Monday, December 17, 2007

Thailand Pictures

Hey, hey,

Our website has some new stuff on it. Explore here...YWAM Modesto

And here's a little slide show of our trip to Thailand...have fun!


Monday, December 10, 2007

Official YWAM statement

A lone gunman entered a Youth With A Mission training center in the Denver,
Colorado suburb of Arvada early Sunday morning, opening fire and hitting
four members of the staff. All were taken to local hospitals and two later
died of their injuries.

The two wounded remain in serious condition. The gunman has not yet been
apprehended, and police are continuing their search for him.

The deceased have been identified as Tiffany Johnson, 26, from Minnesota,
and Philip Crouse, 24, from Alaska. Both served as staff members at the
Youth With A Mission Arvada campus. The third victim, Dan Griebenow, 24, has
a bullet in his neck and is listed in critical but stable condition. The
fourth victim Charlie Blanch, 22, suffered gunshot wounds to his legs.

Peter Warren, the Director of Youth with a Mission Denver says they had just
finished a Christmas banquet when the suspect arrived and asked a
22-year-old woman from Minnesota if he could be housed for the evening. When
she told him they could not house him, that's when, Warren says, the suspect
opened fire with an automatic handgun, hitting four people. Police say they
do not know whether the shooting was random or if there was a motive.

Warren says, "The young man - I don't know who he is; I don't think [the
victims] knew him - but he must be going through a lot personally in his own
life to do something like this. Our belief is that only God is the judge and
our place is to forgive and that's a difficult thing to do, but really, I
think it's the right thing to do," said Warren.

There are about 80 people living on the Arvada campus and they have been
transported to the group's mountain campus near Golden, Colorado where they
will stay while the murder investigation is processed at their residence.
Warren says they are trying to deal with this situation as best as they can.

"There's no blueprint for this," said Warren. "You know, we're just going to
be honest, we're going to pray with one another and cry with one another.
These kids were like our kids, you know. It's just such a tragedy, but who
knows what's going on in this young man's life."

Youth With A Mission (YWAM) is an international and interdenominational
Christian movement with operating locations in 171 nations. Launched in 1960
as a means for young people to get involved in short-term missionary
service, it now has over 16 000 staff working in 1180 centers and trains
over 25 000 people each year to be involved in the organization' s primary
goal - to know God and make Him known. YWAM is hugely varied in its
approach, operating such ministries as drop-in centers for street children
in South America; hospice care for AIDs victims in Africa; literacy and job
creation programs throughout Asia; and is well known for its quick response
and long-term commitment to global disasters, such as the 2006 tsunami.

YWAM International Chairman Lynn Green released this statement: "We feel a
deep sense of loss today and we grieve with the families and those who were
very close friends of the victims. Our surviving students and staff are
being well cared for and we have total confidence in those who are
responsible for the training program in Arvada to care for those who have
been subjected to this assault.

"Those who lost their lives had dedicated themselves to serve and we feel
the sorrow of their absence. Yet we take comfort from the assurance of
everlasting life for those who follow Christ in loving service to others.

"It is a great tragedy that our culture seems to produce so many deeply
troubled people who express their frustration in violence. We forgive the
assailant and we rededicate ourselves to serving young people in the hope
that we might bring healing to other needy youth."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who do I think I am?

I'll never get caught up with telling you the unfolding story of our life. I guess I really can't live with that pressure. You, faithful readers and every-now-and-then peruse-ers do not put that pressure on me. That's not the point of a blog. I've had a hate/hate relationship with the inter net lately. I'm not good at keeping up and then this blog, the podcast, my website, etc looms over me and even checking email starts to feel like work. Well, no one pays me for this blog and it should be a pressure release rather than a pressure um...putter on-er. So with that said...I blog...

Last month, our friends took a collection and gave us a little trip to Disneyland...something for which we have been praying. It was so awesome when I finally got to go to AAA and lay the money down for a full 2 day package. We have never gone away to do something like that as a family. Our vacations are always to go see relatives (which we love and would never want to change) and getting away on our own seemed a bit impossible. But it wasn't because with God, working though a beautiful community of sacrificing friends, yes, it can happen. Even something frivolous andunnecessary. Ok, lesson learned. If it's a good idea to God, he can make it happen if we ask AND leave it to him. That's also part of the deal...being willing for it to not be a good idea and accepting that. But this time, it seemed a good idea. Great! Life, peace, freedom, excitement and experiencing God in new ways as with mouths wide open at something we could have never made happen on our own steam.

Even fuel and food were covered! So there we were, on our first day in the park and we took a break for lunch. Having enough for one food splurge a day, we went to Red Robin, a great burger place with a nice atmosphere and refillable fries. We had our meal and Amie and I were waiting for the boys to come out of the wash room when a homeless man with a distressed look on his face rounds the corner coming toward us.

My thoughts began to race..."Oh boy, here we go. He's going to ask me for money. What's my position on this?" And then you start to go through the pro/com list..."Well, money will make him just go away...what's required of me? This is my vacation. What's he going to use it for? Isn't it wiser to give some kind of food? That's what we always tell mission teams when they come to work with us. I don't have time to get quick food. Better just go with the standard line..."

This man makes his way over to us and cannot really speak. All he can muster is some mumbling and then, "dollar?" And then, without too much thought (just a lot of presuppositions) I give the standard, "I don't have a dollar for you, sir." Respectfully, with a smile. See, the operative word is "FOR YOU. Oh, I have a dollar for me and my family. We're having a good family time together and I don't want topropagate any of your bad habits so I have no money FOR YOU."

Crisis averted, the man shuffled away. And I heard God, through my conscience, clearly speak. "Who do you think you are? Here you are at Disneyland through the sacrifices of others and you don't have a dollar for this man?" I couldn't believe myself! I quickly looked around for the man but he had walked away, nowhere to be seen. Conviction hit me like a ton of bricks. I mean, in a way, the man and I make our income in exactly the same way. I ask people to support us so that we can be free to pursue God's calling on our life. He had no guile, he was not conning me, he simply, very simply, asked for a dollar. Here I am, a "street worker" and I don't have time to fish a dollar from my wallet padded with the beautiful sacrifices of brothers and sisters. I had to repent then and there. God help me.

