Breakaway 2019

A few weekends ago, we loaded a bus full of leaders and students and we drove to Pennsylvania to break away.  What follows will seem like a lot when it comes to pictures, but really is just a small glimpse of the great weekend that we had.  Words will be shared as needed and thank you for stopping by.

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She was two and a half months old when we took her to Breakaway for the very first time and this year was her twelfth year coming to our retreat.  And while she’s still technically too young for Youth Group, all that will change in just a few months.  How that is possible, I do not know.

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In honor of our Superhero theme, we came up with a game that we called “Soup or Hero.”  Let’s just say that it would have been better had the soup been hot and the hero’s pre-made.  Oh well.  You win some and you lose some when it comes to made up Breakaway games.  If sixteen years of winter retreats has taught me anything, it’s that.

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Quick shout out to this guy.  Jeremy and I met Rick Pilieci when we were young and in love at Grace Bible College.  In the years that would follow, we’d continue a friendship with him and his amazing family while they moved to Michigan from Long Island and we to Long Island from Michigan.  Rick is currently the campus pastor at the now Grace Christian University, and he was our Breakaway speaker this year.  He did a phenomenal job connecting with our students and sharing God’s word and we are so thankful for him!

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Ah, fun memories at the Tubing Hill.

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Also shoutout to our Breakaway DJ, Zach Rosado.  He’s one of our former Youth Group Students and now grown with his own beautiful wife and baby girl.  The three of them joined us for the weekend and we had a blast!

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Probably one of our most memorable Breakaway acts ever.

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The crowd was delighted.

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In Sunday morning Breakaway tradition we prayed over our Seniors.  We have a small group this year and as a youth group we’ve gotten pretty young again (many of our students are 9th grade and under).  But that being said, it makes me excited to think of seeing yet another wave of students up through their Jr. and Sr. High years, just like we got to see these awesome kids.

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All in all, we had an absolutely amazing time at Breakaway.

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And tonight, we took time to share about our trip at our annual Spaghetti Supper.

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Our students came to serve and we are so proud of them.

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And everyone enjoyed a delicious meal all together.

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A huge thank you goes out to the amazing kitchen crew that was assembled.  One who was just out of frame actually celebrated his birthday while serving at our supper.  Which brings me to the fact that we have an absolutely amazing church family and we are so thankful for them!

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We ended our supper with some worship from our amazing band this year.  Our friend Emily Prott recruited them and they did an incredible job!

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And that pretty much sums up our Breakaway retreat and Spaghetti Supper.  It was a fantastic and full weekend followed by a delicious meal all together at Eastport Bible Church this afternoon.  A huge thank you to everyone who joined us and we look forward to seeing you all again next year!

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The Perks of Being

There are many perks of being a Youth Pastor’s wife, one being that sometimes you get to spend your weekends celebrating your amazing Youth Group students.

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This past weekend’s festivities include watching our friend Joseph wrestle in his County Championships.

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If I’m being honest, wrestling is absolutely crazy to me.  I cannot believe how precarious the positions are that a wrestler could find himself in.

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And amazingly somehow they mostly come out of the matches unharmed.

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Not only did our friend Joseph come out of his matches unharmed, he was victorious in the first one that we got to watch.

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He ended up winning a second which placed him in position to get to wrestle in the championship.

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In the end, he placed second in the County and we were so glad that we got to celebrate the culmination of his wrestling career.  While terrifying at times, it was pretty exciting to watch and we were so very proud of Joseph and getting to see his hard work pay off.

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Then tonight, we got to go and celebrate this amazing girl at her Sweet Sixteen.  We’ve known Sara since she was in elementary school and it’s been a blessing to watch her grow into a wonderful young woman.

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It was Ellee’s first party and she was a little nervous at first.  Thankfully, she had Ms. Esther to encourage her through the night and eventually she warmed up to it all.

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One of our sweet youth group students dragged her out to the dance floor.  She’s not much of a dancer, but she did stay amused by watching everyone else, and especially her brother’s friends.

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She also had fun with her very dear friend

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Who also happened to be the sister of the girl we were there to celebrate.

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And coming full circle, our wresting friend Joseph was also at the party celebrating Sara and her birthday as well.

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Yes, there are many perks to being a Youth Pastor’s wife and this weekend highlighted a few of my favorites.  Getting to share not only life, but big life celebrations with our students is something that makes our jobs in ministry that much more special.  Congrats to Joseph on counties and to Sara on your Sweet Sixteen.  We love you both and are so proud of all that you’ve accomplished!

