Student Reflection: Stories from The Crossing #learningisbigger #standagain

More than a school, Anastasis seeks to be a movement of good in our community and beyond. We partner with non-profit organizations from around the Denver Metro community. This week, Team Fink hosted some men from Denver Rescue Mission’s The Crossing to join us for lunch and stories. Below are student reflections following the visit:
The Crossing
Feeling uneasy, I expected the worst. I have to say, I was scared. I was thinking that I wasn’t going to like it. When I thought of homeless people, I always thought of they got kicked out of their homes because they didn’t pay their rent or they lost their jobs. I was closed minded, I didn’t think much of what was happening on the streets. When we sat down with the men from The Crossing, I was surprised. I thought much differently of how they would look and how they would act. I was a little scared, but also a little interested and excited about what was about to happen. They were so nice and funny! They were calm and positive people! I felt myself smiling when they would laugh or if they would just smile! When we all sat down and after we introduced ourselves, they began to tell their background story’s. During Seth’s, I could tell I was on the edge of crying. I had a painful lump in my throat and tears stung my eyes. The lump grew bigger after everyone told their stories. At that moment when we were discussing and talking to them, my mind felt open and my heart ached. Bella, Chris, Michel, Jay, Todd and Seth all were so brave and so strong. Their stories were so inspiring, emotional, and heartbreaking. Even through I only meet them for a couple hours, I felt that I built a relationship with them! I’m so honored that they shared their stories, rapped, played guitar, read poetry and sang for us. I’m so proud of them! I will forever take on what they all taught us, God will always have your back, he will provide for you, when you turn yourself to Christ, he will save you. Thank you for showing me that there is hope, even in darkest times. -Grace
Life isn’t always as simple as it seems. There will always be ups, downs, twist, and turns, there will never be a direct straight path to the destination. “To be simple is not always as easy as it seams.” (Ferdinand Holder). Hearing the stories of people that went through some of the low parts in life and recovered showed me that they aren’t afraid to share their stories and let others see what they are really like. Hearing someone’s story is the one way to know what they are really like. When I think of someone with the label “homeless,” I think of people with old clothes, dirty hands and feet, and rude attitude because that is what I was told for so long. Some homeless people are less fortunate, but today my perspective changed because I got to meet and hear the stories of homeless men and not just judge them based on what was on the outside. I was encouraged today to always believe in myself, and always know that God is with me. May you men know that God is with you no matter what, and that sharing your stories has encouraged us all. — Cam
Looking out the window and seeing the street corner that you used to live on makes reality blow up in our face. You have come so far, but you still have so much in store for you. Your words take form when they reach your lips but they are still incomplete until they have taken the form of peotry or been added to a melody. Knowing that a story hides behinds every face makes it personal. It opens our eyes to see that our differences are our similarities. An ordinary man living in an ordinary world could have their life turned upside down because of one decision. We don’t realize that we are standing on common ground until we hear stories and began to realize that we are more similar than different. Looking out the window and seeing the street corner you used to live on allows you to understand that your past doesn’t define your future.
Psalms 16:8
Thank you for sharing your stories!
Makayla Au
Hearing stories, connecting. Learning to not judge one another but learning that we are more alike than different. Learning that their past does not put labels on who they are. It does not reflect the person they are now or who they will be in the future. Because of this the next time I see a homeless person, a broken person I will know that. “We are all broken that’s how the light gets in,” (Ernest Hemingway). I will know that every person I see on the street has a story. You can’t let your mistakes define you but you can let them mold you into the person you will become. Connecting with everyone today I saw the greatness in their hearts, I saw people striving every day to be better than they were the day before. I hope I can learn to be able to have the motivation and self confidence to make my way through the hard times like they did. I will carry this experience with me for the rest of my life letting it guide me and direct me to have greatness in my heart like the people that sat before me today. Thank you for sharing your stories, may God stay with you in your journey ahead.
—Ella
Each of these men hold a new and whole different story. Their stories related to me and many I know. They too have gone through trouble. I learned that God does not want sin no matter what. Chris empowered me to never give up. Before today I thought all homeless people held the same story. I then learned there is another story behind one’s story. I did not feel sympathy for any homeless people before today. Seth’s story showed me to forgive through hard times. Chris’s story taught me to persevere. Jay’s story taught me to stay on track. Michael’s story taught me to face fear. Bella’s story taught me to be passionate. Todd’s story taught me to be a leader. Above all I have learned to keep going. I must say thank you for putting a new “perspective” on the homeless. —Oliver
Life has ups and downs, but the way you live is your choice and your perspective. Today men from Denver Rescue Mission, the Crossing came in today and told us thier story. What stood out too me from all there stories is that they don’t let their past define them. They  do a really good job about living in the present . The men, especially Chris, taught me to be content with my situation no matter what is thrown my way. He had a rough life and he had a bad leg that he might have lost. He was okay about it he did not worry because what would happen would happen. Lastly I realized that my problems are not as big as losing everything. This morning I couldn’t find my other shoe, I was so frustrated but listening to their stories put my story in to perspective. I have like five or more shoe options. I did not lose everything my problems are mostly first world ones. Their stories impacted me more than I can even proses. Thank you the to these men, Seth, Jay, Todd, Michael, Chris, and Bella, for sharing your stories whether you read this or not. You made me think to live in the present. I know if you guys work hard through God you can continue to get back what you lost. -Noelle
