Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Homeward Bound

Thank you so much for all the comments; I will let everyone know of the love and prayers that have been sent our way.

I just got done having lunch with the president of the college, the founder of the South Seas Ministries, and a couple of the senior professors. The last two days I have had the privilege of teaching three classes each day to the University students. This has been a lot of fun for me to interact with the students. I've taught practical ministry classes, a class on 1 Corinthians, Homiletics class, Leadership, and tomorrow I will be talking about globalization and Christianity. Yes, this has been challenging but fun as it allows for lots of conversation with the students after class. On the way back to the house last night at 10pm I was stopped by 4 of the students who asked many questions about church and Christianity--I felt bad for Jason and Drew who were stuck having to listen to this conversation, but they were both good sports. A group of students has asked if I will meet with them tonight at 10pm, which I plan on doing.

I really feel like God is up to something on this campus because the conversations I find myself in are very different than in the past years. I am torn, as I really enjoy the teaching opportunities and sharing with the students, because I would also love to spend more time with the team as the venture out from the campus. Today, while I was teaching, the team went to the city to shop for souvenirs and eat at a popular fish and chips restaurant. It was a treat for many of them to have their very first Coke in a whole week. They’ve had some great times as they have come back and forth from the town in a van which I hear is full of joy and laughter.

The third day for sports and kids camp went very well. The entire team continues to give 110%. It's fun for me to walk around and watch our team as they interact with the kids and the teenagers. But I want to share with you what I saw after camp yesterday. As the rain was coming down, our team was still out there. Josh Phillips had about 15 kids surrounding him with his percussion instruments teaching them some rhythms. Katie had a group of teenage girls in a circle teaching them how to throw a Frisbee. I saw a group of kids with Ginny and Chelsea under a tree taking pictures with their camera. Drew had a group of 6-8 young kids playing tackle football; he had to stop when one of the boys got a bloody nose. Tiffany and Bethany were off playing volleyball with the students. Jason and Molly could also be found playing waffle ball with the kids. And then there was Greg, Josh Borkin and I teaching the kids American baseball and hoping and praying no one would get hurt with the metal bat. Finally, around 6:30, people started getting ready to go back and eat dinner and get cleaned up. We later found out that Drew and Katie had a different plan as the rain was coming down hard they thought it would be a great opportunity to go for a swim in the ocean. Once again we had an amazing dinner prepared by the ladies. Everyone is just enjoying the food, no one has gotten the slightest bit sick and for sure no one is going hungry. After dinner we had a team meeting about how to finish strong and encouraged one another. Then we finished the day off with what we now call “the song game” I will say a word and they all need to come up with the most amount of songs that include that word in the least amount of time possible. Then we went down to the field and continued our game with some kids that showed up from the village, it was a great time to just share and informally hang out. I honestly believe that lives are being changed not only with the people here in Samoa, but also with the people on the team.

I just looked at the time so I need to sign off. It’s our last day and our prayer is that we finish strong. Our team is very tired but willing to give everything they’ve got left in the tank.
I hope to send you one last blog tomorrow. I want to let you know that every day Josh Phillips has come with me to help make this blog happen (he types as I dictate)--Let’s just say he looks great doing it in his lava lava...and thank God for spell check. I also want to take the opportunity to thank Chris Faucher who makes sure that this blog gets published.

Also, someone please let Danica know about this blog as she got back from Chile the day Josh left for Samoa and does not know about it.

  • Ginny: Shared her testimony at the youth meeting. It was very powerful. She will be singing the National Anthem tomorrow night at the closing party.
  • Josh B: He led the prayer in the Sunday morning service and shared his testimony at the sports camp yesterday.
  • Greg: He preached at the youth service and led our morning devotions.
  • Drew: He led the games for the kids at kids camp.
  • Jason: Did the Scripture reading in the morning service and shares his testimony at the youth service.
  • Josh P: Was Jesus in the “Everything” skit. He is the team video person, who many of you will benefit from.
  • Tony: He is the M.C for the kids camp and shared his testimony at the youth service.

