2011 PCC Family Retreat in Mission Springs

Ummm, yeah. That was a fun weekend and yes, that’s Stephanie and I in the hillbilly outfits. We were the emcees for the weekend and it was awesome. Our church rules.

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  • The Hupfer’s are heading to the Congo!
  • Our Congo presentation and why we need the Congo more than the Congo needs us
  • Getting into the Christmas spirit in Indiana

  • Happy Tuesday, Internets

    happytuesdayinternets

    Yep, that’s me. Happy Tuesday, everyone.

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  • How Reddit Has Helped Me Become A Stronger Christian

    redditalienatheismfinal

    A Brief History Of Reddit In My Life

    Besides checking my email and using Twitter and Facebook I would say that I don’t have a whole lot of browsing habits when it comes to how I consume information and entertain myself on the Internet. The fact that I am a type of web surfing gypsy traveling from one random website or app to another doesn’t really surprise me much considering that I have never consistently watched a tv show or subscribed to a magazine or newspaper. Maybe it stems from my deep-rooted fear of commitment and any type of structure in my life (which I’ve obviously been dealing with more and more the past few years).

    But, somehow despite all this I have somehow developed one of my first habits/addictions when it comes to perusing the Internet. This addiction is Reddit and believe me, I never saw it coming.

    Reddit, at least to me, is an awesome community that prides itself on finding the best of the web on a daily (and most of the time hourly) basis. The entire site is one big and super-active online social experiement that has been built up into one of the most visited and most influential places on the entire internet. I know that sounds like a big statement, but it’s true. If you need proof just read the story about how one random post on Reddit quicly turned into Stephen Colbert staging a full-fledged rally in Washington D.C. and over $100,000 being donated to his favorite charity. Yeah, I was pretty impressed, too.

    Of course, even when the Reddit community is busy pulling off large-scale, national events they’re still the best source on the web for the most up-to-date, hilarious, shocking and interesting news on the web. That’s what Reddit was built for, it’s their bread and butter and it always will be. This constant flow of interesting news is the main reason why I first started making it a habit to check out Reddit via an app called Reddit Is Fun on my Android phone — multiple times a day. When Stephanie got an Android for Christmas last year she started checking Reddit all of the time, too which sometimes results in both of us browsing it in bed, in complete silence before we crash for the night. Yeah, it’s that’s good.

    Reddit And Atheism Go Together Like Peanut Butter And Jelly

    Just like with any healthy relationship, Reddit and I have our fair share of ups and downs. Although more times than not I feel like Reddit is a good-hearted community that pulls off some really amazing stuff, the one thing that I could do without is all of the Christian bashing that goes on over there all the time.

    Personally, I’m not new to being around non-Christians — a lot of my friends, family and co-workers belong to that way of thinking, but the fact that Redditors can and often take it to a ridiculous level makes me question myself on why I continue to visit the community as much as I do. If you want an example of what I’m talking about you can take a quick browse over their incredibly active Atheism section. You’ll quickly see that nearly every, single post is against Christianity although Atheism is clearly defined as “someone who denies the existence of god”, not as being anti-Christian. Why they choose to focus on Christianity probably has to do with the fact that it’s the major religion in the United States, but it still doesn’t make much sense.

    Should Christians Even Read Reddit?

    As a Christian I need to constantly analyze where I’m spending my time and sometimes I feel like I should cut Reddit out of my life completely. Even though that might seem a little much considering that Reddit is just another app on my phone that helps me kill time, it was an important thing for me to recognize and has resulted in me spending a lot of time thinking and praying about how I should react to what I see posted on there.

    One powerful thing that I’ve realized is that even though it’s a constant struggle to see the types of things that get posted on Reddit, I’m willing to deal with them and it’s actually a healthy way for me to face the more common objections to Christianity. By seeing what most Atheists cling to as their main objections to Christianity it allows me to question my own faith, which then results in me digging more into the Bible and talking with other Christians about it.

    Most of the time this leads me to an answer that is aligned with my Christian beliefs, which is great since I’m then armed with something new when speaking to others about my faith. It’s not an easy process and it takes some dedication, but it’s one that I think works for me.

    So in other words, being exposed to the anti-Christians on Reddit has actually made me a stronger Christian. Pretty interesting, huh?