A tree is a home to some and paper to other. Just like trees, these people made great use of what they were given. When it could be used in a pointless way they made great use of it and turned it into a house. The story that touched me the most was Jay’s. Such a normal guy, like the rest, gone so different then what he probably dreamed of as kid. The only reason I was touched so much by his story is because it was close to our school. He brought his daughter to the church our school is in. I’m so glad that all of them changed their lives around to become happy. The best part was that all of them are successfully making use of their time and enjoying life to the fullest. I hope you maintain your faith and soberness. Thanks for coming in and inspiring me to continue to keep my life on track.
Sincerely,
Will How
Don’t let your past define you. Today was an amazing experience. I always thought of homeless people as people who were addicted to drugs and alcohol. Today gave me a different perspective on how stories really uncover the truth. These men today were so sweet. The fact that the were so vulnerable to tell us their stories of not the best part of their life really open my eyes. One story that really stuck out for me was Chris’s. His story was so encouraging to keep looking on the bright side. Every time he was told that he might never have a leg again he just told them it’s ok God has my back. He had hope. Each one of these six men had incredible stories and I will forever remember them. Thank you Jay, Seth, Bella, Todd, Michael, and Chris for showing me the past does not define you. — Gabby
Everybody makes mistakes, but nobody should have them held against them. Every one of the men had an extremely powerful story and I would love to hear more about each and every one. Everyone was so understanding when we talked about our problems and they tried to help. I thought it was extremely powerful when Michael said that, “it wasn’t a disease that spreads, it’s a choice that you make.” His story meant a lot to me and I can learn so much from him in the future. Everyone was extremely brave throughout everything that they told us. They are not homeless, they are not drug addicts, but they are imperfect people just like us. Overall thank you for willingly sharing your story and overcoming the hard times.
– Nicole
   You can’t change what’s in the past but you can change the future. When I think of the homeless I thought of dirty people who spent all their money on drugs. Now I think of people who made a mistake. Every one makes mistakes, even me, but the the men from Crossing are known for their mistakes. Sometimes it seems impossible to get out of a hole that you dug for yourself. Change is always possible. No one really likes change. Change can help and it’s not impossible to get out of the hole you dug. The people who came today proved that. What I learned from the people who came today is to never give up. Thank you for coming today and telling your story. Hearing your story is something that will impact how I view the homeless for the rest of my life.
~Kaleigh
It is crazy how your life can change in an instant. You can go from playing golf, then be at the lowest point in your life. The key is to stay on track and focus on what matters. When you get down, and you learn that God is on your side, it becomes easier to power through. “If you are in a bad place surrounded by bad people you will do bad things”(Michael), but the more you are around good people and are in good places the less you do bad things. Thank you to the men at Denver Rescue Mission for showing me that God is by my side and to stay strong through hard times. — Caeleb
People are people and the past is the past. The past is where you learn. Learn from the mistakes. Your past does not define you, for you are you and the past is the past. You will always have a choice. The choice of accepting that everyday is an opportunity to start new, or to suffer in the memory of your past. However, there is a third choice. The choice of accepting who you are through Christ, our savior and creator of life. This choice will always be a choice no matter the circumstance. Jesus will forgive your past and help you with you with the present. The love of Jesus is unending for those thirsting for love, the poor and needy, the homeless and the hungry. Face the world with courage, no matter what you do, and know within your heart that God is always there for you. Guiding you through this journey we call life. Even in the darkest moments. For those are the moments where Christ helps you the most to see the light in the darkness. “Stars can’t shine without darkness” (unknown). Without the suffering and the pain, we cannot accomplish anything.
Stories are told and stories teach. Each story has a lesson, whether its obvious or hidden. The stories I heard Tuesday, November 28, 2017, were stories that I will remember for the rest of my life. Astonishing stories of the lives of six men. Men who have been addicted to drugs and alcohol, but have overcome their addiction through Christ. Chris, one of the men, told his story. Listening to his story, I realized how much more he has been through than I have, yet his positivity throughout his life is extraordinary. He had the knowledge of Christ being his savior and that was enough for him. The men have faced trials throughout their life, but that didn’t stop them from becoming disciples of Christ. “Meeting with the wrong people at the wrong place leads to doing the wrong things. But meeting with good people at the right place will lead to doing the right things” (Michael). All of these men had sad but yet heartwarming stories. This experience to talk with these men really opened up my mind to think about being grateful for everything I have and that everything happens for a purpose. Thank you for coming in to talk to us. This experience was truly inspiring to me.  -Kuyla Kim
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Denver Flashmob of Good (Student Reflection) #commentsforkids #flashmobofgood #standagain #learningisbigger

