Monday, March 23, 2015

March Madness

I think March Madness is a perfect summation of what has happened in my YAV world in the past couple of weeks. On top of my Kentucky Wildcats being 36-0, just four games away from perfection and my bracket being totally busted (darn you UAB), my past couple of weeks have indeed been mad. Over the past few months I have put forth a lot of effort into starting what is currently called the Lakeview Mission Project (I want to make it LAMP, but can't think of a word that starts with "A" that works well. Comment with an idea, thanks). This is a week-long mission experience that is hosted at Lakeview Presbyterian and organized by yours truly. This week I had the PSA from Clemson, SC while they were on their spring break. Having the MSPC college group as my guinea pigs in December made the past week go spectacularly smooth.

While I couldn't join them for all the work of the week, I did as much as I could. Here's a brief summary of the work week:

Tuesday - Wetlands education and church painting at Grand Bayou Village
The group visited a Native American community just an hour outside of New Orleans. They got to see what "life on the bayou" is like and painted the stairs for their community's church.

Wednesday - Community Garden & Global Maritime Ministries
JW Johnson community garden is an urban garden in Pigeon Town, a neighborhood in New Orleans. The group built new garden beds, painted, and weeded. Global Maritime Ministries is a port ministry for seamen offering trips to Walmart, a space to talk with families through free internet and Skype after being at sea for up to months at a time, free hygiene products, and a fellowship that is unparalleled. 

Thursday - MidCity Ministries
The Carrollton Avenue Church of  Church (my other YAV worksite) had two rooms painted, did more yard work that you can imagine, and the group stayed for tutoring with MidCity kids.

Friday - Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity builds houses in low-income neighborhoods. Clemson PSA helped build decks for air conditioning units and laid the floor!

Along with the worksites, they got New Orlean's style dinners served to them a few nights, and a day to explore the city. I'm really excited to see where the Lakeview Mission Project goes and if you're interested in sending a group down, send an email to

Two weeks ago, winter storm Thor hit the northern half of the US. The morning after, Katherine and I took a trip to Louisville, KY to visit LPTS. A drive that was supposed to take ~11 hours took 17. The roads were great up until Nashville. Oh Nashville. If you want me to like you, clear your roads of snow. Everywhere else was well prepared (even Alabama). But we made it safely. The seminary's campus was beautiful, even with a foot of snow on the ground. I sat in on a class, toured potential housing, learned about financial aid, and even sat with the President of LPTS at lunch one day. It made me more excited to get there in August than I've ever been before.That Sunday I got to come home and worship with MSPC! I love you all and can't wait to be in that neck of the woods for the upcoming years. You guys rock.

Saturday night the YAV's hosted their annual fundraiser. We had an open house to show the new place to supporters of the program. There was a blind-silent auction, which yielded a great amount of donations for the program. It was quite fun to host people for a night and to see the support the Presbytery of South Louisiana has for its YAVs. I'm very grateful.

Other notes:
-Charlie Shelton was in New Orleans for his spring break! I got to see him for a night, and watch UNC basketball. It was great to catch up with an old friend.
-Emily Warren spent a week in New Orleans with Project Homecoming. I saw her. She's cool I guess.
-CityPutt, the city's putt putt course, was a highlight of my week a few weeks back. It was really fun and surprisingly educational with holes designated to New Orleans history.
-Raising Cane's is still my favorite fast food.
-It's crawfish season. Eating crawfish takes a while, as you have to break off the tail, then peel the skin. Regardless, they're good eatin' and not too expensive.
-The YAVs got the heaviest copier in existence donated. Please don't ask me to help move your copier. It will probably be too heavy and I might hurt my back. I've had my fill of moving copiers for a while.
-It's spring! The weather is showing it too, with most days in the 70s I can't get enough of being outside.
It's been so busy I can't even watch the TV show I'm trying to follow. Thank you all for your support in this year. Have a wonderful day!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February 25, 2015

February Update!

So Mardi Gras  happened. There's so much to say about it. First off, stereotypes are definitely not true. It's not a place where a bunch people get drunk and pull off their clothes. That's Bourbon St. Mardi Gras is surprising family friendly. It's essentially a couple of weeks of parades, leading up to Mardi Gras day. I attended TWELVE parades, and boy am I still tired. These parades are put on by Krewes (which are essentially social clubs) and are the most awesome parades. Every parade has "throws", which you can guess is anything that is thrown to you. Throws typically includes beads, footballs, and plastic cups, along with a myriad of parade specific throws. The classic line is, "Throw me something mister!" hoping to get something as they roll by.

