first week and more

22 June 2009

wow. there are not words to describe the experiences that God has blessed me with having here so far. and being immersed in such an obviously broken community (understanding though, that most, if not all, communities are broken in some way) makes brokenness a much closer friend than i would’ve first imagined. it’s the same cycle. violence seeps through the cracks between rocky relationships and friendships due to (many things) a gripping hatred that clings to a person like a ravaging wolf would cling to it’s mutilated corpse of a meal after not eating for a week. anger seems to be the fall back reaction to conflict in almost any circumstance, and you can imagine the repercussions of such a response. the way people look at each other. the tone of voice that they use. little shrugs of the shoulders. the imminent paranoia of disrespect being tossed your way. small things. little things that should be let go, but that cause such terror within a community. before you know it, the little things become important (if they haven’t already turned into big things), and the thought of fighting convicts the two involved, as it seems to be the only logical solution to the problem at hand. and once two get involved, there are bound to be more, and hence gangs, shootings, hatred, anger, fear, and an outer layer harder than diamond.

so what does it take to break through? to reach into the vulnerability that lies within; the fear; the emptiness? and how does restoration occur? my campers talk a lot about violence and how there are certain for sure triggers that will set them off no matter what, even to the point of murder. now, murder is not justified at any age, but these kids are 10 years old…how much more so is it vital that they understand what the value of peace is? and if they do eventually grasp such peace (that ultimately is found in Christ), will the world not be changed little by little? understanding, though, that when asked if fighting is ever an appropriate response, they will answer “no”. i would say that for being so early in the summer, that is the perfect starting block; something i can definitely work with. a question i’ve been chewing on a small amount is this, “how is character built, or how do i build character in others…but more importantly, how is that character, once built, sustained?” just as much as i would be foolish to expect that working out once would make me a body builder, it is imperative that the building of character is an investment over a large amount of time, and not one day. i have a summer, not an extraordinary amount of time, but definitely plenty of time for God to do something big.

will we ever reach a point where our natural reaction to conflict, obstacles, or anything else in our lives is love? and i am the guiltiest, don’t get me wrong. once the reaction, response, even instinct of love pervades our lives and our hearts, i have a feeling that we might see that it is contagious. what better to have infecting everyone around us than love?

but my thoughts are all over the place…disorganized in an extreme way, and my questions just raise more questions. on the more physical side of things here, my campers arrived a week ago today, and i am having a ball with them. i have about 8 or 9 boys that come to day camp on a consistent basis, but a couple more that might be joining us later on. the first day (presumably because of all the jitters and the start of something new) was quite rocky, and i stumbled out of my classroom at the end of the day kind of in a dazed and confused state, feeling like i had just had a bad dream. the boys are behaving much much better now, though, and we are growing closer as a class each day. some of the greatest times for me are found when i see those unhindered smiles during swim lessons, or when the boys get serious and talk about the biggest issues in their lives (darn girlfriends!), and never fail, when they dance in performing arts time, their true colors shine. even though i feel like i am trying to shape them up all the time, my boys have taught me so much in only a week. i can’t wait to see what the upcoming weeks hold.

i’ve already been here 4 weeks! that’s ridiculous to think about. time is flying way too fast.

i hope this finds you all well.

-ben.

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the kids are here!

15 June 2009

please pray. rough start.

i’ma try to update as often as i can, things are getting really busy here.

as the second week of orientation has wrapped up, God has already blown my pride away, and now that the campers are here, a whole new spiritual period of my life has begun. don’t be mistaken, however, the campers that are at TPP right now are high schoolers here from other churches “on a missions trip for this week”…whatever that means. they are not the campers that i will personally be teaching. i will be teaching the fourth and fifth grade boys from around the area.

i feel like i am not being very articulate, and that i haven’t been in the past few posts, and for that i’m sorry. look past the lack of eloquence and into the heart of the writing. but anyways, orientation has been a wild ride for me, even though it has been really low key (ironically enough). it is a difficult thing for me to understand what it means to fit in to the spot that God has for me this summer within the dynamic of the other staff members that are here, but i have found that the answer is much simpler than i imagined. my position here is a paid position (entitling it the name of “job”, if you will), and though i know the reality of college expenses and the much needed money, it feels so wrong to view my investment in this community as supplemented by such a stipend. furthermore, the fact that this is a defined “job” (i am using the term very loosely because i feel that there is a distinct difference between a job and ministry) allows for us staff to view it merely as such, and not something radical. we have defined hours. we have defined responsibilities. we have defined coworkers. so it is easy to get into the mindset of being “off” and not looking for ways to serve. moreover (<—i know it sounds repetitive, but at least i didn’t use “furthermore”, right?), it is also easy to forget this concept of integrity.