We did have a great time. On our way home, we stopped for one last hurrah at the Home Town Buffet (I know, I know but it our boys favorite place) in Bakersfield. As we left the perfect, beautiful facades of the whole Disney scene (there are no homeless on main street USA) and descended once again into the central valley we got the sense that the fantasy, however fun, was over. We parked behind Hometown near the dumpster, the cracking cement and dirty smell indicating that something is definitely wrong with our way of life.

In front of the store there was an older woman standing under the awning out of the rain and crying, begging for money. Her story was that she needed $10 for a bus ride to get to her daughter. I've heard it many times before. And in came the pros and cons. And so did my fumbling words, "Uh, well, I don't know if I have ten FOR YOU...", knowing full well what was in my wallet. And then, peace as I opened to my ten, lifted it out and pressed it into her hand as so many have done for me. "God bless you." She cried and thanked me. I went in and had a disgusting buffet with my family, out of the rain.

I am not responsible with what people do with gifts I freely give. Who of us doesn't pamper themselves a little when we have come through a stressful situation. Who doesn't long for the comfort of their bed, a hot coffee, a little extra money or the distraction of a TV show or movie? Or what about our legal, expensive therapy or pills. There is no policy of being human. We are more than a set of standards. We have a beating heart and a will to choose but we lock our hearts away behind false policies of "we only give food" or "they will only use it on drugs".

Yes, there are cons...I've been gotten by the best of them. Yes, there is discernment and sometimes giving is not the best. But we must move out of our ear being pressed close to the Father's heart and when we feel it swell with compassion, we respond.

"Freely you have received, freely give" Matt 10 : 8

Monday, November 05, 2007

Vacation, birthdays and tricks or treats!

Wow, what a busy time! It's been difficult to get into the bloggin' habit since our staff retreat in September. With trips, hosting mission teams here in Modesto and lots of family stuff going on, it's been hard to find time to write. I'll get 'er though.

Here's some pictures and videos to let you know what we've been up too...

First of all, our community here pitched in and gave us a trip to DISNEYLAND! Here's Josh and Sam at Toontown...

And here's Sam drumming along to High School Musical...

And here's a little slide show of all our recent adventures...

So that's I go again! Hope to post soon!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wake up

Sing to the tune of the traditional Doxology...

Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee, who safe has kept
And hast refreshed me while I slept
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake
I may of endless light partake.

Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

I would not wake nor rise again
And Heaven itself I would disdain,
Wert Thou not there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

-Thomas Ken

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

One month

It's been a whole month since I've posted! It seems longer. What have we done?

-I've had gout. Gout! GOUT! And it hurts. I am now a vegetarian but I still can't eat beans, asparagus or cauliflower. And yes, I know about the cherry and strawberry thing. I've done all the research. I still have gout. Grrr.

-We went to Oregon on a retreat with our whole YWAM Modesto family where I...fished with my boys for the first time, hiked around a gorgeous waterfall, went swimming, had deer in our front yard, sat in a hot tub a few times, enjoyed the rythem of no schedule, spent happy days in clean mountain air, unwound, prayed with my friends, read and, well, did life.

-Spent the weekend with Amie's brother and sister-in-law's family in Portland where we video gamed, bowled, Wiied, watched movies and enjoyed a great visit.

-We, with our church, hosted our 6th annual BBQ for the homeless community of our town. We served tri-tip steak, all kinds of fixins, free haircuts and fun music right on our property. About 150 came out and a good time was had by all.

-We hosted our former pastor (Aaron's sending pastor) from Canada, John (you can listen to his awesome sermons here) and good friend Rodney who came to visit and help with preparations for the BBQ. They were a major blessing bringing warm greetings from the congregation there and physical, financial and moral support. It was so good having them here.

So that's that...I've got a few posts in the works so don't give up checking in on me.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

True D-O-G!

These are kids we get to spend time with every week. They are awesome. This is on our way to the park...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

New news!

Hey, hey!

Not a lot of time to post lately as I've been working on the YWAM Modesto Fall Newsletter. It turned out pretty good. Download the PDF here...

Fall Newsletter

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cincinnati Chili

This picture is my actual Cincinnati chili that I made. Right after this photo, I ate it. It was good. Follow this recipe. You're going to love it!


2-1/2 lbs of ground chuck
1 quart of water
1 can of tomato paste (the little ones)
1-1/2 tbsp of white vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
some garlic powder or a clove of real garlic (chopped fine)
2 tbsp of chili powder
5 bay leaves
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp cayenne pepper (leave out if you're not so brave)
1-1/2 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa
Salt to taste

In a pot, brown the beef and leave most if not all the juice in there...I drain a little but it's supposed to have it in there. The leaner the beef the less of a problem this will be.

Add the tomato paste and mix it in with the beef then add water till it covers the beef without making it too soupy. Bring it to a boil.

Reduce to simmer and add all the spices. let it simmer for about an hour (if you can wait that long).

Serve it over pasta like spaghetti (I like to use angel hair or "thin spaghetti") and top with cheddar cheese and fresh, chopped, raw white onion and oyster crackers. A nice Tabasco or pepper sauce is good too.

The Cincinnati way is...

Two way - Chili and pasta
Three way-Chili, pasta and cheese
Four way- Chili, pasta, cheese and onions (what we usually make)
Five way- Chili, pasta, cheese, onions and Kidney beans (I get this when at Skyline Chili in Kentucky and Ohio)


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Not For Sale

David Batstone's "Not For Sale" is an important book. In it, he presents the realities of the global slave trade in an accessible, story driven style. I'm so thankful that I found out about it. Mr. Batstone has travelled all over the world and interviewed many of what he calls the "new abolitionists". They are missionaries, social workers, activists and just plain ole people that could not turn a blind eye to the hidden oppressed. The book details stories of slavery and freedom happening right now starting in Thailand, Cambodia, India, Peru, Asia and finally, yes, actual slavery here in the United States. Just because it's against the law doesn't mean that it doesn't happen here.