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His 38th

Today is his 38th Birthday and what better way to start the day celebrating him than to share a few thoughts set to pictures.  Here goes…

Happy Birthday Jeremy Herr.   You’re 38 today, which I think is pretty awesome.

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38 years means you’re entering your 16th year of Youth Ministry.  And while my bias is to say that you’re the best Youth Pastor ever, it’s also pretty cool to think that 16 years means that you’ve gotten to help hundreds of teens grow closer to Jesus.

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Getting to see you still connect with them years later when they are full grown adults is also pretty awesome as well.

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I have to be honest, 38 years in many ways, means you’ve only gotten better.  One thing that I’ve loved to see, is you work your way into incredible strength and health.  Last year you conquered over 8,000 miles and I know you’ll accomplish even more and greater miles this year.

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(Don’t let her fool you, she’s pretty proud too).

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At 38 years, you’re still the favorite New York Uncle.  And not just because you love to buy all the nieces and nephew’s slushies from Wesco.  It brings so much joy to see the ways that you love and spend time with my family and yours as well.

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Jeremy Herr, your heart for Jesus has always been the most wonderful thing to me.

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And I’ll always love your fun fashion

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And normal fashion as well.

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Not many people get to be married to someone who’s willing to sacrifice their own good for the sake of protecting another with a giant pool unicorn.

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But all joking aside, I truly am in awe of the ways that you continue to love and serve Jesus by working with the awesome kids and teens in our community.

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At 38, you’re still an amazing basketball player

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And your volleyball skills are impressive to me and to our son’s friends as well.

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I’m looking forward to continuing to see the great ways that you will lead this year

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As well as the other fun outfits you will create (All in the name of Jesus and football).

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Our church and Youth Ministry is incredibly blessed to have you as their Pastor.

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Most importantly though, I absolutely love the amazing father that you are to our kids.

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They absolutely love and adore you and I do as well.

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Happy 38th birthday Jeremy Herr.  I truly was blessed to get to marry my best friend and I love and appreciate you so very much.  I wish you the happiest of days today, and look forward to celebrating you for many more years to come.

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15 Years of Thankfulness

This past Sunday, our beautiful church took time to acknowledge and celebrate our past 15 years of serving in Youth Ministry.  It was a complete surprise to Jeremy and I, we had no idea what was going on and found out at the end of church when our new pastor, Kaleb Kemper stood up to make the announcement.  What followed, was a time of sharing and then the most incredible 15 minute video I could have ever imagined.  Put together by one of our former students, Sam Nankervis, it was the most touching journal of video messages from some of our past and present students.  We laughed and cried through much of it and it was probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

And ever since then, I’ve been trying to find a way to process what that video meant to me.  Because really, truly, it was more than just a nice thank you for the years we’ve been blessed to serve at Eastport Bible Church.  For me, it represented so many incredible interactions and conversations and time spent together and trips taken with some of the most wonderful people on this Island and in this world.

I wanted to think of a way to then express my thanks and that would be what will follow.  A forewarning.  This is a long post with a lot of pictures that I spent the past day looking up.  Because I wanted to do all I could to honor our amazing friends and youth group students who took time to say thank you.  So here goes…

Hey Eastport Bible Church and EBCYG,

Thank you for thanking us this past Sunday.  But honestly, we’re the ones that should be thanking you.  Thank you for letting us be here for 15 years, loving and serving Jesus while reaching out to the incredible teens in our town.  What follows are a lot of pictures of most of the people who sent in their videos.  I don’t know why, but for me, I just wanted to share these pictures to acknowledge how much each person has meant to us.  It’s mostly pictures because there are a ton of them, but I figured I’d also share a few words here or there as well.

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I did want to thank you John Caprari… for coming to Youth Group and for sticking around.  Thank you for being one of my husband’s best friends and for watching all those sports with him for all of those years.  Thank you now, for loving Jesus so much that you answered His call to Africa where you and your family are now serving.

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Zack Skarka, thank you for being on that very first Breakaway, and for pretty much coming around for everything after that.  Watching your faith stay strong through two different cancers strengthened our faith and the faith of so many around you.  You are one of the best people we will ever know and for that, we are incredibly thankful.

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Zach Rado, we know every single story you mentioned, and love you that much more for all of those memories.  Those moments all built up into seeing you grown and loving Jesus and your new baby and we are so very proud of you.