    Note: initially this was going to be a post about how it was nice to see a video posted by Christian musicians on the front page of Reddit (for a good reason), but I ended going in a different direction. I think this works, too so it’s all good. See the video below.

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  • A Walk With the Family in Golden Gate Park

    Today after we got back from church Stephanie and I witnessed a miracle, it was actually sunny outside (it’s been really, really rainy lately). To celebrate we decided that we would pull ourselves away from our wide array of screens for a couple of hours and go take advantage of the fact that we live about 50 feet away from one of the best parks in the entire world. That park, for all of you who don’t know, is Golden Gate Park and it’s kinda like the bomb.

    We were excited to go snag some of the sun so we hurried up and got ready, grabbed Frank and headed out for a two hour stroll. Of course, when you head out for a walk in San Francisco you almost always end up seeing something you weren’t necessarily expecting. I guess that’s one of the perks of living here. Here are a couple of things that we didn’t really expect to see during our walk — enjoy.

    The first thing that caught our attention was a huge crowd of all different types of people who were playing drums, dancing and singing together. It was nothing like we had ever seen before, kinda like a freestyle mashup of all different types of people who all happened to be hanging out at the same place at the same time. I even saw a couple of guys rockin’ a didgeridoo, which was pretty sweet.

    The group was made up of black people, white people, Asian people, homeless people, little kids, hippies, hipsters and who knows who else. Even though they were all as different as could be, somehow it all just worked. This is something that I’ve noticed a lot since living in San Francisco — people can be as weird as they want and as long as they’re being themselves it all seems to work out.

    As we walked through the crowd we had to stop and take it all in for a few minutes. During those few minutes I saw a young couple get yelled at by a homeless guy, an older man with a white beard scream like crazy to the beat of the drums and a younger hippie woman dance in non-stop circles. I also saw several guys with maracas.

    There was a mother and daughter who were having fun, too. The little girl was dancing around and playing the drums. It was super cute.

    After we left the drumming extravaganza we thought that we couldn’t top it. That is, until we walked up to the roller skating rink. Yes, there’s a roller skating rink in Golden Gate Park. We both really enjoyed the guy with the streamers.

    Of course, we had to stop and snap a shot of the family. Awww, how cute. :)

    Our walks are always awesome and they’re one of the few times when Stephanie and I can unplug from everything and actually talk to each other about some of the things that have been on our minds, which is super important for old, married couples like us. We both like to stay busy during the week, but making time for hanging out together is super important and something that we always need to make a priority. To be honest, I’m not always happy to be pulled away from my laptop, but when Stephanie does it I’m always thankful afterward. What an awesome wife, huh?

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  • Our Congo presentation and why we need the Congo more than the Congo needs us

    A couple of weeks ago Stephanie and I joined Gary, Anthony and Joan in a presentation about our mission trip to the Congo. It was on a Thursday night and everyone who was interested in hearing about our trip were invited to come out and listen to some of our stories. The presentation was a way for us to share some of the amazing experiences we had while over in the Congo as well as a way to cloose the loop on the entire trip from a church-wide perspective.

    What I mean by closing the loop is that by inviting everyone out and allowing them to hear and see what we did while we were in the Congo it lets them get a better feel for why we went, what we did while we were there and how it has affected us. This is a very important thing to do as the church body gives a lot of money each year to support both short and long-term mission trips, so it’s good for them to see where the money goes and how it gets spent. It also brings back a strong sense of being part of a church community that is doing some incredible things (like going to the Congo) in the name of God, which is also very important.

    Before the presentation all of us decided that we wanted to tell our story of the Congo in a way that was beyond just listing out our goals for the trip and how we checked each one off of one by one. Instead of talking about how we helped out the people of the Congo with this and that we decided to put more of a focus on the realtionships we built why we were there and how we’ve realized that we need the Congo (and these relationships) much more than the Congo needs us. Each of us chose someone who we had built a strong connection with while being over in the Congo, which ended up being a pretty easy decision for all of us. We felt like by focusing on these relationships we built as opposed to the things that we did everyone would get a much better sense of what truly impacted us while being in the Congo.

