Black Hills Reflection #standagain #comments4kids



Black Hills Reflections:

“Beautiful Creation”
I could reach the skies, feel the wind, see the beauty not only in the nature but in the friendship I’ve been blessed to receive, Mt. Baldy was a phenomenal destination. As I reached the top, the wind wrestled with me, yet the solid, sandpapered rock held me strong and kept me safe. I looked around and my eyes adjusted, I saw the hills, the rocks, the dirt, the trees, and the horizon that awaited much more. My crouched body made way a couple of steps; my eyes went along. There was clouds and skies that touched the heavens, but there was even more. Faces. Each face entered my mind, followed with thousands of stories. Peace. Every breath I took my lungs would fill with peace and let go of the stress that it held. Freedom. I was free, I felt alive. I no longer worried about, “I need to Instagram this!” because I knew any photo I took would never be as crisp as the memory in my mind. Any photo I took, would not come along with the smell of the fresh air, the pine trees, and the sweat shed while climbing the mountain. Photos couldn’t capture the warmth of love or the comforting trust that settled within the air. We were on top of the world; without my friends I wouldn’t have been there. I knew any person I reached to they would give me a hand and help me to the top. “It’s easier to go down a hill than up it, but the view is much better at the top.” (Henry Ward Beecher). This year there was times I climbed down, yet my friends always pulled me up to the magnificent view. Creation is not just the mountains or oceans, but it’s the people too. It was possibly my last trip with some of them, maybe even last van ride, but forever I will remember being with my best friends on the top of Mt. Baldy. Trust, love, peace, laughter. Beautiful creation.
–Megan Suedkamp

“Ride of Pride ”
“I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred tree of life and the whole earth will become one circle again.” – Crazy Horse. Anyone can hear about ones effort to change the world, but when you see the imprint they left with your own two eyes it unlocks a whole new perspective. Crazy Horse was a man who fought against the whites with pride and encouraged his people to never give up. People compete to see who can have the highest tower and don’t even think about why they are building it. The Native Americans knew why they wanted to build this memorial. The Native Americans thrived for building this monument because they wanted to provide strength and pride to their people and show the rest of the world that Native Americans are just capable as any white person on earth. You may believe that you must get to the finish line first, but what you don’t realize is your only competitor is yourself. “Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?” (Jeremiah 2:25). This relates to me because I run so fast in life only keeping my eyes pressed against the banner that says finish. Along the way I miss everything else around me and when I think I have reached the finish line in reality my destination just keeps moving farther away. Just observing the monument taught me that the journey matters more than the destination. The Native Americans do not care when the monument will be finished, but they care about what comes along the way. I observed that the builders were focused mainly on the appearance of the statues size and compared it to the size of Mount Rushmore. The size of what you are trying to leave behind doesn’t matter, it’s the impact you are leaving. I heard stories of Crazy Horse and what he was like, but I was clueless until I was in the presence of the legacy itself.

“Fun Size Devils Tower”
As I keep searching for God in my journey Fink takes us to the Black Hills. I was excited to be hiking Mini Devils Tower. The first hike that we went to was the biggest hike we went on and also my favorite hike. Jack, JP, Ricky, and I leave the class and run up Mini Devils Tower. As we get up to the top the rest of the class starts to come. Jack and I break off. Ricky and JP go to play Mafia with the rest of the class. I see Jack dangling his feet over this cliff and I go and do the same. We lay back on the crystal rock and talk about life in general. Now that I am reading this I begin to know how dumb it was because here we are my best friend and I sitting on Gods creation but still talking about “noise, crowds, hurry,”-(Foster) and drama. Then I closed my eyes, I pray that this end of the year will be great. There is a tense breeze that suffocates my breath and the sun comes out of the clouds. I say ,God, thank you, at that moment I have just a glimpse on how my journey plays out.

“Leap of Faith”
Cliff jumping in my definition is the leap of faith. Cliff jumping in the Black Hills was an unforgettable experience. When you see the rock when you drive up to it looks like two feet off the ground. As you climb up the rock, you begin to feel your heart beating faster and faster the higher you go. You finally get up on the top of the rock, you look down then quickly grab onto something because you think it is so high. One person after the other goes. Each time you hear a splash of water from someone jumping you think about how you are that much closer to making that sound yourself. It was finally my turn. Extremely slow I slither my way down to where you jump. Fink counts 3,2,1. It took me two times to finally jump. 3,2,1, I push off of the rock. You feel as if you are floating in the air. Then at the last second home girl over here does a belly flop. My head goes above the water, I gasp for air, I swim over to the rock that I jumped off of. Then I hit my chest on the rock. “Perfect timing” I thought. As I begin to catch my breath I hear people swimming over to me. Luke, Izzy, and Megan were my rescuers. Even though I was not smiling when they came I was smiling on the inside. After it all happened it made me think of how cliff jumping is just like life. You feel as if everything is going your way, but at the last second pain finds you. “For I know the plans I have for you”  (Jeremiah 29:11). God will come and help you catch your breath.
–Angelina Basso

“The Tower from all Angles”
The tower is an exploration, and every angle of the rock is a different sight. Say if you look at it from the front, then you went to the left front. Then you went to the right side. It’s different and it will be hard to recognize. The tower can be an exploration in anyway, maybe it’s going up and climbing on top of the tower and looking around Wyoming. Or maybe it’s looking at the rock 360 degrees and look at it from every direction. Also, maybe even going below to see what’s below the rock and see how it was brought to the surface. What would that monument be if the rock never came from the surface? What would it look like to not be the first national monument? Questions about the tower are answers humans may never know. The tower is 360 degrees around the body of it, but each boulder it takes to form it is 360 degrees. The tower in general, from the big rock to the rocks that fill in the gaps, the tower will never be looked at the same way that you looked at it the first time. In a community, a day will never be the same ever again, whether you think of the year that day came, or the time that happened and what happened, nothing will be looked like from the same angle or picture again. Sure, you may look at the front of a house the same as yesterday, but you did it the next day instead of 2 days ago, of tomorrow. Another day will stay the same, but another minute will be enjoyed. It just like what Anastasis talks about, joy lasts longer than happiness, if you enjoy the moment of today or tomorrow, then that is what people like to call, joy. Then joy will not come in the same way it did yesterday or next week, happiness maybe will, but joy will never in 1 million years be the same as tomorrow. That is what makes the tower a 360 degrees, everything comes in different angles, if you enJOY the moment.