Each team member has done so much more than I have mentioned, but I decided I would highlight some of their work.


When I last left you we were off to have lunch and get ready for our last day of camp. Our team was really tired but ready to give everything they had. Let me tell you that they did...and then some. Five minutes after the camp started it began to rain, and that rain turned into a down pour. This did not stop us one bit. The kids camp was protected from the rain, as they were under the roof of a Fale. The sports camp however, continued on out on the rugby field. We had a blast playing soccer and slipping and sliding everywhere--we were soaked!

Tiffany then shared her testimony with the teenagers on the open field while it was raining :). When camp ended at 5:30 I would not have been surprised to see our team heading back to the house, but this was not the case, as all of them stayed and were involved in everything from a waterballoon fight to volleyball in the mud and yes even a game of baseball. There is so much more to say on this but I now have to wrap things up as I only have a few more minutes.

We have been preparing for the big party tonight and have just added another special feature to our program. Josh is going to perform a drum solo while Tony will be bustin' some moves--this will undoubtedly be the hit of the night. We'll also be doing our skit again--Jenny will sing our anthem and we'll close with a few worship songs. It's going to be a great night. We will then pack and leave for the airport.

Our plane will leave at 1:30 in the morning and we'll be headed to Auckland for a 15 hour layover. We have arranged for a private tour of the city. Drew and I will be boarding an airplane in Auckland heading to the south island to a city called Nelson. This is where I ministered in a church for 2 months 16 years ago. This will be the first time I will have gone back. I am so excited to catch up with everyone and show the place that made a big impact on my life to my 16 year old son. Please be praying for us. Also pray for the rest of the team as they make their way back to the USA.

I need to go now as they are closing the library as I finish.
God bless all of you.
Rob Denton

p.s. happy birthday to my now two year old son Easton!! Drew and Dad miss you!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Samoan Weekend

(Click the photos to enlarge)
Wow! where to start? First of all, thank you for being patient with us, as the computer place was closed for the weekend. I appreciate the replies and I will do the best I can to let the group know of your prayers and encouragement.

So I will attempt to give you the highlights of the lastly 3 days but I must admit, its hard to reduce the work of God to a few words. Before I get started I want to let you know that everyone on the team is safe and healthy (just a few bumps and bruises but nothing major), but we have found out who are the "sweetest" members of the team as Drew Molly and Julia count their mosquito bites every day---as of today Julia is in the lead with 43, Drew a close second with 41 and Molly 39.

So, when I last talked to you it was Friday lunch time. That afternoon we started day 2 of our camp. The kids camp was great, we taught the story of Daniel, and the kids were really receptive and energetic. Tony, like always, was the star of the show. Everyone loves him, he has such a unique way of relating to these kids. I am so proud of him, as I am with all of the leaders of the whole camp--I can't get over how great this group is! We were a bit worried at the beginning of the day because we thought it might rain. However, the weather was beautiful and the camp went just as planned...Thank you Lord! The sports camp also went very smoothly as we spent the entire time playing volleyball, and then Greg shared with the teenagers his story.

On Saturday we had a day of pure fun, they took our team to a beach where many of us were able to snorkel and see lots of wonderful sea life. It was strange for many of us to swim 300 yards and to still have water only to our waists. Others read, slept and conversed with some of the Samoans. It was just a great day of being in God's creation and enjoying this beautiful Island. Later we went to a rock cave located at a local Methodist College called "Piula"--I would have to say that this was a highlight for many. We were able to swim in a fresh water pool right by the ocean which opened up to a cave that you could swim into. You will hear about this place in greater detail when we get back, let's just say that what went on in this cave took a lot of courage and stretched some of our faith. Basically, you would dive under the water, go through an under water hole that was 8 feet long and pop out the other side to a different cave. Unfortunately I made it only 2/3 of the way thinking I was out and hit my head which is still throbbing today... Fortunately I made it to the light. You will hear many stories and see photos about this. Some also enjoyed jumping off the rocks and into the pool. Saturday night we met with the youth group and lead a two-hour meeting. Katie, Greg, Bethany, Tony, Tiffany, Julia and Drew were all in charge of the program for this night, it was awesome! Especially when we went back and forth with them in songs. In other words, we would sing one and then they would sing one, it was so much fun! The evening was closed by eating some great New Zealand ice cream which we have all learned to love.