what does it mean to truly be the same person in any situation? granted, different occurrences hold different appropriate reactions, but do the values that we hold so dear out in the open mean as much to us when nobody else is around? i must say that i have struggled with grasping this within such a ministry environment because of the job-like appearance. when i went on barnabas, ministry engulfed the entire time that i was away. it was natural. it made sense. and we never really had too much time to be tested on integrity because we were within a team environment and active almost nonstop (maybe that is why there is such a difficult transition afterwards?). this is different. i have weekends off. once the actual day camp begins (on the 15th), i will end my day around 4. i have abundant off time. and as i have seen how others use this time i have been frustrated, because i feel that especially in such a ministry-based leadership position, not seeking God’s face constantly (on and off the “job”) seems to discredit any leadership that has already been given by the position. it’s a farce. a trick. “the oldest one in the book”. a focus on living consistently has seemed so evidently important to me, even though it is quite possibly the most difficult task to accomplish.

and that being said, who am i to evaluate anyone else? i am the most wretched of sinners, and i have absolutely no room to proclaim judgment. that, my friends, is what is being knocked into my head. as kuch once talked about, “plank-eyed pride” (referring to matt. 7:3) is so ridiculously present in my life. so what do i do with that? simply stated, as a good friend of mine here at the project told me, i have to understand that the only person that i can control is myself, and that i need to be enveloped in trying to glorify God so much so that i do not ask for fire to rain down from heaven to smite those who aren’t trying as hard as i am, but that i rather look for opportunities to pick up where others have left off.

as i’m sure you might have heard once or twice before, in this burning building that we call life, Christians are the ones that are going around and straightening the pictures that are hanging on the walls. who’s guilty of that? i sure am. so putting all judgment aside and knowing that i am definitely no better than anyone, and that i would argue that i am the least of the least, i then look to what it means to be a servant leader. Jesus uses the illustration of the mustard seed in relation to Christianity, something very radical because the Jews at that time saw the mustard seed as a weed, something banned from the garden, but still something that grew quickly but subtly. and this little mustard seed, being very small in size, grows to envelop entire areas, but is the smallest of things…like the acorn that becomes a tree. how should this pattern be reflected in my life? (note – this observation of the mustard seed should be accredited to shaine claiborne. sp? read one of his books…irresistable revolution. it’s fantastic.)

and with this desire to become like the mustard seed: small, subtle, and considered ugly, i then turn to look for such servant opportunities. if i am ever “too good” to help anyone in even a simple, everyday task like cleaning up after dinner, i need to look into my spiritual fitness and evaluate if i’m really as “in shape” as i think i am…because 11 times out of 10 (yes, you read that right), i will find that the pride bug got to me and that i need to pop my self-inflated baloon. to be a servant is to be emulating some of the exact same characteristics that Christ Himself emulated. the scriptures talk about Jesus coming not to be served, but to serve. and then the question arises, in what situation do we become better than Jesus and able to focus on being served? the resounding answer is always “never”, and knowing this gives me such comfort because i can see that i don’t have anything, and therefore should simply throw everything that comes at me upon Jesus, in dependence on Him.

i only feel like i have scraped the tip of the iceburg, and i don’t even know if i made a concise point, and as God continues to teach me, i’m sure i will figure out inadequacies and the immaturity in my viewpoint, but such is my walk.

until next time.

ben

“I feel so useless on my own/You’re always waiting just in time to save me/I’m not so usless, I’m not alone.”

thoughts on poverty

3 June 2009

why is it that the only things that seem to be resonating with me are passionate piano interludes and ferocious screamo choruses? why do i feel as if everything else doesn’t even come close to harmonizing with my heart?

And Here’s your escape as
He Calls out your name,
you fall to your knees
and answer his call.
But Here’s your escape,
He calls out your name, you fall to your knees,
and answer His call.

