Monday, 17 August 2009

Eyam's Story

Most churches that I have attended in the UK share one loaf of bread during communion, so it was a bit odd this past week when the preacher explained that they had pre-sliced the bread into individual pieces as to safeguard each participant from getting the swine flu. Just a small precaution, but made me think. Beyond that, I was surprised last week when a good friend of mine found out that she had managed to contract the swine flu! To top it all off, the most bizarre thing happened: my local curate friend told me that he had just been required to receive training for “mass burials” due to the recent swoop of swine flu through the UK! Now, I'm not one who wants to sit around and talk about things like swine flu, nor do I even take this flu as seriously as I possibly should. However, the trend in discussing the issue has reminded me of one of my favorite stories I've learned during my travels in England. It is a story that I think is worth sharing.

It is a grim tale of a small village in Derbyshire, England, called Eyam. In September 1665, a man called George Viccars (the tailor of the town) had received a shipment of cloth from London. It arrived slightly damp, so he opened the cloth and left it out to dry. George immediately fell ill, and by the end of the week he died. By the end of the month, 6 others (with similar symptoms) were dead. Little did they know that the piece of damp cloth from London brought with it some tiny, seemingly harmless fleas – infected with the Bubonic plague. The death toll continued to rise as the disease spread around quickly with the obvious symptom that we learned in the children's nursery rhyme: “a ring around the rosy” (a red, circular rash on the skin). The disease quickly ran through the village, claiming both young and old as its victims. Once you started to feel the symptoms, it was only 4-7 days until you were dead.

I am not telling you this story to depress you! Today, the story of Eyam is told from a heroic perspective. Eyam's story became one of more than death because of the remarkable decision made by the church in Eyam. The decision of this small village parish saved hundreds, possibly thousands, of other lives in central England.

Finding itself in the midst of a serious plague, the town, in a state of shock, looked to its church leadership for advice. Rev. William Mompesson had heard stories of the earlier plague that struck Europe in the 1300s. He saw the death and destruction that this disease brought over his parish, and made a difficult decision: to recommend quarantine. The idea of “quarantine” was relatively unheard of in this area of Europe at that time, and probably because the idea of “contagious” diseases was also relatively new. The villagers weighed the facts, and agreed to shut themselves off from all surrounding areas. Any family that had been outside of the village was not allowed back in, and no one in the village went out beyond the boundary rocks. Basically, the entire village made the decision to pay whatever cost...sacrificing their own lives if order to keep the disease from spreading beyond their walls.

I cannot even begin to imagine the grief and terror that this small village saw during just one short, devastating year. I have read stories of specific families that are just horrifying – one woman who lost 25 members of her family to the plague. Since the plague was spreading so easily from one victim to another, proper funerals attended by family and friends were no longer an option. Each family was given the responsibility of burying their own. One woman, Mrs. Hancock, buried her own husband and six children within just an 8-day period.

The self sacrifice of this small village is deservedly credited as an amazing service to the country. Though the plague ended up wiping out 30% of Europe's entire population, the number could've easily been higher for England if it weren't for these brave citizens. The plague died out in England with the village of Eyam. Out of its humble 350 residents, only 83 survived the 16-month bout with the plague. The remnants of the town waited for the disease to subside, then they burned all of their furniture and clothing, and did what they could to fumigate the rest of the village before allowing outside visitors back in to see what was left. Today, the small village still stands frozen in time as a memorial to each family – with each house donning a plaque of the names and ages of each person who died within its walls.

I realize it's not a story that Disney Pixar will be turning into an animated film any time soon, but I think there is something beautiful about this depressing story. So many Biblical truths come to mind when I think of these people, especially John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” What a difficult way to live out your faith.

My hope and prayer for the church in England (and the rest of the world) is that we find a way to be the place where people go for advice in difficult situations. I pray that we know how to step up and lead our communities when they face tragedy. I pray that we have the guts to make difficult, but correct decisions. I pray that we are the people prepared to clean up the messes that this world often finds itself in. I pray that no matter what crisis is facing us at that specific time, we are ready to make any sacrifice necessary to proclaim hope to a hopeless world.

