Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Pig Roast

June 3rd, 2012 4 comments

For my thirtieth birthday we had a pig roast here in Swaziland.  I am generally not one for big birthday celebrations, but the stars aligned and it just made sense for use to host a big shin-dig and roast a whole pig.  I have never done such a thing, nor had anyone else here, but we figured how hard could it be to slap a whole animal on the grill.  Here is an account in pictures of the event.

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We started by slaughtering the pig.  We had a couple of the staff members do the actual slaughtering and obviously Mikayla enjoyed learning about how a pork chop comes from a pig to her plate.

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Stadium and Fodo did the cleaning for us and did an excellent job.

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We let the meat rest for 3 days to ease rigor mortis.  We would have kept the head for effect, but instead gave it to our staff members (along with the entrails) because they would actually eat them.

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Joe and I then made a few simple cuts to be able to butterfly the pig.

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Then we put it on a a simple braii (grill) stand.

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In order to grill the actual pig, we dug an oblong pit with a stone border in the middle.  That let us build up one side while the the other burned down.  The result was a slow roast that we could adjust.

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All smiles about an hour into the event.

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Grilling on one side, while the other side was flaming up.

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After about 2.5 hours (on a 30 pound dressed pig), we flipped it over to crisp the skin.

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Since there were a few people who were a bit squeamish about the idea of grilling our own pig, we took it safe and cut the shanks off to to get some better heat distribution and ensure a through cooking.

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Joe and I taking a quick bite to ensure doneness.

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The finished product.

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Pork wasn’t all we had.  We added to the festivities with homemade baked beans, pizza, ratatouille, pasta salad, bread, rolls and fresh bar-b-que sauce.

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This was the serving table once we started the meal

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And what what was left… the pot was given away, the bones were use to make a stock, the fat was rendered to cook with and the meat was saved.

All in all… it was a wonderful birthday celebration.  We had no idea what we were doing, but figured it out in style and loved every minute of it.

30 doesn’t feel so bad when you celebrate it this way!

Categories: Events Tags: , , ,

MLK Day in Swaziland

January 16th, 2012 No comments

Beth and I celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day here in Swaziland, and needless to say, it was much different than experiences in prior years.  We missed bundling up Mikayla (our own little MLK) for a cold march through Bowling Green Streets.  We missed attending the church service at State Street Baptist.  We missed processing through MLK’s legacy with like-minded people.


We missed a lot, but we didn’t miss out on the remembrance.  I listened to King’s "I have a Dream" speech three times today.  The first time was in my office where I found it still causes tears to stream down my face.  The second time was at a staff reflection service, and the third was sitting at home winding down for the evening.

Processing through the day with our Swazi staff was a real treat.  After all, while most of them know of King, none of them really understood the full significance of his life and legacy.  There were 5 Americans there: our family and the two sisters.  Sister Diane is old enough to remember the march and the effect it had on the nation.  Sister Barbara is old enough to have seen many of the effects of the civil rights movement come into fruition.  Beth and I are old enough to realize just how fortunate we are to live in a more enlightened time.  And, Mikayla is old enough to live in MLK’s dream of a world where "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

Reflecting on the speech in Swaziland provided a fresh view of King’s vision.  We have experienced a total racial inversion in the last 6 months from a world of white super-majority to white super-minority.  But, we are doing it in a country that has largely been spared the racial tensions of it closest neighbors and the world as a whole (The white and black on the Swazi flag represent racial unity, which is unique in this region).  Also, it was profound to hear Martin Luther King speak about the "blank check" his country had written him since so few of the promises for freedom and equality had been fulfilled.  We heard those words in a country where the new constitution promises freedoms and liberties that few have seen implemented.

Finally, it was significant to celebrate an "American" holiday by delving into a discussion of how Kingdom usurps Empire.  In a nutshell, this was the vision and dream that King shared with the world: things are not the way they are supposed to be, but we are a trajectory of total restoration.

Our celebration was much different than years past, but it was equally as significant.

