I’ve shared with some of you at camp that while most of my luggage was lost in the crash of AA1420, James Harrison’s luggage was recovered along with his footage from his video camera. A friend of mine, Nate Ragan, put this video together from his footage – our trip from James’s perspective.
Many of you attending camp with me this summer have asked for a copy of Rachel’s poem. Here it is! I hope it is a blessing to you and that you share it as a blessing to others.
Where Will We Go?
When we reach the end
Where will we go?
When we get there
How will we know?
After it all, After this life
What will we do with
No troubles, no strife?
Where will YOU go?
What will YOU do?
I know where I’m going
When my life is through.
To a place of no worries
A place of no fear.
A place of joy
And a place of cheer.
Of love everlasting
All these things
And never doubt.
I’m so excited to announce the dates and locations where I’ll be speaking at CentriKid Camps this summer! If you are taking kids to camp, I hope you’ll join me at one of these locations! You can register at www.centrikid.com.
June 10-14 | Lee University, Cleveland, TN
June 18-22 | Austin College, Sherman, TX
June 23-27 | Austin College, Sherman, TX
July 29-Aug. 2 | Shocco Springs, Talladega, AL
It was January 2001 when I was born in China. immediately after I was plated, I was crated and shipped to Nashville, Tennessee. It was there I met my family. My CentriKid family! They welcomed me with open arms and accepted me just as I was.
Soon I heard the mumblings of siblings coming over from overseas to join me! and We would all be heading out with 2 amazing teams of camp staffers to meet hundreds of campers. I was so excited I thought my eyes might crack! I waited and waited. Teams packed and left and there I was on 5 CT all alone in a cubicle for 3 long months.
But then the unimaginable happened. A crate arrived and hundreds of my bacon brothers poured out! And then I heard it. Those words I never wanted to hear. Sorry, guys, you’re too late. And real big on the crate a man wrote “REFUSED! Return to sender.”
You see, what my CentriKid Camp friends didn’t know was that Chinese New Year celebrations last a whole month! And by the time I had been accepted there was not enough time to get my brothers on the boat, to Nashville and on the trucks bound for camp.
So I remained in Nashville and met some great intern friends – Jon, Brent, Darrel, Stephanie, Amy, Jen, Josh and Aaron. We hung out and had some great times. By the time camp came around there was a new kid in town. Her name was Mollie Cule. She was cute and all with her spirally tail, but everyone loved her. And this time, Mollie’s sisters caught an earlier boat from China and made it to Nashville in time for camp.
Since no one wanted me, I hopped in one of the intern’s, Jon’s, backpack and moved to an apartment in Franklin. Since then, I’ve traveled the world! I’ve been well taken care of and had a great 12-year journey. Yesterday as I was checking Instagram, I saw a picture of Mollie! She was with a bunch of friends – Coup, Roadie – it looked like they were having so much fun back at the CentriKid Camp office! So Jon said, “Bacon Boy… It’s time to go home.” I was filled with so many emotions and a little yolk ran down my plate. So it begins. This time next week, I’ll be home.
I’ll be posting photos and updates along the journey.
I recently had the blessing of leading some kidmin leader training at South Crest Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas. In that room were 50 of the sweetest, most dedicated kids ministry volunteers I’ve ever met. We laughed, we cried, we prayed for those kids entrusted to us — it was beautiful. I’ve had a few requests for my 13 Reminders for 2012-2013 I shared that night so I thought I’d share them here. Feel free to share with those who work with kiddos in your church if you find them helpful.
1. Be prepared. Your kids, their growth and the Gospel is worth the hour or so of prep it takes to knock it out of the park on Sunday/Wednesday. You can do it! Don’t put yourself on auto pilot. You feel like junk afterward and your kids walk away empty – not filled, joyful and excited about their faith!
2. Be present. Put your phone away. Quit checking Facebook when they kids do their word search. Be 100% focused on your kids and make the most of the hour or so you have with them!