    Stephanie quickly chose Sarah, who became an amazing friend of ours during the trip. Sarah has one of the most amazing stories of survival that I’ve ever heard and despite the fact that she has been educated in the United States and could get a job with pretty much anyone she wanted, she still chooses to make her home in the Congo where she is making an incredible impact. She’s super awesome and she has a pet monkey. Like I said, awesome.


    Sarah gets ready to translate Gary’s sermon to over 2,000 pastors. No pressure.


    Sarah strikes a pose in her house

    When it was my turn to present I talked about two guys who made a big impact on my trip, Texa and Zubusu. Texa and Zubusu are some of the most loyal and hard-working guys I have ever met. They both live and have families in Kinshasa, but they always seem to be traveling throughout the Congo helping out the church in any way that they can. Texa was our main contact while we were in Kinshasa at the beginning and end of our trip, which meant that he was there to pick us up when we first arrived in the Congo (I was never so happy to see him) and he also made sure that everything went smooth on our way out. Like I said many, many times while being over there — Texa is my homeboy.


    Texa poses with his kids and Zubusu’s wife and kids

    Zubusu, my other Congolese homeboy, is one of the best dressed guys I’ve ever met and as Gary puts it so perfectly, “is a beautiful man”. Wherever the president of the church was, that’s where Zubusu was, too. Like me, Zubusu has a serious passion for taking photos and video which meant that he was always running around getting great footage of all the people and places he saw each day. If he wasn’t holding a camera he was usually translating Lingala for us and doing other things that helped make us all feel as comfortable as possible. Like Gary said, Zubusu’s a beautiful man.


    Zubusu and Gary at the pastor’s conference before the opening service

    After the presentations we showed a video that I was asked to put together as a way to highlight some of what we did during the trip. The fact that I was forced to have something ready to show finally motivated me to edit up some of the hours and hours of video we recorded while being there. It wasn’t easy to squeeze 3 weeks of a trip into 3 minutes of video, but I think that it will give you a good sense of what life is like in the Congo and will also show you some of the experiences we were able to have while we were there. You can view the video below or over here.

    As you can see, we definitely need the Congo a lot more than the Congo needs us.

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  • How having a little fun helped 1800CONTACTS.com give me fantastic customer service

    Let’s get one thing straight, we live in a world where the customer is always right. Heck, most of the time even when customers aren’t right they still feel like they should be treated like they are. I guess that it only seems right to feel this way, doesn’t it? I mean, if we’re spending our hard-earned cash on a product or service then they had better go above and beyond to make sure that we, the consumer is as happy as humanly possible. Sorta makes senses, right?

    With all that being said I personally think that some people can get a little too carried away with how they treat some of the customer service people who have to deal with their company’s day-to-day issues. You see these types of front-line customer-facing employees pretty much everywhere you go. It could be someone working the register at McDonald’s drive-thru, a Starbucks barista or even more common nowadays a phone or email customer service rep. No matter where you see them there’s one thing that’s true across the board, they have to put up with a lot of crazy people on a daily basis (see McDonald’s Chicken Nugget drive-thru lady on YouTube or below to see what I mean).

    Unlike the women in that video I’m sure that some customer reps actually deserve to deal with some of the upset customers that they come in contact with (that’s just part of the cost in doing business), but no matter what has happened I don’t think that anyone has the right to treat them in a way that’s demeaning or disrespectful. They’re just doing their job and most of the time they had nothing to do with the reason why the customer is having a problem in the first place. They’re just at the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s all.

    I bring all of this up because whenever I’m dealing with any type of customer service employee I try to make sure to not only treat them with respect, but I also try to break up some of the monotony of their day with a little bit of unexpected weirdness. A large part of my job at isocket is handling customer support so I definitely have some empathy for the types of things that customer service people deal with on a daily basis. This is why when I needed to contact the customer service peeps over at 1800CONTACTS.com I decided to have a little fun with the emails and chats I had with them.

    cheesycontactuspage
    I didn’t really need to include this screenshot, but I LOVE that cheesy photo

    Let me give you a little background. A couple of weeks ago I needed some new contacts so I shipped out a couple of boxes to my old address in San Francisco. I totally did it on accident and when I completed the order I had the bright idea that they would still probably find their way to me at my new address on their own. I mean, my mail was still being forwarded, so why wouldn’t my contacts be forwarded, too? Well I’ll tell you why — when you’re shipping something with UPS or FedEX and use the wrong address they don’t simply forward it to your new address. They have no idea where your new address even is so it’s pretty much impossible.

