Week 39: Dwight Mission

As I drove around the last corner, I saw the infamous chain-linked fence that has been a part of my life for eleven years now.  That was our signal when I was a camper that we had finally made it to Dwight Mission.  I could write a few hundred pages about Dwight, but some things can’t be said in words (but since this is a blog, I’ll use words).  My life includes four summers as a camper, three summers as a counselor, one summer as assistant program director, and a visit every summer since 1998 in some form or fashion.  Placed in the flint hills of eastern Oklahoma, it is one of the most beautiful places in my life.

My excuse to go to Dwight was to teach the new and old staff members a class about Presbyterianism.  I just wanted to be at Dwight… with the people, with the buildings, and with the memories.  I don’t think I realized I was actually back at Dwight until I walked into the boy’s dormitory, Washburn Hall, God bless it.

So… I took a picture when the realization occurred…

This is where I slept when I was an eighth grader (not in the hall, in the rooms), where I guided the sleepwalking camper back to his bunk, and my favorite of all, where Brian Coulter had to clean up the bathroom after one of my campers clogged up the toilet more outrageously beautiful than I have ever seen to date.  The camper believed that by repeatedly flushing the toilet everything would go down, wrong (Thanks Brian).  I know the dorm well because I know where all of the light switches are without looking or thinking about it.  After realizing where I was, I made my way around camp reminiscing of my memories in different locations.

Dwight has been the most life forming place for me.  It was my youth group when I was in high school, where I gained a lot of confidence in myself and leadership skills while on staff, where I learned how to play guitar, and my happy place when I’m elsewhere now.  Dwight is part of my being.

I think I’ve been avoiding blogging about Dwight because I can’t appropriately blog it in words… yeah, well here’s the link to my blog with John William’s song about Dwight and below are some pictures of Dwight and Dwight related things in the nearest town, Sallisaw:

The Creek:

Wild Horse BBQ:
Some of the best BBQ ever!  In Kenya, I dreamed of this moment!  If you’re ever in Sallisaw then please stop by.

Quiring and East Brothers:
I’m very proud that my little brother, Patrick, is working his second summer on staff at Dwight this year.

Me, Josh, Tara, and E-Sharp

Life Goal #76:

Week 38: The Communal Effort of Getting Robert to Church

Since I was in Austin, I wanted to visit the church I will be serving next year as an intern.  The service was very nice and creative and got me excited about next year.  However, this is the story of how I got to church.

Saturday, the conference ended and I began to plan for Sunday morning.  How would I get there?  I started calling around to no avail.  What would I wear?  I decided upon a suit, but was missing black socks and dress shoes.  As the night progressed, I knocked on my friend Chris’ door and acquired shoes that were slightly too big for me, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Then my lovely, beautiful friend, Allison, offered her car to me if I could get to her house.  So, I called my Episcopalian duo, Shyla and Eric, and asked for assistance getting the car.  They agreed graciously and I asked Eric if he had any black socks.  He had mismatched leftovers which I gladly accepted.  I went to bed Saturday night with everything miraculously straightened out, I assumed.

Sunday morning, I woke up, showered, shaved, and was putting on my suit when problem number 17 occurred.  I buttoned my pants and they fell right to the floor.  It is my dad’s old suit which was slightly too big for me to begin with and I have lost some weight, uh oh.  I do the next logical thing and call my good friend, Mary Elizabeth, to ask where she stashes her belts.  She tells me and ends with the comment, “I’m not sure if they’ll fit you.”  To which I chuckle, I take out the only belt that could possibly work and it fits perfectly… aside from the fact that it is a round girlie belt buckle kind of belt.

So, fifteen minutes early, I arrive to this new church for the first time dressed in my father’s over sized suit, Mary Elizabeth’s girlie belt, Eric’s mismatched socks, and Chris’ big shoes.  Booyah world!

The belt:

The socks:

Week 38: YAM Jam in Austin

I was fortunate to attend the YAM (Young Adult Ministries) Jam conference in Austin this past week  (click here for conference blog). It was hosted at Austin Seminary and put on by Presbyterian young adult ministry people I have worked with for many years in the past.  We had three very good speakers with different styles, Ted Wardlaw (President of Austin Seminary), Bruce Reyes-Chow (Current Moderator of PC(USA)), and Carol Howard Merritt (who is the author of a book titled Tribal Church). Click on Bruce or Carol’s name to see their blogs.

