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ebible.com

Sunday, July 30, 2006
So I just started using ebible.com (currently by invite only and in beta) and am really enjoying it. I've never been a fan of Bible Gateway, having to really sort through the muck of the interface, and ebible is much friendlier. I hope they have some additional translations available in the future, but for a search reference it is clean and good looking.

So, I've got 3 whole invites currently. The first 3 people to email me with the name of my favorite left handed Bible character get one. Hopefully they'll add more as time goes on and I can have other fun Bible trivia up here.

Email the answer to laura dot ralston at gmail dot com.

*****UPDATE******
The answer was Ehud. Thanks for playing! I'll let ya know if I get more invites.

A year in review...

Saturday, July 29, 2006
A year ago today, I set foot in Albuquerque. It is unbelievable that I've been here this long. At the same time it feels that I've been here much longer. It was funny to remember my arrival here with Tracy earlier this week, remembering how we both dealt with expectations when I got here.

So what all has happened in a year?

-I moved halfway across the country, I started a job that I wasn't at all prepared for.
-We brought in 4 families, we have 2 of those 4 left and 2 from the previous class.
-I've managed to visit home 3 times, I've had visits from 3 great friends from home and my mom to the great city of ABQ.
-I bought my first car.
-I've found my little piece of heaven in counterculture, a place of refuge for me that is awesome even if I still have my varying reservations about it.
-I've made some absolutely wonderful friends here that I could not imagine living without. They're seriously great.
-I've had to deal with the loss of friends, through moving away, parting paths and death.
-I made it to Denver, and got to hang out with a fellow US-2 for a few hours.
-I finally made it to San Francisco and loved every minute of it.
-I've gotten used to living alone, and honestly love it.

And many many more events. I couldn't even begin to list the great things I've done this past year.

I think most importantly of all, I've learned a lot about myself. I've really opened myself up to new experiences. Sure, college did that for me some, but in reality I still had the safety of friends, I think there were at least 20 kids from BBCHS that went to U of I my year, and most of them I was friends/acquaintances with. This opportunity has forced me to look beyond those friends and really let some great people get to know me.

I also have been blessed in ways unimaginable. People are often offering me a meal (I don't think I ate at home this week), I was blessed with a car for my first month here. I get gifts left and right that I am completely overwhelmed by.

Things have changed considerably. It is exciting and scary that I have a year left here, as we're gearing up for new families, the possibilities for things seem endless. I'm looking forward to really helping out with the youth group, I'm looking forward to working lots with our new families, I'm looking forward to new life, new opportunities and another new year.

I could never begin to really do justice to the amazing things that God has done in my life this year. Certainly, I have been thrown curve balls, I have had days where I just feel like walking away, but ultimately, I know that my purpose here is probably not always something I'm going to see results from. That is always hard for me, but I know that perspective is important to be aware of. It is easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal. It is easy to lose sight of the things that I'm working for and working towards. I am thankful for my friends and family back home who snap me back into reality often and to the great friends I've met here. I certainly wouldn't be near as comfortable with my time here if I didn't have such an amazing support group of people here taking really great care of me.


As a reminder to me about what I committed myself to when I first started all of this, I share with you the Wesleyan Prayer, a prayer that is incredibly important to United Methodist beliefs and roots:

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside by you,
exalted for you or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty;
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the Covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

I pray that is my prayer this coming year.

alt. worship and preschool aerobics

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Well I haven't shared anything recently because honestly I've been busier than I care to even admit. Work is busy busy, we're in crunch time and I have a lot to get done in the next few weeks. Hopefully it will all get done. I'm just going to have to trust that it will, and work really hard.

Last week I had the opportunity to lead preschool music for our VBS. Holy cow did I not know what I was getting into. It was fun, but it is definitely not something I will say yes to again. I definitely admire the people in my life who love kids in that age group and are able to put up with them in large groups, but that is definitely not one of my gifts. I know I did a pretty good job at it, but just because you do well at something doesn't mean that it is your gift. I guess now I know that Children's Ministry as a focus is never an option. I'm definitely called to working with youth and adults. I did teach lots of new songs and have lots of fun with them, but oh goodness did it wear me out.