Then we were given the great opportunity to lead the Sunday morning worship service which was a great honor. Molly, Josh Borkin, Josh Phillips, Chelsea, Ginny, Jason and myself planned the service, the theme was "How Big is Your God?" Each person on the team was assigned a role and I was so proud of every one of them. The service was received well by the people and according to many it was the talk around many tables at lunch and into the night. Following the service we had a huge lunch with the fourth-year students which included two pigs that we all watched being gutted, and who Chelsea and Bethany helped shave. Many of us had some great conversations that I believe may have eternal implications. After that lunch we had a 5-hour rest which for some of us was a challenge. Then at night we went to their evening service. This service was beautiful, very traditional...but beautiful. Before I sign off I want to share with you the highlights of each of the girls on the team (boys tomorrow)
  • Chelsea: Along with doing a great job with arts and crafts at the kids camp, she also sang in the Sunday morning service as a special musical guest and was amazing.
  • Katie: She has done an excellent job in connecting with the teenage girls and leading the youth group in a "crowd breaker"
  • Molly: She did a wonderful job as the lead in the "Everything" skit presented in the Sunday morning service, acting and dancing.
  • Bethany: Has done a great job coordinating and making everything run smoothly.
  • Tiffany: Who gives 100% at the sports camp playing volleyball and soccer with the teenagers.
  • Julia: Leading worship for our devotions every morning, youth group and playing two songs in the morning service.

Keep praying for us to finish strong as we have two busy days ahead of us. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement, we couldn't do without them.

Rob Denton

Friday, August 7, 2009

Day 3

Well...when we last left you, we were just getting ready to eat lunch and begin our launch of the Kids and Sports Camps. After eating a great lunch and getting some rest, a group of us went down to see a traditional Samoan game of Cricket. We were drawn to this game when we heard the sound of the students singing outside our window, and as we looked out we could see tons of Samoan guys preparing to play and holding banners---It was awesome!

This is another example of community that we see over and over again on this campus. A few of us sat and watched the game, and even engaged in some traditional singing. Finally, after about 15 minutes, I just had to go over and ask about the rules of the game. They invited me to take a shot at batting (It's a lot different than anything I've ever done)! On the first pitch I hit a point for our team---I think everyone was surprised at this... the next pitch I was out---that was humbling.

I want Josh to share now about his experience with the Kids Camp, as I was mainly with the Sports Camp.

(JOSH)...I felt right at home, like my family had just increased 100% as I was sharing with tons of kids who were around the ages of my own children. We had a great time teaching the story of Daniel in the Lion's den. Jason, Tony, Drew, Molly, Chelsea, Ginny, Julia and Bethany did an amazing job. We could see the kids' faces light up as we taught them this simple bible story in creative ways. Our prayers and hopes are that these kids will be impacted for life. We were also impressed by the help of the students and their wives.

The sports camp consisted of myself (Rob), Greg, Katie, Tiffany and Josh Borkin. We broke the teenagers up into 4 teams and played soccer for the first hour (yes even Greg Green played along with Josh B, who managed to stay off the ground for most of the time). We then had a Gatorade break, and Katie shared her story with the entire group. She talked about the busyness of her schedule and the challenge of making time for Jesus Christ. I was proud of Katie, as this really was a stretch for her, but she pulled it off and did great! I'm proud of our entire team, who are all doing a great job of getting out of their comfort zones and working with the team. We then went out for another hour of soccer and closed off with a time of prayer.

I think we were all ready for a spa treatment after this!

But I was so proud of the group, because after the VBS came to a close for the day, everyone resisted the temptation to just go back and rest, and instead decided to continue building relationships through conversations at the beach, playing ball games and just hanging out in general. Then we cleaned up, had meatballs and yellow tail, banana ice cream and cookies for dessert. We met for a debriefing to talk about the things that needed to be improved and the things that went well. The night was closed off by a surprise visit from an Australian couple in charge of teaching a class on practical ministry. This gave us an opportunity to talk and invest some time in them.