Today, Team Fink headed downtown as a flashmob of good. Armed with hotdogs, lemonade, and a smile they served 150 hotdogs in 45 minutes. They asked names, listened to stories. They connected.

Their teacher is still reflecting. While at the park serving hot dogs, a park director stopped to talk to him. He told Fink about the hundreds of heroine needles that were picked up in the park just today. He thanked him for what he and his students were doing, but mentioned that when food comes to the park, some of these homeless never have to leave the park and it can exacerbate the problem. Rather than leave the conversation there, Fink invited this park director to come to Anastasis and share the complexity of the homeless problem Denver faces. He wondered how Anastasis students might be able to help be a part of the solution. He also plans to invite our friends from the Denver Rescue Mission to be part of the conversation.

This moment of spreading good, will extend into inquiry and our students will attempt to connect and learn from a variety of perspectives. They’ll learn about unintended consequences and delve into design thinking.

Today, they reflected on the experience:

Feeling the joy in my heart, I can feel the memory of the outing-burn in the back of my mind. Looking at the once unknown faces turn into friends faces and their gleeful smiles light up the very park we were just in, handing out hot dogs and lemonade. At one part I was picked to travel around the park in search for people who maybe hadn’t heard the word about our hotdogs. Shifting my gaze from the sidewalk to the persons face, I saw grief and sadness. They also had their heads down, cigarette in on hand, slowly disintegrating. Walking up to them, feeling the fear build its way up inside my stomach and up to my throat. Hearing the shuffle of our feet their head slowly rose, looking at their eyes I can see sadness and, surprisingly, hope! Asking if they would like some food, I could see their eyes light up. One in particular was a old man with billions of wrinkles, but when I looked in his eyes, his eyes held me in a trance. Bright, bright sea-foam eyes! When we were going to move on he gave us a toothless smile and a wave. I smile back feeling happiness spread through out my body. In a way, I felt that this field trip changed me in a good way, seeing all of these people, who probably have been through so much, give us school kids smiles and hugs!  Showing me that people who have gone through so much can still be rich at heart and soul. –Grace

 

Love on people, give them food, and learn their story. Loving, eating, and telling stories are universal languages. When you combine them, spectacular things can happen. Like Andrew, he is a wonderful man, he shared about our opportunity we have as kids to be the change and the hope we give him. When flowers, butterflies, kids, and food are around, conversations spark up and smiles spread. When you give you are also the one receiving. When you serve people food you get a frown that turns into a smile, a story to listen to, and a lesson to learn from. I loved today and seeing smiles spread. –Noelle

 

Just a smile can make someone’s day. Taking the time to look someone in the eyes and smile can do a lot. It can show them that they matter when the person doesn’t even know that themselves. It can make them smile at other people and have a domino effect. Giving someone a cup of lemonade and a hot dog brought out smiles in everyone. It showed me the caring person inside of everyone I met today. It didn’t matter what you did or where you came from. It was just a bunch of people smiling and eating hotdogs. –Ella

 

A name is gift given at birth. A name like “Andrew” is the story of that human. If a name seems so precious and so easy to obtain, then why don’t we just ask someone for their name. If you refer to someone by their name then you can learn and grow in joy from the happy conversations. –Will

Student Reflections from Moab

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Below are some reflections from the Moab trip:

Baptism is more than getting dunked underwater. It is submitting yourself to God. It is letting parts of you die, and letting other parts of you be born again. At first when I was Baptized in the Colorado River, I knew that it was a holy moment but it didn’t hit me the choice that I had made to submitted myself to God. It is only now, as I am looking back, that I realize that I have made the biggest decision of my life. I have chosen to follow and praise God in everything that I do. I have chosen to follow God’s footsteps so close that I get the dust of his sandals on my face. I have chosen to try my hardest live up to the name of my God. I have chosen to believe. Thou mayest, I have chosen to be believe. I am honored to be Baptized with Charleigh. I have another Child of God that can walk along the path of life with me and hold me accountable for the choice that I made. I have someone to share one of the most important moments of my life with. It also means a lot to me to be Baptized in the Colorado river. Although I was Baptized in Utah, it still means a lot to me to be Baptized in the river that runs through my home state. It means a lot to me to call Colorado my home again. Moab will always have a special place in my heart, and I will always remember that I have chosen to believe. Thou mayest, I have chosen to believe.     -Makayla
Moab was an amazing trip! I loved the hiking parts because through all the pain in my legs and feet the views were outstanding on the way and at the destination. I also loved sitting at campfires talking, playing games even though I got a little frustrated at times while solving riddles. When I understood them it made me laugh because I made it harder than it really was. Overall the trip made me sad and happy because it was a great trip and my last one with these beautiful and amazing people. –Maddie

Under the stars my mind glowed with wonder. In the Colorado River I was splashed with refreshing sense of friendship. Around the fire I was warmed by the love and joy lit by everyone. At the tall rock formations I found a solid foundation in Christ because only He could create such masterpieces. Moab was a landscape in movement, a landscape full of memories. Whether we were hiking in the sunshine or running under the rain, our faces were radiant with laughter and smiles. The world is full of such amazing places and they are right in front of us. This trip inspired me to travel and explore, and I’ve discovered exploration is even better when it’s with people you love. Our trip to Moab is a trip that will not be forgotten.  –Megan

In Moab, Utah, friendship shined the brightest during the sweatiest, physically challenged, saddest, most claiming times. I formed stronger relationships with every single one of my classmates and teachers. I experienced many things I’ve never experienced before. It was also outstanding to see nature in many different shapes and forms. I will forever remember the challenging hikes to beautiful destinations, jumping into the Colorado river, the very fun van rides, the non-stop crying before, during and after the campfire speeches, and of course getting baptized. I got baptized the second time in my life but the first time deciding. It’s still a feeling I will never be able to describe. I am filled with joy knowing that my relationship with God is just starting. Since that was the first and last time going to Utah with the class nothing else will ever come close to the community building of that trip. I will never forget Moab, Utah 2017 with the greatest class of all time.  –Charleigh