I highly recommend it as it not only show the problem, it shows real people and how they have responded with compassion and zealously have given their lives to help free slaves. The book ends with an entire chapter about what we can do to join the new abolitionist movement. If you are near me and want to borrow it, you are more than welcome. Here is the books website for you to order your

Friday, August 17, 2007

New YWAM Modesto Blog!

Check out our new YWAM Modesto blog! This will be a communal effort to more frequently share about our work and perspective.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The two shall become one but this is ridiculous!


Alrighty folks, some changes are coming down the stream here in a bit but there is a new Whitler family podcast available.

To listen online go here...Podserve

You can subscribe right there OR search in itunes for "A Very Whitler Podcast". In this episode are some stunning selections from my little vinyl record collection. Have fun and let me know what you think!

God's Smuggler

This is a classic Christian book that I have not read. Well, I read! What a cool story. This book is the testimony of a Dutchman who became a Christian and slowly found his mission to encourage and comfort the suffering church in communist states. This chronicle of miracle after miracle is quite challenging. Brother Andrew (a name he became known by due to his need to keep his identity a secret) traveled all across communist Europe with quite a few close calls. Brother Andrew is still going can find out more about their work in "closed" countries at the Open Doors website.

The real challenge is the way the Christians in eastern Europe viewed the scripture. They could not believe when Brother Andrew came and brought them this precious book
that so few people could get a hold of. It's a difficult thing to relate to. We in the west have access to so many many kinds There are about 6 in the room I'm in right now. And even more weird is the fact that it is so available and so little read.

Let's read the Bible more. The actual one. As a favorite preacher of mine used to say, "the best Bible to read is the one you read." I usually carry around a pocket version in case I run into someone that could use it. Inside the "Gideon" pocket Bible is this inscription. I love it...

"The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.

It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter. Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed.

Christ is its grand subject, our good the design, and the glory of God its end.

It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgement, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents."

From The Gideons International

Monday, August 06, 2007

Support this man.

OK, right now, he's not doing so much. He's playing a football video game. But usually Dave is working hard at changing the world...which is no small task. I just finished meeting with young leaders from all across Canada that Dave has somehow talked into trying to change the world too. These folks also work on university campuses to try to convince others that they can also change the world. How? They go to the world. part of our impromtu meeting was to create a statement about Global Youth Network which is Dave's organization that was birthed out of YWAM and now is it's own thing. Here's what I wrote...

"Global Youth Network is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for growth, education and a world perspective for university students on justice and poverty issues. Global trains young leaders and facilitates teams for work in 15 countries (and counting), partnering with grass roots efforts on the ground that serve the poor and oppressed. Out of these trips comes vision for developing leadership and investment in long term projects with the end result of greater understanding, improved ways of relating and making the world a better place."

The meetings were a good start to better organization. Why was I there? We're part of that "leadership training" statement in Modesto. Each year, Dave brings a handful of his leaders to Modesto to spend time with us. It's a great partnership. The leadership team that I met with may even come down in the Spring to have more discussion.

I'll write more later on how you can help Dave but for now go to the Global website.

I can actually think of no other person in my life that has influenced me more than Dave. You'll never see him as the key note speaker of a huge conference. He'll probably never be all the buzz or have written the next best book on international development or missions or something. He's too busy for all that...usually having coffee with some young person, through relationship, quietly and faithfully convincing them that they can change the world.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Canada galore

Well, yesturday I borded my 2nd flight to Canada in 2 weeks. This time, I'm in my ole stompin grounds...Kitchener, ON. I'll be at a round table discussion with Global Youth Network, a justice organization associated with YWAM in Canada. Well, it's actually a round "campfire" meeting cause we're camping. But since we have left Canada, we've partnered with Global in various ways. But most recently, Global has commited to sending their leadership training group to Modesto every Spring as they prepare to take teams all over the world in May! We've had a blast with these teams in the past and I'm excited about the future.

There's no electricity so I will have to pitch my tent far away from the others in order for them to get some sleep! (I have the apnea in case you didn't know. I think I had a hand in it as my friends up here have completely converted to Mac. If that were all I'd been able to do, it has been worth it.

Ah yeah!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hotty McMelterton

It's really HOT in Winnipeg. Humidity hot. Steamy hot. It doesn't let up at night hot. Lay a cold, wet rag on your belly while you sleep hot. I told you too much didn't I?

But being here is great. After a long absence, I'm teaching at a YWAM Mission Adventures program. It's good stuff. There is a team here from my former hometown of Kitchener, Ontario (from Kitchener Gospel Temple) and another team from Saskatchewan. They're cool and receptive and seems like, ready to learn.

The theme this year is "Lazarus, wake up dead man!" We talked tonight about the fears that hold us back from being who we were made to be. The things that cause us to put up false selves because we're afraid of...whatever...the death of our selves, our cool, our friendships, the way people view us, etc.

Pray for us this week, that God would minister to this group and the thousands of teens all over the world going through Mission Adventure programs. That Jesus would help us to tear away the grave clothes that bind us from moving freely as he intended us.

After this few days of training, the kids will hit the streets here and bless this city with the love of God. This is a model for our spend time with God in the secret place, to let him pull the world's junk off of us, set us free and send us into a dying world that needs him. It's what I want to do for the rest of my life.

And did I mention it's really hot here? Cause it is. Hot. Expletive hot. hot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Books, glorious books!

Alrighty, I know I haven't posted in a long while. Thanks for all the encouraging emails wondering if I've been ship wreaked or eaten by hungry lions. I have not. I must say that I have not been too inspired to write or do much online at all really. While recently away in Kentucky (yes, I went back...some "all the sudden" stuff with my Dad) I just started reading books...a lot.