“Black Hills trip”
During our trip Mr. Fink had a surprise for us. We went to a place called flags and wheels. It was a really cool surprise. It had go karting, Laser tag, bumper cars, and batting cages. It was so much fun. What I did most of the time was go karting. It was fun to race Miss Jamie Mr. Fink and my friends. Everybody went to laser tag. I stayed and I raced the person that was running the go cart and we were able to mess around on the track. It was amazing to go to flags and wheels I had so much fun go karting.

“Wild in Spirit”
Adventure lies in nature. The most exciting piece of South Dakota was camping in the wild, unknown, forest. I look over the thundering boulders to see the swirl of colors that is the setting sun. As the sun says goodbye for the day, and the shivers of the cold wind set in, I appreciate the natural beauty of this earth. My fear of bears and unknown creatures is swept away in the midst of the natural beauty of the setting sun, fallen trees, and tweeting birds. From the laughs of my friends, to the thrill of being in the middle of nowhere, (not really, more like 2 miles from a parking lot), I enjoyed every moment. The glimmering stars of the night sky spurred my curiosity of life outside of this world, and lit the colorful, laughter-filled stories being heard and told. Although they were quite random, My stomach hurt from all the laughter. As I fell asleep, my dreams were filled with curiosity, stories, and memories created from camping in the wilderness in South Dakota. “Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity for the human spirit.” (Edward Abbey) Although I am back in suburbia, I still stay wild in spirit.

“Pizza Runs”
When we camped up at Mount Baldy the 8th grade boys traveled down the mountain and back bringing up pizza. We ran down the mountain, not on the trail, but on a path that we cut through the woods. It was tons of fun jumping over rocks and logs, darting between trees. When we reached the bottom we waited for Luke to show up with the van. Luke doesn’t know how to start a car. We rolled down into the small, tucked away town of Keystone and pulled up to the pizza place. While waiting for the last pizza we all got cokes. Luke doesn’t know how to hold a drink. The pizza came and we headed back to the mountain. Walking up took much longer because we weren’t running and we were carrying grub. We reached camp just before dark delivering the pizza! The thing I enjoyed most about the pizza run wasn’t the running (I’m not a runner), or the pizza (still tasty). My favorite thing about the pizza run was spending time with my teacher and friends, growing closer in relationships. Running to go get pizza sounds like a chore, but it really wasn’t, we had good conversations and we got to grill Luke’s driving skills. I got to know people better. The pizza runs were an exciting interaction I won’t soon forget. The simple things are the most memorable. I could write about big things on a grand scale such as Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and The Devils Tower. Those things are amazing, don’t get me wrong, but the simple things stand out just as much. I’ll remember times like the snipe hunt or running down a mountain and maybe tripping a time or two just as much as the things people travel cross country to see. The trips are so special because of the little things mixed with the big things, the all around memories. “It is the sweet, simple things in life which are the real ones after all” (Laura Ingalls Wilder).

“Dreaming of Rushmore”
Every year at my old school the 8th graders would take a trip to South Dakota. When they came back they would present to the whole school on their trip. Mount Rushmore was my favorite part. It just looked so magical. I would constantly daydream about going there. It was never a real thought that I was able to see the place of my dreams. After years and years of waiting, I moved schools. It actually never crossed my mind I wouldn’t see Mount Rushmore.
I tap my fingers on my desk and watch as we go through the trip to South Dakota schedule. I hide my excitement when I know we get to go to the place I have just dreamed of for at least 5 years. I attempt to explain to everyone why I’m most excited for the Mount Rushmore part, but they just nod their heads and take it as nothing. That’s when I realized maybe this was something that was just a little more meaningful to me than everyone else. I didn’t care, we were still going. Cliff jumping was our first stop before Rushmore. “Jump!” everyone called as I stand on the edge of a cliff. I totally forgot today was the day. I push my legs, close my eyes, plug my nose and jump. After a rush (pun intended) into the van Mr. Fink tells us we are changing at the camp, and we are going to Mount Rushmore. The time has finally arrived after 5 years of waiting.
“I want everyone to guess why I pulled over” Fink tells us before our stop to Rushmore. We all scramble out of the van and look around. No one seems to know why we are in the middle of a road.  Some girls slowly walk forward and scream. I can’t find what their looking at. Now everyone’s screaming and I have no clue what’s going on. Megan turns my head up to the sky. My eyes stop and my mouth stretches to a smile. It’s George Washington’s head! I join the screaming and jumping before we hop into the van. It was the most surreal moment of my life. I walk into the memorial. A goal I never thought I would achieve I just did. Tears of joy were streaming down my face, and when I looked at the beautiful memorial, I never wanted to leave the place of my dreams. This was a day I will never forget.
Without this experience I don’t think I would really understand what realizing your dreams felt like. Going somewhere and doing something you have always wanted to do is the best feeling in the whole world. Every day I wish I could re-live that moment and I’m sad I’m not there. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” -Walt Disney. I am definitely taking this quote to heart after that day.
–Angelina Hogan

“I can’t feel my legs…”
South Dakota was such a fun trip with so many awesome activities. One of those activities was Harney Peak hike. As we were walking up I got to talk and bond with my friends. It was beautiful but it was windy. Once we got to the top I looked out over the rock and it was breath taking, I felt a sense of peace. Love is a way of connection with peace and that’s what I felt on top of Harney Peak. We took pictures and put all of our layers back on because it was really windy and cold. I had shivers running though my spine then I felt the Holy Spirit brush over me and I was calm. As we started to walk down some stone steps to get to a lookout. Our class climbed on the rocks and we sat down and over the rock were three mountain goats. As we started to hike back down I saw prayer flags. Prayer flags are what the natives put on trees for symbolism. Over all I thought Harney Peak was so beautiful and I loved the experience.

