Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hunger Hype

For the last several months my wife and Junior High son have been bugging me to read the Hunger Games. So three days before the movie was about to come out I "almost" completed it. Fortunately my son and wife were gracious enough to allow me to tag along on my sons mental health day, or fever, what ever sounds better. Hey the kids GPA is 4.125, he deserves a day off!

We arrived at the theatre around 12:45 so that we could get good seats for the 1:30 showing and almost cried when we saw about 200 junior high students milling around in the hallways of the theatre. For a moment we thought that we may not be able to sit by each other. But... "The odds were in our favor," as the group had seen the earlier showing as an incentive for reading the book. We got to our seats and I saved two seats as Wendy and Hunter got the popcorn. Then we settled in as the movie started and then ended 2.5 hours later in what seemed to be a cliff notes style movie.

Now for the critique... from the words of my son, "It was to fast, the story line was to quick, they left out to many important details." I asked, "Well what could they have done better?" He said, "They should have made it into two books!" You know... he's right! After several days of pondering it and talking to several of my high school students we came up with a marketing windfall. What they should have done is filmed the entire movie in more detail. Then split it into two movies, the first movie would take you right up to when they step off the pedestals in the games. Yes... The people that did not read the book would be highly upset! But would that not peak their interest and boost book sales? After two or three months they could release part two to much fanfare! 

Honestly I agree with my sons critique, not sure why they could not make this film like the Lord of The Rings, it was spot on with the book, yet they screw this up? In all I was very disappointed in the film, hopefully with the 700 million they can make the second movie better!

What do you think... give me your thoughts? Make sure you tell em if you have read the books. 

Monday, March 12, 2012


I know I usually use this blog for stories about teens. But I thought I'd take just a minute or two to tell you why the photo to the right means so much to me.

On January 1, 2011 I weighed in at 227 and I knew it was time to do something about it. So... for the last year my friend Todd Porter and I have been hitting the gym on a religious basis. We make sure that we give each a hard time when we don’t get to the gym, whether we have an excuse or not. I would also be remiss not to mention my older brother who is an inspiration to me; he went through a journey several years ago and is in great shape. He daily goes to Crossfit in Bowie MD.  In that time I was thinking, this is great for me, I feel good. Yet I was bummed that I was not losing the weight.

You see the garbage I was filling my body was far outweighing, literally, what I was putting out. Finally in January of this year I finally went to my yearly physical that took me three years to schedule, but with a little push from my wife I went. Well needless to say that was the kick in the pants I needed! After talking to that doc my LDL Cholesterol was 453... yes you read that right, I also had some issues with fat around my liver and blood pressure was a little high. You see my father and grandfather died from heart disease, so it was time for a life change, NOT A DIET! The doctor wanted to put me on cholesterol medication right away but I convinced him to allow me to change my eating habits, take natural supplements for cholesterol (more on that in a later post) and intensify my exercise regime, he agreed and I will go back to see him on April 15th, I will keep you posted

So… the picture... I can't remember the last time I weighed below 200. It has not been easy, the first few weeks the weight just fell off and then the last four to six weeks it has come off about a pound to two pound per week. 

Many people have asked how did you do that? Basically, I took the doctors advice and cut out anything white, like processed sugars and bad carbohydrates. I have a weekly weight lifting schedule and do some sort of cardio for 30 minutes every day, except for Sunday when I rest. I also track all my calories in an app called Lose It. It has not been an easy task, but it has built character and discipline in me.

Please know... I don't write this or show the picture to brag, I have a long way to go. What I do want to do is encourage you. My dad (The Sarge) had a famous quote that my brother's and I use often, "WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO... DO SOMETHING!" So, today do SOMETHING!  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Teens impacting their world!

Edge Teen Center has been open for a year and a half now and hundreds of teens have come through our doors. They have come for battle of the bands, movie and anime nights, during the week they come for focused groups that consist of leadership, girls issues and creative writing. On Monday, Wednesdays, Sundays they can attend programs that will have them grow in their faith, if they choose to do so. Many of them come after school where they can hang out and are greeted by adults that care about them and the issues they are dealing with, which are many. In this way Edge serves as a haven for after school teens where single parents and dual income families can rest assured that their teens have a safe place to be after school.