I love books and I love reading. It's a way for me to be alone while not being alone. I'm one of those people that can read in a noisy, distracting environment. A book can suck me into it's world and I'm gone. Amie hates it. But I gotta have something to do while she watches "Scott Baio is 45 and Single"...ok...I watched that one with her. But otherwise...

So I've been reading so much, I haven't really taken the time to do this. I liked all the books I read and I shall now recommend them to you. Feel free to post your own recommendations in the comments below. Perhaps I could pick up one of your favs soon and we could talk about it and junk.

"The Black Rood" by Steven R. Lawhead

It's been hard to get people into Lawhead. Several attempts to give these books to friends have fallen to the ground. I have loved most of the things I have read by him and this book is the 2nd in a trilogy called "The Celtic Crusades". It's good stuff! But a good entry level Lawhead book is "Byzantium". It's good and only one book...not three. History and fantasy woven together beautifully.

"A Long Way Gone" by Ishmael Beah

Whoa. This book is intense. I picked it up at a Starbucks of all places. They donated a dollar a book I think to help the people helping child soldiers and this book is a chronicle of a boy soldier (written by the boy) from Sierre Leone. It a fast read and quite heart breaking. I couldn't believe the things this kid experienced and then the realization that it's happening thousands of times over in war torn parts of the world. If you're feeling sorry for yourself and your current situation, this is a great cure. It's a great story to give one perspective. And this kid made it out of the unfathomable with dignity and grace. His story humbled me.

"To Own A Dragon" by Donald Miller

I've yet to read "Blue Like Jazz". And I have read "Through Painted Deserts" but I got a copy when it was called "Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen maintainance. I guess he's added a bit more to that story for the re-release. I don't know why but I usually avoid the "all the rage" books. It's dumb, I know, cause if I just get around to reading some of these things, I usually find out that they are popular for a reason. Heck, I even liked "The Prayer of Jabez"!

We're reading this with our youth guys as a discussion starter and I really loved it. The by line is "reflections on growing up without a Father". His honest, humorous and easy style makes it a joy to read. I even laughed out loud a couple of times. I would give this book to every guy and say..."This is the man you want to be" and I would give one to every girl and say, "Hold out for a man like this". It's good advise for the fathered and fatherless alike.

"Orthodoxy" by G.K. Chesterton

I know I said "whoa" before in this entry but...WHOA! I got this for my plane ride home from Kentucky following C.S. Lewis' advise to read an old book after you've read a new book to balance out your perspective. With "Orthodoxy" after Donald Miller it's like saying, "Make sure you eat a 72 oz steak after you eat that green bean. You know, to balance yourself out."

His style is at once heady, philosophical, rambling and wistful. It's quite the ride. It's a "read the paragraph over a few times" book. It's really his explanation to colleagues as to why he has decided to be a Christian. If Lewis is the NIV, Chesterton is the KJV. This was fun and good exercise for my brain. It brought tears to my eyes a few times and the whole lot was worth reading to get to the last sentence.

And currently underway...

"Looking For God in Harry Potter" by John Granger

I know, I know. I must say along with my good friend Aaron who loaned it to me that I never buy these kinds of books. I'm more in line with the "just let a story be a story" camp. But this Christian, home schooling, English literature teacher's enthusiasm for Harry is quite contagious. He provides keys for wary parents to unlock some of the beautiful symbolism in the series and is upfront, intelligent, educational, a bit nerdy in his facination and having fun all the way. What's cool is that he admits to banishing Harry from his house when he first heard about the books and then, after reading the first one (through the night) he could not believe this wonderful story had almost passed him by.

I'm a Potter fan and so this is a fun read. It's a good through and through read but also, a good skimmer. For any squeemish parents out there, the introduction and the first chapter I'd highly recommend, "Magic, Fantasy and the Christian Worldview". Even if you don't agree, it's good stuff to chew on.

And you can probably guess what the next book will be after all that...

I'll try to be better so you don't get these horrid long entries. Blog you later!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Some pictoral catch up

A couple of weeks ago, Josh, Sam and I got to go to a San Fransisco Giants game. Our first major league game compliments of our good friend Bob. We had a blast. They were playing the Toronto Blue Jays so Josh and Sam chose to cheer for the old country. I had to explain to those all around us that they were Canadian. One guy said, "If they're Canadian, then where's their beer!" I got a picture of what was important though...

This week, we got to take the group of kids we visit each week on Hatch Road out for a little field trip. Nine excited kids all held hand and piled in our van....

Several of them had recently had birthdays so Aaron made a cake and then it melted in the central valley sun...

And fun was had by all!

Also, something really cool has happened in the past couple of weeks on Fridays. It sorta happened by "accident". It was really hot so we took out a cooler of ice water to the 9th St. Motels. of course, everyone was appreciative but at the Shiva, people just kinda hung out. We were set up in the shade, we were drinking cold water and started playing games and just like that, the Cafe Shiva was born. We did it this last week to and had a great time...

And finally, today we took the kids with our home school group to Heifer Project International. This organization is awesome. The group raises money here to fund projects all around the world to help poor farmers get ahead by giving them animals. They give water buffalo, cows, chickens, goats, bees, etc. to help the poor get a chance for a sustainable life. Here's Splash, the water buffalo...

The farm is in Ceres and is really cool and you would do well to take a tour before they move the facility to the Bay area at the end of the year. Our Ceres farm will still be a HPI farm but just not open to the public. Also on the tour, all over the farm are sample houses of how the poor live around the world. Teams that come to work that farm, sleep in these houses to get a feel of how most of the world sleeps and works. I can't say enough about how impressed I was. And very heartening to find something that neat here in the's out there, we just gotta go looking for it. It did us much good to experience closeness to the earth and how much healthy good stuff can just come right up from the ground. God truly has provided for us. And his provision is all the way good.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Whitler Tradition...