3. Be ready with the Gospel. Everything you do in your group of kids needs to point to Jesus. And when your kids are ready to begin their relationship with Him, be ready to tell them how: God Rules. We Sinned. God Provided. Jesus Gives. and We Respond. (Learn more about The Gospel: God’s Plan for Me through LifeWay’s new curriculum The Gospel Project for Kids.)
4. Be consistent. Do whatever it takes to be at church every week. Kids need consistent faces – folks they can count on to be there each week to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus. Interacting with a maturing follower of Christ helps them put their faith and trust in Him, too. Maybe you can leave for your vacation on Monday? Or come back a bit earlier to be at church with your kids.
5. Be relational. I’ve often heard: “No has ever gotten to the end of their life and said, ‘That curriculum saved my life!'” And as a writer of curriculum, I know you need solid, Biblical truths to share with kids. But if not delivered by a caring, loving adult, it can be worthless. Ask kids how they’re doing – and really listen! Go to their ballgames. Cheer for them. It may be cheesy and over said, but kids won’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care. Go and tell that! :)
6. Be in prayer. This is often overlooked when you’re preparing your lesson or running out the door, but be in prayer as you prepare, as you drive to church, during your time with kids – prayer should be the foundation of everything you do.
7. Be patient. This one is hard for me. If things don’t go how you planned, or you get sidetracked praying for a kid’s cat – it’s okay! Take a deep breath. The main goal of your time with kids is that they come to know Christ or grow in their relationship with Him. Is that happening? Then you’re good. Be patient with their questions, their energy… Just breathe.
8. Be sensitive. I learned something important while on staff at Brentwood Baptist Church – my first place to serve in kids ministry. It’s called the Iceberg Theory. When you see an iceberg, you just see the tip top – not the 80% or so of it below the surface. This is also true of those we minister to. You may see how a child is responding but not see the part of their lives we don’t know about that are influencing those behaviors. When you know a kid isn’t getting nutritional food at home, that a parent has abandoned them, that their mom is going through chemo – suddenly their actions you thought were “crazy” make a lot more sense. So be sensitive and think about what might be below the surface.
9. Be engaging. Be energetic! (That was two for one!) It’s okay to drink a 5 Hour Energy (or 2!) on the way to church if that’s what it takes to be full steam ahead by the time kids get to your room. Think to yourself – if this was the last hour on earth – how would I tell the story I’m about to tell? What would I tell these kids? How would I tell it? We’re not guaranteed another minute of life. Tell the story. Mean it. Believe it. Point them to Jesus.
10. Be a servant. One thing I feel is missing as I work with college students and kids these days is the lack of an attitude of service. Model servant hood by not just singing “the clean up song” but by serving your kids. Encourage them when they serve others. A servant’s heart is contagious!
11. Be a resource. Parents are with their kids way more hours than the 2 hours you MAY get with them at church if you’re lucky. Do whatever you can to equip parents to lead their kids toward a growing relationship with Jesus at home. Share book suggestions. Make yourself available outside of church. Help parents be the parents God has called them to be. This graphic from the folks at CentriKid Camps showing the hours kids have in a week. Are you making the most of your time with them? Are you equipping those with your kids when they’re not at church?
12. Be YOU! Don’t be afraid to be you – to share about your life, admit when you don’t know the answers – be honest. Be a role model. Be you!
13. Believe. In yourself. In God equipping you with what you need to minister to your kids. Believe that all you do for kids and for Christ is worth it! And it is worth it!You know the Barna stats I’m sure, but if you need reminding: half of all those who accept Christ do so before the age of 13. 64% do so before they’re 18. Just 13% do so between ages 18-21 and less than 1 out of 4 who accept Jesus do so after they turn 21. What you do matters! Kids need to hear and respond to the Gospel. So pray and ask the Holy Spirit to work through you as you guide kids into a relationship with God.
There’s a song I love by The Martins from their Windows CD called “Higher Than My Ways.” It has really shaped my heart and my attitude about God’s plans for my life since I first heard it years ago. And these past few months, He’s continued to show me that His ways are most definitely higher than my ways!