I have lots of other things on my plate right now as well. On Saturday morning, two of my great friends from Albuquerque who have done SO SO much to make me feel at home here and really do take amazing care of me are headed off to Ohio so that one of them can attend seminary. I'm going to miss them very much and have lots of send offs and goodbyes in the next few days with them. It is awesome that they are moving on to do such great things, but I will miss them a whole lot. They have done so much for me (they feed me on a regular basis, let me babysit their adorable child whom I love dearly, loaned me their car for a couple of months, let me do my laundry at their house, to just name a few) that they will definitely not be replaced. I might find people to fill in with some of those things, but Jeremy, Daen and Gavin will certainly make for some great memories of Albuquerque for me.

Tonight I met with some counterculture friends and joined the planning team for our worship arts night. Those of you that know me know I led alternative worship services at the Wesley Foundation in college, so I'm really excited to jump into this and give people a taste of a worship style that really fits me. Don't get me wrong, I love corporate worship, but there are some times where I just need contemplative reflection time and the ability to remind myself that worship should be an ongoing individual thing as well. I'm really excited to see how this all comes together, I'm certain I'll blog more about it in the future.

Coming soon, a year in review... can you believe that Friday is my 1 year anniversary of being in ABQ? I can't.

amen

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Thank you for all of your prayers for Ryan. Ryan and Ahmad arrived safely in Turkey. Praise God.
I'm worn out and rather exhausted this week (and it is only Tuesday). Getting back from the mission trip and jumping right into Vacation Bible School is somewhat less than pleasant at the moment. Today was MUCH better than yesterday for sure, but still rough. I'm teaching preschool music which is fun in its own special way. I have definitely learned that my calling is certainly not to work with young children.

I had a strange conversation today at lunch that I can't quite wrap my mind around that involves my future and the future of many many others. I'm definitely seeing God's call in my life in very interesting ways. It definitely is both exciting and scary at the same time for sure. Hopefully more on that as I get everything sorted out.

open your eyes to possibility...

Monday, July 17, 2006
Please read the newest email from Ryan directly below this entry about his escape from Lebanon to Syria. If you can help in any way, leave me a comment and let me know.

I spent last week on a mission trip in Denver with the youth group from the church I work at. It was rewarding and refreshing, not at all what I was expecting, but certainly an amazing time. It occurred to me that I haven't really been to a structured mission trip in the US that wasn't Mountain TOP, so I really began to have reservations about it the week before I left. Enough so that I was stressing myself out and didn't feel well at all when we left on Sunday.

Thankfully, I was soon reminded of God's presence on the trip and my stomach calmed down. After the kids had ridiculous amounts of sugar (how do you control what they buy at gas stations...seriously?), we were well on our way to Denver. We had many a stop off at scenic stops, nearly taking out a bunch of texan youth that wouldn't move out of the way at one. Sunday was a great way to get to know the kids, nothing like being locked in a car for 8 hours with them. We pulled up to the church in the pouring down rain, met up with the other churches and staff and then the real fun began. It was great to be in that element, with the excitement of youth and the realization at the very beginning that lives were going to be changed.

Monday we got split up into our crews and I ended up with some people from Overland Park, KS. They were really nice and we headed out to our first "project." This whole thing was also new to me because I've really done nothing but physical labor on mission trips. Sure, I facilitated day camp when I did Mtn TOP volunteer staff, but that was nothing like getting thrown into Urban ministry settings. We were at a Salvation Army summer program and it certainly was eye opening for our kids. There was one kid there that reminded me so much of a kid from grade school that I was terrified of, which was interesting because his interactions with others and how they reacted really sort of changed my persepective of the boy he reminded me of.

Monday night we headed up to lookout mountain to open our eyes to the beauty and majesty of the mountains. It was a great experience, and I'm glad we got to go off site for our evening activities. It gave us the opportunity to really learn about the community that we were serving, something that gave the kids a sense that Denver is real and not some romanticized place in their heads.

Tuesday was back at the Salvation Army where we played more dodgeball, hung out with the kids and got a chance to check out the Denver Botanical Gardens. It was really a great time. We might have had some setbacks, but I really enjoyed our time wandering around. I got a little camera happy which was fun.

Tuesday night was super uncomfortable for me because we took the kids down to the center of downtown and had them engage in conversations with homeless people. It felt a lot like a zoo because bringing 70 kids to infiltrate an area with about 20 homeless people didn't work out very well. I would imagine it works better in other communities, but it was really hard for me to watch and facilitate a group because of how I feel about the families I work with. I think it could be a really powerful tool, and I know that it touched a couple of kids in the group that I had, but for the most part it made me uncomfortable. When we got back, I had arranged to get picked up by my Denver US-2 so I left the group for the night and went and hung out with Tiffany.