This was started by my Grandfather (Popo) I think and it's something we've always done. Sam's birthday was last week but I just figured out how to use youtube!

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I find it hard to explain what it is that we do here in Modesto. If I look at the practicals, meaning I pick up old bread a lot and go give it away to people so it won't get thrown out, that sounds kind of silly and, well, not really worth while. Bread is cheap. Pastries areunnecessary , not healthy. So, why? Why all this trouble worrying over a van, fuel, insurance, and volunteers? I mean, I know way too much about bread and the little nuances of what makes a banana box sturdier than others. So here's a snap shot of the in-betweens that make the fuss beautiful and grace.

Wednesdays we deliver boxes of groceries made up from our account at the food bank. Every week our office gets from 4 to 9 calls from families in need. Our food pantry is there for emergency, supplemental food relief. A typical box is made up of healthy staples like cereal, canned goods, pasta, sauce, meat and some treats. Keeping our food pantry stocked and in compliance takes a bit of our week but it so worth it! We have a very generous donor that has been funding our pantry and we love our relationship with our local food bank. These partnerships have blessed many families trying to get by.

After our boxes are delivered, we take our daily offering from O'Brian's Market to the South 99 trailer court. This is a small group of mobile homes on a dusty lot in no man's land between Ceres and Modesto off South 9th St. The people there are friendly and this community is very family oriented. The people are kind to us and each other. There are several Hispanic families. Most are working folks just trying to get by and they are very grateful for the bread. I get the feeling that they truly utilize it to help augment their grocery budget for the week. Every now and then we remind these folks through a pamphlet or something that we are Christians, we care for them and so does God. We offer prayer and encouragement but honestly, have yet to make a good solid connection. It's kind of hit and miss.

If we have enough food left over, we drive over to Shiva's Motel. We've been going there for at least 4 years. We drive a wonderful 15 passenger van with 2 of the benches out to fit in bread along with up to eight of us but usually just 4 or so. The Shiva has families, disables people and various people in transition and turmoil. We stay awhile, offering food, friendship, prayer and ideas. Usually, our Wednesday time at the Shiva is short as we go back there on Friday. At the moment, there are about 8 kids that live at this motel.

Imagine a small motel room, not well kept up with a tiny, sub-standard bathroom. There are no cooking facilities, the carpet is never cleaned andthere's just enough space for a small entry area and you can walk around a bed. There has been a family of 6 living there, in one room, for at least 3 or 4 years. They are caught in a cycle, very short sighted and just plain stuck surviving. We play with these kids, read bible stories, try to pass on some grace and peace. We help however we can when it seems like it will be truly beneficial. Even if someone is making bad choices, the kids aren't. We walk some fine lines. We make mistakes. Some days are outright frustrating. Some days we weep as we witness God at work.

After the Shiva, we drive over to Hatch Road to a small house with a tiny dirt yard. The back yard is bigger with some grass/weeds but it is also filled with trash, old branches, salvaged scrap and some old structures that used to house migrant workers. These have fallen into severe disrepair. You must walk this yard circumspectly as there is animal filth, diapers, trash and sharp things all about. This is a playground for the 8 or so children that call this lot home.

They know we are coming on Wednesdays. We met them at the Shiva motel. They had it better there. This is a tiny, 2 bedroom house and two trailers in the side yard. The traffic in and out of the house are all unconnected adults who I assume come to make connections to feed their addictions. The occupants of the house beside the children are a loosely group that do what they know how to survive. They tolerate us coming because they know the kids love it but it seems they'd just as soon not have us there. They are indifferent to the children, stuck in addictive behavior and rarely open up to us.

We spend about an hour here, playing games with the kids, engaging them with stories, personal time, games of make believe and recently, an art project. My co-workers, Jimmy and Aaron made a movie with them that I hope we can get on our website soon or make available in some way. We head home around five to sort out our feelings, do our best to leave the things we've seen in God's hands and try to be open to his direction of our team in engaging all these precious people with the goodness and grace he offers.

So, that is one afternoon of what I mean when I say, "we take donated bread to some low income communities in our city."

Please pray for us. Pray for wisdom and guidance. Pray for continued ability to meet emergency needs and grace to not enable unwise behavior. Pray for favor in relationship at the South 99 Trailer Court. Pray for the people stuck at the Shiva. Pray for the kids and adults at the Hatch Road house. Pray we walk our lines in God's peace and strength. Thank you.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Star Wars festival was awesome!

Ok, here's Josh, Sam and their cousin Evan on that how you spell it? This event was great...and we're all nerds and ok with that.

Here's Josh and Sam in the Trivia contest...notice the light saber in the foreground...there were sabers a plenty. And here's one of me beating this kid in the trivia game. We got free passes to Galaxy theater. Ahh yeah!

The 501st legion of Stormtroopers was there...they were nice to the boys but not so much to me...

We got to watch "A New Hope" on a big screen, we talked to the guy who was in the Vader outfit for the special edition and the video was a great day to be a nerd and even Stella found someone to relate to!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Some pics from Kentucky...

Alrighty, let's start by showing you some ear candleing...

These are at your local health food light one end and stick the other in you ear and it gently pulls the disgusting wax out. We look like we're in a cult. Careful...always follow instructions!

I love Kentucky food and there's one place you only understand if you grow up with it and that is White Castle. I thought I'd educate Stella while she's young...

She seemed to take to it. Mmmmmm...sliders!

We were visiting and helping to do some business for my Dad. Here's all my sister's family, my Dad, and us...

And some final pics of my favorite part of Southern culture...the front porch. We spent hours out there talking, drinking sweet tea, playing, reading and just plain ole sitting. My Dad and Stella really connected on the front porch...

Thanks for the prayers and nice messages while we were in Kentucky. We had a great time and much was accomplished.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Oh, Come to the church in the wildwood...

