Finding The Messiah In San Francisco

A friend of mine, Renee (who I met at church and who traveled with me to Congo earlier this year) is really into the San Francisco Symphony and has seen several of their performances this year. Since we’ve never really gotten on the topic of cultural enlightenment and entertainment she had no idea how much that I loved going to those types of events, too.

Since I’ve lived in San Francisco I’ve definitely cooled off on going to what my mom likes to call “artsy fartsy” types of things but that’s not because I don’t like them. I used to go to all kinds of plays, operas, concerts and yes — even ballet (even though that’s probably my least favorite of them all).

I grew up going to these types of things and I’ve only recently stopped due to some reason that I’m not really sure about. I’m guessing the mix of being newly married, living in a new city and working at a startup has something to do with it but that’s still just an excuse. Who knows.

Anyway, this past week Renee asked me if I wanted to check out an upcoming performance at the San Francisco Symphony of Handel’s Messiah and we ended up going to check it out. I guess the most interesting thing about this performance is that it’s all based around the life of Jesus Christ (hence the name “Messiah”) and all of the singing (it’s an oratorio) was directly from different passages from the Bible.

This made Renee and I very excited since we’re both followers of Christ. It also got me wondering about how many people in San Francisco would be willing to sit through two and a half hours of hearing the Bible. I soon found out that apparently a lot of people were interested as the concert hall was nearly full.

When the orchestra and voices started doing their thing I was hit with some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. Mesmerized I followed along the words of scripture that were typed out in our program and tried to take in all that was happening around me. It was a powerful message and to hear the word of God communicated in such an amazing way made my heart happy.

The best surprise of the whole night and the one thing that Renee talked about a lot before the performance started was hallelujah chorus that’s about two-thirds the way through the show. It’s a turning point of the show and the around the time when the trumpets and drums are brought  into the music for the first time. The iconic hallelujah chorus is something that I’ve heard a million times in my life but I had no idea where it came from. The best part of this section of music is that everyone stands up for it, which has been a tradition since the King George II stood up early for what he thought was an intermission back in the 1700s.

Take a listen to it below or over here on Youtube and I’m sure you’ll recognize it right away.

I loved this show and I’m thankful for Renee to getting me back into going to these types of events. I guess the only thing to figure out now is what we’re going to go to next.


Sundays With Mo Part Two – Church, Chipotle and the Gas Station Homies

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]This is second post that describes how Mo and I usually spend our Sundays together (here’s the first installment). The time that we hang on the last day of the weekend is something that I look forward to and thought it would be fun to give you a quick glimpse of what it’s like. Enjoy and like Mo always says, “Be nice!”. [/box]

The Church Service Seating Assignments

There’s a set seating chart during church, well at least for Mo there is. I tend to float around a little bit until I end up sitting down next to someone I know. Mo sits in the same place every Sunday and it’s pretty much become his spot. It’s near the back of the church at the end of the very last row of pews.

This specific location has become his regular seat for two main reasons: 1. because there’s an outlet right there and 2. it’s near the back door in case he needs to cool off and go for a walk (or a smoke). Mo needs to sit next to an outlet so he can plug in and charge the ankle monitor he’s been wearing the past four years he’s been or parole. This might sound funny but I’m totally used to finding an outlet for him no matter where we go (on the train, at my apartment, at Bible study, etc.).

Socializing and Finding Food

After the service is over that’s when the real socializing begins. At this point Mo’s been going to church with me for over six months so there’s not very many people who don’t know how he is. All different types of people like chatting with Mo and they all seem really interested in his story.

At this point Mo usually somehow sneaks into one of the classes/meetings that are going on between services and grabs some food. It doesn’t matter what they have, he’s more than happy to take it off their hands. I’ve seen everything from sandwiches to pies to doughnuts and fruit — if there’s something they’re willing to give up, Mo will eat it.

Mo’s Five Pound Burrito Bowl

Usually after 30-45 minutes we leave the church, which means the next stop is lunch. More times than not we head straight for a nearby Chipotle that’s seemed to become our food of choice. I always order first because Mo likes to take his time and really push the employees to turn his order into a masterpiece. My order is a fairly traditional burrito bowl that for me is a pretty good-sized meal. Mo on the other hand turns the traditional burrito bowl into what feels like a five pound bowl of Mexican awesomeness.

I can almost hear him asking those poor Chipotle employees a million things as I’m sitting here writing this.