    It took me a couple of weeks to realize this (yeah, I’m a little slow), but when I did I had a couple of thoughts go through my head. First, I felt like an idiot for thinking that my contacts would still get to me even though I used the wrong address. Second, I realized that I needed to get in touch with the 1800CONTACTS customer service people asap to see what I needed to do to get the contacts that I has already ordered.

    After I realized the mistake I had made I headed on over to the 1800CONTACTS website and first sent out a quick email to their customer support team. I really wanted to make sure they knew how I felt about the situation and that I was truly concerned for the safety of my lost contacts. Here’s what I wrote:

    –Original Message–
    From: ryan.hupfer@gmail.com
    Date: 2/25/2011 1:24:02 PM
    To: info@1800contacts.com
    Subject: Status of Order

    Ok, so I was an idiot and ended up shipping my new contacts to my old address. Is there any way that I can see what has happened to them? I don’t want them to be walking the streets of San Francisco all lonely and depressed. Who knows what kinds of trouble is just waiting for a brand new box of contacts in this city…it’s scary when you think about it.

    At least I bought two boxes so that they can look to each other for support when times get tough.

    But I don’t want to think about all of the bad things that could be happening and want to try to get them home to me as soon as possible. Please help us re-unite and make everything well in the world of me and my contacts!

    Thanks for your help and I hope to hear from you soon.

    Ryan Hupfer

    After that I noticed that they also had a live chat feature (which we also use at isocket), so I figured I should give that a shot, too. Only this time instead of getting help as myself I decided that I would chat with the customer service rep as a box of contacts. Here’s how I started the chat session:

    1800contatcs

    When the chat first started I was curious to see how the rep would react to my harmless fun and I wanted to see if she would ever refer to me as a Ryan Hupfer’s lost box of contacts instead of Ryan Hupfer the customer. Throughout the chat session I stayed true to being a box of contacts and as you can see below in the dialogue the rep who I was chatting with started to play along just a little bit. Here are some of my favorite highlights of the chat.

    At this point she wasn’t breaking the script, so I kept trying even harder:

    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: so I’m lost
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: and I’ve been shipped to the wrong place
    Shelley : HI, Ryan. Welcome.
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: (I’m a box of contacts from 1800contacts by the way) — I just hopped on a free connection at a library
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: so Ryan apparently shipped me and another box to the wrong address
    Shelley : I am so sorry your lenses were lost! I am happy to help correct the shipping address on your account and get a new package sent to you.
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: any way that we can make our way back to him?
    Shelley : Okay, no problem.
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: I’m hoping that Ryan has updated his contact info
    Shelley : One moment while I take a look at your account.

    This is when she let me know that new contacts were going to be sent out with next day shipping (which is awesome). Of course, I was still trying to get her to acknowledge me as a Ryan’s lost box of contacts, which she finally did in the last couple of  lines below — sorta:

    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: Ok, so you’re sending a new box of contacts to Ryan then?
    Shelley : Since your other package was lost, I will send this new package to you with our next business day shipping and signature required to ensure you receive your lenses.
    Shelley : Yes, that is correct.
    Shelley : Will someone be in the office to sign for your package?
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: What will happen to me and the box that’s with me since we’re lost?
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: …and yes, someone should be at his office to sign
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: from M-F
    Shelley : Perfect.
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: I’m still scared for what’s going to happen to me. Will I end up at your warehouse? I liked that place.
    Shelley : The lost package will usually come back to us as a “return to sender” package.
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: SWEET - I hope you’re right
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: It’s raining and I’m getting tired
    Shelley : If you end up with Ryan, then we will send a prepaid shipping label with your new lenses so you can return them back to us.
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: Wow, that’s great — you sure do know how to treat a box of contacts
    Shelley : Thank you.
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: I knew I loved you guys
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: you’re the best
    Shelley : Thank you so much.
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: I’m sure Ryan appreciates it, too
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: :)

    I ended up closing out the chat by telling the rep just how much Ryan will appreciate their help and then I finally break character and tell her thanks for chatting with me:

    Shelley : You will receive an email confirmation as soon as your new lenses ship out to let you know they are on their way. After that, you can expect them the next business day or no later than Monday, 2/28/11.
    Shelley : What else may I help you with today?
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: You mean Ryan will receive a notification? Cool.
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: He’ll like that.
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: Nope, that’s it — I can;t wait to be shipped back to see my other contact friends!
    Shelley : Great!
    Shelley : What else may I help you with today?
    Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: That’s it — you rock and thanks for playing along. :)
    Shelley : You’re welcome.
    Shelley : Thanks for chatting with me today.