*Photo of the still-standing church in Eyam, surrounded by tombstones of plague victims.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

She's back

GREETINGS from England! Yes, I did indeed make it back to England. Interesting story, actually. It wasn't until I made the decision to step out in faith that God would provide...and purchase a ticket back to England with my own finances...that God did indeed provide the finances for me to return! What an amazing gift, and another testimony of God's provision in my life that I'll never forget. I still need to add a few supporters to my repertoire, but I'm really not worried at this point that the Lord will provide in His perfect timing.

I returned to the UK at the end of May. Since the moment my feet hit the ground, I feel as though life has been non-stop. Just to update you on a few things that have happened, read on, my friends!

My team decided to do another short 'course' on the basics of God/Christianity, as we did last year (it's a program we call “The Point”). Last year, we met with teenagers at a local pizza shop. This year, we decided to meet in a home. We had quite a turnout! The first few minutes of the first week it looked like the kids were going to be too embarrassed to ask their God-questions, but once the discussion really started, there was no stopping it! We had an AMAZING time. One of the most thrilling things to come from the lessons was when two girls that have NEVER asked us about our faith in the past (in fact, they're the ones that usually change the subject when we bring it up) not only came to a few of the weeks, but actually stayed after one of these meetings to ask questions about God. Yessss!! What a huge step forward!! Please pray for us as we continue to pursue these important conversations with them. The Point will be starting up again in the Fall, so please pray that the momentum doesn't subside during the break.

One of our after-school clubs (Trentside Youth Club) had 100 attendees last week! Since our team volunteered to run this community club about a year and a half ago, we have managed to see an average of 5 kids showing up magnify to an incredible average of 30-40 kids each week. However, when we host special events that we advertise in the schools, we can get even larger numbers. Last week was what we call a “Cafe Night,” where we invite a couple local bands from the schools to play, and we have food/drinks for sale. Usually we have the time to promote the events in the schools quite a bit, but we really didn't promote at all this time around. Turns out, word of mouth must be working pretty well for us! We had about 84 teenagers show up (plus a bunch of parents, which took our total to 100)! A lot of the “newbies” that showed up were fans of the bands, which was really neat to see. We're hoping that a few of these might stick around with us.

This past Monday, my house/team-mate and I threw an 'end of school' bash in our home for the kids. I think we ended up feeding and entertaining for 11 kids...lots of pizza, brownies, and Wii play going on. It is a universal truth that teenagers look forward to the summer! This coming Friday is their last day of school, and it can not come too soon. Tomorrow, we are throwing a Hawaiian-themed party at another one of our infamous after-school clubs (called The Zone). We are hoping that through all of these 'end of school' parties, we will get out enough information about summer events we are hosting so that our relationships with the kids won't wane at all during the summertime. I LOVE youth ministry during the summer! Lots of opportunities with the kids that wouldn't be possible if there was the dark cloud of homework hovering over ever moment suddenly become possible - and, hopefully - with better weather!

It's true...there's no use hiding it. I've been on a few AMAZING short holidays lately! I think being away from England for a couple of months made me realize that I need to use my weekends and days off wisely!

Once I arrived back in the UK, I was sent on the Great Britain Field Team's retreat to Normandy, France. It was just before the anniversary of D-Day, and BOY what an incredible experience. On the way back to England, my team-mate and I stopped over in Paris for a couple of days. Not my favorite city in the world, but it's still pretty surreal to see things like the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower.

A few weeks ago, my team-mate's parents came to stay with us. While they were here, we all went on a short trip up to Norway to visit some of their family (which they had never met). It was an amazing trip...and a ridiculously cheap one, since we stayed and ate with family. I will never forget that trip - - I met Walter Mondale (former VP of the US! How random is that?) there, had the freshest seafood every day (we were even served caviar for breakfast!), found the gravestones of my team-mate's great-great-grandparents, and got to take an incredible boat ride through the famous fjords.