Engaging, growing, bonding, laughing and sharing special memories that will never be forgotten. This was my last trip as an Anastasis student and it was truly unforgettable. From hiking to each beautiful arch to sitting under the bright stars this trip was extra special with each of you. I never had a frown on my face even when jumping into the freezing Colorado river. I was always engaging with someone new and later making a stronger relationship that will never be broken. I was always laughing whether it was when choched egg got choched or when we were watching for shooting stars in peace and all of a sudden Jack and Mitch are yelling DONKEY! And through all of this God was very relevant and he was showing his love and peace through each of you and his creation. Through out this trip I was reminded of a bible verse that says ” The heavens declare the glory of God the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” ( psalms 19 – 1 ) When I hear this bible verse I am reminded to always look for joy in the simple things and absorb the sights God has beautifully painted. God works in mysterious ways but over this trip a little piece of the puzzle was answered for me and that was God is very real and he is working through us and around us each and every day. Some of my favorite highlights over this trip was hiking and looking through caves to only find out that it is a dead end, or looking at the beautiful hanging lake, or watching the suns reflection on the pond disappear as it goes behind the mountains. All of these will be cherished deep in my heart and never forgotten. Thanks for an amazing trip and year I wouldn’t trade it for the world. –Alli

Student Reflections: Metanoia with Amal Kassir

Last week, spoken word poet and activist Amal Kassir joined us for Metanoia. Team Fink wrote some reflections and responses to Amal’s visit.

Amal at Metanoia

Don’t be afraid to be the elephant in the room. This was my biggest take away. Embrace who you are and be the best you can be. I thought that Amal was so inspiring because she embraces the elephant and even though at some points she felt worthless she got right back up. “I believe that peace is something you can find even during war time” I also love this quote spoken by her because she believe that there is hope in the dark. Like the kids in the war zone they made the beauty in brokenness.  –Alli

I am the elephant and I stand out but you hide in the corner hoping not to be judged. I embrace the elephant but you run from someone even noticing you. Do you like being the elephant someone asks me? How do you become the elephant someone asks me. I Say, “To find the elephant within yourself you need to go to the place that is most uncomfortable for you and figure out why it is uncomfortable.” I take all your judgment in but you long to be the same as everyone else, but I don’t care because I am the best elephant that I can be. I don’t care because black or white, male or female we are people. –Lauren

All of our hearts beat to a similar rhythm. Wisdom sings into all of our rhythms and pumps life into souls. Wisdom speaks to those who have a hijab around their head. Wisdom speaks to those that have more melanin coursing in their skin. Wisdom even speaks to those who pray a little different than you. Wisdom speaks to you. Wisdom speaks to all. Amal showed this to me today. She showed me that we are not that different from each other. The only thing that makes us different is the way we think. The way we act. But these differences are essential. Your differences may make you seem as an elephant, but it takes an elephant to change the world. It takes someone different from the rest. Our hearts beat to a similar rhythm but it is the different tempos that change the world. It is the different beats that define you. –Macie

Even in the foggy skyscrapers and the thundering ground I will stand tall with strong feet and rise above. I’ll Rise above all of the clouds that scare me. I’ll play in the shooting rain. We will come together hand and hand and rejoice. And the language through our feet will be our getaway. The laughter bursting out of our mouths will be our song. And the dirt on the ground will be our canvas. You are the creator in the storm. You are the hands that splash in the puddles. You will find the beauty in the brokenness. You will rise above.  –Charleigh

My biggest takeaway from Amal’s visit is when she spoke of little Syrian children making playgrounds out of war zones… finding light in darkness… discovering beauty in brokenness. If young children in war torn nations can turn two tank barrels into swing set posts and form finger paints out of dirty water, then could not we turn our own war zones into swing sets? –Jackson

Elephants are in the room and elephants are even in you. Be the person that stands out into the crowd. Embrace your beauty of the elephant because you can’t unelephant yourself. Get to know someone by simply asking their name and about their family. Amal said “The elephant is the person holding a mirror to the world”. If someone is judging you, it’s not because of you and if you think it is then you need to hold up a mirror to show yourself. You can be the change by getting out of your comfort zone.”History was never made when people were comfortable.” Even if your in a battle find the beauty in the brokenness. It takes an elephant to change the world.  –Maddie

There is a elephant deep in side me. It longs to come out. To breathe the open air without being judged. It wants to come out, but I bury it deep inside me. I forget about the Elephant I once was. The Elephant I wish to be. Fear stops me. It claws and scratches my heart, refusing to let go. I live my life, hiding who I am and being the person you think I am. One day the scratching stops, an my heart starts to heal. I try to dig deep inside myself to find my Elephant. But I can not. It is buried deep in my heart. I can not find it. I scratch and rip up my heart once more. This time I don’t think I can heal. But I try. So I travel, throughout the world. Searching for the part of that I ripped in two. I find myself in a village full of children. They scream, laugh, and play. Their dirty feet kicking flat soccer balls. I get on my knees and ask one of the little boys his name. He tells me, “I don’t know my name.” My heart leaps, and I feel it start to heal. Let me write my own story, and give me the glory in being who I want to be.
–Makayla Au

What Amal had shared was outstanding she took my understanding on society to a deeper level. I am now starting my path to be an elephant, my strength is growing. Let’s turn every bad thing into a swing set. Amal is a blessing from God to be able to stand out of the crowd and be the rebellion. –Mitch

What was the best part of your day (Amal Kassir). Bad always has good you just have to dig deep to find it. Some times you feel like nothing but the world has something to find your self in. Amal tot us to always found the good in bad situation. When you lack confidence to be the elephant in the room, the difference maker, the different person than the rest then look to find it. Your elephantness comes through you find confidence in it. Be the change.  –Noelle