As I sat in church at Second Baptist Church in Arkadelphia a couple of weeks before my time at Sweet Sleep came to an end, I was trying to make my plan for what the coming weeks and months might look like. I could feel God preparing me to not be at Sweet Sleep but what would I do in Arkadelphia? Emily had this great dream job at Ouachita but those come along once in a lifetime. Maybe I could get my masters degree and teach middle school since I love working with that age group at church? Maybe I could write and speak full time? Many thoughts were flying around in my head and heart.
That Sunday, the church unveiled the new Master Plan for their campus – and I was excited to offer input on how to lay out the kids ministry rooms, to make things accessible for those with disabilities, etc. I met with our wonderful pastor, Stan Parris, and just hurled out dreams, ideas — all sorts of thoughts I had on how to continue the great ministries at Second and grow them to reach and impact more people in Arkadelphia and to strengthen our discipleship processes. By the end of our talk, I think we both knew God was up to something but we weren’t quite sure what.
The next time we met, we prayed about what it might look like for me to come on staff in some way at the church – to work with Community Groups, Sunday School, Men’s/Women’s ministry, Kids Ministry/Student Ministry – to look at what we’re doing and make sure we’re doing what is best to disciple our folks and what is best for our families.
As I left that meeting, I was excited about what God was up to! I sped to work, temping at Ouachita, grinning ear to ear! Then I sat down at my desk and my phone started buzzing. That’s when I learned of the dream position opening in the Ouachita Alumni office. I was torn knowing that I would love both positions! I prayed and sought great Godly counsel from a dear friend in ministry that knows me, my heart, my passions and my giftings so well. As we talked, we began to see how God could potentially call me to serve in both capacities – since the Ouachita position was not quite full-time and with Wednesday and Sunday ministry time I wouldn’t need to devote many hours during the Ouachita work week for the ministry work at Second.
So I accepted the job as Director of Ouachita Alumni in January and I’ve loved every minute of it. I get to plan reunions, Homecoming, give scholarships to deserving students – its so perfect! And when I met again with Brother Stan to talk about what a part-time position would look like, it lined up even better than we could have planned ourselves – because His ways are higher than our ways!
So last night, the church voted for me to begin my new role as Discipleship Minister at Second Baptist on March 1! (…which also happens to be our 7th wedding anniversary and the 15th anniversary of the Arkadelphia tornado – which is how I first met Emily – serving chili-mac to her family as I volunteered with the Red Cross.)
I would love your prayers as Emily and I step back into, even part time, church work. We’re excited to see what the Lord has planned for our church as old buildings come down and new ones spring up to best minister to people of Arkadelphia. God is doing amazing things in His church and Emily and I are excited to be a part of it!
So if you’re keeping count, I went from no job to a few jobs in a very short time. That’s because God is awesome – and He has a plan for our lives that is perfect. In more ways than I could have imagined, God is using me. He wouldn’t let me sit idle long – there is much work to be done and I pray that you are letting Him use you, too. I’ll be sure to update you on things here at Ouachita, at Second and with my writing and speaking, too. :) And if I show up at the wrong place at the wrong time – please turn me around and send me in the right direction. :)
Emily and I have seen that so clearly these past few months.
He has orchestrated some great things in our lives these past few months, and I’m excited to be able to share with all of you today that starting January 16th, I will be the new Director of Alumni at Ouachita Baptist University!