While we are excited about all the great things that have been happening. We have wondered if we are actually fulfilling our mission statement, “Empowering Students To Impact The World.” We wanted to be more than just a hang out spot and about a month ago we received our answer. After receiving a grant from the Arrington foundation we hired a part time person to head up our Community Service Program, Molly Hare, who has been doing an incredible job. She hit the ground with both feet running and immediately met with the government teachers at Lakota East High School to explain to them that we have partnered with social services agencies in our community (Whiz Kids, Middletown Food Market and Hope House) and will begin to take scheduled trips to these agencies. We have also partnered with UGive to keep track of volunteer and student hours. So far we have taken teens to these agencies for about a month now and have logged 100 teen hours and about 45 adult volunteer hours. We have also seen an increased attendance by teens that just hang out at Edge that participate in our community service program. We are currently using a 20 year old van to transport teens, it’s mechanically fine but visibly horrendous! If you feel compelled to make a donation for a new van, or you know of a dealer that would be willing to donate a van and do cross promotion vehicle wrap on the van we’d be willing to talk. Just think a dealer having their van driven around town taking teens to places to serve and the van has their logo as well as the tag line... “We care about teens!” If you have any leads let me know! We will keep you up to date as we continue to empower teens to impact their world.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Veteran's Story

I was 5 when my Dad came back from Vietnam. My Dad was a hard and tough sargent in the US Army. Discipline was hard and swift, as my brothers will agree. As I grew older I realized there was something different about dad. My brothers will attest that he returned different from Vietnam. We all noticed that he would get upset at war movies, yet he did not shed a tear, he choked them back. Almost as if he was wrestling with those feelings, his face would twist and turn and lips would turn side ways and every so often he'd let out a grunt because the pressure became to much. Today, as my brothers and I think back it was almost comical to think about, yet as it was happening it was one of the most painful things to watch!

If you wanted to see my dad real angry all you had to do was say something bad about the military. My brother Robert recalled a moment when our brother Mike made a smart ass remark about Vietnam: "Let me tell you it wasn't pretty. I had to hold my Dad back and my Mom had to get my brother out of the house. I'm still pissed at my brother because I took the brunt of what was supposed to go to him, but that's another story." As my brothers and I have looked back and compared stories our Dad was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A few years ago, before dad passed away I wrote an article for my churches newsletter entitled, "Bouncing Betties," which were land mines that were used in Vietnam. The story was basically about a man who sacrificed himself for a friend. Little did I know that I would receive the following email from my dad. Apparently it conjured up all the feelings that dad had stuffed down inside of himself and probably only on of the many violent and insane things he went through.

When my dad would visit DC we would visit the Vietnam Memorial and dad would spend, what seemed like, hours combing the names on the wall. One day he found a name and took the pieces of paper that they have available and ran the led back and forth across the paper until the name appeared on it. It was the first time I can recollect my dad crying it seemd ike forever but he took the sheet folded it up and put it in his pocket. Till this day... I don’t know who it was that dad had found, I can only hope it was the young marine in the following story.

My brothers and I hope you will read this and appreciate what our men and women of the military go through when they are in a war zone. George H. W. Bush stated he always thinks about the men that died in his squadron, not a day goes by when he doesn't think about them. I believe my Dad and countless other Dads, Uncles, and now Moms and Aunts went and are going through the day thinking about those that died around them.

My father signed up for the Army in 1954 as a 24 year old combat Engineer/ Demolition Specialist. After a tour in Germany he was talked into becoming the company clerk, like Radar O’Reilly on the hit TV show M.A.S.H. Since he was one of the few that could type he moved up the non commissioned officer ranks quickly. As promotions go in the military so do the assignments and on Christmas Eve 1971, he reported for duty at Travis AFB in California where he would soon be shipped to Vietnam. He said he was not worried because he would be working at the assistance advisory headquarters in Saigon. The turnover of the country was happening at that time and US combat troops were leaving Vietnam and being replaced by South Vietnamese Units. He was “assured” he would not get an assignment in the war zone! Upon arriving he was assigned frontline advisory duty but still was not real worried because most advisory teams had an administrative supervisor… right? So much for supposing! We’ll leave the rest of this story in his words...