    This chat was a lot of fun and just a few minutes later I also got a response from the support email that I had sent in earlier. Who says that being a good customer and having a little fun doesn’t pay off?

    Hello Ryan,

    Thanks for your email today, really made my day. I have replaced your order for you and you should receive it on Monday, February 28th. If you haven’t received your order by that date please give us a call and we will take care of it for you.

    If there is anything else we may help you with please don’t hesitate to let us know. You may reply to this email or contact us at 1-800-266-8228.

    Keep up the great attitude and have a wonderful weekend Ryan!

    Shana

    1-800 CONTACTS Customer Service Representative
    Phone: 1-800 CONTACTS (1-800-266-8228)
    E-mail: info@1800contacts.com
    Address: 51 West Center St, Orem, UT 84057

    I’m definitely going to remember this the next time that I need some quick help from customer service. Who would have thought that being fun could help me get my contacts quicker? I’m sure that they would have gotten back to me even if I hadn’t put in the extra effort to be goofy, but I doubt that it would have been so quick. Besides, it’s good to know that I’m helping someone else have just a little more fun doing their job which is pretty awesome, too.

    Moral of the story? Take care of customer service reps and even have a little fun with them if you want to be taken care of right back. Sounds simple enough, but much harder to implement in the heat of the “I need some customer service now!” moment.

    Have any other awesome customer service stories to share? Post ‘em in the comments so that we can all see!

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  • The Wheel of Misfortune

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    Some people watch Wheel of Fortune every single night and dream about one day spinning the wheel and winning some serious cash alongside Vanna White and Pat Sajak. Other people who have never watched Wheel of Fortune (*cough* *cough*) randomly run into an audition in Las Vegas, end up getting picked to be on the show and have the worst luck, ever. I’ll let you decide which type of people we were. If you need help, check out the video of our show below or over here on YouTube.

    Even though we only walked away with a consolation prize of $2,000 (see a quick recap of the game here) Stephanie and I both feel like the experience was totally worth it. We got to hang in Vegas a few times, be on one of the most popular game shows in the world, meet some amazing people, hang with Vanna and Pat and still walk away with enough cash to pay for our flights. Not a bad deal if you ask me (although we would have looked A-MA-ZING in that red Mercedes SUV).

    To close out this post, here are a few awesome shots that our friend Alfred took off of his DVR recording. A few things I’d like explain — 1. I was pointing at EVERYTHING for some reason, not real sure why 2. Stephanie makes that million dollar wedge look GOOD, doesn’t she? and 3. Pat Sajak is my homeboy!

    screen-shot-2011-02-08-at-63224-am
    This is the wedding photo that we decided to put on the show — check out the full version below

    hupwed0108
    What’s a Hupfer wedding without the Chicken Limo? (we took this on our first date)

    screen-shot-2011-02-08-at-63735-am
    I’m not really sure why I was pointing so much, but it seemed like a good idea at the time

    screen-shot-2011-02-12-at-62009-am
    Yep, Pat Sajak is my homeboy. It’s true.

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  • Back from the Congo and how we learned to expect the unexpected

    img_1007-large
    yet another unexpected experience in the Congo

    Well, it’s been about three weeks since I’ve posted any updates (whoops). I promise that it’s not because I haven’t wanted to. I would have loved to hop online and post about something about some of the incredible people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had. But, unfortunately I wasn’t able to due to the fact that there wasn’t a decent internet connection within 15-20 kilometers of where I was staying. My expectations before I left was that I’d be able to keep you updated, but one of the first things I learned after arriving to the Congo was that nothing is as you expect it to be and everything can change in a matter of minutes.