This truly is a dream job – one that we didn’t think would become available – especially so soon. Some great friends have served in this role and I have some pretty big shoes to fill. But in God’s perfect timing, the current Alumni Director, Lauren Land, a friend of ours, is moving to another position on campus, making this spot available. I’ll be in charge of making Homecoming fun, coordinating reunions, celebrating Gold Tigers each Spring – those who have graduated 50+ years ago, working on the Ouachita Circle – our wonderful Alumni magazine and so much more. Mainly, I get to help connect our great Ouachita alums with this place Emily and I love so much…
Those of you who know me well also know I love a fun office – and I haven’t had my own space since my time as Children’s Pastor at Rolling Hills. I’m so excited to move into my office next week – I even have a little kitchenette with a sink and mini-fridge. I am feelin’ up town! :) Emily is also ready for me to get things out of the house that I can use to outfit my new digs. :) So when you’re in the delph, or driving through, stop by and see us in Cone-Bottoms on Ouachita’s campus! I’m on the first floor, Em is on the 3rd. We’re excited about working together (but not in the same office as we have been temporarily!) :)
I’ll still be doing some writing and speaking and look forward to those opportunities. And God even has some other exciting projects in the works for me, too, that I’ll share soon! I went from not having a job to having a lot of great work to do. :) God is good!
So thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers! We’re excited about these new adventures and are thankful for God’s blessing and your friendship.
It is pretty amazing to look back at 2011 and see all of the changes God had in store for me and my family. God revealed to me the exact date, well in advance, that I would not be working for the non profit organization I’d given 4 years of my life to — but I had no idea how God would orchestrate the change. I prayed – God what do you have for me in October? And while I had no idea, I trusted Him and He has provided for me and for my family in remarkable ways. I give God the glory for all He has done! And if that was the only reason for all the changes, that I would indeed give God the glory in it, then it was worth it to pass through this season.
But in His perfect plan, He has blessed me with some pretty amazing experiences these past few months. One of these experiences was being asked to write curriculum for Chick-fil-A’s WinShape Camps. I love everything about this project – the people I’ve met, the incredible writers I’m collaborating with, the Chick-fil-A culture and especially the free chicken during my meetings at their corporate offices in Atlanta… :) Most of all, I love allowing God to write curriculum through me. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I will work for the next 2 months to complete these projects and look back and not remember half of the activities created. That’s because they won’t be my words, but His – creating the perfect environment for children to come to know Christ better at camp this summer. Love it!
Over the next 2 months, I will specifically be creating Bible Study and Worship materials for WinShape Camps for Girls – Junior Camp at Berry College (where they filmed Remember the Titans!), WinShape Camps for Girls – 1 Week at Young Harris, and WinShape Camps for Communities – amazing day camps in 63 communities around the US this summer! So if you have kids in elementary school, check out these awesome camps for your kiddos! If you minister in a community with a Chick-fil-A restaurant, check out WinShape Camps for Communities – where the restaurants help promote the day camps held at local churches as an outreach to your community. Maybe you can even host one of these in 2013!
You can find out info about all these great programs at www.winshapecamps.org.
Thank you, friends, for praying for and with me over these past few months. I have more exciting news to announce in the coming days so stay tuned!
Blessings for 2012!
New speaking dates have been added for Summer 2012! Come experience a great week of camp at CentriKid Camps at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina and spend the week with me. For dates and information, visit my Calendar.
God is so good… and I have some fun news to share!
This Thursday I get to start work on a contract basis for our alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University. I never dreamed when I made the leap to freelance writing, speaking and communications/PR that I might get to spend some time helping this school Emily and I love so much.
Now the fun part of this news is that for the next 9 weeks, Emily and I will be working in the same department in the very building pictured here. Most people have said – “I could never work with my wife/husband! EEEK!” But as per Merryman usual, we don’t see any downsides or have a worry in the world. As I told Emily when I found out about the position – “Spending time with you and making a living? I couldn’t be happier.”
So for 9 weeks I’m going to soak it up. We’ll get some serious work done for Ouachita, eat in the caf (quietly mumbling about how we miss “Walt’s”) and we might even grab some lunch at “Chick” (or as we old people call it, Chick-fil-A). I’m pretty sure I’ll find a way to enjoy every benefit of being on staff at Ouachita… except for maybe working out in the gym.
9 weeks in the most beautiful place on earth. Can’t beat that.
And we’re so thankful for the countless ways we see God providing.