I recently had a weekend away in the Peak District (a beautiful area just outside of Nottingham that is used as English countryside scenery in lots of British films) with my small group. During that trip, our group decided to take a trip to Haddon Hall...which, as it turns out, is the castle that is used in The Princess Bride! It's also used in Elizabeth, Jane Eyre, and Pride & Prejudice, but...c'mon people...THE PRINCESS BRIDE!! I was super-duper excited!! Afterall, “Mawwaige is a bwessed awwaingement...” Man, I hope you all know what I'm talking about here...

The final amazing thing I've seen since being back is Bradgate Park. I had a meeting there with some other teammates from my organization. Honestly, I'm probably the only person in the world who cares this much about Bradgate Park...but I was so honored to be able to visit, that I seriously got teary eyed. Bradgate Park is where Lady Jane Grey was born and raised! Again, I'm probably the only person in the world who cares this much about Lady Jane Grey...but I've been somewhat obsessed with her (and the entire Tudor family, really...Tudor is the family of Henry VIII, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth...) for quite a few years now. I wrote a paper about her when I was at Florida Christian College as part of the class I took which included my first trip to Europe! My paper was on European martyrs, and Lady Jane is classified as one since the only reason she was beheaded was because she refused to recant her Protestant beliefs. She was only 16 years old at the time, and had just been literally forced into being the Queen of England...for only 9 days. What an incredible story.

Pictures of all of the above places/experiences are either on my Flickr website, or are on their way very soon. :)

I think that will be all for now. Please pray for wisdom that I might know how to best use every moment of summer for the Kingdom. Please pray for myself and my house/team-mate as we prepare this week to move out of our house (I'm going to miss this house!) and into our other team-mate's house as they are in the U.S. for a short furlough.

Grace and peace.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

April showers bring May flowers

My apologies, April! You apparently came and went without any word from me appearing on this blog. Woops!

March ended well for me. As I mentioned in my last post, a team from Lincoln Christian College came to Nottingham for a week of teaching in the local secondary school. It was an AWESOME week! It's tiring just to teach teenagers all day long...much less to attack the subject of faith with kids who proudly profess to be atheists. I can't even count the number of kids we had one-on-one conversations with about our faith (we're talking somewhere in the 1,000s here). It's the most terrifying and yet most wonderful honor to live out 1 Peter 3:15: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."

Last year I posted about the questions that were common during that week. This time around, however, I'd like to post more about the actual conversations.

- The older classes were supposed to interview us about the Christian perspective on issues like animal testing, euthanasia, divorce, and abortion. I had the chance to share a very unique and personal story about how my own mother was advised strongly by her doctor to have an abortion, and when she I came! It was neat to have a discussion of a more personal nature with the older kids and have them finally see abortion from a different side.

- One of the older girls kept asking about my position on suicide. She then shared with me an incredibly emotional story about her Aunt who had been mentally unstable for years, and had only weeks earlier committed suicide. Sharing this story with me was obviously difficult for her, so I decided to put on my counselor cap and ask about how her family was coping. She had assumed that as a Christian I would have immediately condemned her Aunt rather than trying to come at the situation with understanding and love. I believe that was this girl's first time hearing about a loving God.

- A 13-year old girl who often comes to our after-school club was in a group with me during the last class. She and her friends decided to ask me how I can believe that a God exists. After sharing my "Intelligent Design" spiel and giving a short testimony of personal experience, the girls were silent. Then, the girl who I know from our clubs asked out of frustration: "Well, if a God TRULY existed...and He really honestly cared about us...well, wouldn't He want us to know He was real? I mean, wouldn't He at least just come down here to earth one time and say 'Hey guys, I'm real!'" For a second I felt like I shouldn't breathe for fear that I'd wake up and this perfect situation would disappear...then I found my breath and replied: "Actually, I believe that DID happen. I believe that was Jesus." We sat in silence again for a second until the same girl piped up once more after shaking off my comment and said, "Well, that was a REALLY long time ago. Don't you think He should come back again?" Wow. It's like I was paying this girl for the perfect set-up. "Actually...I DO believe He will come again..." In volleyball terms: bump, set, spike!