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15 years in ministry gives you the chance to watch kids grow into deep and meaningful relationships with Jesus and really, there is nothing greater.

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And so you know, I started crying the first time when I saw your video, Victoria.  It was an incredible blessing to get to be your friend and to watch you love and serve Jesus.  And it still is, my friend.

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And oh, Matt Mattia…  Thank you for your video!  You were there at the very beginning when we basically had no idea what we were doing.  So thankful to know that Jesus used us, even then and we loved getting to spend that time with you and your family.

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Sam Nankervis, we loved having you in Youth Group and then to help us serve in our ministries as well!  The video that you put together was just incredible and we could not be more thankful to see you using the amazing gifts God gave you.

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And Emily Prott, this whole thing was your idea and it will have forever blessed our hearts.  Your dream gave us such joy and we thank you for that!

But also, thank you for being so amazing and for having the most wonderful heart.  We saw it from the very beginning and has been so blessed to have gotten to see it throughout these years.

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On a personal note, thank you for loving not only us, but also our kids as well.  You’ve watched them grow up and have loved and supported them every step of the way, and as a parent, that means the absolute world to me.

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Once there was a student named Ryan Daley that we knew and loved right from the beginning.  He’d sit in Jeremy’s office and make the weirdest faces because he was just awesome like that.

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He’d run over to our house barefoot and sneak in through our attic.  We’d know and love him for years and years and considered our lives to be that much greater for getting to be a part of his.

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As I’m writing and looking through these pictures, I have an incredibly overwhelming feeling of gratitude.  Which fits nicely  because it’s technically almost 2am on Thanksgiving Day.

And if I could just take a minute I want to share the incredible value that comes in long term ministry.  When we arrived at the church, I was told that the average time in a church for a youth pastor was 18 months.  So I just figured that we’d be moving around an awful lot.  But 15 years later, I’m thankful to say that that has not been our story.

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When you serve in a church longterm, you get to watch people grow.

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You get to see them as little ones, attending your program.  And then years later, they come back and help in those very same programs that they attended.

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You get to go through the good times, but also the hard times too.  But it’s in those times, that the most beautiful things happen.

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Serving in ministry gives you the opportunity to love on some of the most wonderful families you could imagine.

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It also sometimes gives you the opportunity to watch people that you know and love grow to go and serve in Youth Ministry too.

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All those years ago, I would have never guess that we’d get to stay and raise our family for so many years in the most wonderful church on Long Island.

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And if I’m being transparent, which is something that I try to be, I have to admit that for me, there have been a lot of ups and downs these days.  Raising our own teens has given me a whole new challenge and a whole new perspective on just how hard it can be.  But this 15 year celebration and the beautiful video made was just what I needed to be encouraged and refreshed in what we do and why we do it.  I’ve learned that I cannot fix all that’s wrong or hard in the world, but I can love Jesus and reach out and help others to love Him as well.

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So in closing…  How do you best show the gratitude that you have for 15 years of serving in ministry with a church that you love?  With an incredibly long blog post full of pictures from the past and present because that is just who you are and what you do.  From Jeremy and I, thank you for the beautiful service and for the amazing video that shared so many of your stories.  We love you all so very much and will continue to love and serve at Eastport Bible Church in all the ways that we can.

Only Do So Much

Hello Friends.  October has been busy, to say the least.  And often times, when real life is busy, it’s hard to find the time to sit and write and share so my poor blog gets a bit neglected.  That being said, I’ve realized that in life, I really can only do so much and that’s okay.  So I’ve mostly spent time doing the things that matter most and now, even though it’s late at night (as I’m writing this), I’ve finally found time to share a few things that are going on these days so here goes…

  1.  JV Volleyball.  It’s pretty much taken up our Tuesdays and Thursdays over the past month or so.  There have been some home games, but there have also been a lot of away games and for some reason our school only plays other schools that are (seemingly) forever away.  Okay, so most are about 45 minutes, but it just keeps me wondering why we can’t play all the schools that are actually close by.

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All that being said, we’ve enjoyed watching Christian throughout this season.  He’s a setter, so plays quite a lot and has grown in many ways, and not just physically (though officially, he has grown just a bit taller than his Dad, so just past 6 feet at the end of this 13th year).  He’s learned many things that playing sports tends to teach and will end this season bigger, faster and stronger because of it.

