Tuesday, October 29, 2013

San Quentin Preaching Class

On February 14, 2000 I walked out of Vista Detention Facility in San Diego County; I actually ran once I made it to the parking lot

On Friday October 25 2013 I willingly walked into San Quentin State Prison

It was an interesting feeling to willfully walk into a prison.  After making the 45 minute drive I was escorted in by Dr. Chris Foreman who teaches a preaching class to nine inmates through Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

Upon entering San Quentin we stood for a few minutes to allow me to adjust and get a bearing on what's around me; to realize I am in a prison.  We headed for the chapel where we greeted a few men; one man was anticipating my visit and greeted me by name.

While the preaching class started I had an opportunity to have a conversation with a man who less than five minutes into our conversation told me he has been in prison longer than I've been alive; it was a sobering thought to process.  I had a wonderful conversation with this man and learned quickly he has been a follower of Christ for the last 30 years.  I was impressed at the hope this man has in Christ; the joy he has deep in his heart.  This man once lived his life one way, met a man named Jesus Christ in one of the darkest places in America and now is a changed man (Ephesians 4:22-24).  At the conclusion of our conversation he asked how he could pray for me: I was humbled.

During the preaching class I had an opportunity to interject some of my thoughts/experiences from preaching over the last decade.  The class lasts for three hours and after the break it was my turn to preach.  I preached a 15 minute message and afterward the inmates critiqued my message; it was rough getting critiqued but I think I handled it well.  They picked apart my entire message: introduction, text, Biblical application, transitions, big idea, exegesis of the text, tone of voice, influx, cadence, closer and much more.  After it was all said and done I passed!  I got a 96.5 on my message.

Our three hours were complete and it was time to head out.  After passing through the entry way; with two doors to keep you in.  As we left I casually asked the guard how many visitors come in daily, his answer was "about 100".  As I jumped in my truck the first thing I did was to call my wife to let her know I was safe.  It was a humbling experience to have donuts in the morning with my girls, preaching in San Quentin and head home.  This trip was great for me to help some guys become better preachers but a humbling experience I needed.

Three things I'm taking away from this experience:
1. I am a blessed man
2. I was encouraged by the incarcerated church
3. Going to prison is a humbling experience

Monday, October 21, 2013

Good People Still Exist

If you've been discouraged with the world lately at all (maybe you've seen: the government shut down, school shootings, war, disease, or death) then you need to read this because it helped me!

Earlier this month our family went on a vacation to Disneyland (the happiest place on earth).  After spending approximately 10+ hours in California Adventure our Sophie asked for a toy.  Now we're not the parents who buy our kids everything at Disneyland.  In fact, we may be the opposite.  We bring in our snacks, drinks and lunch.  We want to buy them a treat while we're there and even will splurge on a stuffed animal.

Sophie had been doing an amazing job.  Leah wasn't feeling well so I had been carrying her most of the day.  As we approached the world of color Sophie had seen someone carrying a Bullseye toy (think Toy Story).  We headed over to the boardwalk to find one.  As we entered the first store, bullseye, there she was!  Unfortunately it wasn't the one Sophie wanted.  We were told we could win one just down the way, so off we went.

We found the game where you can win bullseye.  Unfortunately we were too late, they were closing the carnival style games.  This is about when Sophie lost it and began crying (remember, its past her bedtime).  As we approached the world of color we saw a man carrying the Bullseye horse she had been looking for, it was hanging out of his backpack.

I approached the unknown man and asked him where he got it.  He told me he won it over on the boardwalk.  I shared how it was closing and this was the only thing Sophie wanted.  As he looked at the 5 year old on my shoulders he took his backpack off, removed the fluffy horse and it handed it to the beautiful blonde on my shoulders.

I pulled out my wallet and tried to give him money to which he refused, so I tried again and he refused again.  He was so generous and even excited to give the horse to my daughter.  He even told us he was giving us his 13 year old daughters toy he had won for us!  WHAT!!! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?  A stranger just gave me a toy he won for his daughter and wouldn't take my money.

That night I learned another lesson from God.  The lesson of: you have not because you ask not.  Sophie learned a lesson too: there are still good people in the world.  She doesn't know about all the crap happening in our world but she knows a complete stranger gave her something she longed for.  The question I ask myself now is: "How do I give to others to make sure good people always exist in this world?"

Monday, October 14, 2013

Rwanda Bound

Gosh, I'm not sure where to start this post...

Life is a journey... I want to go where God leads me!

In a few short months I will be traveling to a small Africa country that was torn by civil war and genocide.  Most people would think I'm crazy for going there and some are right; I am a little crazy so I want to invite you to journey with me as I go Rwanda Bound!

I guess the best place to start is to give you the info I know as of now.  You should never journey alone, so I'm not going on this journey alone. I'll be traveling with my pastor (Mark Mitchell) and we'll meet up with Chris Foreman, founder of Come and See Africa, once we're on the ground.

We're slotted to help teach a conference on Apologetics (how to defend your faith) in a local college in Butare (south of the capital city).  We're expecting about 125 students from four countries to be at this conference.  After the conference is over we will preach in two local churches.  From what I understand; I'll preach in one church while Mark preaches in the other and then we swap for the second service.

What I've learned with trips like this is: be flexible.  I still need to get my shots and malaria pills but wanted to invite you into the journey with me!