“Can you add a little more steak on there for me please?”

“You’ve got to put the lettuce on there before the sour cream.”

“Put some more beans on there, would ya?”

“I need some more lettuce on there…can I get some more lettuce?”

“You need to drizzle the sour cream, drizzle it on there like this…” (as he makes hand motions to show them what he means)

When he would first ask all of these questions I would feel awkward and didn’t really know how to handle it. But now that we’ve gone there so many times and I know it’s just how Mo operates I actually enjoy seeing him in action. I can say all I want about it but the fact is even though it takes him longer than me to get through the line his burrito bowl weighs at least twice as much as mine does. Do your thing, Mo. Do your thing.

There’s just something about eating together with someone that brings out the best conversations. It’s like the food that you’re enjoying created the perfect opportunity to have great conversations. I can’t tell you how many times Mo and I have had some really candid chats over our Chipotle burrito bowls. Not all of them end well (Mo’s walked off multiple times) but they’ve all been a part of getting to know, trust and understand each other. I guess you could say that burrito bowls and some chips and guac have been the great equalizer for me and Mo and I’m grateful for every lunch we’ve eaten there together.

Our Homies at the Gas Station

Once we’re all good and stuffed with every Mexican ingredient Chipotle has to offer we wander back to my car, take a deep breath and start making our way to the last stop before heading to San Francisco. Even though a gas station doesn’t really seem like something you’d look forward to our last stop is always a fun way to end the Sunday long morning.

When I pull in and start pumping the gas Mo gets out and starts washing all of the windows. I never really ever told him to do this but it’s quickly become part of the routine. One time him and another one of his buddies Stewart were washing the windows on my car and an older woman who saw what they were doing walked over to ask them a question.

“Hey, can you guys wash my windows, too?”, she asked while most likely thinking that they were just a couple of guys trying to make a quick buck. Both Mo and Stewart gave the woman a funny look for a second and then quickly went over to her car and started washing her windows, too. This really gave me a good laugh, especially when the she gave them two dollars out of her purse once they were done.

The most important stop at the gas station is when we head into the convenience store and hang out with the two guys who work there. One of who has become one of my Twitter homies. His name’s Fernando, he’s going to college for design and he loves Pugs. We roll in there and I grab my Mountain Dew, Mo grabs anything he can get his hands on (ice cream, hot dogs, slurpy, candy, you name it). Even though Mo just ate 4-5 pounds of Chipotle he still somehow eats more things that I buy for him at the gas station. It’s kind of amazing how much that guy can eat.

Back Up To San Francisco For Dinner and Football

We say our good-byes, hit the road and head back up to San Francisco. On the way back we’ll jam to the R&B station until Mo falls asleep, which is usually around 2-3 minutes. After that I cruise up the rest of the way until we get back the beautiful city of San Francisco.

After we get back we’ll stop by the grocery store so Mo can get all of the food he needs to whip us up some dinner. Slowly but surely he’s building a good foundation of ingredients at my place so that he can cook some of the things he wants. For example, two things that Mo says I should always have in my kitchen are a bag of potatoes and Lawry’s seasoned salt. I guess I can’t really argue with that.

While he’s making the dinner we’ll throw some NFL games on the TV (which he loves to watch) and our laundry in the washer. Once all of that’s going I’ll usually take off to go get some work done and let Mo do his thing. When I come back I can usually smell what Mo’s cooking all the way down the hallway in my apartment building and I’m never disappointed in what he’s whipped up for us. I know I’ve said this before but he’s got some serious skills when it comes to cooking.

The final thing is eating dinner together, which we both always enjoy. Fried chicken, meatloaf, greens, hammocks, sausages, hamburgers, corn, mashed potatoes and chicken livers are just a few of the things that Mo’s cooked for us over the past few months and there’s never been a meal I didn’t love. “Man, you can really eat, Ryan!”, he’ll say to me whenever I go up for seconds. For some reason he doesn’t think that I like to eat. “Any time you cook I like to eat, Mo.”, I tell him. He usually just smiles and keeps on eating.

I love my Sundays with Mo.