Worship outside:

Worship inside:

What happened when I found the gigantic box of goldfish:

What happened when I found Grandma’s Sweet Leaf Tea:

What happened when we found Peanut Butter Moose Pie:

Back to serious Robert…

I have been hearing that the PC(USA) is dying my entire life.  However, I keep on seeing excitement and energy for our denomination.  One of the biggest obstacles the PC(USA) has is creating a space and program for young adults (however you define that term).  The conference focused on this idea and implementation into different contexts.  Any ideas on how to create a space and program for young adults in the PC(USA)?

One of the most interesting points made was that 80% of college students believe in same-sex marriage.  This has sent shockwaves through many evangelical and mainline churches.  Then the same church hears that 30% of college students do not have health insurance and the church doesn’t make a noise.  Think about that… what does that say about the church?

Week 38: Water, Streets, Sidewalks, and Bridges


The water here is crazy!  I walk over to the sink, put my water bottle underneath, fill it up, and drink it.  My toothbrush also just goes right under the sink to be washed off.

Somebody asked me about the water in Kenya yesterday and I realized that I haven’t really shared that here.  In Kenya, the water comes from wells which Kenyans call boreholes.  From these wells, all of the water is pumped into large water containers.  These containers are elevated and provide the water for sinks and toilets.  Outside my Quonset Hut we have two of these containers.  I use the bottom 500 liter container to fill up my one liter boiler doohickey, boil the water and wait for it to cool down, two hours, pour it into a ceramic filter, wait two hours, then have myself some drinking and toothbrush washing water.

It sounds more tedious than it is.  It has just become part of my life that I don’t think twice about anymore.  Therefore, putting my toothbrush under the sink again is taking some getting used to and drinking water straight from the tap without any boiling or filtering is… well… crazy.

The most frustrating part of the water bit for me is that I have to carry around a water bottle with me all the time so that I know the water is safe.  I don’t mind carrying a water bottle mind you, but it is when I am asked why I always carry a water bottle wherever I go that I feel misplaced, “Because the water here will make me sick.”  Sounds easy enough to say, but this definitely comes across with the message I hate sending and feeling, “Your water isn’t good enough for me.”


The States’ roads are amazing.  There’s no other way to put it.  I hear people talk about how bad some road is here or how construction has been going on forever there.  I’ve been a complainer.  I think I’m going to be quiet post hence.

My favorite story about the States’ roads occurred when I was living on Cosmas’ Island, Mfangano (blog post about Mfangano here).  I stayed with his pastor who had been to the States before and would tell me about how wonderful the States are as if they were heaven.  One night at dinner, I decided to set the record straight.  “The States are not heaven, they are far from it.  Over half of our marriages end in divorce, our culture is the most materialistic in the world, we had slavery, segregation, … (I continued my tirade for a few more minutes).”  I finish and feel that I have laid out a very thorough argument against the States being heaven to which the pastor replies, “BUT YOUR STREETS!!!”  Everyone has their own idea of heaven I guess.


They’re crazy.  Where my family lives (and a majority of us in the mid-west), we use our sidewalks sparingly.  In Kenya, a majority of the population walks everywhere, but no sidewalks.


There are a lot of bridges in the States.  I never really paid much attention to them unless one was unusual tall or artistic.  Now I am noticing the simple bridges and how amazing and expensive they are.  We have few bridges in Kenya.

Week 38: The YAV Connection

Many of my friends were Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) before me and I got to hear all of their stories.  I remember hearing about the connection they had with fellow YAVers because of what they had been through.  However, I did not believe that it was a deeper connection than, “Hey, you went to Austin College too.  Cool.”  Well, I’ve changed my mind after being back for a week.  I have been surrounded by many wonderful YAVs who listen very intently and understand, to an extent, what I am talking about and going through.  It’s really quite wonderful, helpful, and any other -ful you can think of.

I guess that there is a difference from going through a pledgeship, which is supposedly to bring a group closer together, and moving to another culture/country for a year.  That’s what sororities and fraternities should do if they really want their members to feel a bond.  I’m going to put the seven of you in another culture where you stick out so much that everybody stops and looks at you whenever you walk by.  When you come home and meet somebody else who has been through that there is something that exists between those two people, an understanding, which is more than I expected.

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