“Faith, trust, and pixie dust”
This Black Hills trip was by far one of the best trips. On this trip there were so many highlights that I will always remember. My biggest highlight was rock climbing. I had never really done rock climbing before so it was fun to work my way to the top of the mountain and then to trust my classmates to keep me alive as I worked my way back down. As I was climbing the mountain it forced me to think and watch my every step. It forced me to use a lot of strength that would soon get me to the top of the mountain. It made me push myself to reach higher and that was one step closer to the top. There were some challenges where I didn’t know if I could go any farther but once I found a good spot I could take it step by step and go to the top. My favorite part about rock climbing was reaching the top of the mountain and to look out at Gods creation. This rock climbing experience put me in a place to truly notice and enjoy Gods creation. Even though the weather was not great I still loved rock climbing and trying something new. Being in nature helps me connect with God and enjoy his presence. “You won’t understand the power of community until you are apart of one.” This year I have truly been a part of a community that is so meaningful to me. The best part about this trip was being in a community laughing and crying and making new memories that will never be forgotten.

After the months and months of the memories we’ve shared together, it has started to come to an end. At the beginning of this year I felt like we as people all represented a color. Nothing to do with one another. In the end we all came together making a beautiful painting. That night of the campfire speeches the painting was completed. We became a true family, and that’s just going to make it harder to say goodbye. The night was filled with so many emotions. Everyone was in tears and I thinks it’s because we realized each others value. It’s tough to move on but our colors will continue, their stories going on to make beautiful new pictures and memories. That makes the memories we’ve shared that more important. The point was, our campfire speeches ended the chapter and began a new era. Our campfire speeches were a farewell to the other colors within our picture. “A picture is nothing without the colors on the canvas.” (Unknown) Anastasis was a family and it was tough to say goodbye, but I guess it’s time to start a new chapter and paint a new picture.



The baptism experience in South Dakota was truly astonishing. I feel now as that if I have truly become a Christian and now know what it is like to walk with God. Now the wrestle with God truly begins, there will be ups and downs. In Christianity every person believes in the same thing but in different ways, now I feel like I am forming my own opinions instead of just believing exactly what my parents or piers think. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome”
(Genesis 32:28). We will be blessed after wrestling with God and struggling with him. Our ultimate blessing is to be his child, and be granted into heaven.


Poetry from Team Fink #standagain

Bring Me The Sunset In A Cup

I awake from my nap
Everything is crystal clear
The night is awakening
It’s almost here
The sky is orange with a sparkling glow
The sun is reflecting off the pearl white snow
The sun illuminates my worry less face
Dragging my mind to a peaceful place
This is my get away from everyday work
Dusting, scrubbing, and mopping up dirt
Oh sunset
Please don’t go!
Your the only comfort I have ever known
I have only one wish
It will surely be enough
Won’t someone bring me the sunset in a cup?

Bring Me Sunshine In A Cup…

Bring happiness, bring joy
Fill me up. Bring me the sunshine in a cup!

Now is not yesterday nor tomorrow.
It is the present don’t fill it with sorrow.

Be the LIGHT. Keep shining!
Don’t create dark and keep on trying…

Now is now, now is TODAY.
Share joy and happiness in someway!!
-By: Megan Suedkamp

Bring me the SUNSET in a cup;
so I can slurp it up.
And be reminded,
of the value of each day.
So I can reflect,
get lost in the moment,
recognize my blessings,
and sleep with no regrets.

May I sleep peacefully but with vivid dreams.

Bring me the DAWN in a bowl;
simple and silent,
recognizing my opportunity
to start each day afresh.

Bring me intense AFTERNOON sun,
direct on my brow,
or perhaps rain,
dripping down my face,
as a not so subtle reminder
to take captive each and every day.

Bring me the SUNSET in a cup…..

Bring me the sunset in a cup
Orange red and pink
Something delicious for me to drink

Warmth travels down my body, unfreezing my cold heart
And a step outside, the sun is gone, it’s filling me
Was this a mistake? Did anyone see?

Or am I the sun now
Someone whom people will bow?

I sit perched atop a mountain, where I give light to all,
So that the people of the world will not fall.
-Angelina Hogan

Bring me the sunset in the cup,
next to the plate of dark night sky
With the fork full of bright stars,
and the spoon of white clouds that fly high.

Then when it becomes 11 o’clock,
I will have the memory of the sunset locked
Tucked in bed with my meal of sweet dreams,
thoughts of the bright sunset gleam
But now I remember what you told me,
Just before it was half-past three
That tomorrow is another day,
The sunset will lay as it did yesterday.

So now I do not have to be sad,
the sunset will be there just as it had
Next to the plate of dark night sky,
with the fork full of bright stars,
and the spoon of white clouds that fly high.
-Isabella Rosinski

I’m ready to leave, ready to go
Where am I headed? I do not know
I’m sick of routine, sameness, and schedule
Now out in the wild I’m going to meddle
Back behind is all I understand
Now I’m off to find new land
Life was comfortable back were I was
Yet a roof is defeated by the heavens above
I’ve packed my bags, I’m off, goodbye
I’m going to travel up mountains high
Valleys low, and woods thick
To life’s plan I cannot stick
But as I travel on I realize
I’ve left what I love far behind
The people who care, the comfort of home
I’m going back to where I’m from
That is where it’s time to go
The lonely shivers leave me cold
Back to home I go
I’ve seen the great sunset of orange
Yet I miss the taste of homemade porridge
Now it’s time to go home
-J Sadler

Student reflections on Expiditionary Learning: Moab

|student post|

Last week our 6-8 grade students traveled to Moab for four days of expeditionary learning. Below are their post-trip reflections. Learning outside of the classroom is powerful!