Now that was definitely one of the highlights of my week. I didn't know how awesome it would be to sit down and talk to someone who knows what I'm going through and what I am feeling. Sometimes I forget that I have this awesome premade support group of people that actually understand what I'm going through and the seperation from home and the relationships and the work and all of the feelings that go along with it. We didn't have long together, but we certainly filled our time with laughter, stories, and great memories. It was truly great.

Wednesday brought on a site switch which I was completely ready for. I love kids, but I can only handle them for so long. Teaching young children is definitely not my calling. In any case, we headed to a soup kitchen called Jesus to the World where we met some awesome people, had the opportunity to serve and make a meal and really get to engage and have conversations with people that made an impact on me and the kids. I know that I really enjoyed my time there and loved having the opportunity to really get to know the youth I was with. We also spent Thursday there.

Wednesday night was a truly eye opening experience for me as we went to an urban ministry that is about the coolest concept I've heard of for youth ministry that I've seen. The youth director set up shop by setting up a studio for artists... graphic design, photography, acting, music, dancing, you name it, he put it together. In drawing the urban kids into things they like, he began to draw them in to the youth group where they can present the things they've done. It was a really cool experience and made me wonder what would happen if some of the urban churches I've been involved in took the step to do something like that. I definitely have hopes and dreams for a time in the future because of that experience.

Thursday night was our last night with the campers and we all headed to a lake and grilled out and just had a fantastic time. When we got back, we did the closing time which was by far one of the coolest experiences that I've ever had at a camp closing time. Yes, I LOVE the fishhook ceremony, and I will not replace that love with this, but this was pretty cool. We were all in our church groups and the staff came around and washed the adult leaders feet and prayed for us and then the leaders went around and washed the kids feet and prayed for them. It was really cool. And anyone who knows me knows that I HATE having my feet touched and I was pretty sure I wouldn't do it (we had the option not to) but then changed my mind at the last minute. Ashley, the program staff, prayed for me and it was one of the most moving prayers I've heard in a long time. I guess I just haven't been prayed for in a group setting like that in a long time and it really meant a lot to me.

As we headed back up to our youth group meeting space (each night we met back up with our youth group and had a debriefing time), the kids were all crying and feeling super emotional, I broke out my guitar and played songs as Jeremy did some preaching and finalizing the night.... and then he asked if I would play songs and went to sit down and suddenly Jeremy was on the floor. It was about the funniest thing ever and broke us from the emotional overload everyone was having, and you know what? I know that was a God moment. I know that God wanted us to be laughing and rejoicing and loving every minute of what was going on. It was spectacular.

Friday we headed to Six Flags for the day and had an awesome time. Definitely loved some of the rides and hung out at the water park in the afternoon. Ate the best funnel cake ever (though it was shared with 5 other people or so, therefore it was gone in like 2 seconds). That night we went to Casa Bonita and brought the staff along with us which was great. It is always good to see staff out of their element and let their guard down a little bit. I know that when I was a staffer at Mtn TOP we loved when we had those opportunities because you can really get to know people. This restaurant was absolutely nuts (gunfights, cliffdivers and monkeys oh my) but I definitely loved it.

Saturday brought the trip back and a car full of really wired kids (how is it that I remember mission trips with kids passed out on the way back and that totally didn't happen?) Overall it was one of the greatest weeks I've had here and I am SO glad that I took the opportunity to go and really enjoy myself. I was definitely worried about it going into it, probably more than I let on, especially because even though I've gone as an "adult" before with a group, it hasn't been in a real "adult" capacity where I had to deal with the crisis times and make store runs when people forgot stuff. It was really good to be in that role and I'm so glad I got to share in that adult experience with someone I respect.