The main takeaway I took when Amal visited, was her futbol analogy. How she explained soccer is the one sport that the children enjoy. The one sport that takes away the sadness, and replaces it with the words of feet. With the words of goal. With the words of celebration. Where one of the greatest celebrations World Cup, comes to them. Where they feel like they are the super country. Where they can be alive, and live each moment with the words of their feet. That in time of death, and problems, and where they are living in WWIII. The cure is a simple game of futbol. A simple game of goal. A simple game of celebration. A simple game of feet. A simple game that depletes death, and bombs, and guns, and all sorts of weapons. A simple game where they only objective is for the ball or can to go pasts two poles. That give you the freedom to say goal. That give you the freedom of celebration. That give you the language of feet.  –Jack

Be the voice of those without the voice, be an elephant in the room and embrace it, nourish it. Amal is an amazing women, her words flow so poetically and her message is powerful. She told us about how kids build swings and games out of a war zone and how no matter what they still play soccer everywhere. If we still play soccer in the midst of war, hope is present; this universal language of soccer translates into love and community and hope. Amal inspired me to become the elephant in a room and speak not only what I feel, but what the world feels. I hope to absorb her confidence and use it in life; I wish to make people uncomfortable once in while and even become uncomfortable myself. Sharing my spoken word was also amazing because, like Amal said, there is so much power in writing, reading, and thinking for ourselves. I’m so honored to know such a phenomenal woman and to know that I can become a phenomenal woman myself.  –Megan

Lessons from a WWII Veteran: Student Response

Last week we were privileged and honored to host Metanoia guest speaker, Clayton Nattier (see photo above), World War II Air Force pilot, purple heart recipient and former POW. Mr. Nattier shared stories of his personal experiences leading his flight team, parachuting into enemy territory and enduring the hardships of life as a POW in a German prison camp. His compelling stories left an impression on Anastasis students. See some of their comments below:
Times are changing. It’s not before long when souls move on and their legacies remain. Thank you so much Clayton for sharing your inspirational story. I’m still amazed that I got to speak with a national treasure such as yourself. Your story showed me the dire importance of Bravery even when fear seems to crown itself, the importance of hope when the lights seem to fade away, and the power of love even when times seem as if they are out to destroy us. I encourage you to keep spreading your story and inspiring souls in this universe. Your story has made an impact on our world and an imprint on my heart.
Even with hardships I saw the amazing faith and positivity. The story that you shared with us is so special and heroic. It’s amazing to think that through trauma God has a plan for all of us. When you told the part of your story when you had to bail from your plane, I was astounded by your true bravery and courage. You have inspired me and I am so lucky to have heard your story. Thank you, Clayton, you are truly a national treasure. 
Thank you for teaching me something that I will never forget. Something that will not just be planted on my heart, but rooted in it. You taught me that when life is hard, God is good. That when life isn’t going how we planned, all we can do is put a smile on our face and believe. Believe that something will change. Believe that God isn’t a dictator or an enemy. He is a Father, our Father. “You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.” You have taught me that it’s not just about how you have lived life, it’s about what you 
have learned from it. 
Thank you for serving in a hard war and wanting to do it again. Thank you for being vulnerable and talking about it. Thank you for sharing I learned that it helps to share your story so we can learn from it. Thank you for taking precious time out of your day. You are a great story. 
Clayton is truly an inspiration to this day. He had hope, faith, courage, and bravery in one of the most hardest times in history. Thank you so much Clayton for sharing your incredible story with us today. It is truely an honor to hear and see you to this day still living life to the fullest. Thank you for coming and serving your country.
Not many people will be able to say they have heard a story of a war hero. Today I was lucky enough to listen to Clayton’s story and how he protected our country. The most amazing thing ever to hear is that even though Clayton was a prison or of war, that he lost some great friends, that thousands of people died, he would do it all over again to protect our country. I would like to thank Clayton and all the veterans of World War Two for protecting myself and all the citizens of America. These veterans are treasures of the war that should 
never be forgotten.

Thank you, Mr. Clayton for everything you have done for our nation. I thank you for having served bravely with the love you have fueling your spirit. We are forever grateful to you for protecting our freedom and way of life, as well as protecting our independence. I thank you for that. I thank you for every act of love you have shared, and I thank you, most importantly, for never forgetting who you are.
Clayton was a brave and inspirational man. I loved hearing his story and that if he could change anything he wouldn’t. I loved hearing him talk about how he got to fly the airplanes and how much work that was. I took a lot away from this but something that I will remember for a long time is that he was brave and didn’t give up. Thank you Clayton for speaking to us and serving our country.
Clayton is a national treasure to many people. Not too many people are still alive today from WW II to show the new generation what true courage and bravery is. Thank you Clayton for sharing your story and being a primary source to all of us. My grandpa was a Colonel in the Army and hearing his stories was life changing and every single time I hear a story from experiences from war they all sound different in there own special way. Your faith and joy throughout your experience is inspiring to me to be more faithful and be brave. Thank you.
Clayton, thank you so much for all you have done for me and this country. Your really are a national treasure because there’s not many people left that are similar to you. I loved hearing your personal story and your experience in World War II. My favorite part on what you said was about how even in all that had happened to you, you still had hope. I think you were super brave to go and be apart of the war and you would still do it if you traveled back in time. 
May God bless you.  

Cultural Pilgrimage: Reflections from the Protestant Church #comments4kids

Reflections from Team Fink’s pilgrimage to the Protestant Church.