[By the way, if you haven’t listened to King’s I Have a Dream speech today, please take the time to do so.]

Watching the Blackhawks win the Cup

June 14th, 2010 2 comments

20100610_kane_250x375[Kane lifts the cup after his game winning goal]

I have been a moderate hockey enthusiast for about 15 years now and have always been a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks.  In those 15 years, the ‘hawks have only made the Stanley Cup Playoffs 3 times (before last year, they had only made 1 playoff in 13 years!!).  I really got back into watching the sport this year whiling playing Fantasy Hockey with friends.  Boy did I pick a good year to start watching again as the ‘hawks were loaded with young talent and easily made the playoffs.  I was able to watch every game of the first series through the Nashville affiliate and then watched most of the second and third series online.

When Chicago made it to the Stanley Cup Finals by sweeping the San Jose Sharks, I was beside myself with excitement.  I vowed to wear my Blackhawks sweater (jersey for you non-hockey folks) every game night in the series despite the blazing June heat.

On Wednesday, Chicago found themselves on the road against Philadelphia up 3-2 in a 7 game series; I found myself at Annual Conference for Kentucky Methodists.  At the conclusion of the final session, I rushed out of the conference center to find the first period over and the score tied at 1-1.  I ran up to my hotel room and pulled on my red, white and black jersey.  I watched most of second period by myself (and it was a great period of hockey).  The only time anyone paid any attention was when I made a fool of myself cheering.  Those around me limited their interest to the mere fact that anyone actually watched hockey.  The second period closed with Chicago up by a goal and my room mates looking to go to bed.  I knew I had to find another place to watch the game.

I headed to the hotel lobby and asked if they knew of a place where I could watch the hockey game. “They play hockey in the summer?”  she asked.  “Yeah… the finals are on!” I said.  Her only suggested was to go to the bar downstairs.

I walked down but was dismayed to find the Reds playing baseball.  Probably wouldn’t be a problem, but since I could literally see the Reds Stadium from the bar, there seemed to be little chance I was going to be able to convince them to change the channel.  After asking several people if it would be possible to watch the game on one of the many TVs, I was told I would have to take it up with bartender.

I went to the bar and asked if there was any chance we could watch the hockey game.  She gave me a hesitant look and said as long as the other patrons were okay with it.  Luckily the two guys beside me piped up and said they would love to watch it.  Turns out both of them used to play hockey (one of them said he played semi-pro).  Suddenly a small new world emerged.  In the midst of a sea of uninterested bar-goers, three of us could talk about forechecking and plus/minus and penalty killing.

It quickly became obvious the two other fans were not only interested in hockey – they were also big fans of women and booze.  I can say without hesitation that the things discussed were most certainly not things most of my pastor friends at Annual Conference were talking about.  Besides being obviously drunk, these two guys were quite excited about a certain “dancer” who had given them her number and whose proportions seemed to be abnormal.  I will leave the specifics to your imagination, but I have no doubt that whatever you are imagining is tame compared to how the conversation actually unfolded.

As the third period played out with Chicago up, I also engaged the gentleman on my other side in friendly conversation.  Turns out he was a Catholic business man with an economics degree from Yale who also happened to be a Detroit Redwings fan.  Between his third and fourth glass of wine he asked what I was doing in the area.  That is when I got to explain that I was there because I was a Methodist pastor; he was not shocked by this, but was amused with the fact that I was also a distillery manager.  Within a few minutes we transitioned from talking hockey to talking about the socio-historic setting of the Ancient Near East.  Basically he asked me if I preached and I told him I was more interested in teaching so people could come to their own conclusions.  When I told him I often “preached” on historical practices of Israelites, he sarcastically said “yeah, I bet people flock to hear that!”  Before long, we were talking about the theological implications of Assyrian and Babylonian suzerain-vassal treaties.  Oh the joy.

Our conversation was often interrupted by either a great play in the hockey game or by our friends on the other side who were excited about a new female patron to the bar.  So there I was, in a bar, at a church conference, talking with one guy about how the flaming firepot passing between the split carcass of a lamb in Genesis is essential to understanding the cross, and talking with others about what sort of sexual escapades are available to amateur hockey players.