I was going to throw pictures into this, but it is a novel already, so just go to my links in the right hand sidebar and click "My Photo Gallery" for pictures.

i just can't get it all out of my mind

Today's email from Ryan. I'll be doing my own sort of post later on tonight, but I really feel that Ryan's voice in all of this needs to be heard.

i am still in aleppo. nervous, barely sleeping. ahmad and i are about to jump out of our skin. we want/need to get out of here as quick as possible. everyone is telling me to leave ahmad behind, drop him at a refugee camp or something and that i should make a run for the turkish border or take a flight out of aleppo. i can't leave him as he saved me and it would not be the right thing to do. we all took an oath when we got this job and i have to remain true to my principles and not desert a true brother at the first sign of danger.

we are waiting, nervously, to see if the turkish consulate here will give him a visa. we slept about three hours last night between 4-7. days without any real sleep and we realized yesterday that we had been so busy running around exploring every option to get out of syria that we hadn't eaten all day. finally, we picked over some chicken at the hotel around 10pm.

we arrived at the turkish consulate before it opened and there was already a long line. ahmad went to find out what documents he needed as it was closed yesterday and we couldn't call. i have been doing my best to try to always be prepared and was so upset with myself that we hadn't brought his passport photos. he needed to go back to the hotel to get them and i waited in line. it is only 20 minutes to the hotel and he was gone for over an hour. i was upset again because i realized i hadn't told him exactly where i put his photos and to make sure to exchange more money at the hotel ( ahmad told me to only bring lebanese lira and that they wouldn't accept dollars in syria. well, they only want dollars or syrian and we are losing $30 out of every $100) my stomach was in knots as i waited for him to return with the photo. nervous, thinking, planning - what will be the next step if no visa to turkey? thinking, what can i do next? what can i do now? just like i have been thinking since this all started Wed. he came back and then had to leave again, this time for only 15 minutes to get more money and we pushed ahead and he got his passport through the window. the man was yelling at him in arabic 'why are you here and not damascus? you need to apply for this in damascus. what are you doing here? where do you need to go?'

we sat on the road beside the line of people and waited to hear something. 30 minutes later a guard asked us to move. we stood up and moved further down the road but still close to the consulate waiting, waiting, needing to hear something. yes or no. leave for turkey today? if not, then what? the guard came over and started talking to us. it was around 11am. he said to come back at 2 or 2:30 and we will see if ahmad got the visa. it is 1 now. when ahmad was coming back from the hotel he saw a large number of protestors in the street with hezbollah flags. we thought to take the taxi back to the hotel and make some calls and then visit a travel agent for more information about visas. the road to our hotel is closed. no taxis will take us there because of the demonstration. maybe it is open now, i don't know. i am a target here, the syrians hate lebanese, and we are not safe. we both have our passports so if we get the visas then we'll forget the bags if the road is still closed and leave for the turkish border. we tried to find the travel agency but it was not possible. we spoke to a man in another hotel about options. we need to get out of syria today. IF we don't get the visa to turkey, then we will hire a cab to take us south, through damascus, to the jordanian border. we should be safe, well safer, in amman but i feel a need to get out of the middle east. i just found this information about turkey --- it is also dangerous now, http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/Turkey , even if we make it to ankara, where i was thinking we would finally be able to relax a bit or at least feel safe, it will just be another spot that we need to get out of as quickly as possible and it is so difficult to get a visa for ahmad.

please, if any of you have ANY connections or know anyone who can help ahmad get a visa to a country where we can both be safe then let me know. we need to go to the usa but it will be SO difficult to get a visa, so difficult, but that is what we need. i hope we can get to ankara today where i can talk to the us embassy. if no visa, then we will have to endure another horrible cab ride through a territory which is definitely not safe for us and then damascus which is a possible target at anytime. what i've learned so far is that it is best to run while you can rather than to wait - in this situation, things will only get worse so we need to get out as quickly as we possibly can.

ahmad just called the turkish consulate from the internet center. they asked him again 'why didn't you apply in damascus? why you trying to get it from here?' we need to wait until 3 for an answer. ..... .... i need to rest. i haven't had time to process anything that has happened.

ahmad's family is staying in my apartment as their neighborhood has been destroyed. we can't get through. we watch the country falling apart on the news. we can't believe.

sorry if this message is not as clear as my last one. i need to be sharp, prepared and i am upset at myself for not trying harder to sleep, rest, relax so that i can be at my best in every moment. i feel alert but not as fresh as i did before.

please say prayers for us and for all the people involved in this conflict. again, if you know anyone who can help get ahmad a visa to the USA then PLEASE help me. he saved my life and i will stay here as long as necessary to make sure that he is safe even if it means that i need to take some risks. my parents are willing to pay for all his expenses and vouch for him so that he wouldn't need to work. he can take classes at the community college in my town and live with my parents until it is possible to safely return to lebanon.