Team Anastasis in Moab

Moab has given me a spark. We always talk about the trips and how much they mean to us, bonding, hiking, climbing, and being adventurous which is probably what you’d expect from a bunch of middle schoolers going on an out of state trip. What the casual observer doesn’t realize is the spark, the spark in the eyes of everyone that went on the trip telling their favorite story or memory, the spark of an adventurous kid not needing responsibilities or to feel like a grown up, but who can just be a kid. This is the spark of someone who’s experienced community and solitude, adventure and relaxation, I see this spark in the eyes of every one of my classmates after these trips, after the adventure. The spark of adventure, and passion, and courage, and power, and joy.

Moab was such an awesome experience. Not only did I enjoy the planned hikes (which made me feel accomplished afterwards) and the astronomy class, but the little moments as well. Jumping in the river, eating pizza and blasting music at midnight, and laughing around the campfire were just a few of the special moments I will remember forever. I enjoyed this trip as much as if we would have spent thousands of dollars on a fancy vacation. All of my classmates have made every moment complete. Weeks of planning and preparation for this trip may have seemed stressful and hard, but it was all worth it in the end. This trip made me realize how much I love all of my friends and every moment I spend with them, and how much I will miss them when life goes on.

Spending time in Moab was not only a great time to bond with our classmates, but it was a time of peace. I really enjoyed going to Moab this year, not only was it one of my highlights yet I would like to go back very soon. My favorite thing I did on the trip involving our group was probably bowling. The reason for that is I got to learn lots about the others around me through small talk that never would of happend if it wasn’t for these trips. I thought it was really cool, and I hope the best for my classmates that are moving on.

I sit alone, breathing in the warm desert air through my nose and out through my mouth. In and out, in and out, in and out I listen to my slow, rhythmic, breathing. I listen to the birds, hiding in the cover of the trees and shrubs. I listen to the wind howling through the canyon, blowing years upon years worth of dust and sand into my eyes. I watch two lizards darting through the rocks chasing each other. I look out over the valley and sigh contentedly, and for the first time in a long time I am content, I am at peace.

Moab! It was such a fun trip. There was lots of excitements like riding in the van, doing hikes that we didn’t want to do, and lots more. One of the many highlights was jumping in the river and having fun with my classmates. I had a really fun trip because I got to bond with my classmates and I have the chance to really connect with them before I left for high school. It will be so different leaving for high school and not to have the special bond with them like I did on this trip. It is easy to say hello hard to say goodbye. It will be hard not to have such a tight community when I enter high school and I will have to start all over again and find the right group. It is hard to say goodbye to a person but people who mean a lot to you or like family is going to be extremely hard.

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and the music in its roar; I love man not the less, but nature more.” -Lord Byron  From its incredible arches to its fun, flowing river, Moab was beautiful. I loved Moab because of its glory but also because I got to enjoy it with my friends before we go our ways. We had great times and had fun with the simple things. We grew even closer and it will be harder to separate. Moab was a great trip and full of exhausting hikes that in the end were worth it. Each arch with its own shape, none the same, were spectacular. Each cactus dangerous, yet were amazing. Each tent holding people who got to see this beauty and I was one of them. Moab was fun and a piece of God’s work. “On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.” -Jules Renard

Going into the Moab trip I was really excited. I had never been on a car ride for that long but when we were about 2-3 hours in I lost time and had fun with my class. When we got to the site, we saw that we were by a river! We were super happy. It took around and hour to 30 minutes to set up camp, then we hiked up to corona. This was my favorite arch because I had seen it almost everywhere and I was finally here. We walked around and saw Morgan. Who we hate now. The first day there was amazing. The campfire that night was a cool experience.
The next day we went up to arches national park and hiked around there. I had a enjoyable time talking with everyone. After the hike we were all exhausted and I fell asleep in the van. Later that day we stopped for some yogurt and the park. We also swam in the river and jumped of a ledge. I flipped and hit my face on the water but it didn’t hurt. The second day was a blast. We played mafia that night at campfire and did speeches. That night it was super windy and I hardly got any sleep.
3rd day!!! We had a big, tiring day ahead of us. We hiked 11 miles and at first I was not excited, but it was entertaining getting to know everyone again. That night we went bowling and I did really bad, but on the bright side, I had so much fun playing pool and it made me happy when I went up and everyone said, “come on flacco!” We drove to the astronomy place and we had a fun conversation on the way there. That was probably one of the best things ever. All the girls crashed that night. The next day was sad. We were leaving. After a long time in the van everyone was really bored and sad. It was great to be home but sad to be away.

Wyoming was a trip getting to know everyone, Santa Barbra was a trip to get closer as a class, and now Moab was a trip being able to say our goodbyes. It is amazing how far we have all come as a class and now our year is pretty much over. There were so many amazing experiences on the Moab trip. My favorite part of Moab would have to be the whole Wednesday. The 14 mile hike was really hard but I actually kind of enjoyed it. And after that hike we were able to go bowling. I had so much fun playing bowling and pole and then going to the parking lot. Then to top it off we got to go look at stars and drive home listening to music and lighting glow sticks. Moab was a trip I will never forget.

We all need to stay connected to our inner solitude. Although, staying connected with others is entertaining, solitude is vital for us to be able to have inner peace.
Nature is peaceful. It does not talk nor think, but makes us think. This mindset of discovery in nature brings knowledge of not only God but ourselves. We should take advantage of our earth while we still have it before the pollution of humanity kills.

Universal language, connection with nature. “I want to be able to look at and into a juniper tree, a piece of quarts, a vulture, a spider, and see it as it is in itself, devoid all of humanly ascribed qualities even the categories of scientific description.” (Edward Abbey) Get away from man’s way, find peace in the music of nature. Wind. Dirt. The river’s song. Calm and beauty are found in the black, protecting sand. Beauty is found in every speck of rock that curves and forms the arch. Be still, find peace in God’s work.