Fast forwarding to today. I am in Florida. Yep! Tan lines and flip flops galore. I have been in Florida with my family for about a month (so that's where April went...). I initially returned to Florida to spend some much-needed time with my family, and ended up staying longer than intended due to a dire need of funding. So, I'm finding myself again in the all-too-familiar place of support raising.

I think if there was ever a list of all the things I am capable of doing in this world, and they were put in order from the things I do best on top to the things I do worst on the bottom..."support raising" would be so far down that you'd trip over it. Added to that, raising funds for ANYTHING in this economy is difficult! As frustrating as it has been, I am being constantly reminded of a spiritual gifts assessment I recently took with my teammate in England. There were hundreds of statements we had to rate from "Strongly Disagree" to "Strongly Agree," and the statement that took me the longest to consider was: "I am willing to attempt the impossible for God." Jeepers. It was a challenging, haunting question that has stuck with me ever since. Truly, in England I am part of a team that is attempting an 'impossible' mission (cue cheesy music and Tom Cruise jumping out of exploding buildings): to bring Christ to a self-proclaimed "post-Christian" society. Thankfully, my God not only allows for all things within His will to be possible, but He is also a jealous God who refuses to quit chasing after those who run from Him. And here I am now...getting a tan and attempting to accomplish the impossible with the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Please pray along with me for this situation, as it is becoming more and more important for me to get back to the field ASAP.

Speaking of all that - If you are interested and in the Orlando area this coming weekend, there is going to be a fund-raising dinner for me at the First Christian Church of Orlando! Come join me on May 9th from 6-7.30pm. Dinner will be served for a suggested donation of $10 for adults, $5 for the kiddies. There will be some stuff on sale, and I'll be talking about my experience in England so far. Should be a dandy good time. :)

Here's to May - cheers, y'all!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Here's the Headlines

Hello, friends!
Hey look at me - I'm blogging again! I have had yet another streak of busy busy busy days. I love keeping myself busy, especially when I can see the results of my hard work. I really feel like the relationships I've been working so hard to build over the last year and a half have been growing even more than I thought possible! There's no feeling like having someone you genuinely care about asking you for advice, or feeling comfortable enough with you to vent all of their issues to you. I praise God for giving me these friendships and opportunities to share His love!

As for what I've been up to lately, here's a quick snapshot into my life:

Half term week

"Half Term" is a week in the middle of each school term where there is a week off of school. The girls in our after-school club (called "The Zone") always complain of being bored during half-terms, so Amy (my teammate/housemate) and I decided to offer a special edition of A2B ("Alternative 2 Boredom," our summer club) and host a different event each day of the half-term out of our home (want a tour of my home?). Monday was glass painting, Tuesday was cinema day, Wednesday was baking day, Thursday we had a special party night at our youth club, and Friday night we had a girly sleep-over. It was an intense week filled with tons of fun (and sugar), and was definitely worth it! The sleep-over on Friday night proved to be another step forward in building our relationships with the girls. We had a ton of fun playing games, watching chick flicks, painting nails...being all-around ridiculously girly.

A week in the local school
A few hours ago I was at the Nottingham Railway Station to meet up with 17 college students from Lincoln Christian College (Lincoln, IL). Every year during its Spring Break, LCC sends a group of students to Nottingham for a week of mission service with our team. This group has become such a staple to the team here in Nottingham that it is actually planned into the local school's curriculum! These 17 students, 2 adults that came with them, plus our team of 4 will be teaching every R.E. ('religious education') class at the local school this coming week - - coming face-to-face with literally thousands of teenagers. This week, we will become the first real, live Christians that many of these kids have ever met. We will give our 'Christian' perspective on a variety of topics, from abortion to animal rights, assisted suicide to pre-marital sex, world poverty to homosexuality, and everything between. We will tell Bible stories these kids have never heard, and will give our own testimonies about 'experiencing' Christ in our own lives. To some of these kids we will probably just be another homework assignment, but hopefully we will spark the curiosity of others while planting seeds in a really interesting field. Other than being in the schools this week, we will also host a Sunday night service at a local church, have a prayer walk around the town centre, invite every student in West Bridgford to a special cafe night (Thursday night), tour around Nottingham city, and take a short trip up to Warwick Castle!'s going to be a busy week...and I couldn't be more excited!