Lord I will be anything for you.

as we gathered together yesterday for our youth development team meeting, i anticipated a normal orientation time. surprisingly enough, and not intentionally by any means, our team got into this ridiculous (ridiculous being positive) discussion that totally rocked my world. it is always wonderful when i have an experience here that allows me to see the urban community (regardless of what specific community) through the eyes of those who were raised in such a community and have lived there for an extended amount of time. i have no room to talk or think i know anything about the city, seeing as i’m just a white boy who was raised in typical suburbia, and so i love learning in hopes of some day being a part of this wonderful city community. yesterday’s meeting was one of these learning moments. we were supposed to be learning about incident reports, or something of the like, but through a few different conversation sparkers, our team entered into a time of chewing on what poverty means. intriguing, and exactly what i had been waiting for. again, the perception of poverty through the eyes of those who come from the city (and potentially low income backgrounds) is radically different that that from a suburbianite, and (i feel) reflects strongly on what Jesus lays out as truly important in our lives.

welfare and health care hold a lot of weight for me only because everytime i hear someone debating the need (or lack thereof) for either and how inadequate (or adequate) the programs are, i can’t help but have this thought of “holy crap, to be discussing the ability of a government (or any entity at that) to provide anything even in the realm of health care is absolutely phenomenal! health care and similar programs are so beyond simple needs (though they are fantastic things) that such an obsession gives complete testament to how much we truly have. what would it be like if what we were fighting for (in or out of the government) was simply three meals a day?”. and this is not a random statement…it is essential for the beginning of the conversation. one of the guys who was raised in this community said, “before welfare came along, we [the family unit] were the child support”. that was so powerful!

that sparked all kinds of thoughts on what true poverty is, and what our values should be. is it sufficient to see poverty as simply monetary? i strongly argue that it is not. some of the overall conclusions that our group came to was that we are rich in our values, our families, and our community; money does not matter. and even then, people who are living in a low income situation sometimes do not even see themselves as poor because the see what truly matters (there was a reason why Jesus was homeless). on the flip side, monetarily rich people can be just as poor as the most desolate homeless man if they have bad family issues, a deserted spiritual life, and an absorption in materialism.

what would happen if suburbia focused on family values as much as the communities who are viewed as poor do? and as we often remember the Christmas but not the presents five years later, how much of a testament is that to the importance of community compared to material things? what will it take to have complete humility, stripped of everything, especially anything that conforms to this world of material? there is an ultimate sense of freedom in ridding yourself of the things that we often view as necessary, because we soon come to find that those things are not anywhere close to necessary.

ben

“some people think that the roses and daises are beautiful…only because they’ve never seen you”

hey hey hey!  so the block party was fantastic!  there were an incredible amount of people who attended, somewhere around 700-800 if i would guestimate.  it seemed like the whole neighborhood showed up, food was provided, fun fun was too.  i personally was in charge of monitering the blow up castle that the kids jumped in….referred to as the “moonwalk”.  i had a great time interacting with a constant flow of kids, some younger, some older, but  i must say that it was a little bit challenging trying to maintain control.  overall, it was a sweet experience (i love park programs anyways, ever since i helped put one on during barnabas when we were in philly), and we unveiled a “peace garden” at the park where we hosted the party.  it is a beautiful array of flowers and signs with some pretty cool quotes and verses on them.  the pathway in the garden makes a peace sign, and the purpose is to promote peace within the community.

i have been thinking a lot about perception of a community, and it is interesting to see how the area that i am in looks deceptively nice.  granted, there are parts close by that aren’t the greatest in the world, but generally, the houses look nice, there aren’t any bars on the windows of the buildings/houses (which really surprised me), and it seems decently calm.  what happens in the community, however, is a different story.  several gangs are present in the immediate area around the project, shootings occur, and not too long ago, just up the street, the biggest drug bust in the history of western PA happened.  but it is still phenomenal to see relationships fostering, friendships being made, and lives being poured into.  God is distinctly at work here, and i am stoked to see everythign that happens this summer.

i have been able to travel around pittsburgh a little bit, and it is beautiful!  it’s nice just to get around the city, and not stay in one spot the entire time…the project kind of becomes a desert land on the weekends as a lot of the staff go home to attend to various things.  it’s all good though!  i am excited about the people that i am meeting here, and God is already teaching me many lessons through them.

keep praying as i go through orientation.  i have 2 more weeks until camp starts, and there is a lot to learn during that time.  i can’t help but think that this tug on my heart for the city is here to stay.  everything is so very exciting!