Overall my Mardi Gras experience was pleasant. Katelyn Campbell and Garrett Moore came to visit! It was so fun. My favorite parade was Endymion, which rolled on Valentine's Day. It was the day that Katelyn and Garrett got into town and their new interest sparked mine again!

Other big news: I've been accepted to Louisville Seminary! I'll be moving to Louisville in August to begin my quest for an MDiv. It has been a long journey of discernment and descision making to lead me to this point. I'm grateful for the guidance, direction, and input many of you have had and couldn't be more excited to start this next part of my life journey.

I preached at Lakeview Presbyterian Church! It was my first attempt at the pulpit, and I think it went rather well. I've been told that you can hear the sermon on the Lakeview website, but have yet to look there myself.

The YAVs did a tree planting in the wetlands through the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana! Our group planted 800 trees in one day. Talk about tiring, whew! 

YAVs plus friends on Mardi Gras Day.

Garrett, John (me), Katelyn on Lundi Gras!

Crowd before Endymion.

Float from the Mid-City parade.
Katherine and me in front of some trees we planted through the CRCL.
There are so many things going on here that it's hard to blog now. I will continue to do the best I can, but know God is doing great things in this city!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

King Cake Season

January 18, 2015

One of the traditions that goes along with Mardi Gras is King Cake. What is King Cake? Essentially, it's a cake that tastes like a cinnamon roll and has a plastic baby in it. Why? Because that baby represents Jesus. One the twelfth night of Christmas, the kings made their way to the baby Jesus, thus beginning the season of Epiphany. During this Epiphany season New Orleanians traditionally host parties that have this King Cake. In one slice, there is a plastic baby. If you get the slice with the baby, you are to host the next party and bring/make the next King Cake. While the tradition of hosting King Cake parties isn't as common any more, the cake itself is still very alive. At the after-school tutoring program, we have had King Cake both weeks so far and it has indeed been glorious. Google a recipe and do it yourself!

Things that have happened since Thanksgiving:

-Christmas! I got to go home and visit my family and friends, even if only for a few short days. It was so fun and I'm very grateful for all that I have.
-Immediately following Christmas I brought down the college group from MSPC for a mission trip. This was the first mission that was hosted at Lakeview Presbyterian, but all went well. I loved spending time with Kyle, Sarah, Kevin, Michael, Ginny, and Kristen. Catching up with old friends in new places is really great.
-So then they left and college friends came down for New Years Eve! We spent that night in the French Quarter, particularly in Jackson Square. There was free music, good fellowship, and a grand time had by all.
-The YAVs moved into a new house. It's in another part of town, so now I get to learn another part of this city! Stressful, but good.

So then real life started up again. But it's not a sad thing. I'm loving the work I'm doing.  Mardi Gras is around the corner. Life is good. Thank you all for your support. God Bless!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The month of Thanksgiving

November is the month of Thanksgiving. As a YAV, I have so many things for which to be thankful.

My Home Life. I grew up in a neighborhood where it’s safe to walk along the street at night. There was always had food on the table. Good food. I got to go to Chuck E Cheese for spring break in elementary school. New Disney movie just came out? You bet I got to see it. I never had to use public transit as a child; then getting a car once I had my driver’s license. I had a loving church family that led me on mission trips all over the US. I had a great public education, attending some of the best public schools in Kentucky. I am so blessed and thankful for all of my childhood.

My Friends. There are some people in my life that are always there for me. I can call them and say, “I’ve had a bad day. Can you talk?” They walk away from what they’re doing and listen. I have friends who are willing to pick me up from the airport, cook food for me, sit and watch Titanic when my knee gives out on me again, make corny videos with me, learn new things with me, just sit and be, call me out when I’ve done something wrong, sing songs at the top of their lungs, watch tv shows, and make my life so fulfilling. It’s these people that make my life so joyous now and I’m thankful.

My Parents.  Cindi and Greg Kupar are the best parents I’ve ever had (yes they’re the only parents I’ve ever had). They are always taking care of me when I’m in trouble, hurt, or sick, but also insuring I grow up to be the best person I can be, challenging me to do new things. They taught me so many life skills that I utilize today, instilled (what I think to be) good morals, and never left me to fend for myself. If I need anything, they’re there to help.

My Faith Community. Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church is my home. Nothing compares. There are people who supported me through my childhood, college, and now in my years in of service. I’m so blessed to have a group of people who are there for me. It really means a lot. I’m so thankful.