Going to the Protestant church I already knew what to expect. There was nothing there that was going to surprise me or make me feel uncomfortable. But as Pastor Peter was talking I felt as if I had never learned of Christianity before. My mind drew blank and I learned about it as if I have never heard the word Jesus before. He answered all questions in away that I wouldn’t have thought of. Pastor Peter talked about perspective with all questions. That’s something I loved, that he would put perspective into every and all question.

God exposes you to Him if you are in the absence of light. Also God talks to people in different ways. We think God doesn’t answer our prayers, but really we don’t open our eyes to realize our answer right in front of us. All of our answers look different, and our relationship with the trinity looks special and different than anyone else. With the unique relationship I have with God, I’m realizing he is making me more new in every way. I loved going to the Protestant Church and learning more about the love of God.

Going to the church has helped me understand my own religion better. One thing pastor Peter said was “In order to fall in love with Jesus we have to experience the bad.” ~ Peter this reminded me of the saying we must experience the rain before we can see the rainbow. I think God puts trials in our life so we can resort back to God when we need a hand. One of the questions I asked was who is God at the core? Peter replied God is Jesus. I found this interesting because at the Catholic church the man said God is love. Peter said love can be used in wrong terms. So he said God is Jesus. Also one thing I thought was cool that he said was Gods wrath is Gods love. When God is mad it is because he loves us and cares for us.
Overall this trip has impacted my life greatly and has taught me to trust God in the darkness.

God is the groom, God is the light, God is our daddy, God is the consuming fire. I walk and so often I trip on the shadow Satan has cast on my path, I fall in love with this shadow because it hides me from the things I can’t see. I become dark like the shadow and it feels good because I’m scared of what the Light might expose. With each fearful thought a piece of my flesh falls from my body and is plastered to the shadow. The shadow takes form. This creation I am making from the shadow says we are friends, yet I am a slave to it. My flesh keeps falling off. This creation becomes bigger and gives me orders and calls them deals, but I never benefit. Pieces of my flesh keep falling. This evil creation I make deceives me and I become evil too. My flesh is gone. Now I am ugly and broken and I ask the shadow that I made into a monster if it would help me. It leaves. I am left with no hope, I am dark and I crave the Light. I want the Light and I know the Light exists. I search and search. Soon I grow tired and go sit against a wall. I look up and a cloth is on the wall. “Tear the cloth.” Light speaks to me. I grab the cloth and rip it in half and light seeps through. I am covered in the Light. It scorches me and I cry. Why would Light do this to me, it must hate me, but I don’t realize Light actually loves me. Light is a consuming fire. My skinned body is burned to ash, and I become made new. I am in love with the Light. The Light then holds me and I know it will never let me down, because the Light is my Daddy; even when I stray from Him, He will never stop loving me. The soulless creature I have made dies. It no longer has my skin, because I have been reborn.
The church was a refreshing place. At the church today I realized how often I slip into the shadow of evil. “With fear you put flesh on the evil one.” (Peter). Satans biggest weapon is fear. I constantly fear the unknown and it makes Satan stronger. Satan drowns us in darkness and we easily forget God can give us a breathe of Light. There is always light in the darkness, even if we can’t see it. “In order to fall in love with good, we have to experience evil.” (Peter). Without darkness we would not celebrate the Light. God gives us trials, to rejoice in His greatness. Peter talked about how first we have to want God, then we have to search for him, and God will let us find Him. We are the brides to God and it is the most beautiful marriage ever. Some religions believe God is not like a dad or does not want to help us if we don’t seek Him, but God is truly our father and His presence is constantly by our sides. God is the groom, He is the light, He is our father, God is the consuming, and God makes us new.

We reject God but He still love us anyway. We push Him aside because we don’t have time for Him, but He still loves and strives for us. We act like strangers and have a disguise over ourselves so we can hide from Him, but the disguise is like glass, and He can see through it. God is always with us “we aren’t a number on a waiting list.”(Peter). Even if we are in a really bad situation, in the end I believe that “You make beautiful things out of the dust, You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us.” (Beautiful things). He has a purpose for everything so in that bad situation something good will come out of it, but it might take some time. God will re-sculpt us and those ashes that we were once, will one day convert us to become pure, because that’s how much He loves us.

God is the river that gushes into our soul. The water of Gods river is sweet because of the flavor of love and grace He has put into it. This Spirit does everything out of love even if we forget sometimes. The Divine has the power in which He can eternally torture Adam, yet He chooses not to because he is good, and good always conquers. God is the almighty, yet He does not use this power to torture humanity, but He uses it to bind us with Him out of this unbreakable love. (Pastor Peter). The Lord is the river of love that is open for us to swim amongst its waters, yet we choose to create our own river.
The river we have created is bitter and salty because we have dumped sins and lies into it. One of the lies is that we are sin at the core and because of this lie we try to justify our wrong doings. God destroys this lie we believe about ourselves. God destroys this lie and purifies our murky waters out of His love and embracing us in His wrath. (Pastor Peter). The Lord destroys this lie in each person differently just like He communicates to others in different forms.
The Divine comes in different ways so we may spread the Gospel according to what He has taught us as individuals. (Pastor Peter). Sometimes we see the Spirit and sometimes we don’t, but God is always there even if we can’t hear Him. When our ears become numb to what God tries to tell us we feel as if He has become absent from our lives. In these moments when the Lord doesn’t seem transparent we feel consumed by darkness.
In this darkness it is easier to see the light that shines. (Pastor Peter). Light is always around us, but in the darkness light becomes easier to appreciate and notice. God is always around us channeling His river of love into our everyday lives, but if we don’t experience darkness we can not appreciate this river He has made for us.
God immerses us in His river everyday. We must allow Him to filter out our dirty lies and sins. We shall rejoice in the darkness as much as we do the light, and most of all we must recognize He is always with us even if we do not see Him right in front of our faces.