Last night was a wholly unique experience for me. Now, I've been a lot of places and attended many churches but none could have gotten me ready for what I was in last night. Perhaps, better said, all of those experiences were getting me ready for last night. The little, 3 hour service in a small village in Romania, the sticky, hot, crowded service in Jamaica, even the more recent visit to the Iglesia de Critso in Ensenada, Mexico where I played a really out of tune guitar along to "Este es del dia..."

My cousin, Darrin Pentecost is a preacher and a pastor of a little country Baptist church in central Kentucky. It is a small white building with a steeple set in the green countryside near Central City, Kentucky. Darrin was preaching at another church last night that is holding revival meetings this week.

We drove 40 minutes to my Aunt's house for some sweet Kentucky BBQ...that's a pork roast cooked all night, fat pulled off and pulled apart and thrown into a slow cooker for another day with awesome sauce that infuses into the already tender meat. That's right folks, a two day process. Then we drove 40 more minutes into the country to attend the revival. This is not on a highway...this is back into the country on small roads. We passed several makeshift signs in the shape of crosses. One said, "Lord, let your millennium come..." Another, I'm not kidding, said exactly this, "Jesus said John 3:16 and a whole lot more." We passed many little country churches along the way and many of them were holding revival meetings this week. My cousin told me that it's kind of the season for it. I had forgotten that but now I remember it, it's true.

We finally pulled up to a small building with many cars parked around it. The lawn was a bit unkempt and there was a covering in the back with several picnic tables under it and a kids playground next to it. My sister's family and ours walked up the steps to friendly faces and the congregation literally gasped when we all walked in...all twelve of us. The carpet was brown, wood paneling on the walls and the pews were wooden with a little padding and the back went straight up and down. We crowded into two pews and filled them up including my Aunt Mary-Lou and my cousin Gail, her husband and kids....right up front.

The choir sang some boisterous old gospel songs along with an upright piano and a guitar. The congregation sang very loudly with hands in the air and when they didn't know the words they shouted praises and encouragements and blessings. Our eyes were wide. During one song, an older, bare footed lady from the choir loft came down and kind of danced up and down the wasn't really a dance...more like a hopping walk while happily making eye contact with folks in the crowd and encouraging them to sing along. It did not seem that she was show boating but she was just being happy and doing what seemed good to do.

At one point in the music another woman approached the small alter in front of the communion table, in front of the pulpit. She knelt down in the middle of it and immediately, the church gathered around her and prayed for her as she cried at the alter and the music continued and people sang and prayed and no one said the prayer was over, they just all stopped. The lady left the alter (the music, singing and shouting is still going) and took her place back in the choir. This happened several times during the night...someone going to the alter, many gathering around them to support their prayer and in all stopping spontaneously all the while the service is continuing from the stage area.

A special quartet sang about five songs, three women and a man called "Heavenly Highway" doing gospel songs to soundtracks and the roar of "Amen", "bless 'em, Lord", etc. There was the classic "Beulah Land" often heard on the Gaither Gospel Hour and they ended their set with "Oh my my! Glory, glory, glory!" That was the name of the song. During their performance, the pace continued of random pray-ers at the alter and spontaneous, all-at-once prayer for them.

Then my cousin got up to preach. He does not mess around. I knew it when he did not take the mic from the host pastor. He did not need a mic. His mic is his mouth. My baby, Stella, sat rapt by his speaking. He went off right from the start. No warming up the engine. Straight into high gear. I have sifted his message down into these key thoughts...

God loves us and has our best interests at heart.

God's enemy (ole Satan as Darrin calls him) hates us and wants to tear our lives apart

The only way we'll survive is to hold on to God in prayer and Bible reading and support one another

Be on guard, love each other and pray

This is a good message. The culture of this little Baptist church is unlike any I have ever witnessed. It felt like we were inside a movie. It was loud, free-form, chaotic but somehow structured. My cousin exploded with a heart full of passion for God and his people.

When we were kids, our visits to central Kentucky were a few times a year. We'd play, run and have fun. I didn't know this but Grandma (on my Father's side) would often look at Darrin and tell my Aunt, "He's going to preach someday". Well, it took a while but a few years ago Darrin yielded to God in his life and very soon afterward heard the call to preach. His little church is growing the right way...non-Christians are becoming Christians and staying in their fellowship to be discipled. They minister in prisons and in Mexico and to the country folks of Mulenburg County.

I was amused by the things that were different than my experience but the evident Spirit of God moving through my cousin is humbling and challenging. Darrin prays and is available. The only thing in this life that counts.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

In Kentucky...

I'm in Kentucky with my family visiting my sister, her family and my
Dad. This is a difficult trip. My father is suffering with a
dementing illness and this is the 3rd or 4th new phase we've entered since
this thing began to crop up. It is hard on everyone. It's hard on
Dad. Every once in a while he understands that things have changed for
him...he can't walk right or take care of himself in any of the ways that you
and I take for granted every day. Life is a tough chore. Every
movement, every sentence, every thing is work and it is frustrating.

We are having fun though. Josh and Sam are having a blast with
their's quite the household right now...8 kids, 4 adults and 1
dog. My sister owns my favorite dog in the world, BB. She is a
dachshund/beagle and all old and cuddly. We took the boys and Dad out to
Cracker Barrel and Spider-man 3 yesterday and had a great time together.

So there is joy here but for my sister and my cousins who are here for the
long haul, it's hard because dementia changes someone every day. So,
it's mourning a kind of death everyday. If you're the praying kind,
please pray for us that our visit will be refreshing. Pray for my family
here, that they can have more joy in this journey. Pray for my Dad, for
healing, grace and peace in this phase of his life.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Gardening as a metaphore.

Our most recent gardening experience has had a rocky start. First, a team was here from Canada and they helped us prepare our plot of land at our host church. We shoveled in real cow poop and gave it a good tilling. Another team came and helped us till a bit more, make rows and plant seeds. Then it got unseasonably cold again and then came some bird issues we think. Over half of our seeds didn't make it. then came the weeds. We were warned about the weeds as this happens when you use real cow poop. They took over faster than we could work.