This morning we all woke up to the sound of pouring rain, and it was great to experience rain... especially in 80 degree weather. The humidity has been a challenge but everyone has been such good sports. I am so proud of each and every one of them. Breakfast was french toast and pancakes---sooo yummy! I went and spoke with the president for an hour while Josh Borkin opened bible study with "Smells like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana (So spiritual, we are still working on him).

What I can say so far is that this has been an awesome team, and I can truly see how each and every one on the team is being stretched in their faith which is a big part of the purpose of these trips.

We will sign off for now but please continue to pray for the Sports and Kids Camps as we now head off for lunch.

~Rob Denton

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Day 2

Click photo to enlarge
It's Thursday morning in Samoa. We had a great evening last night, meeting with 4th year students (seniors in the Theological Seminary) and their wives. I shared with them the vision for what we want to see happen with the Kids Camp and Sports Camp. We had over 30 people volunteer to help us with the camps! Following this successful meeting, we started to hang out with the kids at the sports field (Tony lead the way). All of the guys ended up playing rugby with the high school boys. Let's just say all us old guys should have just watched Drew play as a representative for the whole team. We're happy to say that Greg Green survived doing an accidental split in the middle of the field, followed by Josh Borkin who took a header and slid three feet across the field. Part of our team went out to the ocean and enjoyed the beautiful beach. Katie and Drew got coconuts off trees, then pealed them and the whole team tasted the delicious milk from the fruit.We closed the evening off with a great dinner, then most of us went to bed to rest for the beginning of the Kids Camp and Sports Camp experience.
Today started off with breakfast at seven--everyone showed up on time. In fact some got up at 5am to jog and jazzercise with the students while others went down to the ocean to watch the sunrise. I did none of the above. After breakfast Ginny and Julia lead us in worship, and that was followed by a devotion guided by Greg Green who challenged us to be a true community, which was a great time of openness and sharing for many of us. I'm looking forward to seeing how this will continue to develop throughout the week. Later, we loaded a small van with 15 of us and headed for the city of Apia, which is a 30 minute drive from where we are staying. We all exchanged some money and went to an in door swap meet for a little shopping. Additionally, we checked out the local farmers market which allowed the team to get a true feel for the culture. We are about to go have lunch, rest a little bit and prepare for the launch of the Kids Camp and Sports Camp.
Please pray for...
1. Both camps
2. Team unity and health
3. Involvement of the theology students and their wives
4. Our families back home

~Rob Denton

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Day 1

Talofa From Samoa!

Well, the team made it here safely, with no problems. We did have a fun beginning to our trip, as being an old "Survivor" fan I noticed Jerry in the gift shop at the airport. It was soon after this, while sitting in my seat while waiting to load the plane, that I looked across and noticed Rupert (the big guy with the big beard and tie dye shirt). While boarding the plane I finally got the courage to ask Rupert if it was really him, and he gave me a quick "Shhhh!" along with the producer of the show. As our team sat in the plane we were surrounded by "all star survivors" headed to Samoa.

As I mentioned earlier everything went perfect. We arrived in Malua just as the Sun was rising at 6:30am, it was an awesome sight for all of us to see. We've hit the ground running pretty hard as we start the sports and kids camp tomorrow.

The team is now unloading the 13 boxes of gifts and supplies you and the church donated. We've been received with incredible hospitality by the president of the college where we are stationed and by all the people here. The food has been different but delicious, none of us will go hungry (if you know what I mean). We've been challenged to lead the entire Sunday service which is not something that normally happens but we are willingly accepting the challenge with great honor.

Here are some things we would appreciate you praying for:

1. The swine flu is here, so we have been asked to take precautions. Pray that none of us will be affected.
2. Pray for the kids camp and the sports camp which starts tomorrow (Thursday)
3. The planning and execution of the Sunday morning church service.
4. That the team will catch up on rest and be energized for the entire trip.

Joshua D. Phillips