One of the best things a person can do (In my opinion), is to get away from the everyday garbage that consumes our lives. The constant rush, the pressure, the endless business. We ought to go away and experience nature’s extravagant beauty. The trip to Moab we just went on was an opportunity to do this, escape, to get ourselves lost, enclosed in the wilderness. The truth however is our regular life is full of borders, pressure, and schedules. Things we are taught to live by. They maybe necessary at times but these things kill us. These things flatten our lives. Cities are cool and all but towers of rocks and trees are much more awe inspiring than the twisted towers of metal we dream of building. Animals are better than cars. Nature is a medicine, a quiet place to think. An endless border less place to explore.

Bring Me the Sunset- Student poem

Bring Me The Sunset
Morning Pages #48

By Katie Anderson

Bring me the sunset in a cup,
Fill it with pinks and oranges until it’s filled up.
Serve me a full moon onto a nice plate.
Some constellations on the side sure would be great.
Give me rain and snow into a bowl,
Some thunderclouds and lightning wouldn’t be dull.
I want rainbows and sunshine in my spoon,
Next to my fork with a little room.
These days come with weather, good and bad,
They can make you happy or drive you mad.
But at this moment, my life’s at halftime,
After all you always get rain before sunshine.

Reflections from Team Fink Santa Barbara Trip

The field trip our class took to Santa Barbara California was one of the most meaningful and memorable trips I’ve ever been on. Whether it was hanging at the beach and surfing or just riding in the van this is a experience I’ll never forget. It was a trip on which I grew closer with my friends through time communing and grew closer with God through time in his amazing creation and through serving. Serving was also on of the greatest parts of the trip, whether it was working in the garden, talking with homeless people, preparing food, or playing the piano at the different homeless shelters. There’s something about serving and working hard that just feels rewarding, for example after we worked for a few hours in the garden it felt great to turn around a look at what we’d accomplished and that those few hours were well spent. It i fact made surfing after that more enjoyable. I really enjoyed the community time w got to spend with one another, I really thought it helped us get to know each other better and bond closer. I’ll never forget the wonderful time I had in California.

Santa Barbara was a great experience. Not just being able to help the homeless and understanding how lucky we are, but getting closer to nature and my friends. One of my favorite activities we did was surfing. When I first put my wet suit on and got my board I was actually kind of nervous. Then when I got in the water and saw my friends surf with me, all the nerves just went away. Another one of my favorite parts was when we went to the park to play a soccer games with some of the locals. Then after we finished we went to the same park and gave some socks to the homeless and started some conversations. It was so much fun when Angelina and I went over to a group of people and just started a conversation. Then everyone else followed. Also one of my favorite parts was at the end of the day, we would sometimes go back to the church, eat dinner, and play a game. I love the games we played and the people I played with. My favorite part would have to be on our last night when me and all of my class mates all came together and just talked. We laughed, we cried, and yet I feel like we bonded more than ever before. I had a blast in Santa Barbara and I wish I could go back again.

From the glowing stars and moon to the ocean and lush grass, Santa Barbara was one, beautiful city full of so much to see. Going on our surf and serve trip was an amazing experience. Not only did I meet and interact with total strangers, but I met my own classmates in a different lens and now know them even better.  Surfing was one of my favorite things we did on our adventure. I really liked it because I felt peace and was astonished that I could acually do it. I also loved serving because I learn, every time, that just giving a smile can brighten someone’s day. Another reason I like it is because I get to listen to some amazing stories. The hike was also a highlight because I felt free and that I truly was in Gods creation. On the hike I enjoyed talking to my friends and watching Luke get covered with ants. There was moments of pure laughter, yet still some tears were shed. We sang, we danced, we played, we served, but we still got some sleep. Now that I’m home I wish I was still there with all my classmates along with me.

The trip to Santa Barbara
I liked it a lot! From getting closer with my classmates to doing all sorts of new stuff like getting out of my comfort zone to boogie board, surf, and hike to helping at homeless shelters and painting over graffiti. I loved just hanging out. My favorite part was surfing and meeting Augie at the homeless swap meet. On the hike, it was just beautiful to see everything.

My experience at California was unforgettable; I had loads of  fun as well as accidentally learning something that I would not have if  I had not gone.  I remember arriving at the airport, having just woke up at 4:45, not being in the best mood. However, something changed as the warm mud room of  DIA engulfed me in its recognizable and nostalgic scent. A stranger feeling that had entered me and never left until the fourth day. It was an old friend that I had always known and come across but never named. Change. Some love it, some find it uncomfortable, and
some need it. It was change; the one thing that made my typical days turn into memories. I’m no world-renown daredevil or completely ungrudging to try something I know little about. So the thought of  this trip to go near the Pacific Ocean and surf  and get wet and sandy was nothing but unsettling to me. Even as luggage, seats, and the whole plane trip had been dealt with, I was still reluctant to leave. Little did I know, this trip would be the very best outing I’ve ever been on
with any school. Although I learned a variety of  things, one was definitely to do things I don’t want to more freely. To accept change. “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” -George Bernard Shaw