There are so many things in this life to be thankful for. I’m thankful I can take a hot shower. I’m thankful I can have hot coffee in the morning. I’m thankful to be able to eat Raising Cane’s. I’m thankful for my guitar. I’m thankful to have a bed to sleep in every night. I’m thankful for college basketball. I’m thankful for jackets. I’m thankful for sunglasses. I’m thankful for the internet. I’m thankful for cheese. I’m thankful for chocolate, alarm clocks, the sun, cars, my housemates, sweatpants, and birthdays.

I’m most thankful to be put on this earth in a time and place where I’m free to explore my faith, without war, without famine, without extreme grief. I’m thankful I can glorify God in my actions, daily life, and hopefully the rest of my life.

Thank you thank you thank you.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November 4, 2014

Life in New Orleans is awesome! There are so many cool opportunities here that are so unique to the area. Last month us YAVs got the opportunity to go out on the bayou and see first-hand how the wetlands are disappearing. The bayous are widening and land is being lost. I don't feel that I can fully inform you, but here are some striking facts to know:
- In Louisiana, a football field of land goes under water every 48 minutes. (HOLY CANOLI)
- The saltwater intrusion has visible effects such as "ghost" trees and dolphins in the bayou (pics below)
- Two million people will be directly affected by the disappearing wetlands
Bayou with boats on it.

Left to Right: Bennett, Hannah, Katherine, Colleen, John, Vincent, Jennifer

Dolphins in the bayou

Cypress ("Ghost") Trees dying from saltwater intrusion
It's a problem. Love the earth. You don't know what effect your actions can have on future generations. If you'd like to sign up for the disappearing wetlands newsletter to learn more, go to and click the "Newsletter Sign-Up" on the left hand side under the About section.

On a different note, the YAVs have 4 beds in a community garden near our house. Throughout the year we are to maintain them as they serve as an excellent way to acquire fresh produce in our house. We had a work day a few weeks ago. Here are some pictures:

Katherine planting.

Neighborhood kids (& Vinnie) painting a bed.

Hannah painting a sign.
The signs I painted.
Other things that have happened outside of my work site placements:
- Oktoberfest. It was amazing. Polka dancing FTW.
- Helped unload ~4000 pumpkins for a pumpkin patch that supports a homeless ministry
- Rock N' Bowl. They have a band in the bowling alley. How sweet is that?
- Preseason Pelicans Game. Anthony Davis & Darius Miller!
- Presbytery meeting.
Left to Right: Bennett, Vinnie, Hannah, John, Katherine

Vinnie and me at the Pelicans game!

Life here has been pretty busy. In the summer at the Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ (where I work for the after school program), they have a camp for a few weeks. This past summer it attracted about 60 neighborhood kids. Once a month throughout the year we invite any kids that attended camp the previous summer to come for a camp reunion. During this time we normally share a meal, have a quick lesson, and do some fun activity. For the October camp reunion, the coach of the De La Salle High School basketball team came to give kids a quick basketball clinic. The kids loved it.
Here's their group huddle at the end:
Life in New Orleans is going well. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to be here. I really couldn't be here without your support. Thank you all.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

October 9, 2014

How 'bout them Cats? Right? Starting off 4-1 with the next game against UL-Monroe? Loving this. The football team is here to stay. This year is definitely much better when it comes to watching sports. I don't have to get up super early for the east coast noon games. I have housemates who root for SEC teams. People here care more about college football than in LA. It's nice to be back in the south.

I guess you're not here to listen to me talk about UK are you? A couple of weekends ago I got the honor of going to Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, a PC(USA) retreat center. I was there for a transition retreat for my first YAV year. It was a time to see my fellow YAVA (Young Adult Volunteer Alumni) and talk about the challenges and triumphs of our year. Emily Warren was there! She is from Lexington as well and just finished her 2nd YAV year in Nashville. One of the speakers for the weekend was David LaMotte. You should definitely look him up. He's very insightful and an excellent musician. On top of debriefing my year in Hollywood, I got to see a little bit of the southwest, an area I've never explored. I'm so thankful for my year in Hollywood, and am really excited to go to Ghost Ranch again after this year in New Orleans.

New Orleans' weather is better now. It doesn't rain nearly as often. This past weekend the high was in the 70s and the humidity was much lower. It really felt like fall. And I totally got to see a lunar eclipse, so take that cloudy places. Oktoberfest is coming up soon, and I am super excited to get my German on. Yayuh!

In our community we've started reading a book titled Don't Be Nice. Be Real. It speaks to the needs of ourselves and how we must meet them to be happy. While the beginning is rather intense, I've eased up on it and am finding the meat of the book rather enjoyable. Essentially, if you don't address your needs, then your life is less joyful. It utilizes the idea of Nonviolent Communication. If you've never heard of this, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the book, or looking into it online. It could change how you look at conversation and conflict.