ben

“only time will tell if violins will swell”

howdy hoody.  it’s another beautiful (if by beautiful you mean hot, muggy, and overcast) day in pitty, and i’ve had a pretty busy day so far.  i’m still smack dab in the middle of orientation, and will be for the next two weeks, but today was a little different than normal.  i chilled with my BASIC (brothers and sisters in Christ) elementary day camp team all day, along with some of the others from the youth development program.  my team has a fantastic dynamic, and we’re getting to know each other better and better each day.  every other team member, except for one, are college-aged students that live close to TPP and who went through TPP when they were in elementary and middle school, and even high school i think.  the other team member is a girl from IWU…so shout out to all of my IWU friends 😉  my team consists of all girls, that is, all girls except for me.  there is one male member that is full time (year round) staff that is going to be a “floater” and help out wherever he is needed, but he really isn’t around a lot.  the girls are pretty sweet, but i’m having a great time getting to know the guys that i’m rooming with, and also other guys at TPP.  most of the college students from out of town are working with the middle school and high school youth groups that come and visit TPP to do home repair around pitty.

the first thing my team did today was travel around to all of the different elementary and middle schools (and a couple of high schools) in the area where there were kids who came to TPP.  we stopped and prayed for each of the schools after learning some statistics about the respective schools.  it was great to get out and about, but it was so humbling and impacting to see the standardized test statistics that correlated with the schools.  the majority of the schools were only around 25% (or thereabouts) proficient in regards to reading and math on the PSSA, which is the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test.  this meaning that only around 25% percent of their kids were proficient or better, and it consistently declined the older the age group got.  one school only had 9% proficiency.  gut check, yeah?  how much do we take our education for granted?  how much more do we have in resources compared to these schools?  why isn’t anything being done to help these schools?  for some of these kids, if not all, this education is their only ticket into a better life.  how does it help if it is only marginal?  be in prayer for the pittsburgh public schools.  but furthermore, our interaction with the kids here at TPP is vital, and Christ being evident in our lives is such a necessity for the kids to see.  pray for that as well.

and in reaching out to the community, we are having a block party tomorrow!!  we passed out flyers today all around the area, and we are hoping to have a great turn out.  there is a pretty nice park right across the street from TPP (along with a swimming pool that we run) and that is where we will be hangin.  pray for an interest beyond a normal social setting for something more, something complete, something magnificent, and that interest being Christ. pray for our interaction with the neighbors, and that they would come to know TPP as a safe haven and a positive place to send their kids.  pray as well for the community around the area and for the crime and violence to stop. haha…i’m throwing a bunch of prayer requests out, so in conclusion…just pray. 🙂

i must say, however, that i am totally, wonderfully, and completely falling head over heels for urban areas, cities, and the community that is found within.

if any of you have any prayer requests, thoughts, ideas, or anything that you want to share with me so that i can pray for you or just dialogue, email me at bdandrew@owu.edu.

ben.

it has been quite a while hasn’t it?  i would almost feel like this is the appropriate place to apologize to you for that, but if you’re seriously angry with me, you expect too much 😉

for those of you who are not aware, i am currently in pittsburgh, PA doing inner city ministry at an organization called the pittsburgh project. it is phenomenal so far (even though i’ve only been here for a little over 24 hours) and i am meeting a lot of really cool people and kids. i will be teaching 4th and 5th grade boys all summer at the day camp here, and i had the opportunity to chill with them today for a little while. we kinda hung out and played tag and all that for a little bit, but then we finally settled down and did homework. haha…they are great kids, and i have yet to meet all of them. and what’s more, they taught me how to play ace-deuce (on a backgammon board…..?) which is a pretty sweet game.

pitty is beautiful! and i think i am quickly falling in love with this city. it is nothing like i’ve seen before, and definitely a lot different than d-town. hills everywhere! the area that i’m in is really a pretty nice area (comparatively) and i am excited to get to know it, and the kids that come through TPP better.

but nothing too much has really happened. just a little bit of orientation, paperwork, and team-building stuff. trying to learn names and make friends and get used to the environment. i’m excited, but i don’t think that i understood how long it is actually going to be until the summer is over. but it will be wonderful i’m sure!

stay posted.

ben

“on a mission to be what i’m destined to be”

song lyrics and bios

16 March 2009

i will make a new tab for the lyrics of the songs on the album, and also the story behind the songs (because some of them don’t make any sense at all if you don’t know the context) soon.

keep spreading the word, please!

thanks again for listening.

i have made a decision to refrain from putting any serious songs on “I am ben andrews.” because i think i want the first album impression to be straight up goofy, silly. not kinda somewhat maybe with a little serious in there, straight up G. anyways, i think of myself kind of link the grinch but opposite. you know?

that means, then, that the following songs will not be on the album:

i’m sure you look beautiful tonight

save my life in your dreams

…and possibly salvation in the strings, but that will likely stay on there.

meh. just keep on the lookout.

official release date.

25 February 2009

March 16, 2009.