Then today, we got a tiller again and walked through the garden and hidden in among the weeds, were plants...the real deal. We shoveled them out and set them aside.

Now, in another garden project when we first moved here...just a little family garden, I was digging out some weeds in our plot under Amie's Grandmother's supervision. I off the cuff-ily said, "Why is that seeds grow so easily and the good stuff takes so much work to grow?". Grandma looked up at me very slowly and seriously and smiled and said, "That'd be a good topic for you to do a Bible study on." She literally scared me.

As we pulled these straglers out of the weeds, Jimmy said, "This is what we do!" God's heart is to find the good among the weeds, take us out, clear the weeds and replant us in a good, open place. We did it literally today. It is good work. It's filthy and feels so clean. I can hear my dead, gardening, Kentucky Grandfathers laughing at me as I learn as I go. My Father in Heaven is laughing right along with them. They know I'll get it someday.

"He brought me into a spacious place because his delight is in me" Ps 18

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

You've gotta see this...

Ok, there's a Kyrgyz man (as in...from Kyrgyzstan) coming to stay with us here in Mo-town for about 4 weeks. He is John's friend Jengish and we met up with him while in Mexico?! ...he was in Ensenada dong his DTS. Well, happy for us, he could not get his visa to Peru to go with his team so he is joining us for the remainder of his outreach time. You've got to see his photography blog of images from Kyrgyzstan.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

This & That

Ok, I haven't had a computer for a week so here's some random stuff...

Fair Trade...

I found a great way to make sure you're stuff isn't from a sweat shop...besides someone you know make you clothes! Diana made me 3 pairs of shorts and a pair of pants for my trip to Mexico. They're way comfy!

One Day...

We gathered with other area youth groups to do service projects around Modesto. Our little New Hope team worked alongside Laloma Grace Brethren Church to clean up a park where we usually give out bread on Thursdays. We saw quite a few friends there. See the little Modesto Bee article here


In Ensenada, they stack up pork on a spit with half a pinapple on either end to give and receive juices...

Then they put it on a tortilla or in this case a torta shell with fresh salsa and toped with some of the "juiced" pinapple from the bottom...

This is Shelly eating one...we ate these a lot whilst in Mexico. Really, really GOOD!

And finally...

In my continuing search to live in greater health, I've begun a topical it

Enough already...I'm outta here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I'll probably write more about Mexico later as I process it more. It was a great trip. It was so many things coming church and YWAM team (John and I) serving with another church's youth as a group serving the YWAM team in Ensenada...we as a staff serving the high school students...the high school students learning and growing together...the YWAM team there ministering to us (one of the guys on our team became a Christian on this trip)...the donors that helped us raise the money to go...the little mexican church that embraced us and prayed for us...all working together to build a house for a single mom, abandoned and robbed by her husband. Her and her four kids were living in a dirt floor shack with nothing.

We were able to raise enough to build the house, furnish it, stock the pantry and buy her oldest son a few months supply of epilepsy medicine. And while we built the house and played with her four kids, our translator on her spring break from Biola university spent the week with the mom explaining the gospel to her. On the last day, just before the key ceremony, with a local pastor and his wife there, this beautiful mom and her sister tearfully gave their lives to Christ.

And it's not some big we did anything great. It was God doing the great thing. He cares about us. He cares about the YWAMers in Ensenada. He cares about high school students. He cares about my little church. He cares about big churches. He cares about Mexican churches. He cares about abandoned, single moms and their kids. So he will scheme and orchestrate to bring a bunch of weird groups together. It's His kingdom come, his will being done on earth as it is in heaven. It's what we pray for but one can only stand in awe when you get a glimpse of it because there's no way you could have pulled it off.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Commercial?! Who says?!


Well, May has been quite the month (do I say that every month?). And it started out with a bang. Our friends John and Shelly Wason from YWAM in Vancouver came down with their kids to spend 10 days in ministry together. John performs one man plays where he dramatically presents entire books of the Bible. He brought "James" and "Philippians" to share at area churches along with other shorter dramatic pieces presenting life and faith creatively. We had a great time together with our old friends who we knew and worked with in YWAM in Ontario.

It was great to be able to connect with local churches, youth groups and a school but perhaps my favorite performance of the week was when john performed some of his shorter pieces for a small group of kids that we have befriended in South Modesto. They sat wrapped in wonder as John moved and spoke in their little dirt yard declaring God's love, life and freedom. I don't know if they had ever seen anything quite like that before.

At the end of the Wason's time here, we had another team come in from YWAM Pismo Beach. This team of 17 came to reach out to our friends in the South 9th St. motels with a BBQ. They also spent time preparing our garden area to grow vegetables to share along side our weekly bread distribution this summer. We'll have about 50 tomato plants...with squash, cucumbers, egg plant, peppers, beans and more.

Then after a week of our normal outreach schedule, I left for Winnipeg, MB up north of the border. I was invited to speak in YWAM's missionary training school there. I spent the whole week with the 6 students in their program training them on evangelism as they were preparing for their mission to Uganda (they are there now). We had an awesome time together.

All that time, Amie has been faithfully educating the boys and managing our home. She is a very hard worker and such a wonderful support to me in all my craziness. She has also started up a small, children's dance class at our church. She has about 7 students from our church and the home school community. She hopes to resume dance training at our local junior collage this summer.

Joshua is bigger than a mountain and is a great help to us and loves to read. Samuel is reading very well too and loves comic strips. Stella is up walking full time now and currently is very crabby because she caught some virus along life's way.

Amie had also been caring for her Grandmother who fell and fractured her pelvic bone about 3 weeks ago. She's been in hospital and now in a convolesant home. Amie has been back and forth with all the errands and laundry, etc that come along with this kind of thing. Grandma will be released with a clean bill of health on Easter Sunday. She is 90 years old.