What about work? I do that too. The kids at the after-school tutoring are comfortable with me now. I'm not that awkward adult-like guy standing in the corner anymore. I've enjoyed playing soccer with a few kids in the free time we have on Wednesdays, but also seeing the improvement in academics, as well as spiritual development by many in our Bible studies on Wednesday nights. This upcoming Wednesday our middle schoolers are teaching the parable of the sower to our elementary kids. I'm super excited, as there will be lots of candy involved.

Life is definitely getting into a routine. I can navigate most places by hearing in what part of town they are in. I know what a nutria is (though I haven't seen one). I can tell you what kind of jambalaya I like best. Life here is getting good.

Thank you all so much for this opportunity. I couldn't be here without your support.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Getting Acquainted - September 17, 2014

I don't have the time to write out all that I've learned in my first three weeks in New Orleans, but I will try to say as much as I can.
  • New Orleans is awesome, except for the rain. It rains almost every day. Days aren't dreary because of this, but if it's 1pm you better have your rain jacket. 
  • The roads are in terrible shape. If you're not on a major road, you literally cannot speed without popping a tire. On a better note regarded to travel, everything in the New Orleans area is within 20 minutes. This is such a relief coming from LA where it takes an hour to go 3 miles via public transit.
  • Most major roads are divided highways. The space in between the roads (what I would call a median) is called the neutral ground. This has some historical significance. On Canal Street, the median was a division where French Creoles lived on one side while Americans lived on the other. The tensions between the two cultures were very prominent. However, the median was where they met, henceforth being called the neutral ground. This is where the streetcars travel.
  • The food here is amazing.
  • Life here is much more relaxed. Time is more lax. People definitely have that easy going personality. This could be because it's so dang hot and humid!
  • Lakeview Presbyterian Church is amazing. The sanctuary is gorgeous. The people are nice. It feels so welcoming. I'm glad to be a part of it.
  • Festivals are the way of life here. I've walked in part of a parade as well as visited one in just 3 weeks. There's never a shortage of things to do here.
  • City Park is huge! 
  • There are filming crews here on St. Charles Ave. It is also reminiscent of LA. I believe they're filming NCIS - New Orleans. 
  • The streets and houses are gorgeous. Trees with moss. Huge estates with wrap around verandas. You have to see them for yourself.
  • Cemeteries are above ground. 
  • They take Saints football as seriously as I take UK basketball. (Except they're not as good. 0-2 with a loss to the Browns. Lol). Seriously though. People wear Saints jerseys to church. That's all they talk about in the sporting world. Their cheer/phrase is "Who dat?" I love responding "Who dey?" (Go Bengals!)
  • Mardi Gras is a huge deal. It's not just a day. It's more like a month that leads up to a Tuesday. More to come on that once we get closer to it.
  • Louisiana's wetlands are disappearing. It's seriously a problem. Read this article if you want to be informed. 
  • There are tons of birds here that I've never seen before. I haven't seen an alligator yet. You probably have to get out of the city for that.
Whew. Now what all have been up to? I've gone on a walking tour of the French Quarter. I did a photo scavenger hunt all throughout New Orleans. The YAVs wrote our house covenant for the year. I've had enough beignets for the year. I visited the Gulf! I walked in the Midsummer Night's Mardi Gras parade. I got to spend this past weekend at Feliciana Retreat Center for the Presbytery of South Louisiana's (PSL) fall youth retreat. I got to eat at the first ever Raising Cane's in Baton Rouge! Life here has been busy getting accustomed to everything.

So what about work? I have two part-time positions. Mid-City Ministries is an after-school program through the Carrollton Church of Christ. I tutor kids, lead bible study, and play games! I really look forward to getting to know these children over the next year. At Lakeview Pres my focus is on the youth program and mission. While that seems very vague now, I have specific goals. One of these goals is to have Lakeview host mission groups in the summer of 2015. Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church's college group will be coming down for the new year as our first group to come. I will be planning and facilitating the time and work with that group. The work that I've gotten myself into here in New Orleans is truly fantastic. I'm so grateful for all of your support.

Now for some photos:
YAV group photo at Feliciana

Wandering in one of the cemeteries.

City Park

Cafe du Monde beignets

Huge tree in City Park

The gulf

Lakeview Pres Rally Day picnic at City Park

Ukulele night at The Neutral Ground (Coffee Shop)
Thank you all for everything.