Please, if you know anyone that can help, let me know.

prayer continued

Sunday, July 16, 2006
I just recieved a forwarded email from Ryan that got sent earlier today. He is ok, but is making his way north from Lebanon to Turkey with a friend. It isn't easy to be a traveling American in that area, so please pray that he will arrive safely in Istanbul. Here is the email I received.

Let me just say that this has been like a dream, well, a nightmare. I haven't slept much since Wednesday. I am, more or less, safe as I made it (barely) to Aleppo, Syria. When things calm down, I will write a longer email and share the whole story. But, basically, I made it up the coast as cities were being bombed behind me. I came here with a Muslim friend. If it weren't for him, I would still be in Lebanon, probably taking refuge in the mountain townof Bcharre. As we passed Jounieh, we saw a large Israeli navy ship. A few hours later, Jounieh was bombed - it is a Christian city with NO ties to Hezbollah. Then we went through Batroun, bombed later, and Tripoli which was bombed earlier that day blocking the road to Syria. We were told thatno taxi would take us and that all roads were closed, destroyed. We managed to get a taxi to Bcharre and convince the driver to find a way to the border. We passed through Tripoli, which seemed calm, but was bombed hours after we passed it. The border was difficult but Ahmad got me through and I stood outside the buildings and did not have to speak or see anyone. The driver let us off before the Lebanese departure border and we had to carry our bags and walk across the bridge down the road with fleeing refugees. Kids surrounding us with rusty wheelbarrows trying to carry our bags. It took about three hours to get through the border and five hours to Aleppo. When we arrived, all the hotels were full and we spent almost three hours driving from place to place. Nobody would take us. Then, we got the only room available, a suite, for $150 a night. They thought we were both Lebanese and changed the price to $250 when they saw I was American. I flipped out, really laid into the guy, and told him our whole story, that we didn't have money, and that my grandmother was Lebanese. We got the room for $150.We turned on the news, CNN wasreporting from the border stationthat we had crossed and therewas a bombingon that road sometimeafter we had been there.I think all exits areclosed now. US embassy still sending me emails saying they are trying to think of ways to get out American citizens, ha. Nobody can get through to them and they haven't helped us at all. Ahmad and I don't feel safe here and most Syrians severely dislike both Lebanese and Americans. I am also a target for kidnapping in this country. Everyone sticking it to us in terms of price and taking advantage of the war. Ahmad risked his life and saved mine. His family lives in a dangerous southern suburb. The apartment building in front of his has been destroyed. He is my brother now and I have to take care of him until he can go back to Lebanon. Steve wanted me to take first flight to USA but I said I can't move anywhere without Ahmad. What am I supposed to do "thanks for saving me, here's some money, good luck!" ? No way. We are going to the Turkish consulate in Aleppo tomorrow. We should be able to get him a visa there and then take a taxi, two hours,to Ankara and then another taxi, three hours, to Istanbul. I won't feel like I can breathe until we are in Turkey. Even then, the war is
still with us until it stops. Ahmad's family is there, my heart is there,...., I can't believe this is happening to Lebanon.

I don't know what we'll do from Turkey. We are just on the run now trying to get from place to place as quickly as possible. We still haven't slept much. After we got to hotel, made quick calls and ate dinner, itwasalready 2:30am. Neither of us slept on the five hour drive to Aleppo. We got a few hours ofrestless sleep between 5am-10am. I will write again when possible. If we get visa early morning tomorrow then I should be in Istanbul by tomorrow night.

Ryan is an amazing guy who would give his life for a friend any day. If anyone I know can make it out safely, it is Ryan. He certainly could use prayer though. Thankfully, Ashley who was in Bethlehem was out of the country in Greece due to a visa issue. I don't know whether she plans on going back into Israel or not.

Whatever side you are on, or if you're indifferent to what is going on, know that my life is affected because my friends lives are affected. Please be in prayer.

a call to prayer

In getting home and settled back in I was drawn into reading the stories of the atrocities happening in the Middle East. I was away from news all week and hadn't heard anything of the recent bombings and things going on there. I poured over news articles last night and this morning, trying to understand how people can get so angry that they begin killing each other. It certainly will never make sense to me.