When I asked the question to the personnel officer and he said "No Sarge you are assigned in your Combat Engineer secondary MOS" Which all top NCO's are required to have a combat secondary skill. This still didn't seem to bad since I knew all advisors previously had to learn to speak Vietnamese before being assigned to a team.

My first clue that I was in trouble was when we went by a 2 1/2 ton truck to An Loc the next day and found that the supposedly 30 or so man advisory team consisted of an Airborne Ranger Captain, Airborne Ranger Sgt. Major (that had been in Vietnam four times), myself and three Marine Corps Lance Corporals, 3 Army Sp4's and a private. I was quite in shock so to speak until the Sgt. Major put me at ease by asking me if I still could set off a C-4 demolition charge, which I replied, “You never forget that.” He said that all the other squad tactics will come back to me in a hurry. The Captain put me in charge of the quartermaster second lieutenant and the private to teach them how to do daily reports at the home base, which I might add they became pretty proficient at.

We were detailed to advise a South Vietnamese Infantry Company and as I recall they had four platoons. The Captain went with his Vietnamese counterpart and the first platoon; the Sgt. Major with the 2nd platoon; and myself and the three marines plus the the two Army E-4s were generally in the the third platoon (right in the middle) of the platoon. The Sgt. Major called us the "sucker" platoon, since we normally were always out in the open by ourselves to draw fire from the enemy and the three other were about 100 yards away on each side of us. As soon as we were attacked, normally by a very small V.C. or North Vietnamese Unit, we would lay a field of fire into them until the three other platoons closed in on each side.

The worst experience I ever had in my life happened a couple of months before the overrun of An Loc and my R&R or 7&7 as they called it. We were in a new area that we hadn't been before and some new enemy troop movement had been seen in that area. We hit a big open area with a rice field in the middle and the rest was swampy like with tall grass. As usual we went right down the middle of it like we had good sense; 1st & 2nd platoon went around the tree line on the left of us and the 4th platoon in the tree line on the right of us. The Sgt. Major was trying to tell me something on the radio and there was a lot of interference and I couldn't understand him. I dropped my cigar that I always chewed on in the rice paddy and bent over to pick it up when I heard the mortar thump and an incoming round coming! About that same time my little Marine knocked me down and the explosion came and landed right on top of me. The breath was knocked out of me and I was sputtering water from the rice paddy and blood was streaming down my forehead and face. I thought to myself I guess this is what it is like to get killed in combat. But as I was getting my breathe back and feeling better, I threw the Marine off my back and saw that the explosion had killed him instantly. We didn't have time to think about him too much since it looked like half the enemy army was charging into the rice fields to do us in, we had our hands full. We were enraged and quite a battle ensued even after the other three platoons engaged also. We drove back quite a large North Vietnamese regular battalion, and I don't remember the North Vietnamese body count, along with six of our South Vietnamese soldiers and "my little Marine" .

I was very upset over the loss of one of my young men that I, A Lifer, was to to help keep from harm. He was only 19 and since that time I have completely blocked his name. All I can remember is the young black man from Chicago, that called me "Old Sarge" I have questioned the Lord many times as to why he spared me and not this young black marine. Evidently God had other things planned for me. One day I will remember his name and if not I know I will see him in Heaven

I think on that day at the wall dads memory came back to him... if not... today, my Dad and that young Marine are enjoying themselves. Thanks Dad and to the young Marine!