    For instance, we thought that we were going to be dropped off at the airport in Gemena and head to Kinshasa around 10am last Saturday. It seemed like it would be a fairly straight forward day to me. We would get up, eat breakfast and then be notified after our jet arrived by someone at the airport so we could drive over and take off shortly after. But, like I said, things change quickly in the Congo and the night before we were planning on leaving the plans changed completely.

    Mossai Sanguma, the president of the CEUM and our awesome host while being in the Congo told us that we were changing up the schedule a bit due to the fact that some head honchos from the World Bank were coming in on a private jet into Gemena and that his presence (along with many other local Congolese leaders) was needed to welcome them in. As I asked some questions about why the representives from the World Bank were making the trip to Gemena he told me that they had been working together on a $120 million dollar agriculture project that was recently approved and is set to begin soon in Gemena. It was a big investment and a big deal for the city of Gemena and the local officials wanted to make sure that the people flying in were received with a proper Congolese welcome that showed them how happy they were to see them.

    Just like that our seemingly normal trip to the local airport was turned into an experience that I’ll never forget and once again what we initially expected was flipped upside down and turned 180 degrees into something completely different.

    Instead of being dropped off by one of Sanguma’s drivers he ended up driving us, along with some of his most trusted church officials to the airport around 9:00am. When the guard in front of the airport saw who was driving us he quickly said hello to the president and raised the red and white striped gate so that we could park. Instead of driving into the regular parking lot we made our way to what was a type of VIP-only building that was reserved only for the who’s who of Gemena and apparently that included Sanguma. Just like the rest of trip none of us asked questions and just followed him in.

    The VIP building included several nice-looking couches and a front row view of the airport runway. When we first arrived we were the first people there, but quickly more and more city officials, miltary leaders and religious represenatives made there way into the building as well. There was also a good-sized crowd forming outside of the building which was made up of the local people of Gemena. Some were playing musical instruments while others were holding huge banners and branches filled with green leaves. All of them were preparing to to sing and dance like crazy once the World Bank officials showed up. Once the band started playing I even saw one woman who was waving around a chicken while she danced and sang to the music.

    img_0997-large
    Sanguma chatting with some of the local officials in the VIP

    img_0999-large
    Stephanie, me and Joan in the airport VIP


    the crowd was ready to celebrate


    this woman was so excited that she was waving around a live chicken!


    the band was getting the crowd fired up

    As our jet arrived and was ready for us to board, the crowd only continued to get bigger and only sang louder and louder. The amount of joy and excitement was contagious and I couldn’t help but feel the joy and anticipation that they had for the arrival of their guests. Unfortunately we had to take off before they arrived, but I can only imagine the amount of celebrating that went on at that airport once they did. One thing that the Congolese people can do is celebrate and that day they were pulling out all the stops. We all felt blessed to be a part of it and like I said, it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

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  • We made it to the Congo and my thoughts during the 34+ hours it took us to get here.

    2011-01-10_05-55-07_865-small
    the Congo crew before takeoff. Me, Stephanie, Joan, Anthony and Gary

    The First Flight (San Francisco to Washington, DC)

    Right now I’m sitting on a huge United Boeing 767. I’m sitting next to Stephanie and as she is reading over some history of the orphanage in the Congo while listening to an episode of The Office they’re showing on the in-flight TVs. I can’t help but think about how in a couple of flights from now we’ll both be smack dab right in the middle of Kinshasa (The capital of the Congo). Everything that we’ve grown used to and everything that makes us comfortable is about to be stripped away and replaced with about 40lbs of luggage a piece and a few carry-ons
    To be honest, I feel great — especially considering the fact that I went to bed last night around midnight and had to wake up after sleeping under 4 hours later (I like to call it napping). Mentally I couldn’t feel  more on point. Stephanie and I woke up at 3:45am, left our place around 4:45am and met Sharon (one of our mission leaders) at my office in Burlingame at 5:30am so that we could be at the airport at 5:45am. Everything went super smooth and we were all checked in for our flight and through security with still enough time to grab some tasty airport food court breakfast. As we said goodbye to our luggage and to Sharon we all prayed together and thanked God for giving us the chance to go on this mission trip and asked that us, along with our luggage makes it all the way across the world. That’s not too much to ask, right?