These things happening in Israel and Lebanon and close to my heart as I have two missionary friends in both countries currently. During our US-2 training, we spent time with the other group of young adult missionaries, the mission interns. Two of those mission interns are in this area, among all the fighting. Please pray for them in this situation and pray for those in control that they might make decisions that end the fighting rather than increase it.

You can read a short story about Ryan (in Lebanon) here. Ashley is in Bethlehem and I don't know her situation at the moment, but it doesn't hurt to pray for them both in the midst of this fighting.

back!

Saturday, July 15, 2006
I'm back. I had an awesome time while I was gone, I'm sad to see it end but I was certainly ready to get home. I'll do a day by day blog here probably tomorrow. But for now some random pictures.A variation of spoons... with markers. I was reminded of how much I hate that game, but it certainly is fun to watch.



This is the whole group from the camp week.




The people from our church and the youthworks staff at Casa Bonita in Denver. Seriously the craziest restaurant I've ever eaten at.

Monsoon season

Saturday, July 08, 2006
I missed the tail end of "monsoon season", but since the end of June it really has rained here most every day. Today we even had hail.

In the middle of the storm... all of that white stuff on the ground is hail.




Hail remnants....




Torrential downpour following the hail. There are no drains in streets in albuquerque, which often means there is lots and lots of flooding.

And now there is thunder which is fantastic.

Heading to Denver

Friday, July 07, 2006
I'll be missing in the blog world for the next week as I'll be a designated adult for a youth mission trip to Denver. It should be interesting for me since I haven't ever been to a full week mission trip in the US that wasn't at Mountain TOP. Might throw me off a bit, but hopefully it will be a good experience for me.

We've got a great group of 7 kids, so keep them in your prayers this week. And keep Jeremy and I in them as well. I'm really excited about it and really can't wait.

I'm sure I'll have plenty of experiences to share when I get back, God always moves in interesting and powerful ways on trips like this. I'll hopefully be back and blogging by the 16th or 17th. I should have thought ahead and gotten some guest bloggers, but I'll just try to do that next time. Make it a great week!

social justice cause of July

Thursday, July 06, 2006
I had a different cause picked out, but this email just came into my inbox from one of my Mission Intern friends and I thought I should make others aware of it. Following is the letter, and a link to an Amnesty International article about it. At the end of that link, you can find a form letter that you can adjust to your tastes, just simply take it to the post office and send it air mail. If you know if an Amnesty International chapter exists where you live, often you can drop them off there and they will take care of the expense of mailing the letter for you.

Hi all,

I hope this message finds you well. The state of the political crisis here in the Philippines is ever-increasing. In the brief time I was back home visiting the US, nearly 10 human rights activists and church people were killed by masked assassins believed to be military agents here in the Philippines. At least two more have been killed since I’ve returned. This doesn’t even take into account the scores of people killed recently due to the attacks on the MILF (Moro-Islamic Liberation Front) and the NPA (New People’s Army) by the PNP (Philippine Natinoal Police).

Two top staff people of Karapatan (the national Human Rights organization, similar in aims to Amnesty International) are now living here at InPeace in sanctuary after their co-worker was one of the activists killed a month ago. They were forced to flee from their city, Osamis and their work there as their lives are in danger with the military there. More than three attorneys affiliated with InPeace have learned they are on the military’s “Order of Battle” list. The current administration is feeling threatened by the dissatisfaction of the masses and they are responding with force.

Below is the report of Amnesty International, the Intl. Human Rights organization about the state of the Philippines in 2005 if you're interested in a brief background along with the current situation. I appreciate your interest in the situation here. Spread the word. Global awareness and action can help put an end to this madness here before it becomes even worse.


If you would like to read the article that she copied, let me know and I can forward it to you. Here is the link to one of the Amnesty stories about the situation. Above all, please be in prayer for the country and the leaders and those doing humanitarian work in the country. And spread the word! Human rights violations are things that cannot and should not be taken lightly. I'll be talking to my friend and will update you all as I hear word of what is happening there.

Philippines: Sharp rise in "vigilante" killings as human rights activist's death remains unsolved

the minds of young people.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Today, on a blog I frequent, I caught wind of Catalyst Conference, a conference that I would certainly jump at the chance of attending. There are some great speakers involved and as a young leader, it really appeals to me. The cost and location on the other hand do not. But in any case, I spent some time looking through and found the conference blog, which linked to an interview.

