Friday, November 27, 2009

End of the Semester - En Vivo #13 and Thanksgiving Pozomida

[The main event of our week here at El Pozo is what we call El Pozo “En Vivo” (which means El Pozo “Live!”), our Tuesday night all-community Bible study. It typically comes complete with preaching, music, videos, skits, free food, the whole deal. After each En Vivo, I hope to blog briefly about the night – what we taught, how it went, etc. Enjoy.]

["Pozomida" is our weekly Thursday lunch, complete with a free three-course meal for the students, a short devotional talk, and a fun game.]

Tuesday, November 24th:

For the final En Vivo of the semester, we wanted to tell the Christmas story. We always end our weekly events during the last week of classes (followed by lots of informal hanging out, wrapping up small groups, free food for a study break, etc. during the two weeks of final exams), which is typically in late November. So due to the calendar we’ve never really taught very close to Christmas, and thus there’s never been an En Vivo about the Christmas story! This year we decided to decorate the campus house early and make the final En Vivo about Christmas. It was also time for a change of pace, plus everyone is stressed out and tired at the end of a long semester; so the result was “Story Time with Grandpa Nate”. By way of a creative sketch / intro to the talk, I was able to work in the great scene from Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby prefers to pray to the baby Jesus (cutting it off when they say “Amen!” and before the scene takes a turn for the worse when the kids start cursing at their granddad). Then I dressed up like an old man, walked in with a cane, sat in a rocking chair, and just told some stories. Once again, I would be remiss not to shout out to the folks at Mountain CC. Most of my stories came from their Born Identity series, which led up to Christmas last year. The basic points that I hope the students left with were God loves us (Check out this creative story called “The Visited Planet”…), God is with us (Check out this video; I pretended this was a friend of mine from the old folks’ home…), the coming of Jesus teaches leaves us with a method and not just a message (Check out the story of Father Damien in John Ortberg’s excellent book “God is Closer than you Think”. I’m also reminded here of “the other great commission” – John 20:21: Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (italics mine)), and Jesus demands a decision (He is not like the package that just gets left on your doorstep; he is like the package that you have to sign for in order to receive…). The talk was short and sweet. I challenged the students to read their Bibles, to truly experience the real meaning of Christmas this year, and to face up to the decision that each of us faces with regard to the man Jesus. Have you stepped up and put your name on the line or not? Because to always delay the decision is in fact to decide… I also hope that a secondary effect of this talk will be the lesson that time is precious, and that our students will go into the holidays with an extra appreciation of their grandparents and older, wiser folks with life experience and perspective. Too often our culture fails to appreciate that. It was really fun to get into character and speak from a grandfather’s perspective. I was able to cut to the chase, speak directly, and speak with lots of love. It was a fun night, and I think the message was delivered. Perhaps we will even see recurring appearances by Grandpa Nate or other such characters in future En Vivos…

Thursday, November 26th - Thanksgiving Day:

Our final big event of the semester was yesterday’s Thanksgiving Pozomida. We had – are you ready? – an El Pozo record attendance of 130 people!!! It was a wonderful time. We started by setting the lona area up end-of-the-year-banquet-style, with photos all around (available for the students to take with them at the end of the event) and long banquet tables. As they arrived, there were instructions on the tables for how to make “turkey hands”, along with the materials to do so. As the hands got made and cut out, they then made their way to a tree on the back wall, each “leaf” filled with words of thanksgiving. Whenever we do something like this we are amazed by the creativity of our students. Before serving lunch (which later received one of the most impressive ovations I’ve ever heard at El Pozo) of turkey/dressing casserole, mashed potatoes, pineapple casserole, sweet carrots, green beans, bread, etc., I said a few words about what Thanksgiving is and why we were celebrating it. Yes, Thanksgiving is a totally gringo holiday – Mexicans don’t celebrate it. No, we are not here to convert people into gringos. We embrace Thanksgiving as a part of the El Pozo culture not because most of the staff is from the USA, but because we are Christians. The message of gratitude to God for our many blessings is one that needs to be shared! And it transcends culture. With that, plus a few jokes and fun facts (E.g. Did you know that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the USA’s national bird? It’s true.), we served the food. After everyone had a nice plate in front of them, I shared a little more about gratitude, including 1. my own personal list of things (some big and serious, some small and silly) for which I am thankful this year, 2. something I repeat over and over to these guys: The secret to happiness is GRATITUDE. (one of Donovan’s famous “Significant Seven” rules to live by), and 3. some words from Paul that also capture our desires for our students:

Colossians 3:15-17:
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Three verses, three mentions of the importance of gratitude!

Then we passed the microphone around and let anyone who so desired share what they were thankful for. Many kind words were spoken, and some tears shed, which served to encourage me a great deal and remind us that El Pozo is indeed making a huge impact in many young lives. (We ministers/missionaries really need to hear that stuff every now and then, and when we do, it energizes and refocuses us to fight the next round of the good fight.) Then, at the end of this time, I reminded everyone that when we are thankful, we are thankful to SOMEONE. To the God of love, the Giver of all good things. As a take-home illustration for Thanksgiving 2009, I used the old adage of the turtle on the fencepost – he didn’t get there without a lot of help. As talented, richly blessed young people, I challenged our students not to react with pride (Look at me! I’m the greatest turtle around!) but instead with appropriate GRATITUDE – thanksgiving – toward those who have helped them to get to where they are today and, most importantly, to God. I left the students with a couple of quotes that I really like on the topic of thanksgiving:

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” ~Meister Eckhart

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

My hope and prayer for each of the 130 people at lunch yesterday – and for myself! – is that Thanksgiving not just be a day, but a lifestyle. That our very lives would be acts of thanksgiving, living sacrifices flowing from gratitude for all that God has done and continues to do for us.

Be sure to check out El Pozo’s facebook page for photos of these and other events!

Praise God for a wonderful semester!!! I am looking forward to the coming weeks spend hanging out with students, tying up loose ends, catching up on some tasks, being with family and friends, celebrating the season, listening to Christmas music, watching football and basketball, reading a lot, and RESTING a little bit before we crank it all back up in January.

No comments:

Post a Comment