I was given one of the morning sessions with the guys and afterward, I had a lot of the guys trying to hang out with me and I was able to invest in them throughout the 5 days that I was there.  This year, I was mostly in the background, and only actually had conversations with people at meal times.

This was quite a lesson for me to learn.  It has made me realize that I have to be intentional about making relationships with people and not wait for them to come after me. You have to invest the time to get to know them before you can speak into their lives.  They have to be important to you, and you have to give yourself, your time, and effort to forge the relationship.  It is in giving that we receive.

I had a conversation with Katelyn, my girlfriend, recently, and I was kind of getting tired of trying to hang out with some people. I felt like I tried for so long but nothing really came of it.  It was next to impossible to go deeper than surface stuff.  Plus in this group, I am on the outside.  Most of these people grew up together, went to school together, spent their free time with each other.  That is a hard circle to penetrate and become a part of. It takes time, and has to be important to me.  She encouraged me to continue trying and not to give up on them. I can learn from them, and they from me.  

I have taken Katelyn’s advice, and am working harder to spend time with them. She does have to prod me every now and then, true, but that is what she is there for, to help hold me accountable.

There is only one real need at the moment. I have a hospital bill for exactly $370 that came up on me out of no where. It was from a visit over a year and a half ago in Memphis, while I was up in TN for my mom’s wedding.  I was definitely surprised to see it.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  

Thanks so much for all of your support in both prayer and financial.  You make it possible for me to help Steve and ITEC accomplish what we do.

God bless,