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In addition to setting, he’s gotten to play right side as a hitter during a few games.  He’s really enjoyed learning another position and has also done a pretty good job at it.  We have a few more weeks left in his JV season and then a few weeks off before his Club season starts.   He tried out this past year for Acad and made their national team for 15s.  Volleyball has been a great sport for our son and we are so thankful for the opportunities he has to play.

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2.   Hangtime has officially started!  And my heart could not be more full of love for the amazing kids that are coming to our program.

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This year, in our first few weeks, we’ve averaged about 63 kids, and most are from our two local schools.  In addition to my adult leaders, I have a team of close to 20 teens who are helping out in our program as well.  They have done an incredible job and I’m so very proud of them.

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I’ll admit, it’s been a challenge to get a lot of pictures at Hangtime, because we are in our first weeks and working to settle in.

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But thankfully, we have a lot of hands helping out and we are thrilled to get to run this program for another year.

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On that note, if you know a K-6th grader who wants to come to our awesome after school program, we meet every Wednesday from 3:30pm-5:30pm and we would love to have them join us!  We go all throughout the school year and you can always check out: www.eastportbiblechurch.com for more information (just click on the Hangtime link).

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3. Youth Group has also started!  So on our first official night of EBCYG (our youth group) Christian also had a game in Smithtown, so as soon as he finished I raced back to the church (eating a sad meal of Tic Tacs that I found in our car) so that I could catch the end of our Thursday night with these amazing teens.

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Sometimes it’s hard to imagine we’ve been doing youth group for over 15 years now, but when I see these amazing faces, really I can’t imagine not continuing to do this more.

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In our first few weeks we’ve worked on getting ready for another amazing year and helping our teens get to know each other.  Youth Group is for 7th-12th Graders and again, we’d love to have any teens you know come and join us!  We work hard to created a fun and safe environment for them where they can grow and learn more about Jesus.  Being the mom to teens (well one, and one who is well on her way) I know the importance of finding good and healthy things for them to do.

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And Youth Group totally falls under this category in addition to fitting quite a few other positive ones as well.  I’m so thankful for my amazing husband and the passion he continues to have for working with teens.  It makes for some busy weeks for our family, but this is the stage we are in and we are happy to serve here as God calls.

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And that about sums up where we are in the first few weeks of October.  I’ll do my best to be better about sharing, because life is meant to be shared.  I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t have it all together, but I really don’t think that you always have to.  Anyone can take time to share life and encourage others and that is my goal and what I hope to continue to do through this blog and my writing.  Thank you so much for taking time to check in!

New Beginning

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

It was a week full of ends, which as the song above mentions are always connected to a beginning, hence the title of this post.  First, would be the official end of 8th Grade for Christian.  It’s still a little hard to believe, if I’m being honest.  Because how do two years of Jr. High go by so quickly?  That being said, Jeremy had the idea of creating a small but significant celebration for our son.  So he bought tiki torches and gathered together some of his closest friends.  With the ambiance of the night, it seemed like we should have learned some sort of awesome family Haka (if you don’t know what Haka is, google it.  It’s a traditional tribal war cry/dance and I think it’s so powerful and beautiful).

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We didn’t do a Haka.  But we did have Christian’s friends read these bold and incredible things that were true about him and where he’s at in life these days.  For the record, and praise God, he is doing so well.  He’s found great friends and is making good choices.  He’s also grown into a hard-working and diligent young man and we could not be prouder.

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So Jeremy created a ceremony to celebrate this and to welcome the next step for Christian, which will be high school in the fall.

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He encouraged him to keep going, keep working hard, keep being surrounded by good friends and to most of all keep Jesus first as the focus in his life.  It was a great celebration of the end of Jr. High and the beginning of what’s to come for our son.

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Then this sweet girl finished up her last day of school on Friday.  I’m pleased to share, that 5th grade overall was an awesome year.  Ellee also had good friends, made great choices and worked so incredibly hard.

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During our traditional last day pictures, her Dad tried to make her laugh, but ended getting a look that I feel is going to be common in these coming years.  A little shock with a touch of mortification will be about right for us when it comes to our soon to be Sixth Grader.

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Hopefully those moments will be short lived and we’ll get to stay close and connected with our sweet Ellee girl.

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And finally, we celebrated our last end of the year Youth Group event with a nice Thunderball tournament on Friday night.  It was hard to tell how our turnout would be since it was Graduation night for many.

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But everything worked out quite well and we had two solid competitive teams for our favorite made up game.

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My caption for this would be “How many Jr. High boys does it take to cover the Youth Pastor?”

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In the end, it came down to a championship game after both teams won one.