My hand closes around a small metal key. Although I sit in the darkness, I can feel the key gleaming in my hand. This is my way out. This is what I have been waiting for my whole life. I start crawling until I slam into the wall. My hands start working their way up the wall until they find the little keyhole that I discovered months ago. I reach into my pocket and grasp the little key. I shove the little key in the slit. I twist it and turn it but nothing happens. I must have been sitting on the cold floor twisting the key for hours, but how would I know? I haven’t exposed to time for years. Finally, I hear a little click. I hold my breath and wait. The dark cold walls of my dungeon fall, and the light blinds me. “The worst thing that can happen if you believe that you are darkness, and God exposes you to light.” (Pastor Peter). I scream. It has been so long since I had last seen light that I forgot what it even looked like. I forgot how wonderful and warm it was. I looked down at my bruised hands and dirty clothes, and wondered how long I had let the Evil one tempt me into despair and darkness. I remember my father. I remember his last words to me. So I ran. I ran right into the room where I last left him, and there he was. Sitting on his throne gazing down with his beautiful eyes that I almost had forgot that could light up the world. He sat there with his arms wide open and a big smile on the face. “I knew you would come back, there wasn’t a moment that I ever doubted you.” Then I started crying. I started crying because I knew I couldn’t say the same. Because I knew that I had doubted. He read my thoughts, and pulled me into one of his loving and strong hugs, that I had so dearly missed and said, “I love you.”

Cultural Pilgrimage: Reflections from our visit to a Buddhist Temple and Hindu Temple #learningisbigger #commentsforkids #denver

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My experience with the Hindu and Buddhist temples was good. All of the people we met showed great hospitality and shared amazing wisdom, and we can learn a lot from what they believe. From Buddhists, we can learn to persevere through the hardships of life. As the Buddha himself allegedly said, “Life is suffering”, and is believed to have risen above suffering and attained nirvana. Even if we may not believe this to be true, we can still learn perseverance, no matter what struggles we may face in our lives.

Now let’s see what Hindus bring to the table. At the Hindu temple, Ananda said that God’s forgiveness is greater than His justice, which goes to show that just as Christians believe that God is merciful, Hindus do too. We can also learn to be more loving and devoted to our God like Hindus do. When they give offerings to God, the point is not that God takes the offering, but rather accepts their love and devotion to Him. We struggle with that a lot, considering the temptations of this world.

The things I mentioned are few of many lessons to be learned from these people, but nonetheless important.   –Jackson

 
Going a second time to the Hindu and Buddhist temple has given me a new perspective. Buddhism is such a unique religion. After going a second time I still don’t fully understand it. One of my favorite concepts of this religion is “to live a simple but fulfilled life.” (Diana) I feel that sometimes my life is to crowded. I can’t live a fulfilled life. Another one of my favorite concepts is the lotus flower. It grows in dirt but comes out beautiful. We are all broken in some way but when we become enlightened we are glued back together. One thing I learned was that we all have differences but instead of looking at the flaws we should honor our differences. Hinduism is a fascinating religion. I learned that Hinduism revolves around hidden service and putting other before your self. “The nature of the sole is to serve.” (Tushta)  We should not serve in a boastful way. We should serve in a hidden way. I learned that when we serve it should be un motivated and we get more out of it if we give rather than take. Overall this was an incredible religious pilgrimage and I am so sad this is my last time.  — Alli

 

I live in a world of glass. It’s a world where reality lays just beyond the bend. It’s a world where sometimes I can feel like I can reach out and grasp God, but then that barrier of glass reality slaps me in the face. I realize how far I really am from grasping God. “No one is perfect.”(Diana Thompson). I may know that deep down in my heart that I am no where close to God, but I still reach out my hand to try and touch him. I realize that my world of glass is as clear as me. It is as blind and lost as me. When ever I get slap in the face with reality, God always lifts me up and tells me try again. Whether it is through yoga, enlightenment, or wishful thinking, he will always lift me back up. Right as I am about to give up and escape my world of glass to enter into hell, I remember. I remember how God is always there. I remember that with the remembrance of God there can never be hell. I remember that God will always lift me up and tell me to try again. So I try. I try with the little speck of energy that I have left to reach God. This time, instead of reaching out to try and grasp him, I close my eyes and fall. I fall right through the glass barriers into Gods waiting arms, and hear him say, “All you had to do was close your eyes and trust me.”  –Mak

 
Looking back on my experience going to the Buddhist and Hindu temple was really cool for me because I got to change my perspective even more on religion. What I could contribute to my life from the Buddhist temple was to be more enlightened with me and others. I also really like what Diana said about karma. If you do something good or bad it will come back to you, but if you spread happiness it will lead and chain reaction to others. (Diana). In the Hindu temple I felt peace and comfort through the song that Tushta and Ananda sang and what we were discussing. My favorite quote from the day was, “Every word is a song and every step is a dance” (Tushta).  What that meant to me was that everything we do is either worshiping God or going against him. Our body can be good and bad depending on our mind and actions. I really enjoyed going to the Buddhist and Hindu temple and stepping out of my comfort zone.  –Charleigh