Surf and serve in Santa Barbara was a life changing experience. The first day when we got into LAX, I already felt super happy and ready for the day ahead. The van ride to the church was extremely fun, and I had some great conversations and loved guessing state capitals. In-n-out burger was delicious, and I loved riding skateboards in the parking lot. By the time we got to the church, I knew it was going to be great because the church was so nice and the view was amazing. After we got settled in I was indefinitely excited to just do whatever we were going to do. When the beach was mentioned I was so pumped. The bike ride to the boardwalk was undoubtedly pretty and peaceful. Seeing the seal and pelican was crazy exiting. After dinner that night, we played charades. I had almost to much fun trying to guess what the people were doing and acting out things. I was vaguely excited for the next day I could barely fall asleep.
We woke up bright and early the next day and breakfast was amazing. I was excited for that day and it was amazing. I loved working at the garden and seeing the snails and lizards. I adored  giving the tree a haircut and dumping all the weeds in the trash. After the work was done the garden looked amazing and I felt so good about how it looked. We went back to the church to get ready to surf! When we got to the beach I was extremely scared the wetsuit wasn’t going to keep me warm, but it did! I was pretty confused at first, watching everyone, but when I finally got it, I stood up on my first wave! I was so pumped and I loved it because it felt like skateboarding on water. I caught a couple more waves, and we found sea cucumbers! Surfing was just such a good experience. The homeless shelter that we went to that night was really cool. Serving them and talking to them about Colorado was awesome. The church service was powerfully cool. That night was fun and dinner was astonishingly yummy.
The third day was full of serving. (Which I don’t mind) I enjoyed doing food prep at casa Esperanza and talking to that lady. She was so nice and I loved talking to her. She had pictures of her women of achievement. She talked to me about how you can print picture and I thought I was so cute how she was talking about that. Afterwards we went to play soccer with the other kids. I’m not a big fan of playing sports, but I played and then sat out for squirrel ball. I loved giving out socks and meeting that guys and his friends with the cool bike and riding it around. He was so nice and the other guys were really nice too.
The last day was very sad because we had to clean up and get packed up for our plane ride home. I did have loads of fun at the beach we went to though, even though I skinned my knee again and cut my foot, I still had a great time just resting and playing in the sand. The van ride to the airport was fun! I loved making jokes about football teams and joking around with what we were going to name our kids. The pier we stopped at was so beautiful and so fun, yet so peaceful! Plus, those ice cream sandwiches were amazing. I was sad to come home, and I think that’s a good thing because that means I had fun.

Reflections from a Pilgrimage by Team Fink

After a phenomenal discussion on our 2nd religious pilgrimage, I asked the students to write a succinct one to two sentence take away from our outing(s).  I thought it might be interesting for you to read.

Pilgrimage #2 takeaway: (Buddhist and Hindu Temple)

Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.

Religious are wonderfully different.

By knowing more you’re seeing more.

I don’t know how it’s going to work and how I’m gonna get there, but what I believe I know, that’s faith and through God and faith I’m gonna get to where I need to be.

We may have different beliefs or practice different religions, but still we are all people and human.

By knowing more about other religions you become closer with other people.

The more we don’t know about someone, the more we dehumanize them.

Discipline can draw us closer.

Religion is yet a great way to get closer to spiritual realm and can live life in peace and love and giving to others. At the same time Religion is like a war, a battle within.

The absence of knowledge is fear.

We have different beliefs, yet we are all human.

Differences can be beautiful.

A few other quotes we have been discussing:

“What if, instead of casting ourselves as people who can explain God to others, we viewed our lives as a void into which God speaks?”  –Selmanovich

“Religion is not the pearl, but the shell that holds the pearl.”   –Samir Selmanovich

“The human heart is an idol-making factory.” — John Calvin

“God rid me of God”.  –Meister Eckhart

Reflections from Costa Rica…

photo copy 17

Some Costa Rican reflections from the 8th grade class of Anastasis Academy:

“Reciprocal Evangelism”
Missions, evangelism, spreading the gospel.  What does this mean?  Are we called to convert people or simply love people?  How should we witness? Christ associated with all, served humbly, engaged in conversations, and showed compassion and love. They will know we are Christians  by our love.  We are the hands and feet of Christ. St. Francis advised us to, “go forth and preach, and if you have to, use words”.  God, thank you for  Riana, Caleb, Edith, Camilla, Johnny, Jherson, Mario, Walter, Marco, Fiorella, Alan, Bianca, Melody, Christian, Eric, Caesar, Sebastian, Ruth, Alana, Krsna, Fernando. — and so many more Ticos who encouraged and loved us.  Perhaps they were the true evangelists. Our prayer is that we were able to encourage and love them back.

“Universal Language”
When I commonly think about people speaking other languages, a barrier comes to mind that lies between the different languages because we can’t ‘communicate’. Then again, does communication have to be limited to talking? My 8th grade class all traveled to Costa Rica together, and we were able to first hand experience the universal language. This language could even be soccer. While some of the Tico’s and our class played a game of soccer we all found a common interest and joy. This language could also be music. While in the car, the radio was playing the song, Titanium by David Guetta in Spanish. Although, our class all sang it in English and the Tico’s sang in Spanish. This single moment was extremely powerful to me because we didn’t need to have a translator or use our hands to get a point of joy across. Everyone just was jamming to the music and having a good time. After this trip, I go back to the thought of the barrier and why it feels like there is a limit to each other. One day we went to a school and played games, made crafts and just hung out. At this school I meet a boy named Marko. Marko sat away from the other kids, so I went and sat with him asking if he needed any help with the craft. Although Marko spoke zero English and he spoke way too fast for me to even kind of understand what he was saying, I just sat there as he made his craft. I could tell he was unique and special. He made me feel very happy while I was with him, the kind of happy that words can’t amount to. This was a sublime moment I don’t think I could forget. This universal language only consists of emotion, because that is something every single living thing shares. Communication doesn’t only consist of the words to say, but the attitude and openness you share, so truly there is no barrier.

“Costa Rican inspiration”
Over the week we were in Costa Rica there were many things that inspired me, such as the attitudes of the Ticos. The attitudes of the kids in both the schools we went to were amazing, the people on the streets we saw on the first day, and our new friends from Conexion where amazing. The kids had little to nothing, yet they still had such amazing attitudes. They always had a smile on their faces. One day we went to a school and we played soccer on a patch of dirt with an old torn up soccer ball and two broken off slabs of concrete for each goal, and yet the kids still had a smile on their faces. In the U.S., the ball that they were using would be considered garbage, but they didn’t care it made them happy so they played it. Some times I wonder if its bad to have life as good as we do with all that we do, because all it brings is greed and anger.