Sundays With Mo Part One – Sunday Morning Until The Beginning Of Church

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]This is the first of a series of posts about how I’ve been spending my Sundays with Mo and here’s the second one.[/box]

For the past few weeks Mo has made dinner for us on Sunday night. This meal is the icing on the cake of a routine that has quickly become something that I now look forward to on a weekly basis. I really feel like Mo has a gift for cooking and I never see him more happy than when he’s doing his thing in the kitchen. It’s been really great to see him in his element and spending my Sundays with Mo is something that I hope sticks around for a while.

Our routine is simple, first Mo shows up Sunday morning for church. We’ve been going to the early service that starts at 9am. We then head to the Caltrain station and pick up a couple of other guys who live on the street so they can roll down with us to Redwood City, which is about a 40 minute drive south of San Francisco. This past week we picked up Stewart and Max, two guys who I’ve gotten to know pretty well over the past few months. When we pull up to the station Mo hops out of the car and goes into the waiting room inside the train station because that’s where Stewart will be sleeping.

Stewart will have been there since the Caltrain station opened up that morning and before that you can find him riding the longest bus routes in San Francisco attempting to get some shut-eye. He told me that each trip, one-way is about 45 minutes and if he’s lucky the driver will let him stay on the bus while he takes his break before driving back. Stewart has been to church with me before and hops in the back seat. He’s wearing his standard do-rag and black hoodie and he seems talkative which means he’s gotten more sleep than usual. It must have been a nice bus driver.

Max sleeps outside over by AT&T field and I’ll see him sometimes when I’m out doing my morning run. He’s from Arizona and has been living on the street for the past five months. I like to catch him in the morning when I can because he’s an alcoholic and once he starts drinking he doesn’t stop. He lives on food stamps, which is $200/month and has a tattoo of a rosary around his neck that goes down to the middle of his chest. He’s forty-six years old but has a full head of slicked back salt and peppered hair that makes him look younger than that. I’m a little surprised to find out that he’s going to roll down to church with us but more than happy to give him a ride.

We all hop in and although to most people this would be the weirdest car pool of all time it has somehow become what I do every Sunday. We all drive down together and the amount of conversation we have is directly related to the amount of sleep they were able to get the night before. But, no matter what we talk about Mo, who always rides shotgun, turns the radio to 106.1 which is the gospel station on the way to church that turns to a hip-hop station after.

Once we get to church Mo feels right at home. He’s greeted by name and everyone loves to talk to him. People are still getting to know Stewart and it’s Max’s first time but you would never know it. Although some of the people there look like some of the same people who pass them by without saying a word to them no the streets of San Francisco they’re very different. All of the guys are greeted with love and the type of attention and conversation that all humans need but that they rarely ever get to experience.We all take full advantage of the free coffee and after saying our hellos and doing introductions we head in to the service.

Sundays with Mo are great and there’s lots more to tell but I don’t want to drag this on forever. I’ll post Part II later this week when I have some time. I hope you’re enjoying reading this and just remember that you never know where your heart will lead you when you open it up more than you ever have. It’s been an adventure for me and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

Have an awesome week and more coming soon.

We Should Be Doing More Than Just Surviving


This morning I met a homeless man named Trey in the San Francisco Caltrain station and he asked me if I could spare some change. This is a situation that I’m very familiar with.

I had a few minutes before my train took off so I told him I would buy him something to eat. He wanted Subway so we headed over to the beginning of the line to start the order. Before we even had the chance to say “footlong cold cut combo” the man behind the counter started yelling something to me that was a mix of English and some other language that definitely was not English.

“I will not give him sandwich — no buy him sandwich!” he said in a loud voice as we moved down the line of sliced meat and veggies.

“Hey, man — all I want is a footlong cold cut…” Trey yelled back. He didn’t seem too surprised that they weren’t too willing to give him what he wanted, which made me wonder what was going on.

I walked up and talked the Subway employee and in as good of English as possible he told me something about how Trey tried to take back a sandwich someone bought him for some money and that he had to call the cops on him. In other words, Trey wasn’t going to be getting his footlong.

So, we moved on to another coffee shop that’s next to the Subway and tried it again.

“What do you want from here?” I asked while checking my phone to see how much time I had before my train was supposed to leave. “Hmmm, I guess I’ll take a sausage and egg burrito and a large coffee.” Trey said and I got in line as he started telling me how he was from St. Louis and was staying in a homeless shelter that’s a block away from where I live.

Just then one of the guys who worked at the coffee shop walked out to where we were standing and told me that Trey had been stealing from him. He also told me that he had put a restraining order on Trey . I told the man thanks for the info, stepped out of line and confronted Trey about the accusations.