And now, a bit of English culture for you...
One interesting annual event in England is coming up on the 13th of March - Red Nose Day. For the last few weeks charity shops, grocery stores and certain other shops have been selling red ball noses (yep, just like a clown's nose!). On Red Nose Day, people will proudly wear their noses around during the day, and will host humor related charity fund-raising events in order to support Comic Relief (a charity organization founded by a comedian in the '80s which raised money for areas struck by famine - now has raised over £600 million for various charitable causes). I just love me some British humor, and for a good cause no less ;)

...and yet a bit more English culture!
There are two commercials on TV that have really been making a buzz lately. One is for a credit card, and the other is for a chocolate bar. Very different products, but both making a splash with their eye-raising'll understand my cheesiness if you watch the commercials: Barclay's Card and Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar.

Thanks for reading! Until next time, I send you love from the other side of the pond ~

Sunday, 11 January 2009

King of Kings

So, it's 2009 now. Is that strange to anyone else? I remember being a little girl and hearing people talk about how "one day" it was going to be the year 2000-something. I remember thinking how unrealistic of a year it sounded...Two thousand? It sounds way to space age-y. And now, here we are - nearly a decade into living in the space age of the 00's. Or whatever you call this decade. I'm still not used it it, apparently.

I attended one of the two local baptist churches in my area of Nottingham today. This church is probably my favorite of our local churches to attend on a Sunday morning. The people are very nice, and they remind me of the church I attended when I was at Florida Christian College (probably because they meet on a school campus!). Anyhow, we sang a song today that I've only ever heard here in England, though perhaps you have heard it - "King of Kings, Majesty." You can watch a big church in London sing it (with worship leader, Tim Hughes, whom I met over the summer at Soul Survivor): King of Kings, Majesty

While we were singing this song today, the royal images in the song hit me hard. I've always sang songs and heard Scripture that talks about God being our King. However, it became like new today in my mind. Here I in a country that once WAS a monarchy. They even have a Queen right now! When I was in Florida, I had lots of people asking me about the Queen, and what the English people think of her. From what I can tell, and from what I've heard from my English friends is that they love the Queen. She's a strong woman that they admire. On her birthday (which isn't actually her birthday, but rather one date that they celebrate the current monarch's birthday) they all tune in to watch a silly parade with the Queen sitting by with a tight smile on her face, as she waves in approval. But matter how much they may love that woman, she is still only a figurehead. The monarchist system has long ago stepped aside in favor of the wonderful world of democracy.

Thinking back to the complete power the Kings of England once had in this land, and the many that took advantage of the hard working people in the country...I wonder if they did with The King of Kings what they did to their earthly Kings. Stripped of their power, and turned into nothing more than something fun to watch. Maybe even celebrate his birthday in a silly way as everyone watches on TV. Many of the teens we speak with in schools have this idea in their head that if there is a God, then He must be this all-powerful beast that lords his power over the little people, crushing them on his way to greatness. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I can only imagine how difficult it must be for someone who had an abusive father to understand when people compare God to being a heavenly father. It only makes sense for it to be just as difficult to understand Him being a King worthy to be served with joy and peace. Just a thought.

My new photos are up from my holiday to Prague, Sweden, and around Germany! Click here if you want to see them! I had an amazing time. I feel very blessed to be able to live an adventure in Europe for however long God has for me here.

As always, thanks for reading :) May God bless you in 2009!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Happy Christmas to all

Greetings from the lovely island of England :)

Don't you just love the Christmas season? I am a big fan of Christmas, and everything that goes along with it. I'm also excited to add new traditions to my Christmas - things that I will take with me forever to add an English taste to my holiday repertoire. Things like...