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And this would be the team that came out victoriously.  And yes, I was a part of that team.  I played pretty diligently until the final game where I decided to capture the action instead of being a part of it.  They still let me be in the winning picture, which was nice.  If you didn’t know, I’m not really competitive at all and mostly just ran around for the exercise of it all.

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And that mostly finished up our 2017-1018 Youth Group year.  We start Summer Youth group in a week or two with NTS Camp and then youth group at the Beach.  And as sad as it is to say goodbye to another year, I’m ready for the newness that this next season brings.  Happy Summer Friends!

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Operation Christmas Child 2017

Tonight, we took our Youth Group students shopping for Operation Christmas Child.  This week is National Collection week, which means that it’s time to grab your shoeboxes and fill them with toys and supplies.  If you’re local, you can drop them off at Eastport Bible Church because we are a collection site and will be open all this coming week.  These shoeboxes will be collected and flown to be received by children all over the world.

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We are so proud of our students.

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They worked hard tonight, walking the aisles of Target, looking for all kinds of treasures to put into their boxes.

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The trip’s consensus was that the Cat Piano was by far the coolest gift, but sadly it was too big to fit into any of the shoe boxes.  That being said, if you’re looking for a Cat Piano (that literally plays cat sounds for each note) for Christmas, they have them at Target.

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After finding toys and supplies to fill their boxes, our students checked out on their own.

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Then we returned to the church where everyone had the chance to fill their boxes.

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I was so proud of the kids, especially after seeing how proud they were to fill their boxes with the treasures that they found.

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A huge, huge thanks to everyone who joined us tonight!  We are so exciting knowing that these boxes will go to children in need all over the world.  And if you’re able, it’s not too late!  You can check out the Operation Christmas Child website for more details on how you can provide a Christmas box for a child in need.  Shoeboxes and info are also available at Eastport Bible Church and can be picked up throughout the week.

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Praying for Puerto Rico

Nine years ago, Jeremy and I officially led our first solo Missions Trip to Puerto Rico.  We were a team of 20 students and leaders and our goal was to share the love of Jesus with the amazing people we would meet.

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We ended up serving at Campamento del Caribe, which was located on the southern coast in Juana Diaz.  We also did a three day Children’s ministry in the Barrio.  Looking back, we were so young, but at the time, we were mostly just excited to be serving with our team on that incredible island.

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That year, our main project was to start to build a Fogata (campfire) for the camp.  We started out with an empty field and by the time we left, we had the main foundation laid with the beginnings of the wall built up around it.  We got to mix concrete and shovel dirt and carry huge wooden beams.  It was terribly exhilarating.  I remember being so proud of how far we got with this project, especially since a tropical rain storm took out a lot of our foundation so we had to do double digging to get back to where we started.

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We especially loved the time that we spent getting to know the amazing kids and teens of Puerto Rico.

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We also enjoyed the sheer beauty of the island and commemorated our stay with some cliff jumping.

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Overall, it was such a great experience, that we decided to go again, three years later.

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We gathered up another team, prepared ourselves to work and off we went.

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On that trip, we helped build the camp a new waterslide.  Missions trips are awesome for the record.  They give you the chance to experience new cultures and also to do great things that you’d never get the chance to do otherwise.  Like building a waterslide.  I absolutely loved serving in Puerto Rico.

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I loved spending that time with these awesome people on an island that was so beautiful and full of life.

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While we were there, we also got the chance to enjoy one of the nearby islands.  As I mentioned before, it was an incredibly beautiful place to visit.

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All that being said, if you’ve followed the weather and news lately, you know that after getting hit by Hurricane Irma just over a week and a half ago, Puerto Rico was hit again today with a devastating Category 4 Hurricane named Maria.  I heard that the damage was so significant that it could be months before Puerto Rico even gets it’s electricity back amongst the other major hurdles that this beautiful island will face.

We are praying for the church, the camp and the missionaries that we know who are serving in Puerto Rico.  It’s been so crazy lately to hear of all of the devastation that people are facing from fires, or hurricanes or earthquakes.  But through it all, we know that God can work good and we can keep in prayer the many who have been affected.

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And personally, I know that I want to keep looking for the good that I can do.  It’s overwhelming at times when the struggles and brokenness of our world seem so great.  And granted, I know I can’t help everyone…  But I can help someone.  So let’s not let discouragement make us feel that we can’t make a difference when times are tough.  Look for the good that you can do and be encouraged that it can and will make a difference.