I looked right in his eyes and said “Hey Trey, have you been stealing from these guys?”

“No, man — I haven’t stole nothing from them.” he quickly replied.

I asked again, “Trey, are you sure you have never stole anything from this coffee shop? Ever? If you have, it’s ok — we all do stuff like this, but I need you to tell me the truth.”

Once again he told me no directly to my face and with that I had to say goodbye to Trey and head off to Burlingame. For some reason this interaction really stuck with me while I was riding down to work today which is why I felt like I needed to write something about it. I’m pretty sure that Trey has done some things that he’s not too proud and that he was in the middle of a tough time in his life where he feels like the only way out is to steal and do whatever it takes to survive.

But to that I would say that the only way for him to make it out of the struggles he’s facing and the world that he’s living in isn’t to only do what it takes to survive. It’s doing whatever it takes to change his heart and his mind from the inside out. For Mo that change has happened over time through the fact that he has been putting more faith in what Jesus Christ can do in his life than what he can control and do himself. Through that I’ve been able to help him and so have several others that have been brought into his life.

I might not be homeless, but I’m learning to do the same exact same thing in my life and it’s always a struggle. All I pray for is that Trey would one day do the same thing.

We should all be doing much more than just surviving.


Keeping My Emotions In Check


I should never be complaining about anything. I’ve got my health, an amazing wife, good friends, a great job, a growing relationship with Christ and a Pug that’s about as awesome as they come. But, for some reason that doesn’t stop me from getting down on myself sometimes and feeling like I’m doing it all wrong.

I don’t even know why and how it happens, but it does. In my head my emotions are telling me that I’m not doing enough, that other people are doing things that are better and that my relationships should be something different than they are. It’s hard to stop these thoughts from getting into my head and unfortunately it’s a reality that I have to deal with.

Depending on what’s going on in my life sometimes my emotions can be better or worse, higher or lower. One day my emotions can motivate me and another day they can make me feel worthless. My emotions can be all over the place and I guess the thing I’ve learned is that they’re always going to be changing. I think this happens to a lot of people and it’s a major driver why so many people are on antidepressant or other mood-altering meds (which admittedly I was on a few years back).

Here are some things I do to keep my emotions in check:

– I make sure I’m getting the sleep that I need for the week. The number one way for me to get in a bad emotional mess is lack of sleep. This might be different for you but you need to learn what you need in your life and what you don’t. Here’s some more detail about how I set these types of boundaries in my life.

– I share how I’m feeling with other people as much as possible. This is something that’s new for me and it still doesn’t feel natural but it always helps. No one likes to seem like they’re vulnerable but letting someone else know how you’re feeling is the first step in healing.

– I make time for prayer as much as I can. As a follower of Christ I rely on prayer and it’s not always easy to make the time. I’m working on proactively making time in the mornings for some silent prayer time so that I’m able to get my day started with some quality time with my man Jesus.

– I exercise a few times a week and now that my toe is healed up after breaking it I’m starting to get to the point to where I can crank out some decent morning runs. I run in the morning because it’s when it energizes me for the rest of the day and I don’t have to squeeze it in later, but that might be different for you.

– I’ve started to plan more things on a proactive basis instead of just hoping that they’ll fall into place. I’m all about being spontaneous, but nothing will cause more problems than not planning out your week and workdays at least a little bit a little in advance. You don’t have to get too granular, but at least know what’s going on at a high level.

I could keep going on but this should give you a good idea of the amount of time and effort it takes me to keep my emotions in check (and sometimes they’re still really hard to deal with). I just never want to be in a situation where I feel like they’re getting the best of me. That’s how larger problems get started and it’s all a downward spiral from there.

Listen to what your emotions are telling you and do your best to understand them, but don’t let them control you.


I Wish Mo Would Come Pick Up His Shoes (Mo Update)

I haven’t heard from Mo since last Thursday and I’m not sure why. I know it hasn’t been that long but it seems like a long time since I was seeing him or he was calling me nearly every day for the past few weeks. I’m not stressing about it at this point (that doesn’t usually help anything) but I am starting to wonder where he’s been. I’m sure I’ll see him sometime this week and I’ll let you all know when I do.

