Puerto Rico 2015

Many of you were gracious enough to donate to my fund to travel to Puerto Rico as a leader with the Glenkirk Church youth group. All together there were 39 of us, and we met another two churches there to serve with. In total, we were around 100 strong including the onsite staff - coordinators, translators, cooks, etc.

We stayed in a church building which was basically a big auditorium. The auditorium was split into sections using steel cables and curtains so the boys and girls sections could be separated. All the girls shared just two indoor bathrooms, while the guys used 5 porta-potties outside. The shower was a shed-like building with stalls made out of tarps. We typically took one shower a day at designated times. Believe it or not, the tropical island of Puerto Rico is also experiencing a drought right now. The weather stayed in the 90's almost all day with humidity to match. At some point you can't tell if you're sweating anymore. The best part is no one cared what they smelled like or how gross they looked. We were all just excited to be there. Also, this is worth noting, the food was great. We had the most caring and passionate folks in the kitchen preparing 3 meals a day for us while we worked. They were always smiling, they were always happy, and they were always willing to serve.

The trip was built as a servant leadership experience. That basically meant that we didn't just get told what to do - we were in charge of what we did. That said, our church was split into two groups. The first group went off site from where we were staying and did all kinds of manual labor at an elderly village. The village essentially exists because the younger generations leave Puerto Rico for the states, in most cases for jobs and money, and the older generations are left behind. This groups job was to beautify the area where those elderly were staying. There was plenty that went on there, but I was in the other half of the group, the half that put on the "English Camp", aka, vacation Bible school (VBS).

As leaders, we were assigned areas before hand. I was given music which was terrifying. We weren't taking any instruments with, and we had to come up with songs that children with potentially no english skills would enjoy "singing" and participating in. Short story, the student leaders owned it. Throughout the week we walked, played basketball (this is the #1 sport for kids in PR), ran, kicked soccer balls, played volleyball, read the Bible, made crafts, memorized Bible verses, taught scripture, swung on tire swings, ate, laughed, screamed, slid on water slides, got bitten by fire ants, sprained ankles, got sick, got better, and really just had a good time with the kids that came. We even had one of the local students who was doing some translation for us become a Christian this week.

One of the other things I appreciated about this trip was that the folks in charge over there really wanted us to get a feel for the island, to make sure what we saw and knew of Puerto Rico wasn't just based on the church grounds where we slept, ate, and ran VBS. Each day, after our work had been completed, they had something special planned for us. We visited two different beaches, one being pretty famous in Puerto Rico - Crashboat. It's what you're thinking, crystal clear blue/turquoise water, tropical fish, palm trees, and an old cement/iron pier that you can walk out on a do flips off of into the Caribbean Sea.

Probably one of the most amazing things I've seen happened on one of the nights. We went to a bioluminescent bay. I think I got that right. There's a scientific explanation, but essentially we jumped into a pitch black ocean at 11pm, and each time we stirred the water (splashed, moved, etc.), it made the water glow in the dark. It was amazing, and also funny to think that God made this a thing for us to enjoy. I also saw the largest radio telescope in the world, the one where Golden Eye was filmed. It's ok to be really excited with me about that.

There's a whole lot I can write about this trip, but I don't know if you have that much time to read. PLEASE leave any comments or questions you have at the end of this post. I'd be happy answer any of those nagging questions you might have. Again, thanks for all your support.



Portrait Session: Sara

I've known Sara for a while now, we even worked together at one point for about a year. A couple weeks ago I was doing a shoot for her new interior design business and it worked out pretty well. A few weeks after that she asked about doing a few portraits so she had some photos to work with. Of course I agreed, and the rest is, well, in this post. Special thank to Brittany for hanging out and making sure both our style and music selection were on point - both are very important.

Senior Session: Alex

I have to admit, this was one of the first photo sessions where I probably smiled and laughed more than the person in focus. I get to thank Alex for that. It's also awesome when they'll agree to jump over rails, fake punch you, pick lemons, use a rock for a baseball, stand on random things, and jump and climb walls in random hallways. Again, thanks Alex, you were awesome. 

Gungor

If you've been following me recently, you'll know I was shooting a concert featuring Switchfoot (read post here) and Gungor - an amazing, spectacular, concert. For me, it was even more than that. Both of these bands hold a special place in my heart. 

So on to Gungor. For a long time I struggled to understand what it was that made me tick. I knew I loved music, a fact that I discovered when I actually learned to play it in college simply because I tore a ligament in my ankle and was bound to the couch in my dorm room. I was a Business/Biblical Studies major which meant I never took any art classes, so that was my first real foray into the arts. Then I graduated from college and began my first job.

That job eventually led to a trip to Zambia to be a liaison of sorts between the film makers and my old roommates who started a non-profit bicycle-building company. Something in me sparked during that trip. I was suddenly captivated by the idea of visual storytelling. I used an old camera (having no idea what I was doing) to document what was happening on the trip while we were filming. It was eye opening. I had finally figured out what made me tick: I liked making things. Making something from nothing. Photography and music were the perfect outlets.

Suddenly this band called Gungor comes on the scene. You should know that music can move me in deep and emotional ways, and the song “Beautiful Things” hit me hard. It unpacked so many things spiritually. I understood God as the Creator so much more clearly. I was made in His image. I felt happiest when I was creating, and I now understood the reason for that. It's hard to even explain the feeling I get when something I've created brings someone else joy. It's like that warm, permeating feeling in the deepest parts of your heart.

"You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us." 

Between the photography and the music of the bands performing, it was an amazing evening. Not to mention I actually got to meet the Gungors. I’m sure I was incoherent and bumbling while talking to them, but they were polite, humble, and down to earth folks that I enjoyed being around. Thanks.

Jon Foreman + Switchfoot

This Halloween I did something a little different. I was shooting a concert hosting Switchfoot and Gungor at Azusa Pacific - and it was unreal. The event center was packed to capacity and everyone was loving it. Both of these bands hold a special place in my heart, but this blog is dedicated to the first.

I've been to a few concerts so I thought I knew what to expect. Band comes up, band plays songs, people shout and sing, band leaves. This concert felt different. I couldn't believe how engaging Jon Foreman was. That guy was out in the crowds, OFF THE STAGE, singing his lungs out. He was taking photos with peoples phones and wearing their hats (wearing them well I should say). The other members of the band were rocking out, bouncing around, and really just keeping the vibe tight. The subs were cranking, the light show was unreal, and the energy was as real as ever. I left with ears ringing, bones shaking, and a giant smile on my face.

To make it more amazing, Switchfoot in general is instant nostalgia for me. I remember moving into my dorm room as a freshman listening constantly to "The Beautiful Letdown" and of course "Learning to Breathe." Later in life, Jon Foreman released his series of seasonal EP's - Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Those albums, most notably "Spring", inspired me to start writing a lot of my own music. None of it was really any good, but hey, it unlocked a new creative facet in my mind and I think I became a better musician for it. So all that to say, thanks.