Story written by Steve and Robert Holt with an excerpt from Old Sarge!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Michaelah: Changed by Africa

Have you ever watched a TV show and thought to yourself, “I wish my life was that simple, with the only major problems being faced are about a guy or girl, a very close friend, or even something as stupid as a zit?” I know that I have. There are days when life just stinks, and the problem could be about a guy or girl, a very close friend, or even just a zit, but for the people of Africa, the problems are way more extreme. The problems they face everyday are: poverty, AIDS, malaria, death and sicknesses due to unclean drinking water. It’s not a secret that there is so much we can do for them. We need to share financial resources, technology, and education about hygiene and clean water. But there is a lot that we can learn from them, such as the importance they place on hospitality and the respect they show for each other, and the people who are guests in their country. I bet you are saying to yourself, “What does she know? It’s not like she’s experienced any of this for herself.” But let me tell you, I HAVE seen all of this for myself, and my life will never be the same.
Several weeks ago my parents, and I, and some very close friends, made our way to Moshi, Tanzania, in east Africa. Before the trip I was SO excited to be going out of the country for the very first time, and getting the chance to tell the people there about the love of Jesus Christ. But what I found out, was that there was going to be so much more to this trip than what I had expected. I had in my mind, that we were going to change the lives of a lot of people, but what I didn’t know was that mine was going to be one of them.
There were many things that happened while I was there, and it would take way to long to tell them all. So, I’ll share one experience that really got to me.
We spent two days in a little village called Sonjo. Most of the people that lived there lived in mud huts. The few concrete buildings, for the most part, were from the government, like the school and the teachers’ living quarters. There were other concrete buildings, not from the government, and most of them were uncompleted, with only four walls, no roof, or floor. I remember only seeing one that was completed, and that was the home of the wealthiest family in the village. Our team had expected to be sleeping on a dirt floor in one of the mud huts, but the teachers gave up their beds so that we would have a comfortable place to sleep. I mean these homes had no electricity, running water, or a way to keep the lizards out. Ha ha ha. It made me cry because these people were giving us the best that they had, and none of them complained once. I complain when I have to give up my bed for a guest, but the sad part is, is that I still get to sleep a lot more comfortably than they did those two nights. We guessed that some of them might have even slept outside. And just the fact that people could be so welcoming and hospitable when they had so little, was a huge deal to me. I have never experienced anything like it, and I’ll admit that I had a hard time handling it. But I kept it together, for the most part.
God works in unusual and powerful ways, and sometimes we don’t understand some of the things that happen, but we just have to remember that everything happens for a reason. And no matter what, we have to trust that He will always be there for us. Every person has been made for a purpose, and God has an incredible plan for each of us. Even though people and circumstances may let you down, He will never abandon us. That goes for everyone in the entire world.
I value my trip to Tanzania, very much, and plan to return someday. I hope that you will also pray and consider doing something like this.

Mungu akabariki (moon-goo a-ka-ba-ree-kee)
This is Swahili. It means: God Bless You!

~Michaelah Weaver~

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Marlee's Purses for Hope House

Marlee Saxe is a 6th grader who is making a difference in her world already! She loves to do crafts with her mom and grandmother. She and her mother saw the idea for Capri Sun purses last Fall and decided to start making them. She started her purse business in November of 2006 and she began filling numerous orders from November - December! Everywhere she took her purse, she got orders!

During this same time she and her family began volunteering at Hope House in Middletown Ohio. They have painted the women's rooms and made and served lunch along with a team from WellSpring. Marlee will tell you she has met many special people and kids at Hope House, it has made an impact on her - she loves to serve there and talk to the people.

When she started selling so many purses, she talked with her mom about taking some of the money and doing something important with it. Hope House was her first choice! She talked to the leaders of Hope House and they said that the money she gave could be used for some of the needs the kids have.

So Marlee says she gives, "only" a humble comment, a third of the money from each purse she sells and put it in a Hope House jar. With that money she and her mom have brought warm material and she even talked her Girl Scout Troop into making 7 blankets for the kids at Hope House to keep them warm during the winter.

Marlee and her mom check with leadership to see what art and craft supplies or other things that the kids need.

Marlee even came up with a thank you note that she encloses with each purse she sells telling them that a portion of the money goes to Hope House for the kids!

Marlee is learning besides sewing, managing money, selling and other business skills - she is learning how blessed she is by having a home and wanting to help those kids who do not have a home. She is talking to them and showing them God's love. She is caring about someone else besides herself - which is sometimes unusual for an 11 year old! WOW! What blessings little juice pouch purses can make - God is awesome!!