 
Buddhism:
Look to find peace through different perspectives. “People see things in different ways.”(Diana Thompson). Everyone is not always going to agree on the same thing. God made us to think differently but unique. In the Buddhism religion there are three different kinds of peace, finding peace within, finding peace with our peers and finding peace with nature. Discovering those three different kinds of peace looks different to everyone. In my opinion If you discover the three peace’s that will make God easier to find and to talk to, because you’re not in a rush to find peace. This also reminds me of the Buddhist symbol because Diana said the wheel also represents that everyone has their own path and none of the paths were the same. Looking through different perspectives matter.  –Maddie

 
Hinduism:
We need to be true servants. “True happiness is service.” (Tushta. When we are true servants we are happy. Hidden service is the best kind of service. Another thing that stood out to me was when Anada talked about how if we had a bracelet we can see all the beads, but the thing that is holding it together is the string. God is the string. God works in our life in so many different ways maybe it’s through others or scripture, but God talks to us through something. He can also show Himself through perspectives. I felt like I could feel God in the Hindu temple. It is cool to learn more about these religions and get a new perspective on it.   –Lauren

 
There is lotus flowers in the muck, and a thread that holds together a pearl bracelet. We are constantly under the muck, in the rubble of destruction. We are stuck there with everyone else. Our brains break down, instead of our hearts breaking free, but beauty still lives inside us. We have to unleash the beauty and become the one flower that blooms through brokenness and the lotus that perfectly settles in the midst of muck. When we become this beauty we inspire others to sprout as well. Everything is connected. “Karma is considering what you do because you effect others.” (Dianna, Buddhist teacher). Karma is always happening because our actions are constantly impacting others. We are all pearls on a bracelet, all connected by a thread. “We might not see the thread but the thread is needed. The thread is God.” (Ananda, Hindu teacher). At the temples today I realized that Buddhism doesn’t really have much structure. Buddhism believes everything is connected, but it’s as if the Buddhist people don’t see the thread that holds us together. The tread which is God. There are many great practices in Buddhism like the eight-fold path, which teaches doing right and being aware, yet there was an absence of structure and faith. Dianna seemed open to almost any beliefs, but she didn’t appear to have her own. On the other hand, at the Hindu temple I really could see they believed in a greater being. The Hindu people believe in Krishna, the thread of all. “Every word is a song and every step is a dance.” (Tushta, Hindu Teacher). The Hindu religion was constantly singing, listening, and dancing for God. Devotion and surrender were two words that were brought up. God constantly sculpts us, but we have to allow Him. We must surrender and meditate in devotion. When we serve we are dancing and singing. Service is a huge part of what Tushta taught us. “A person who is in a giving mood feels much more fulfillment.” (Tushta). Especially in the world today we are told fulfillment comes through materialistic items, but when we serve others the fulfillment we feel is much deeper than then our torn skin, we fill the void within us. Overall, these trips today are an eye opening experience and pull me closer to God in an abundance of ways. I feel inspired to be the beauty when there is brokenness and to thank and celebrate the Thread that holds all creation together.  — Megan

 
This experience at the Buddhist temple fed the lotus flower that is starting to bloom within my spirit. We are all stuck in the muck, but we all have the potential to blossom into to be beautiful and pristine like the lotus flower. (Diana Thomson). We must recognize the inner beauty each one of us has before we can go on and place it amongst the universe. One of the ways we can portray this beauty amongst the world is by being aware that our every action has an affect somewhere else. “Everything we do here and now has an affect somewhere else.”(Diana Thomson). Everything is interconnected; therefore what we do impacts the world around us. We have control over what we spit out into the universe whether it be good or bad. We choose to nourish the world with good actions or break it with our selfish and over attached ways.
What we do whether it be good or bad tends to come back to us. We must be cautious of what we place in society because not only will it come back to us, but it will either hurt or encourage others. “Its not what you get back, but rather how it affects others.”(Diana Thomson). Sometimes we will fail at inducing love and joy within others, but even if there are unintended consequences we must prevail.
I appreciated when Diana Thomson was talking about how service is in fact extremely important in our daily lives. I was inspired by the offerings the Buddhists would offer to the Buddha because it showed their humility and the importance to give before you yourself takes. (Diana Thomson). This experience fed my inner lotus flower with the importance of service, inner beauty, our actions, and most importantly that everything is interconnected.
There is a supreme Divine in this world and this Divine is the reservoir of all beauty. This experience opened my eyes once more that Hinduism is a similar reflection to my own view of God. God is like the thread that strings underneath every pearl attached to it. At first you may not see the thread, but it is there and holds everything together. (Ananda). Together both the pearls and the thread create a beautiful piece of art. God holds all of us together sculpting a masterpiece in the end. It takes time to sculpt a masterpiece out of muck, but first we must find the yolk between us and the Lord. We must connect with God. When we connect with the Lord we will understand how truly magnificent the Divine is. We often confine God to a certain race or religion, but God has no limits. God has no limits, he is just God. (Tushta). Humans limit themselves of what we can and can’t do. We accept the idea of serving, yet we never take action because of the borders we set for ourselves. I loved how both Tushta and Ananda were talking about the importance of serving others. Serving others satisfies our hunger for purpose and also is what we are called to do. If a person is giving they feel fulfilled. (Tushta). When we love God and recognize God loves us we will extend that love throughout the universe, feel fulfilled, and help others feel fulfilled as well. I also appreciated the perspective Ananda took on hell. Hell is just the act of forgetting God.(Ananda). When we forget God we are not fulfilled and our hunger for beauty is not quenched. We must always look towards God and see the thread underneath even in hardships because the Divine is the reservoir for all beauty and beauty prevails.  — Macie

 

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