On the first day we walked down the streets and nearly every person we saw had a smile on their face. When you are in the US and you smile at some one a lot of the time you  don’t do it because you care, but when you are walking down the streets of Costa Rica and some one smiles at you, you can just tell it is genuine. I want that to be me when I walk down the street and smile at some one. I want that smile to affect their day. And last but certainly not least our Conexion friends. Specifically Jhairson, Johnny, Mario, Caleb and Jonathon. These guys specifically had the most impact on me because they were always so welcoming and willing to help. They always made and served us our breakfast and dinner no matter how early or late we needed it, they also did it with a good attitude. When we were playing soccer no matter how bad we were, they always made us feel like we were doing ok. The way all these people acted inspired me to have a better attitude and help people more with a good and joyful attitude.

“Enjoy Coca Cola”
Simplicity is bliss. While in Costa Rica, my class and I learned about the simplicity of life in the Tico’s point of view. Their way of life is one full of joy; seeing the world as a pleasure, seeking the Holy Grail. They find pleasure in not the superficial things but the in-depth view of life. When we first arrived, we had lunch at a family’s house. As we ventured out of the van, I was confronted with a group of young kids playing baseball. Not only was this baseball, but the bat was a coke bottle and the ball a dog toy. Most American kids would expect a great bat and a real baseball, but not these kids. They make do with what they have and don’t complain. I truly believe simplicity is bliss and we take advantage of the things handed to us; instead we should find joy in little things.

“An Orientation of Sorts”
The sun was shining brightly, and we all were feeling optimistic, nervous, and exhausted all at the same time (But mostly optimistic). The Costa Rican air held traces of the sea and the sun (and livestock) as we wandered around the ginormous marketplace. Everyone around us was speaking Spanish, however, it felt natural in a way. As we threaded through the crowd, we were feeling exhilarated and ready for anything. Eventually, we stopped at La Parque de Central, or Central Park, to eat some fruit that we had purchased earlier, and eagerly surveyed the bustling streets of San Jose. We stopped at a large market full of interesting items, and ended up spending a large percent of our day there buying souvenirs for our families. As we rolled away from the beautiful, busy city that was San Jose, we were deeply satisfied with our day, and were excited for our short stay there in the gorgeous country of Costa Rica.

“It’s the Little Things”
Mission trips are often misinterpreted. The ‘normal’ Christian mentality is that we are going to go hand out bibles and convert everyone we see. But what is it really? I believe it’s the little things, like holding a child’s hand, or trying to speak with someone who doesn’t know your language, or simply making the effort to be loving. It is encouraging others and taking the initiative, not necessarily converting others. During our trip, I felt the most encouraged when I was speaking to this little girl named Camilla in Spanish about her doll she was making. We quietly sat there together as I watched her draw the people she cared most about.

“God laughs and plays”
Edith, one of the older volunteers with Conexion, was an inspiration to our team.  She did not speak a word of English but the joy of the Lord and the fruits of the spirit overflowed from her.  She always had a smile, went out of her way to serve, and did the jobs no one else wanted to do.  She prepared the arts and crafts, she swept up the room after the activity, she painted by hand the places the brushes weren’t reaching, she sang, she played soccer, and she worshipped God through her actions.   I had a standing joke with her that if she spoke her Spanish ‘mas rapido’ (quicker) to me, I would better understand.  She would carry on with the joke, speak super fast so I would be clueless, and then burst into laughter.  I saw God laugh, play, and serve through his Costa Rican vessel.  Thank you God for Edith!

“Meeting Alana”
It was our fourth day in Costa Rica, and we were driving down to help out at a school. We brought our art for the nations bags and laid out different activities for the kids. Micah and I were partners, and we didn’t talk as much to the kids as I intended to. Our fourth group came and it was a group of four girls. Once they sat down,  I remember thinking to myself, “Ok I am going to talk to these girls”. Well it turned out that they knew some English, and they kept asking me questions like “Where do you live”, or “How many siblings do you have”, etc. As the more I talked to them, the more I focused on this little girl. Her name was Alana, and she was the cutest little girl ever. She had brown hair, straight across bangs, big green eyes, and the most vivacious laugh. I still have the vision in my mind of her waving her little hand at me saying hello or goodbye. Alana reminded me as myself when I was little, just the way she laughs and smiles when she sees someone new. How loyal and welcoming she was just kind of reminded me of myself. The moment I knew we were friends was at the end, and we were all taking a picture, and I kneeled right next to her and she wrapped her arms around my neck and held on as tight as she could. Till this day, I can still see her smiling at me and I will never forget her.

“The Conexion team”
During the whole trip to Costa Rica, we were with an amazing team called Conexion. Everyone that is on the conexion team are volunteers. Yet what made this team special was their attitudes. Some of the Ticos, couldn’t even speak the same language, yet there were the most outgoing and amazing people. For instance, Johnny was our driver and sort of our tour guide. No matter what time in the morning he would be there and he would do everything with us. The day we left, our flight left at 6:30AM, but we had to be at the airport by no later than 4:45AM. When he showed up at the compound at 3:45 he still had an amazing attitude.  Another example would be with Jonathon and Caleb. They did not speak the same language as us, yet they still became our friends and had a huge impact on all of us. They always played soccer with us and would joke around with us. None of us cared if we spoke the same language because we could use the language of the world. Never let a language barrier stop you from letting you connect with others.

“Nature through my eyes”
God works in mysterious ways in nature. My first time in Costa Rica, and I saw more vegetation than I ever have before. Costa Rica’s nature is so breathtakingly beautiful that you can’t even comprehend it all.  Sure there may be garbage and stray dogs, but if you look deeper, you see Gods array of colors and beauty. A couple of people from my class and I went to walk on the beach one evening, and a stray dog started to follow us around. At first we were obdurate towards the dog and tried to get him to leave, but when we noticed that he never intended to hurt us, we let him tag along. It turns out he was full of energy and was pretty good at making sure no harm came to us. These little things make you think differently about a lot of what’s going on in others lives besides our own. When we made it to the beach that night, I couldn’t see as much as I wanted to, but the smells and sounds made me feel at peace with everything. Humans never seem to live in the moment anymore and that really can cost us later. The one thing I regret from being in Costa Rica is not taking in everything and not continually ‘living in the moment’.