Maggie... You did what on Spring Break?

Maggie Hare shared with her class what she did during spring break this year. I wanted to share it with you! You have stories about how God impacted your life? Or a special story about youth ministry life? Email me and let me know! I'd love to post your story also!

Spring “Break”

“This hurricane made Louisiana look like a dump”, I said, as my family, brothers, mom, dad and I got out of the car and looked at all the trash around us. It seemed like everyone was caring about the victims of Hurricane Katrina because it was a category 5 hurricane. We were looking at the damage from hurricane Rita. There were houses up on hills, garbage everywhere, houses torn apart and more!

We were going to stay in a church that just got the roof put back on, and a new gym floor. We would stay on the gym floor since there were 20 or so of us helping. The first time we went to the actual church area was on Sunday when they had church services. The Pastor’s sermon was on serving, which was what our ministry thought we were doing. We thought serving was just serving someone like helping them or something. Serving really meant, from the Pastor’s sermon, that if it didn’t cost you something, than it’s not a sacrifice. I understand now what it really means. It means that when we do a job or a good deed half heartily or without it costing something like; spring break ”vacation”, or your time, then it’s not a sacrifice. Our ministry went by that phrase for the rest of the week.

The next day we were hard at work on outside work, painting houses or building a tin roof on a barn. I went with a group of people that were painting houses. We painted a family room white that day. I got paint all over me!! We sacrificed our spring break, that costs us something, but what motivated us to keep working was; 1, just looking around, 2, that we drove 18 hours to get there and 3, seeing how much they had lost. We also sacrificed our time to help these victims, by waking up at 6:30am and starting to work the latest by 8:00am

My favorite part of this trip was going to an old lady’s house to pain and just listening to her stories. We were finished now painting the outside and kitchen of her house after life 3-4 hours of work. We were saying good-bye and hugging her. She still had more stories all inside her that she wanted to share, but we had to get back for other jobs and other people that needed our time. It was sad leaving her and we were all crying, because she finally had someone to talk to. I think we could have been there another 3 hours or so, and she would still have more to tell us. I really hope she will have someone else to tell more of her stories.

Do you have a story of how God has impacted you in your life, through a person or through our youth ministry?

Thursday, June 30, 2005

An interview with a Youth Led Youth Pastor

Michelle is the Youth Pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church. I recently spoke at a retreat for her high school students as was blessed by the way she organizes her youth led ministry. So I asked if I could ask her some question for those youth pastors out there wanting to know how to run a youth led ministry! here is that interview:

Steve: Michelle I was truly amazed at the discussions your guys were having when I entered the guys bunk area.

Michelle: I'm glad you got to experience the guys' late night
discussion. They have done those discussions every retreat for the past
4 years. It is really awesome.

Steve: Tell me a little bit as to how you structure your High School ministry to be able to train up guys like this?

Michelle: The student leadership structure is for high school only. We are currently trying to incorporate more “8th grade leadership” in our middle school program. I have attached an info sheet for both our middle school and high school programs to help give an overview of our ministry. I have also attached a copy of the letter I sent last year for the new student leaders. The old ones get a shorter “renewal” one since they also have the option of stepping down if they so wish. This has only happened twice in the past 5 years.

Steve: How do you select your student leaders?

Michelle: Our leadership team made up of Adults, College Mentors and Student Leaders get together in June and meet about the student leadership holes for the following year and we take a look at who has shown leadership in the past year and where they are spiritually and living their life as a good of example of Jesus Christ. At the end of the year I do a survey with all the students to see what teams they are the most interested in and I compile the survey and bring it to this meeting and we take a look at if those names connect with gifts we see those people actively strong in and if they are a fit as a leader in that area.

After we choose who we think are best for that spot, I meet with the potential student leaders and ask them their interest and meet with their parents letting them know of the commitment and the accountability that goes along with this. Then give them time to think about it, then send out a letter for the parents and the students to sign as a covenant to their leadership.

