Here is my day-by-day journal from that time:
Barry had stayed over in my house and both of us didnt get much sleep as we were thinking a lot about the upcoming trip, the flight, and all that God was going to do! Dad dropped us to the airport and we met the teens there. Spent a while chatting with Tommy’s parents and Pastor stayed with us too, discussing the technical details and we were wondering about complications with Josh re-entering the country as an American without proof of residency in Ireland. The flight over to London was short, we saw the millenium wheel out of the window as the plane descended into London Heathrow. After arriving, we looked around (saw a Ferrari!), ate some food and left for our gate. Our boarding passes had to be re-issued but the Lord gave us the opportunity to talk to a lady named Andrea. Gave her a tract and praying that she has read it. The 11 hour flight to LA was standard, watched a James Bond film called Quantum of Solace but it was ridiculously sensational, with a bad story, and a sorry main part. A heartless man, who can’t sleep because of his past, and although is good at his work, is addicted to drink and is very rebellious. Unfortunately I was smack-dab in the middle of the centre 5 seats (so was Josh). So when I asked to get out, I had to make sure I stayed out and got all I wanted to do done so I wouldnt bother the people sitting next to me. I got to witness to a Vietnam veteran named Robert. He was a 6 day a week church-going Roman Catholic who seemingly knew about the need to get saved but didnt seem too interested. He changed the subject a lot but he took a tract anyway. On a side note, bro. Bob Zemeski was also on the flight with his wife. She said that they were going to see his brother for about 2 weeks. We didnt talk much as I didnt want to bother them. On arrival, it took an hour to get through all the checks, and we got a shuttle over to LAX Rent-a-Car, where Nico (and Paul) was waiting for us. Got a lovely 8 seater Ford E-150 Econoline van! Since Johann, Basie and the girls didnt arrive for another 5 hours or so, we drove around LA, and visited the Universal walk area. There was a sky-diving tube, the car from the latest Fast and the Furious film, and many sights and also beautiful weather, with not a cloud for a good 100 mile radius! We tried to find the Hollywood sign, which wasnt far away but I had gotten the wrong GPS address so we got lost (kinda!) and then just headed for some Taco Bell :-) When the others arrived, Gina collected her car from Enterprise and we headed off to Lancaster and dropped the teens off at West Coast.
After little sleep from jet lag, I managed to make it to first hour at the college and found all the teens up as well. Bro. Keeley taught on the life of Christ from Matt. 12 and 13. He explained the unpardonable sin and other doctrines too. Headed back to collect Barry and Tommy and eat some breakfast afterwards and then made it for chapel at 10.30am. Bro. Kenny Baldwin preached up a storm and all the teens were blessed from his preaching on being in the way from Gen. 24. We spent the afternoon travelling around Lancaster looking at shops and also got some supplies for the trip to Yosemite next week. The lads really enjoyed Wal-Mart and bought root beer and beef jerky and other things! In the evening, we headed back after Taco Bell to the preaching. They did a game called Youth Pastor’s Feud (like Family Feud), and also a cool thunderstorm sound effect thing with the congregation. The skit this year was called M.A.D. and had Jeremy Whitman as a Janitor-turned-Secret Agent! Then Dr. Goetsch’s play was staged and he summed up the message from the play in a short address. Unfortunately, we were all dying from jet lag and trying our best to stay awake.
After some breakfast, we headed from our Days Inn hotel to the campus. While the teens had a much-talked about and enjoyed session with Bro. Baldwin and Bro. Skelly, we went to a Youth worker’s session with Cary Schmidt and Jurt Skelly. Boy was this a blessing and I have many things to try and implement when I get back home to Ireland. At 10.30am, we all headed off to Six Flags: Magic Mountain. The teens were so excited about that. We only managed 3 rides (some 4), because the queue for the X2 rollercoaster was almost 2 hours long! But, it was certainly a crazy experience! I was feeling sick even after we got back to Lancaster at 6pm! We got something to eat and played a bit of soccer before we headed home. In the evening, we looked around at the gym and the bookstore while we waited for the session to start at 8pm. We watched another episode of M.A.D. and Bro. Skelly preached on making a difference from John 5. We weren’t too tired this time but still a few signs of jet lag left. Poor Josh had lost $100 somewhere, and also had a chapped that seemed to really get him down during the day.