Last Friday when I got home there was a box sitting outside my door. It’s from my friends at Runners Forum and is the first care package that’s been sent from someone who was moved by Mo’s story to the point of action. I know that inside of the box is a pair of size twelve shoes that would be a much needed upgrade to the worn out and janky shoes that Mo is wearing now. The box is still taped up and sitting in my kitchen and I’m not even thinking of opening it until Mo is right there with me. But to be honest, at this point I’m not sure when that’s going to be.

It’s crazy to think about but I’m not sure when I’ll see Mo, or if I’ll ever see him again. I’m praying that I see him soon but there’s no guarantee that’s going to happen. I guess that’s the risk we all take when we step outside of our comfort zones to do what we feel is right. It’s not safe, it can get really messy and our expectations might not be fulfilled the way we want them to be. Does it suck sometimes? Oh yeah it does. But that’s not going to stop me and I hope it doesn’t stop any of you either.

I just wish Mo would come pick up his shoes.


The Miracle Of A Phone Call From Mo

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]UPDATE (6/1): I’ve found a dentist in San Francisco who is willing to see Mo for free! They read his story and want to help, which is an amazing blessing.Thanks to all of you who are helping Mo and I’ll have more details soon![/box]

Sometimes you can miss miracles in your life if you’re not careful. You can also easily dismiss them as luck or coincidence. This past Sunday I experienced a miracle and since these don’t happen too often I wanted to make sure to share it with all of you.

A couple of weeks ago I had talked to Mo about going to church with me and he seemed interested. Normally making plans like this with someone is pretty easy. You can talk about it to gauge interest and then figure out the details over texts or a phone calls. Although this is a normal way to plan things for the majority of us who have cell phones at our disposal, Mo relies on borrowing other people’s phones to call me. This means he could call me at any point during the day and I might not hear from him for sometimes days at a time. You can see how this would make it tough to plan a trip to church on a Sunday morning.

This past Sunday I had a fifteen mile long run I needed to get in before I headed to church around 10am. I woke up around 7am so I could run, get cleaned up and head to church without being too late. As I was brushing my teeth in front of the mirror in my bathroom I could barely keep my eyes open. Getting up early on Sunday is still something I’m getting used to and I was doing all I could to keep moving towards getting out the door and starting the two hours of running that was waiting for me on the other side.

As I stared at myself in the mirror I started thinking about Mo and how I wish there was a way for us to go to church together later that morning. This, of course, was basically impossible since it was 7am and I had no way to contact him. At that moment I thought about Mo and said a quick, simple prayer to myself.

“God, I really wish there was a way I could get in touch with Mo so he could go to church with me today.” I thought as I shut off the faucet after brushing my teeth. At that moment I felt a sense of helplessness that Mo was out on the streets somewhere and I had no way of contacting him. I really wanted him to be able to go to church and spend the day with me, but it was out of my control.

About five seconds later my phone rings and the caller ID is a number I don’t recognize, which usually means it’s Mo calling me from someone else’s phone he’s asked to use. I picked up my phone and answered it as chills moved through my body.

“This is Ryan.” I answered.

“Hey, it’s Mo!” he screamed into the phone. I think because Mo doesn’t hear very well, he’s talking somewhere on the side of the road and that he doesn’t use phones much he tends to do a lot of screaming when he calls. “Where you at?” he asked quickly.

“Hey Mo, what’s going on? I’m up at my place and I’m getting ready to go for a run. Where are you?”

“I’m down at 5th and Brannan, come on down I’ll see you here in 10 minutes.” Mo was about a block away from where I live. I was excited to see him and I hoped he’d be up for hanging out after my run.

“Cool, see you then, Mo.”

I couldn’t believe he actually called me. Say what you want, but that type of thing just doesn’t happen on it’s own. Literally five seconds after asking God for help to get in touch with Mo he calls he from a phone I’m sure he had to talk someone into letting him use. I’m not sure what you call that, but I call it a miracle and those types of things don’t happen like that very often, if ever. I recognized it and I won’t ever forget that it happened. I was blown away and always will be.

After I finished getting ready I headed down a block to where Mo was standing across the street. We chatted for a little bit and I told him how I wanted him to go to church with me. He said he wanted to go with me and I told him to meet me right there at the same exact spot in two hours and we’ll drive over there together. He agreed and I went off on my run.

