Monday, October 10, 2011

Still Hearing The Effect's Of Mission Peoria

Today I awoke to an email that completely made my day. It was from someone who was on Mission Peoria this year.
J.T. sent me his reflections on Mission Peoria. He not only talked about how God had used him to help Impact lives but also how God had Challenged him to live life differently for God.

This short video shows you how God Impacted a City through young people who were ready to "Run Hard" after him.

Below is the email that he sent me.

Mission Peoria Reflections
By J.T. Henderson

            As I strolled towards the Dream Center, a tall building with the letters “dcp” plastered across the front, I was greeted by the chaotic lines of an anxious crowd. I was awestruck at the number of people who were attending this community event. When I saw the joyful faces of the children frolicking in the parking lot, my heart swelled with happiness. Winding my way through the masses in the blazing summer sun, I was relieved to step inside the air-conditioned building. Spotting my group leader, I asked where my assistance was needed. When I learned of my assignment, I was excited that I would be working alongside my friends. I climbed the long steps dodging the adults and kids waiting. Entering the gymnasium, I noticed thousands of backpacks lining the walls and stacked on tables. As the children received their backpacks filled with school supplies, I shared in their delight. Realizing the amount of effort that went into this event, I admired those who donated their time and money to make it possible. I thought with amazement, I am actually a part of Backpack Peoria!

            Backpack Peoria was the conclusion to the weeklong camp I attended known as Mission Peoria. On June 20th, 2011, I began an incredible journey from my home in Hawaii to the fascinating state of Illinois. I was thrilled to see family and friends in my former hometown of Peoria. When my youth pastor, Brian, described Mission Peoria, I proposed the idea to my parents. When they said yes, I envisioned all the fun that I would have when the week finally came.  Mission Peoria began at 2:00 PM on July 25th. As I arrived at the Dream Center I was embraced by the bedlam of hundreds of kids milling about. Then a youth leader, Alex, guided me to the nearby church which would become my home away from home for the next week. The room in which I was directed to place my sleeping bag was fairly spacious, but still almost filled to the bursting point.

             Afterwards, I made my way back to the Dream Center for orientation. As I surveyed the gym where orientation was being held, I noticed the hundreds of excited kids ready to begin their weeklong journey with Mission Peoria. As I scanned the crowd for a familiar face, my eyes fell upon a group of kids from my church. Suddenly, the sound of a English brogue directed my attention to the speaker, Andy King, Director of the Dream Center. As he welcomed us, I listened intently to his instructions and my enthusiasm to begin helping people grew. My team, Cobalt Blue, boarded one of the Mission Peoria busses to ride to Glen Oak, an area of downtown Peoria. Glen Oak Church, an aged, grand building, would be our post for the children’s program known as “Baseline.” From there, we walked door to door handing out fliers regarding Baseline. I worried that it might not go well, but we were given a very warm reception from kids and adults. Later in the day, we played some games and rocked out with a group of musicians, our “band” for the rest of the week. As I crawled into my sleeping bag, I thanked God for a phenomenal first day.

            A light as bright as the sun invaded my sleepy eyes. It’s morning already? I wondered. I pulled myself out of my sleeping bag, glanced around the room, and noticed most people were already up. I then looked at my lanyard and saw that it was time for devotions, so I grabbed my Bible and my devotion book and trekked towards the cafeteria. On my way I tried to wake myself up. I did my devotions and braced myself for the rush of kids coming to breakfast. The cafeteria turned into a madhouse very quickly. After breakfast, I made my way to the parking lot where the busses were kept. There were many kids milling about the busses waiting, like me, for the command to board them. It’s almost time to leave for the service project, I thought with excitement. We were given the signal, so I climbed into the bus and took a seat. Kids flooded into the bus and filled every available seat. Then, we were on our way. At the service project, my job was mostly picking up shingles at a roof repair site. I was impressed with the amount of workers helping the elderly owners of the house. When the service project was over, I was exhausted and famished. When we arrived at our sleeping quarters, I made my way to the cafeteria. I quickly got in line; kids were stacked up in front and in back of me. As I chose my food, the aroma was intoxicating. I sat down by my friends and demolished the meal. Next, I was off to practice for Baseline and was one of the first to arrive. We discussed everybody’s jobs and then, headed back to the parking lot where we boarded another bus. Once at the Baseline site, we set up. One by one neighborhood kids walked over, picked up a toy, and began playing with us. I thought that was pretty fun. After we completed Baseline, we ate dinner. When dinner was complete, we had free time. I played a card game known as Mao with my friends, and then went to the evening service. How great is this? I marveled as the band played. The room was so packed, I could hardly breathe. The message from the guest speaker was phenomenal! After the service, I attended youth group. When the long day was done, night was upon us. I climbed into my sleeping bag, and closed my eyes. This was a typical day at Mission Peoria.

            It started Friday morning during announcements. We were informed of the special “surprise” that would occur at the end of the day. The surprise was front row seats to see the famous band, Jars of Clay, perform! Waiting for the concert was tortuous. Finally, we were told to enter the auditorium where the concert was being held. I was almost bursting with anticipation. First, an opening group of musicians played a few songs. Then, Jars of Clay introduced themselves. The crowd was electrified. The rest of the concert was great. After a couple of hours, the night was over. That was an epic last night at Mission Peoria.

            Reflecting back on Mission Peoria, I realize that I had many meaningful experiences. For instance, handing out fliers for Baseline helped me see the living conditions of the inner city. Baseline showed me that the Lord can bring joy even in difficult circumstances. Our daily youth group increased my spiritual life substantially. Together, the nightly band and the Jars of Clay concert inspired me to work especially hard on learning piano and guitar with the goal of someday playing in a Christian band. Backpack Peoria really helped show me how thankful the kids were for something so small as a backpack. It also made me more thankful for my possessions, as most of the kids don’t have nearly as much as I do. I’m really thankful for the people that made Mission Peoria possible and I look forward to being a part of it next year!

More information about Mission Peoria 2012 will be available in early 2012

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Standing before the Ultimate Creator

Its not a secret, I love Apple products. So hearing the news of Steve Jobs death at the young age of 56 was hard for me. I will never forget where I was when I heard the news of his death and I feel it was significant.  I was standing in a worship service at the Dream Center, singing to the ultimate creator of all time. As I stood there a thought came to my mind. Steve Jobs is now standing before God, making an account of his life. I don't know what happened between God and Steve in those last few days of his life but what I do know is that we all will stand before God one day. The words I long to hear are also the words I pray Steve heard from God last night...."Well done Good and Faithful servant."

Steve was a very private man but a man who I feel lived like everyday was his last day on earth. I end this blog with a speech he did at Stanford in 2005. A speech that painted a picture of his life and also showed  a picture of death. Steve Jobs, you will be missed

"I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.
This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."