In the morning, we went to the morning sessions for Youth workers. Gina, Ruth and Lydia came too. Dr. Goetsch preached the cancer that is infiltrating our society and the cure from the Bible! After that there was a Q&A session where he answered a question I had about difficulties with giving parents advice about their teenagers while still being young and unmarried myself. Basically both Bro. Skelly and Bro. Schmidt told me the same thing Pastor has told me and that I am really handcuffed not being married! Dr. Chappell preached the final session and really preached up a storm! There were loads of decisions made to turn to the Lord for not just salvation, but putting away sin and choosing to answer a call to full time Christian service. For the afternoon, we just relaxed and the boys worked out in the gym and kicked around a ball. I read a bit and rested in the van! We went to IHOP for dinner, unfortunately Nico and Johann didnt make it cos they were out looking at motorcycle parts. Luke, Sharon and Ruth were there though as they had went shopping with the girls. We had a good munch and went home for an early night.
We went on bus visitation and also door knocking in the morning! I got to go with Oliver and we had great fellowship despite it being quiet at the doors. Afterwards we got packed lunches and headed for Santa Monica beach! It was lovely to swim in the pacific ocean and also play some soccer and tag rugby on the soft sand. I think it was about 70 oF which is about 20 celsius outside in the sun. We drove down places like Sunset Boulevard and took some pictures with the Hollywood sign in the background before heading home and eating some pizza. Josh stayed over with myself and Barry at the Days Inn as Tommy has an early start tomorrow on the bus at 6am!!
Tommy and Johann ended up getting up too early as they misheard the guy saying get up at 6am instead of be there at 6am! They had a good time on the bus all the same. The rest of us went to 8.30am service where Pastor Chappell preached an awesome message on the cross. Afterwards there were various Sunday school classes to go to. The guys, minus Josh, went to Dr. Rasmussen’s class and he was starting a study on 1 Tim, which was interesting. Afterwards, we went on Nico and Ruth’s bus route. They were having a Superhero theme and Bo Johnson was dressed up like Batman, and Ruth was a “Super Fabulous Fairy”. I think thety had about 33 kids come to sunday school. This was such a blessing because the area we went to was very rough. I spent the bus journey talking to a kid named Jonathan. This kid had 2 other brothers and each of them had a different dad. Afterwards, we ate lunch and headed out to get the rest of the supplies for Yosemite, which took way longer than we expected and we barely made it to 5.30pm church on time! Dr. Goetsch was preaching on the Valley of Bones in Ezekiel. A very polished message but he can quote so much scripture it is amazing!
Today we headed off to Yosemite after 6.30am breakfast at West Coast. The guys were real excited, and we drove about 5hrs or so, enjoying the ever chaging scenery along the way and getting excited to see lots of snow patches when in the park. We stopped off at a view of El Capitan where I took a photo I promised for Eric. Then we found our camp spot and set up. We headed off as soon as possible for the 3.4 mile 2700ft ascent to the top of Yosemite Falls! Unfortunately, Tommy got sick along the way (twice!), and Nico took him back down as we pushed for the top. Sounds like a K2 or Everest expedition! We also lost Barry and Josh along the way, so it was just me, Johann and Basie when we reached the snow-capped top and basked in the success the climb and beauty of the God’s creation. We took a few pictures, ate a bag of cheetos and headed back only to find Josh and Barry just arriving, so we explored a bit more, slid around in the snow and headed back down. Actually, along the way we talked to a lot of people, but in particular, two Jewish girls who were on their high school spring break. I managed to bring up the Old Testament stories about the Messiah and ask them about Hebrew and that, but never gave them a tract unfortunately. Talked to some more people from Michigan at the top and gave them a tract too. And the guy in the Yosemite supermarket was already saved when I gave him a tract so that was cool! When we arrived back, after a few people slipping and getting cut (Barry!) we ate some steak sandwiches and went to sleep! Poor Tommy wasn’t in the mood for food, so I was left contemplating the scenario that he wouldn’t want to do the 8.4 mile 4800ft Half Dome hike tomorrow, and was considering our alternatives. Prayerfully, we will still go as Nico says it isn’t as steep a gradient climb as the Upper Yosemite Hike. We’ll see!