“Pura Vida”
The skyline gates, the dirt ground, the children in this school, and the sun shining so bright.  These kids can have their days lit up by a simple smile from my face. Their simple lives are inspiring, with such little they have, I was blessed to have the opportunity to even play soccer with these wonderful kids. A little girl named Melody and I were making beaded bracelets and I showed her how to braid the string with beads. She made my day with how every time she added a bead she would tap my shoulder to show me with her bright eyes and huge toothless grin. She inspires me everyday to be aware of how a simple smile can change a person’s attitude for the day or even the week. The second school I went to, I was making paper chains and a boy named Christian came up to my station and asked me to make him a flower. I tried my hardest to make the best flower possible. I later saw him give his paper flower to a little girl from a younger grade who was sitting alone and the smile on her tiny face was unforgettable. After that, children came up in dozens asking for flowers! It was amazing how a mere paper flower can make these kids, with near to nothing, smile. These experiences make me think how good I have my life as far as shelter, clothes, water, food, and family. God can do great things.

Thank you to Conexion, Impact, Sascha, our parents, and our school for supporting us and allowing us to do this unforgettable trip!  This opportunity gave us a great dose of “Pura Vida” that we will not soon forget.

Mr. Fink and the Great 8!!

We are Anastasis: Parent Perspective (My Day as an 8th Grader)

The following letter was written by Anastasis parent Amy Whitehouse.  Amy has 4 students that attend Anastasis: a kindergartener, fourth grader, seventh grader and eighth grader.  Amy generously agreed to allow us to post her letter here.
I am completely blown away.  I’m not sure what I expected, but any expectations I had, have been far exceeded.  We started with Mr. Matt in devotions talking about Grace, and how God grants us grace day after day.  His ability to engage the kids while teaching God’s lesson was impressive.  I found myself wanting to come back to chapel each day and learn again as a child learns.
We then moved upstairs with Mr. Fink and the most amazing eight girls I’ve ever been around.  We were shown three pictures and asked to use one word to describe the picture.  Twice, I found myself with no word.  Not the girls though, they pulled words from their vocabulary lists that fit the picture in such detail, and yet sometimes in obscure ways.  Another mom and I kept looking at each other with bewilderment in our eyes.  I kept thinking…these are not the same girls that I knew just two years ago.  These girls carry themselves with such confidence.  They are not afraid of failure, so they are empowered to speak.  They throw out ideas and the depth of their conversations is actually something you can’t fathom until you witness it first hand.  We were next shown two pictures and were told to write a paragraph setting up the scene.  I had written a paragraph, but after listening to the girls, chose not to share mine. 🙂  These girls are further ahead than I am at 40!  Mr. Fink is inspiring.  The way he looks at the girls and validates what they say, is a gift given to these girls.  He listens with his whole being, and looks them in the eyes.
With his words and actions, he tells these girls over and over again during the day that they matter.  That they can be game changers.  That they can go into the world and make a difference.
Before lunch, we took a math test, which I failed horribly (even with cheating), and we were challenged to a competition.  Fink asked us questions off the Citizenship Test, and the kids won 27-8.  We were annihilated.  Enough said.
Next was our first Anastasis Communion.  This was absolutely beautiful.  It’s hard to describe in words what transpired.  All the classes gave presentations on what they have learned from Mr. Matt’s teachings this week.  Each class presentation was completely different and yet so true to who they are, and where they are in life.
Next, Mr. Matt, Mr. A, and the teachers gave each child bread and juice representing Jesus’ body and blood shed for us.  They looked deep into each child’s eyes and spoke life into them.  I about cried as I heard Mr. Matt say, “Tommy, you know that Jesus died just for you?  Do you realize Tommy, Jesus loves you and did this for YOU??”  Beautiful. We then separated into classes, and every teacher prayed a blessing over their own class.  I was able to listen to three different prayers, and literally felt the power of God’s love prayed out over my kids.
Matthew then prayed over the entire school.  The Holy Spirit was alive and active.  Many of us actually felt “electricity” through our legs, myself included.  My 10-year-old told me she physically felt the Holy Spirit enter her body.  Her legs went numb, she started sweating, and her glasses fogged up.  She knew it was the Spirit entering her body.  Amazing.
Next….more school work to do.  Mr. Fink had us watch a film called “Baraka.”  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it, as there is so much to this film.  But my take-away is we all get so caught up with our own agendas, our stuff, our goals, etc. that we find ourselves in the middle of a wound up bundle of chaos.  God has so much more in store for us, but do we take time to be quiet and listen to that still, small voice?
We ended with dodgeball.  I’m telling you….those 8th grade girls are tough!!
I’m so thankful to Lance for extending the invitation for parents to come and be a part of our kids life at Anastasis.  We as parents get so wrapped up with the details of math, grammar, spelling, etc. which are important, but at the end of the day, there is so much more to life and “education.”  I saw kids who KNOW who they are.  I saw kids understand that God loves them completely.  I saw my own daughter FEEL the Holy Spirit enter her body.  I saw my 8th grader standing tall with confidence which needed to be rebuilt.  I saw time and time again teachers speaking truth and words of LIFE into our kids.  I saw teachers faces light up when a child approached them.  This speaks to our kids hearts.  This is living for Jesus.  This is what matters.  This is what I witnessed today at Anastasis Academy.  What our teachers teach, can’t be labeled with a grade, or put into a box.  They are teaching outside of the box, and in turn, our kids will learn to live outside of the box.  Jesus was never one to live inside a box, and He certainly didn’t request that we do so.  I could not be more filled with thankfulness to God for giving Matthew and Kelly the vision for our school, and for hand-picking each and every teacher who spends 40 hours a week speaking life and truth into my children’s lives.
So full of thankfulness and joy!!