    Physically my arm is still really sore from that last-minute Tetnus shot that I got at Walgreens a couple of nights ago and it’s also given me a little bit of a fever, but hopefully all of that will go away by the time we make it into the Congo. I need to be on top of my game and full of energy so that Stephanie and I can go hang out in Kinshasa the day after we arrive.

    Speaking of arriving in Kinshasa, we’re currently flying from San Francisco to Washington D.C., which is about a four and a half hour flight. We’re all supposed to stay awake for this flight, which is why I’m trying to occupy my time with typing this. After we arrive in Washington, D.C. we’ll hop on another flight to Brussels, Belgium which will be a longer seven to eight hour flight. We’re supposed to sleep for the duration of that flight so that when we arrive in Brussels (where it will be morning) we’ll be rested up and ready to stay awake for a while. We’ll then take off from Brussels and will head to Kinshasa, which is our final destination. It will be around 11pm in Kinshasa, so at that point we’ll all crash at a hostel for the night and will wake up the next day for a full day in Kinshasa.

    I’m super-excited for this day in the big city and I’m hoping that Stephanie and I will be able to venture out a little bit and soak up some of the local culture. From what I hear it’s pretty safe, but I’m sure it will still freak me out a little bit at first. It usually tales me a couple of days to adapt to a new place, but even before then I really enjoy the rush of being in such a different environment. I’m getting pumped just thinking about it right now.

    Up until this point things have been smooth and fairly uneventful, but I’m not going to get used to it. I know that in the upcoming weeks Stephanie and I will be experiencing things that we can’t even imagine at this point, but until then I guess I’ll just sit here on my laptop and enjoy the comforts of the civilized world for just a few more hours. Now, where’s that flight attendant with my oranje juice?

    The Third Flight (Brussels to Congo)

    It’s now two flights and about 22 hours later and we’re all flying in a Brussels Airlines Airbus A 330. Thanks to Joan we’ve figured out that our entire travel time to Kinshasa is right around 30 hours and we’ve all been trying to sleep just the right amount so that we’re not completely jet-lagged once we get to Kinshasa. The last flight, which was from Washington D.C. to Brussels, Belgium, was the was supposed to provide us with a good nights sleep as we’d be arriving there in the morning. Thanks to their sleep masks and noise cancelling headphones Gary and Anthony were ready to catch as much shut-eye as possible during the 8 hour flight. I crashed out after watching The Social Network and Stephanie and Joan got some quality nap time in as well. The flight ended up leaving D.C. about two hours later than scheduled, which burned through a majority of the three and a half hour layover we were supposed to have in Brussels. There was something wrong with the gas gauges, which I’m guessing are pretty important? We unfortunately had to skip the big Belgium breakfast and head directly to our next flight, but we were just happy to make it there before it took off (there’s only one flight per day to Kinshasa).

    Although we didn’t have much time in the Brussels airport I could still tell that the workers there were much nicer and easy going than the ones that I’m used to dealing with at home. The people who were working security all had great attitudes and seemed to be having fun while working a job that most don’t usually enjoy. The flight attendants on this flight are also really fun and we have had a great time talking to them so far. Also, the food that they gave us was ridiculously tasty for an airline meal and included chicken, mashed potatoes, veggies, a wedge of brie, a roll, a bar of chocolate (Stephanie stole mine) and some kind of desert pastry. It’s probably the first time that I’ve ever cleaned my plate during a flight.

    In other interesting news I can’t find my wallet (don’t worry, I still have my passport), my contacts are getting really dry and this flight is full of really interesting people. Some of them can’t speak any English which makes common things like asking how someone’s doing much more difficult than usual. I should probably start getting used to it.

    UPDATE: I just chatted with my co-worker Jason and he said I left my wallet in the office on the way out. Sweet!

    Our next stop is Kinshasa, which is going to be more different and culturally overwhelming than anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m excited and nervous all at the same time and I’m feeling like I need to get myself prepared spiritually for the environment I’m jumping head first into. It’s getting close to game time and I want to be sure that I’m as ready as I can be.

    Next stop, Kinshasa.