Today, I got up a little early and had some breakfast. It was freezing outside so I spent a bit of time in the van having devo’s, and when everyone woke up, I found I needed to rally their morale to try and get everyone on board for another day of hiking! I managed somewhat, albeit a few faces were eyeing me bitterly and the rest of their body language showed by lagging behind the other. God must really hate my bad attitude too!! Tommy was still sick so we only just about made it to the first waterfall which I think was called Vernal falls. Unfortunately there were a ton of steps after that which equated to a stairclimber 4000! After waiting for a few people and the group breaking in two we finally made it to the second Nevada falls! Beautiful place as the pictures hopefully show! Nico cooked us some noodles and we all sat down to a comfy rest in the sun. It was between these two falls I noticed a cold coming on, but by that time it was to late to do anything about it so I just ploughed on with my first mission ... HALF DOME! We officially lost 3 unmotivated lazy lactose guys at this point! I’ve seen them have tons of enthuasiasm for other things but this challenge just didn’t seem interesting or worth it to them, ah well! Nico, Barry, Basie, and myself took off and had the best time ever, jumping around in the snow and enjoying the great scenery. Basie showed great character by walking with a good spirit despite chaffing off most of the skin on his heel the day before with unworn boots he had gotten from Leon before he left for South Africa. Barry was all gusto too which I was impressed to see. Nico of course loves all the hiking and I really enjoyed seeing massive growth in him since attending WCBC. We made it literally a few hundred feet from the base of the final cable climb, but there was no morale, nor time left and I was on my own to the closest point I could squeeze until we had to head back. We powered it down easily and when we got to the Nevada falls the others had already left so I headed as fast as I could to catch up with them as it was snowing at high altitudes and as we got lower, raining! I didnt want them waiting in the rain at the van, or walking to the tent on their own. I caught up, we headed down, the others came shortly after, we made it to the shop for some hot dogs just before it closed, we all had a lovely hot shower and sang gospel songs, and then Nico cooked our food in the shower room cos the snow was real heavy by dark! We cooped up for the night, but our tent was went, and we were wet and cold by the morn and I had developed a knockout cold!
Our plans for the Sequoia Tree park or San Fran or Fresno for evening church went out the window once we woke in the morning freezing, with our stuff all wet and the snow covering everything! We packed up (well I didnt I was incapcitated in the van!) and Nico drove back to West Coast. I took some Nyquil and went to bed when I arrived back. I couldn’t bring myself to go to church either that evening and slept the whole van journey, the evening we got back after dinner, and also the whole night! I dont really know what the guys did other than church and watching a basketball tournament that Luke Miller was playing in.
I was starting to recover at this stage, we got up, ate, went to chapel where Bro Ball preached an awesome message on Luke 16. Then we headed out after lunch to visit an Air Museum. It was pretty cool, then we needed to bring a few people for present shopping before we got back for dinner. We had a get together in the evening, for our going away and also Basie’s upcoming 16th bday! I spent a bit of time resting while the others messed about. We had room devos and 10.30am and then I slept until the morning.
We had 6.30am brek, said our goodbyes, headed for LAX Rent a Car, and then LAX. Checked Johann and Basie on our flights, flew 10hrs and now I’m here in London Heathrow :-)
Later on Johann and Basie didn't get on our flight to Cork and had to wait a couple more hours for the next flight as their seats had been cancelled due to a mix-up after I switched their previous flights from LAX. We all got home safely in the end, praise God!