CHRISTINGLES: Christingles SHOULD be a tradition in Florida! The whole craft of a Christingle centers around an orange. They are a little way for teachers to explain different aspects of the Christmas season to children. I had the pleasure of helping kids make Christingles in Religious Education classes last week! It was a ton of fun, and it made the school smell like home (mmm, orange blossoms)!

DIFFERENT TUNES: Lots of classic Christmas carols are set to different tunes in England. Right now, I'm in LOVE with their "Away in a Manger" version. If you click on this link, click the little play icon under "listen to 4 parts." (Click here to listen) OR you can listen to this cute girl on YouTube sing it - Adorable!

CAROL SERVICES: Nothing is more amazing than a good old fashioned Christmas Carol service, complete with a spread of Yule Logs and Mince Pies!

PANTOMIMES: It's VERY traditional to attend a Pantomime during the Christmas season. All the major theaters will have one on, and all of the school children will perform them as well. Basically, a Panto is a classic story (like Peter Pan, Snow White...) that everyone knows. Then, the Panto twist is that the story is tweaked a bit, and turned into a comedic performance with major female roles played by men. There is a lot of audience participation, and usually a few sing-a-long parts as well (with well known or currently popular songs worked in to the story line). Last year, I attended a professional Panto of Peter Pan, and this year I attended one at the local school with lots of kids in it that I know from the community (they did Cinderella). It's fun, and makes me feel like I have an inside joke with England! I now know all of the audience cues, like whenever a character starts a sentence like "Oh no, I did not!" we all have to enthusiastically shout "OH YES YOU DID!" Very dorky, and VERY fun :)

CHRISTMAS CRACKERS: I can't help it...I just love them so much. It's such a simple thing, but it's so much fun for some reason! It's hard to describe the Christmas cracker, so just watch this video to understand the basic concept if you don't know it already. Inside the crackers, though, is a little trinket, a paper crown (which you of course HAVE to wear immediately), and the worst, cheeeeeeeziest jokes ever. Again, I don't know why...but I love 'em.

GERMAN MARKETS: Ahh...I saved the best for last! Apparently, Germany knows how to do Christmas. They know it SO well in fact, that they spread their Christmas joy all over European cities in the form of German Markets. Basically, they set up little stalls in major city areas that sell handicrafts from all over the world. The BEST part is the food - amazing German sausages (!!!) and tons of sweets! Chocolate covered waffles, apples stuffed with marzipan, sandwiches inside massive soft pretzels, coconut covered marshmallows, skewers of fruit dipped in chocolate, and...the crown jewel of them all...German crepes! Ooooh yes...and a giant mechanical moose singing Christmas songs in German.

Well, that's all for my list! I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas. I am VERY excited today...because I get to have a proper Christmas holiday! I'm leaving early tomorrow morning with my housemate Amy to visit Prague for a couple of nights. After that, we're flying up to Sweden (just north of Stockholm) to spend Christmas with a friend's family. Then...why just go home after that? Oh no - we're going to stop in Germany and visit some REAL German markets before heading back to Nottingham. Oh the joys of cheap travel within Europe! I know I'm going to miss my family a lot (again) this year, so I'm glad that Amy and I have found something fun to distract ourselves with!

I thought I'd post another video up here that I put together for one of the local Anglican churches. This was for their Christmas Carol service last Sunday night. I hope you enjoy! Happy Christmas everyone :)

Monday, 17 November 2008

Crystal's TOP 5 LIST

Well folks, I made it back to England! I had an amazing trip to my favorite peninsula, and would like to send a huge, resounding "THANK YOU" to each of you who took part in hosting me while I was in your area. I had a lot of fun getting to visit family and friends, and only wish my time there could have been longer! I'm still going through all my paperwork to see if I raised enough money for this coming year, so I would appreciate your continued prayers for my funding. It was a rough time to raise money with the economy the way it is right now, so I am thankful to have a God who provides for all things within His perfect will.