    Arrival In Kinshasa

    It’s a little after midnight Congo time and I’m sitting in one of the apartments at the Methodist/Presbyterian Hostel (MPH) which is located in Kinshasa. As far as hostels go this is really a nice place and it’s got good food, hot showers, air conditioning in the rooms, indoor plumbing and a halfway decent wi-fi connection (which we won’t have much of after today). After 34+ hours of travel it’s nice to be able to clean up and get one really good night’s sleep before waking up tomorrow and heading out into Kinshasa.

    The rest of the flight from Brussels into Kinshasa was about as smooth as could be and all I kept wondering about was why the rest of the hundred or so people on the plane were heading to the Congo and what their story was. I’m sure they’re all interesting.

    I met one guy named Charles who was Canadian, worked for the UN in Norway and was heading to Goma (which is on the East side of the Congo) to find and detain members of the Congolese police and army who commit sexual crimes. This pretty much blew my mind. The guy was sitting behind me playing Angry Birds on his iPad and for the next six months he’s going to be hunting out the men who are raping women, children and other men as a strategic way to instill fear into the people of the Eastern Congo. I can’t even come close to imaging what he sees and deals with on a day-to-day basis working for the UN here in the Congo. He also looked out for us as we made our way through customs and grabbed our luggage. I feel like I met him for a reason and that God was having him watch over us as we made our way through the madness of the airport. We needed all the help we could get.

    Speaking of the Kinshasa airport, I have no idea how that thing works. We first walked down a set of stairs off the plane in muggy 75 degree weather and then took a quick bus ride to customs where we all made it through with no problems. I have no idea what the guy who looked over my customs info was saying, but I swear that at one point he asked me for an American dollar. I politely said no, said ‘Merci’ and grabbed my newly stamped passport from him and headed out with the rest of the group to get or luggage.

    On the way to the luggage carousel we ran into Mr. Kuwale who was hired by Texa to be our driver. Texa is a local Congolese guy who traveled to California a few years ago to learn English at our church. He’s now involved in all kinds of stuff and is a great friend of ours. Mr. Kuwale helped us with making sure that no one took our luggage and with getting us everywhere we needed to go in and out of the airport. Once we walked out of the airport with our luggage there were dozens of Congolese guys who wanted to help with us out (for a small fee, if course). Texa and Mr. Kuwale did a great job with keeping them away from us for the most part and Texa even paid a few of the guys who were following us around to help pack our luggage into Mr. Kuwale’s white van. As Texa talked to them in French they did what he said and before you know it we were rolling nine people deep through Kinshasa.

    Driving through Kinshasa on the way to our hostel was a trip. The roads are terrible, there’s no real separation of lanes and the buses we passed were literally overflowing with people. As Mr. Kuwale drove us around cars, people and potholes like a seasoned verteran Stepahanie and I checked out all of the Congolese people who were out and about in Kinshasa. It was dark out while we were driving and most people in Kinshasa don’t have electricity so we saw lots of people sitting around candles, car lights and any other sort of light source they could find. Most people seemed to be dressed nice, but I’m still not really sure what so many of them were doing out in the city at 10pm. They were all over the place.

    I’m starting to get really tired at this point, but I wanted to make sure that I got all of this written out before I crashed for the night because I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get to an Internet connection again. So far this has already been an amazing trip and God has already showing himself in so many ways and we’re just getting started. Tomorrow we’re going to wake up, eat some breakfast and then head with Texa to the Kinshasa market. Even though it’s usually safe we were told that white people should never go without someone who’s Congolese, which is why Texa’s going with us. I can’t wait to check it out.

    Keep on praying for us and I’ll be sure to write up an update again soon with some pictures once we get out and explore. If you have any questions for us along the way, feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll answer them as soon as I can.

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  • The Colts win and make it into the playoffs!

    For the past 3 years my big bro has let us snag his super-awesome, 7th row from the end zone Colts tickets and today we had the chance to go see the Colts beat the Tennessee Titans and clinch their spot in the playoffs. It was a great game that came down to the Colts kicking a last second, game-winning field goal into the end zone that we were sitting behind.

    Of course I had to get a video of it, which you can see below or over here on YouTube. As you’ll see, there was a lot of celebrating and a lot of high-fiving by yours truly. What can I say, I was a little exited to see us pull off the game with a field goal that was kicked as the time ran out. I’m a sucker for fantastic endings.

    Up next, the New York Jets.

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