Almost exactly two hours later I was back and I didn’t see him on the same corner and for a minute I thought he wasn’t going to be there. Then I turn the corner onto my street and there he was, sleeping on the sidewalk next to a brick building that’s about half a block away from where I live. He knew I’d be running right by there and apparently wanted to make sure I saw him so I could wake him up.

I nudge him until he’s up and once he’s up and moving he tells me he wants to put on his nice white shirt and black pants since he needs to clean up a bit if we’re going to church. We both get ready, hop in the car and head down to church together and it ended up being an awesome day we got to spend together. Everyone at my church loved meeting Mo and he even got a shout-out from our pastor Gary, which he thought was really funny.

After church we went to Chipotle to hang out for a few and then made our way back up to San Francisco. It was great getting to spend some time with Mo and he’s a really good guy who has an amazing (and crazy) story. Every time we get to spend time together I learn more about him and it makes me even happier to know that we’ve become friends. He still has a long way to go and being in a relationship like this can be messy, but I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. Mo is here to stay and I’ll be sure to keep you updated with him as time goes on.

Thanks again for all of you who have contacted me about helping out Mo. I’m coming up with a few ideas of how we can give him the support he needs in a way that makes sense. He needs a lot, but we’ll take it one step at a time and together we can really make a huge impact in his life.

I just saw him this morning and one thing that’s been really bothering him are his teeth. He’s lost several of his teeth already and he’s in some serious pain right now due to cavities and who knows what else. If you’re reading this and would like to give some money for him to go to the dentist or if you know of a dentist in the Bay Area who would be willing to see Mo for free, please email me at ryan.hupfer at gmail dot com or let me know in the comments. You’re all awesome and we’ll catch up soon!


We’re Not Meant To Go Through It Alone

It’s really hard being a human sometimes. We’re built to be in community with one another (why do you think Facebook is so popular?), but at the same time we also want to be able to stand on our own. It makes us feel good knowing that we can do it ourselves and proving that we’re happily independent. I don’t need your help, I’ve got this taken care of and I’m actually a little offended that you thought I couldn’t take care of it. How insulting.

We also don’t like sharing the things that we’re struggling with. We’re embarrassed, we’re ashamed and why would we want to drag someone else into our problems? Sometimes we not only keep them to ourselves, but we brush them off and ignore them hoping that they will just go away on their own.

Personally, I’m getting better at this but I used to be able to brush things off with the best of ’em. For one reason or another I just didn’t have the tools or maturity it took at that time to deal with situations like that. At the time there was just no way that me, Ryan Hupfer, was ever struggling with anything. I had everything under control and I didn’t need any help from anyone. Wow, was I wrong.

Now things are a little different. More and more I’m able to recognize the things that I need help with or need to change in myself and I feel like that’s a good first step. Taking it to the next level for me was sharing what I was going through with others who cared about me. The thing that triggered this thinking for me was finally running into something so big I knew in my heart that I couldn’t handle it on my own. It took me a while to figure this out, even after the struggles I was having at the time kept telling me to seek the community I needed. I guess sometimes we just need to listen to ourselves and stop being so damn stubborn. As a human, this isn’t easy.

So where am I at now? I’m still struggling with some significant issues in my life (aren’t we all), but my faith and the people I’ve surrounded myself with help keep me grounded in a way that’s healthy and sustainable. They are people who don’t just want to keep me happy, either. They’re giving me the truth and support I need without only telling me what I want to hear. I’m so thankful that they’re willing to tell me the truth and that I hope I can receive it in a way that that’s positive. It really sucks go through tough times and it’s easy to try to control everything all myself, but I honestly don’t know what I would do if I didn’t bring these other people into the mix.

If you’re struggling through something and trying to fix it all yourself you should really think about sharing it with someone who cares about you. It’s not always easy and it’s extremely humbling, but through sharing you’ll start down the road of healing and that’s exactly where you need to be. How do you start? How about when the next time they ask you how you’re doing you don’t just tell them “I’m doing good, how about you?” and you open up about what’s really going on instead? Doing this will not only get you some interesting reactions but it will start the process of enabling your community to help you through your struggles.


I Hit My Fundraising Goal For Congo!

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]I wrote this post last night on my flight back to San Francisco from SXSW. [/box]Just a couple of days before I headed to SXSW in Austin, TX I was blessed with an online gift that put me over my fundraising goal of $2,600. I decided to raise money with WePay which was super easy to setup and a simple way to collect online payments if you ever need to raise some money.