Please pray for Amie's Grandma, Margret. Pray for my Dad, Al, who has come out of the nursing home in Owensboro to live in a house with his new nurse, my cousin, Denise. My Mother's sister, Anita recently died and her daughter and son have moved to help with my Dad's needs as he struggles with the effects of multiple strokes.

Pray for our work here among the poor. For connections in the community, for our growing network of friends and co-laborers. Pray for the children we continually meet that suffer from the poor choices of short sighted, addicted parents. We need wisdom to serve these families the best that we can.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"where two or three are gathered in my name..."

Last night, I had the great privilege of going, with some of our youth guys from church, to a meeting called simply “One”. This is a joint effort from our local youth ministries network. We have begun to, every now and then, get our groups together for an hour of worship through singing, reflection and prayer. No is what it is. With Good Friday coming up, we pondered the cross of Christ together.

Just before that, in the afternoon, I had the great privilege of gathering with a group of ten children at their south Modesto home. There are at least 5 families represented on this small property. This group used to live in the Shiva motel...that’s where we got to know them. They finally found a house but it is still not the greatest situation. Addiction, need, substandard conditions mixed with too many people in one house does not make for an easy childhood.

A few months ago, a team came from Canada and helped us clean up the kid’s back yard so that they would have a place other than the small, dirt front yard to play. Yesterday, a lady in our church had given us Easter baskets for these kids with some simple toys in them. The boys got baseball bats so we all headed to the back yard for the most fun and most chaotic and probably the most “ignoring of the rules” baseball game I’ve ever been a part of.

After the game (the kids won), we sat around in the front yard and read the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection to them. Afterward, we had a prayer together...the kids prayed out their thanks to God. We all put our hands together in the middle of our circle and said “AaaaaaaaaaaaMEN!”

This Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection. I get the privilege of gathering with a Mexican church down in Ensenada this year as I’m leaving to help a youth group on a mission this Saturday. But I feel like I’ve already had my celebration. Some will celebrate Christ’s life in multi-million dollar facilities this week, some will gather in simpler structures, some will huddle in a cave for fear of being discovered, some will be in a house, some will be outside. Some will be decked out in their finest clothes, some will wear the only clothes they have.

But all these meeting will be more or less they same thing...just what we did in the little dirt yard in a slum lord’s house. We will reflect on Christ’s cross and the miracle and hope of his resurrection. We will pray out our thanks to God. We will put our hands and heart’s together to celebrate the life of Christ among us. And I know that God is pleased with our sincere efforts, even childish efforts sometimes, to put words around who he is. I know that God can hear the thanks of ten little kids in a backwards town. Together with all the prayers around the world, before his throne, brilliant with majesty, he hears “AaaaaaaaaaaMEN!”

“From his temple, he heard my voice. My cry came before him into his ears” Ps 18.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Things you owe yourself...

You owe it to yourself to rent “The Corporation”. I watched this film up in Canada and am still processing what I saw. Much of the movie is spent looking into the disconnect between the value of the people that work in corporations and the values of the corporation itself as it’s own entity. You may not agree with all of the film’s conclusions. You may not agree with the world view of all the commentators. It is over 2 hours but many compelling facts, scary scenarios and challenges for change. If you watch it, let me know what you think.

If you are a Modesto local, you owe it to yourself to go eat at Minnie’s (downtown near five points...with the tiki statues outside). Now, since we found Thai food (thank you Kevin and Janet) I have kinda sworn off Chinese food but Amie and I went this past Thursday and it is awesome! With a menu that hasn’t changed in taste, quality or value in 50 years (this I’m going on hearsay...from our trusty church accountant, Marge). A $4 plate of fried rice...plate is the wrong word...heaping platter is better...could have fed Amie and I alone but we also ordered Kung Pao vegetables and deep fried asparagus. A great atmosphere and a friendly staff make for a wonderful chinese experience.

You owe it to yourself to do nothing. I’ve been meditating on the way of the smoker lately and I think they have something. Now, I’m not advocating smoking but I can identify with being stressed out at my smoking friends during some work project cause they can justify taking more breaks than us nonsmokers. You know, you’ll all be working away and somebody says...”I’ll be back in a few, I’m going to step outside for a smoke.“ Why can’t we all step outside more often? Lately, I’ve been stepping outside for a breathe. A little fresh air and sunlight can do a lot to get you through.

You owe it to yourself to turn off the TV more often. Today, I found myself channel surfing and I woke up to the fact that I was sitting in my room and had stopped on a Chris Doughtry music video! You know, the guy from American! That’s really quite a thing to come to terms with. Before it got too far, I turned the TV off, stepped outside for a breathe, sat on the front porch and picked up my long neglected C.S. lewis book, “That Hideous Strength”. I’m in the middle so don’t tell me what happens...I just read about when he sees “the head” for the first time...creepy and a great read. I’m glad I left Chris Doughtry and his ilk behind.

Now lest I come off as a bit too much for my own good, let me just say that I am fully aware of much shortsightedness in my life. I waste time, I procrastinate, I sit idly, I tend toward laziness (my taxes! I haven’t done my taxes!), I get sucked into silliness, I don’t live with great perspective, I despair, I give up. That’s probably a bit of my motivation to write. I’m writing to me. I need reminders to be more educated about my choices, to celebrate good local endeavors, to not be so busy and to stop wasting time. These things I hold in tension because we live in a corporate world, the multinational chain is homogenizing our communities, we are stressed to the brink of insanity and the media would love to eat up our soul. To actually rely on prayer and not our own understanding, to read the scripture and take it’s wisdom to heart, to involve ourselves with our family and neighbors, to live lovingly, selflessly. To let go of sin and self to bask in the good life that God offers.

Lately, I’ve been saying that it feels like I get so crazy in my life that I just start to make the minimum payments...shoot up a quick prayer as I run out the door, glance at scripture or make a symbolic gesture toward my family and friends. But it’s not God I am’s me. Everyday we have the choice and so much more than our personal peace rests on our decisions. Today, I want to live in love. I owe it to myself.