And now for a little bit of ridiculous fun. Since I'm quite a list-maker, I decided to come up with a list...the TOP 5 MOST AMERICAN THINGS I DID WHILE I WAS HOME. Enjoy :)

5. Ate hot dogs
While it is true that England has hot dogs available, it is NOT true to say that they are any good. The English pride themselves on having an excellent selection of sausages (each region has its own famous flavor), however, hot dogs in England come in a can. Usually, the hot dogs are in cans wrapped in an American flag. As a general rule, I have learned to steer clear of any foods in England that claim to be "All-American." Also disgusting is something found in England called "Florida Salad." Lies!

4. Watched the World Series
Oh c'mon Rays...why couldn't you pull it off?? I guess I can't really be too upset at them. Going from the worst team in the series to the 2nd best the following year isn't all bad when you really think about it. Also, I find it interesting to hear what one of my English friends said about the World Series in general. It was something like: "Only in America would they label something a 'WORLD' series and yet only allow American teams to play." Hmmmmm... :)

3. Purchased a can of pumpkin
It's true - Thanksgiving is pretty much only an American tradition (I say "pretty much" because apparently Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October. But we all know that Canada is really just America's hat, so they're allowed to celebrate the day of thanks with us). This year, Amy (my American housemate) and I are going to throw a Thanksgiving celebration at our house like never before! Our lovely British friends are ecstatic and curious to learn about this crazy American tradition...including figuring out what exactly YAMS are, and learning how to create a piece of turkey artwork simply out of the outline of their hand. It's going to blow them away! Now if I could just figure out a way to get the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast in the UK...

2. I went to Church
This doesn't need much explanation...I don't want to be a Debbie Downer in the middle of this blog, but seriously - only 2% of the British go to church anymore...and I must admit, it was nice to go to a church where you have to rush in to secure yourself a seat.

AND the number one most American thing I did while I was home...(insert drum roll)...
1. I Voted
YES, of course I voted! I voted the only way I've ever voted, actually...absentee ballot. It's fun, but you never get a I was flying in the air on election day. It's funny how many people in England were concerned about me seeming to "skip out" on election day! I reassured them that I did my duty as a citizen of that great non-canned-hot-dog-eating nation. I'm not exactly sure which conversation I dread more with the English - the one about my feelings on how the election went, or the one where they want me to explain the workings of our electoral college. Keep in mind that the fastest way to make me look like an idiot is to ask me anything about the inner-workings of our great American government.

And now back to your regularly scheduled blog :)

The first day I landed in England my teammates and I started a new program that we have called "The Point." The point of The Point is to be an intro to Christianity for youth. After having taught in a lot of the Religious Education courses here, we've heard a lot of the same questions over and over. Right now is the perfect time for our team (along with other local youth workers) to address these questions head-on with youth in the community. We've invited anyone interested in learning more about the basics of Christianity to meet with us at a lovely place called Mr. Pizza for free pizza (who'da thunk?) and a soda for an hour after school on Tuesday afternoons for 6-weeks. That first week our topic was simply "Who is Jesus?" and last week we looked into "Why did Jesus have to die?" Tomorrow we are studying "How can we thank Jesus for that?" (basically, we're going over the whole "believe, repent, confess, baptism" thing). I'm really excited about tomorrow! Each week, we've had more kids show up (last week we had 10 kids). A lot of them have very little to no church background whatsoever. However, one of the girls who DOES go to church with her grandma sometimes told my teammate last week that she had never heard of any of this stuff we are teaching them! That's crazy! I'm so proud to be part of something like this. The kids are going out of their way to come to something blatantly about Christianity...they're learning AND having fun...AND bringing friends. And I don't think it's just for the free slices of pizza...but that definitely makes it just that much more of an enjoyable experience.

Other than that, life in England seems to be getting back to normal. I have a new place to live this year (pictures coming soon, hopefully!) and I just had a birthday. 25 years old...holy canoli, what a weird milestone to reach. A man once told me that the more birthdays you have, the longer you live, so...birthdays must be pretty healthy.

Until next time...Cheers!