I was also mailed a few checks the old-fashioned way and with those my total is actually over $3,000, which means that my church won’t have to pay as much toward my trip as they had originally thought. This means they’ll have more money for the next person like me who’s planning on going somewhere on a mission trip and needs some support.

Over 20 people threw some money my way and I appreciate every single penny of it. I’m now going to be able to fly all the way across the world, love on some people who need it and I’ll be doing it all in the name of Jesus Christ. If that’s not awesome I don’t know what is.

As I’m writing this I’m on a Southwest flight back to San Francisco (through LA) and I’m feeling a little worn down from all of the action I’ve had over the past few days. Thanks to a small amount of self-restraint at open bars and the morning runs that I intentionally scheduled in the mornings while I was there I don’t feel too bad. Tired? Yes. Hungover? Heeeeecks nah.

It feels good to be able to sit down for a while and type on my laptop without having to ask someone who they are, where they’re from and what company they work for. I love meeting new people as much as anyone, but talking to strangers (and some friends) from 8am-midnight tends to wear me down. Not to mention my feet were killing me from just walking and standing all day. I know, it’s a rough life but somehow I found a way to manage.

Enough about SXSW, I’ll talk about that some other time — it’s time to get ready for Congo and I’m really getting excited about going. It usually takes me a while to get excited about things, but with only 12 hours until my first flight it’s too close not to.

I’ll get back to San Francisco at 9pm tonight, pack and get all my stuff ready tomorrow and then head back to the SFO for the first leg of the 30+ hour trip. I can’t wait to start the adventure and I guess this would be a good time to learn some Lingala.

That’s all I have for now, but there will be much more coming soon. Thanks again to all of your who gave me some of your hard-earned cash so I can make this trip to Congo happen and please keep me in your prayers for both betting ready and while I’m over there.


How I Taught The Congo About Computers And High-Fives

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]I’m going back to Congo in March and need your help! Check out more about what I’ll be doing and donate some of your cash over here. Thanks for being awesome![/box]When I went to Congo last year to teach a computer course at one of their local universities I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve trained hundreds of people how to use software over the years, but I’ve never officially taught students in a classroom setting.

The outside of the university

I’m using the term “university” loosely, as it’s not what most of us Americans would think of when hearing the word university or college. The university that I taught at consisted of three cinderblock rooms with no electricity, bathrooms or anything else that we’re all used to having inside of our schools.

Even though they had a few computers on hand (that our church donated five years before) none of of them worked, so before I could teach them anything on the computers I needed to fix them. I hadn’t fixed a computer in probably ten years, but it all came back to be and before you know it we had fifteen of them up and running.

Somehow this generator powered my entire classroom

Of course I also needed electricity in my classroom so we used an old worn-out generator that pumped in the juice I needed to power my projector, computers and the mobile phones that all of my students kept trying to plug in whenever they had the opportunity.

Even though most of the students had a mobile phone, getting a good charge is still a luxury in Congo. I even used it as motivation to answer questions during my class. Want to get a charge? Answer a question correctly and you’ll get yourself a couple hours of talk time.

The students never missed a chance to charge up their phones during class

Before going to Congo I had never spoken Lingala (a Congolese trade language) or French (the Congo’s educated language), so I used a translator who had trouble speaking English, but could translate everything I said into French. His name was Remy and he wore a suit every, single day. Up until then I had never used a translator and Remy was more than awesome. I have to admit, it was hard to begin with but we figured it out together and got into a groove in no time.

My translator Remy and I were a good team

Remy always looked good — check out that suit!

Mix all of this with the fact that the students didn’t even know what a mouse was, how a keyboard worked or how a computer even turned on and you have a situation that could go from bad to worse to horrible in no time. But, God helped me pull it off, the classes went better than expected and I ended up bonding with the students in a way that I could have never imagined.

The students couldn’t get enough of the computers

This is one of my best students, Karl — he would help me teach the class, too

I even taught them how to high-five, which they loved. So much, in fact that we all did a high-five fest at the graduation ceremony once our classes were finished.

When I received my certificate for the class I taught I surprised my students with a little bit of Lingala I learned and screamed out “Nalingi Bino Mingi”, which means “I love all of you very much!”. The students went crazy and the only reaction I felt was appropriate was to high-five as many of them as I could as they screamed in excitement.

Check out the video below for how it went down. [view on YouTube]