Steve: How do you train your student leaders?

Michelle: I have a big training day for the leadership team (adults, college mentors, and student leaders) in August and then continue to meet with them every other month. During that time, I give a training devotion time and then we use the other half of the meeting for business stuff.

I also meet with the student leaders on a regular basis one on one for accountability. The adult leaders for each team do a lot of mentoring with their student leaders to also train them. I also use the senior student leaders a lot to build up the younger student leaders and prepare them.

I spend a lot of time with them on their life as an example… walking the walk and living Christ. I emphasize daily quiet times and service. I also monitor how much they are involved in. If they are a student leader, I tell them that I don’t want them involved in more than 2 other teams (I really prefer just one other team). They can participate in everything, but I don’t want them involved in each team’s planning process due to burn out and loss of focus in their own specific area.

As for adults, I take a group of adults and college mentors to the YS Conference each year (or another conference if one arises)

Steve: What material do you use?

Materials very, I do a lot of research and pull from different resources to create my own… you know, the whole dig until you get some good stuff research J

Steve: Who is in charge of creating say the retreat... I noticed you had teens
involved... did they create their area of responsibility? Did they have help? How often did you have to meet with them?

Michelle: Each team is made up of an adult leader (or group of adult leaders) and 2 student leaders and then a team of students interested in being on that team. Once a month that team meets to plan whatever specific event they have coming up. For instance, the Event Team plans for the Winter Retreat. I am usually at these meetings when it comes close to the time for the really detailed stuff, but I am not at a lot of them. This gives them more leadership. They have my guidance when it comes to the Biblical/Spiritual side of stuff. So they meet, and the adult is to encourage them to give their ideas, get them planning, and get them assigned to do different stuff. For example, on the Winter Retreat, the game leaders volunteered to do games, we told them how many they would need, I have them come in my office and I load them up with resources to help them out and they take them home and I threaten them to make sure to get the books back J If the students really need help, I can help them, but usually I just have to give them guidance. It is amazing what they can do! The biggest thing is the point when you have to stop them from the little mistakes that we make from experience.

As for other teams, it is awesome because the students are the ones letting me know what they want to study. For instance, in the summer I meet with the Sunday School team, show them all my resources and they tell me what curriculum they want to do and I order it. For the Wednesday night programs, I meet with the team of students in the summer (I treat this team to dinner because the meeting is so long) and we look at what people have written down as things they are interested in at our June survey and we think about the needs of our youth ministry and block out our program series for the year and I make those and take them to the team each week to prepare and make things even better. I am always at those kind of meetings. But I usually don’t attend the monthly Sunday School prep meetings and other meetings each month unless they have requested or I really need to get them info. I usually pass the info to the adult leader.

Steve: How many teams do you have in your ministry?

Michelle: We have 6 teams in our high school ministry.

Steve: What are the names of the teams? (Michelle was gracious enough to send me a more detailed description of each team. If you'd like a copy of the team details please email me and I'll be more than happy to send it to you!

Michelle: Program Team (focus is Wednesday night youth group), Connection Team, Sunday School Team, Outreach Team, Event Team, Service Team

Steve: Before you had student leaders did just you and the mentors decide? I guess I'm talking about the very first time?

Michelle: The very first time, we were very small and students stepped up when we asked for their input, as our group got larger we gave those students that were already very dedicated an actual “role” and it stemmed into creating an organized leadership structure as our group grew and we needed to add on more students. Before we had student leaders, the team of adults decided to go in this direction of student leadership and who would be the first to be these leaders.

Steve: When you talk about holes are you talking about when a senior graduates a team will need a leader etc?

Michelle: Exactly

Steve: Thanks for your time Michelle! I think you have an awesome youth ministry. This information will be invaluable for youth pastors out there that are trying to lead and create student led ministries.

Michelle: I'm not sure what all I might could say that someone might not know,
but you never know.

I have received several other attachments from Michelle. If you'd like to take a look at them please let me know! I'd also ask that if you found this interview to be helpful then shoot Michelle and email!

If you want to start a youth led revolution then go to TeamCE!