Sunday, April 19, 2015

April Update!

April 19, 2015

What's new with you? A question that needs to be asked more. It's not the typical, "How are you?" It asks what changes there have been in your life or what might be fresh on your mind instead of the same old work questions. So what's new with me? Quite a bit actually. If I was asked back in September what my work would look like in April, I highly doubt I would have been able to answer closely to what I'm currently doing. 

At Lakeview Presbyterian Church, I've started seeing the inner workings of a church by putting a good amount of my time into office work. Tasks involved have been making the bulletin, creating the slides for the TVs during worship (yeah, Lakeview is fancy you KY people), ordering toner for the copier, answering the office phone, coordinating volunteers for Sunday, and even taking out the trash. But that's not all I'm doing. Today I got to share in a dramatic reading with Barrett in place of the sermon. I rather enjoyed it, and am becoming more comfortable in front of Lakeview's congregation. I'm also still teaching youth Sunday school and helping to start the Lakeview Mission Agape Project (LAMP). Life at Lakeview has been rather busy, and quite different lately. But I work 2 jobs! 

With MidCity Ministries I've had the honor of organizing and leading the entire tutoring group on Thursdays for a few months now. It felt like a promotion of sorts (without the pay increase of course). Still, I value that I am entrusted to organize the program and truly enjoy it. Unfortunately, Patience (one of my supervisors there) has had some family members with health problems. She has had to leave and take care of them, leaving me in charge of organizing on Tuesdays as well. I still get to tutor my kids on Tuesdays, but it's a little more challenging. We were planning to go on a camping trip with our Wednesday middle schoolers this past weekend, but the the weather did not permit it. Instead, we went to Sector 6, an indoor trampoline park. Oh my gosh. I love trampolines and foam pits. I think I had more fun than the kids.  With school ending next month, again my work will change. But until then, life will go on. Please keep Patience and her family in your prayers. 

Yesterday I went to the Angola Prison Rodeo. Um. That was different. Ask me about it some time.

Last weekend us YAVs had the pleasure of meeting up with other YAV sites for a joint retreat. It couldn't have come at a better time with work becoming more and more challenging. Joining with Atlanta, Miami, Nashville, and Little Rock, us YAVs took Gulf Shores by storm. We got to spend a few nights together worshiping, telling our stories, and simply relaxing. It was wonderful to meet all the 1st years since I didn't go to orientation this year. 



I'm so grateful to be doing this year of service. I'm thankful for the work placements I have and how much I enjoy them. This year I really wish I could work here again. But seminary is calling...

Have you ever walked the road to Emmaus?

-John

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 Lpcnomission@gmail.com

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!

-John

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, lpcno.org 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!

-John

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!
-John

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.

-John

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 facebook.com/disappearingcoast 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.

-John

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.

-John