I don't like broad generalizations about young people, we all do not have equal needs, and that is certainly reflected in the comments of the blog. Surprisingly enough I felt there were some good points made. The whole interview happens with an exec at a marketing firm, so I'm somewhat surprised that she has her hand on things. In my experience, the majority of companies are not exactly reaching out to people in my age bracket through their marketing efforts. I mute commercials and read books, I can't remember the last time I clicked a pop up ad. Most of the "marketing" that gets done towards me is done by friends with cool stuff or good recommendations. Music wise it is a little different, I keep my finger on last.fm and pitchfork media but that isn't really marketing, just me keeping my eye out for up and coming stuff.

I think my favorite part of the article is where she is asked about how a company builds "cred" with young people. Ok, so I will totally agree with the commenter who stated that no one uses cred, but I think she definitely makes a point with her answer:
"The North American youth culture marketplace of 13-25-year-olds is among the most philanthropic and environmentally conscious demographic in the world."

It kind of worries me that marketing could head in that direction because it feels slightly exploitative, but I think it is good that someone is saying that. I'm really excited about the possibilities that come from having a peer group so dedicated to others.

As always, take articles like this with a grain of salt, but still, it is certainly an interesting outside perspective on how young people are shaping and are going to shape culture in the future.

The time when kindness falls like rain

Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Simply put, last night was the best night I've had in Albuquerque thus far. Which was good because it came after a pretty horrible day at work.

I'll spare the details of my frustrating work day, I'm just glad to have today off to recover.

I met up with a group of 7 others from counterculture at 5:30 to make our way to see the Counting Crows and Goo Goo Dolls. We were headed to the Journal Pavilion, literally in the middle of nowhere south of the city. The venue was spectacular. I'm always a fan of outdoor shows, but this venue is really set up so you can see almost anything from just about anywhere, even the lawn seats. We had lawn seats, which gave us the opportunity to spread out, enjoy each others company and not be confined to the tight spaces that come with having a seat. The sky was looking like it was going to open up at any moment, which always makes for an interesting concert experience.

I had no idea that there was a third band opening for these two headliners, but as Augustana took the stage I was overwhelmed with delight. A band that I had found randomly through the internet in late 2005 was opening for these two incredible bands. I couldn't be any happier. For awhile early this year, their hit Boston has really captured how I felt when I came to Albuquerque. I was enthralled by them the entire time, and I knew at that point that the night could only get better.

As Augustana finished up, we felt a few sprinkles. The sprinkles turned into a downpour that lasted quite some time, but thanks to Paul and Mandy, we were shielded from the rain by their tarp. It gave us an opportunity to laugh with each other, talk, and really just enjoy each others presence. Sure, we were all in close proximity, but there was a point during the storm where I realized there was nowhere else that I would rather be than laughing almost to the point of tears with these people.

Shortly after the rain stopped, the Goo Goo Dolls took the stage. I've always been a fan of theirs, even before they hopped onto the scene with Name, and way before Iris came and flooded the airwaves in the mid-nineties. This was my second time seeing them, and I have to say it was definitely the better of the two experiences even though I was pretty much first row at the last concert. Johnny Rzeznik is just an incredible performer no matter where you are, and though I have to put up with the vocal stylings of their other frontman Robby Takac, it is all worth it in the end.

When the Counting Crows took the stage, I simply watched in awe. I've always heard they put on a great show, but Duritz was absolutely amazing. He is a poet, a storyteller, a singer, and he just captures this essence that I can't even begin to describe. It made me remember my summer in Tennessee fondly, the summer that Hard Candy, their last album came out. I'm pretty sure we wore out a couple of copies of that CD by the end of the summer.

We ended our night together at IHOP, I made it back out to my housesitting by 1:45 am, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Thank you Kelly for letting us have that awesome experience, and I'm so thankful I got to share it with great people like Billy and Tara, Paul and Mandy, Fawn, Kelly and Nikki. Another blessing to hold onto and be thankful for here in Albuquerque.

I've got more pictures up here. I hope to really start photo documenting my time here a little bit better and figured an online photo album would help. I'm headed off to a 4th of July BBQ, and though it won't be like home hanging out at KCC, playing frisbee and watching a great small town fireworks display, it will be a day shared with friends, and I couldn't ask for anything better than that. Have a safe and happy holiday!
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