With just a few minutes left in the game, Philly scored and sent things into overtime.  Again, in a large crowd of sports fans, there were only 4 of us in the bar that cared that the Stanley Cup playoffs could come down to a sudden death overtime period.

A rumor started spreading that there was another hockey fan outside and that the bartender at that bar might be willing to turn the larger TV on to the game.  I excused myself and made my way to the porch.  As soon as I walked out (still wearing my Blackhawks jersey), a very large and very drunk man ran up to me and gave me a hug.  Between a  barrage of curse words, he expressed his enthusiasm for Chicago.  We sat down at the bar to watch the overtime period.  It was nice to not only find a hockey fan, but also to be able to cheer with someone who supported the same team.  At one point after a long string of enthusiastic cussing from my new friend, I turned around to see that my District Superintendant and his wife were sitting right behind us.  Oh well… nothing I can do about it.

As the overtime period got underway, my excitement began to build.  Even without the sound on, you could tell the Philadelphia crowd was going crazy.  The Flyers are a tenacious team and always play hard, especially when something is on the line.

But then, four minutes into OT this happened:

As you can probably tell, the goal was odd.  Even players on the ice didn’t know what had happened.  It was even harder for me to grasp what was going on between the lack of sound and the drunk ramblings of those around me.  Eventually, as the Blackhawks flooded the ice, it was obvious what had happened.  The young phenom Patrick Kane had ended the 49 year drought for Chicago.  I went crazy, along with the only other Chicago fan in the whole city (as far as I could tell).  The drunk womanizers and the wine-drinking Yale grad made their way to me to offer congratulations.  It was a hell of a night.

It certainly was not the setting where I expected to celebrate the first ‘hawks cup win in my lifetime, but it was magical either way.  I would have loved to be in the Windy City to see that happen, but it was plenty of fun to be a sober distiller at a pastor’s conference watching the game with washed-up hockey players, Catholic history buffs, and drunk Chicago fans.

In many ways the setting only enhanced the experience.  Sure, my DS may have “caught” me in a crowd of intoxicated ruffians, but I bet I am one only a few pastors who were able to talk with absolute strangers about redemption.  Plus… the ‘hawks won.  What more could I ask for.

2010 NCAA Tournament Picks

March 17th, 2010 3 comments

Here are my NCAA Tournament picks for this year:

Categories: Events, Random Tags: , ,

Proud of my cousins

March 15th, 2010 No comments

We all like to help out worthy causes when we can.  Often that just requires a few bucks, or a text message, or volunteering a couple hours.  Don’t get me wrong, all those things matter, but when someone really gets behind something, and is willing to make true sacrafices, that is when amazing things happen.  Two of my Chicago cousins certainly fit into this later category.

A few weeks ago I received an email from cousin Amy about her participation with a St. Baldrick’s Foundation event.  Basically, participants shave their heads to raise money and awareness about cancer.  A few days later I received another email from my cousin Lauren saying she too was going to participate.

I consider myself a pretty bold person, but I have never been brave enough to shave my head… and I am a guy.  Here, my two FEMALE cousins are willing to shave theirs in solidarity and support of cancer research.  This is especially poignant considering our grandfather, who fought various types of cancer, passed away last year.

Beth and I are very proud of Lauren and Amy and wanted to share what they were doing.  We donated to both of them, and we want to encourage you to consider doing the same.  Here are their participant pages:

Amy after shaving her head.

MLK Day Remembrance

January 18th, 2010 No comments

I am not a very sentimental person and rarely get caught up in traditions or holidays, but today represents a significant day of remembrance as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  This man was so influential in my life and my understanding of the world that we named our daughter after him (Mikayla Lillian Kickert).  It was an honor this morning to march along side my brothers and sisters and to have my daughter join us.  Here is a picture of me and little MLK from this morning and a shot from the march:

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If you haven’t already done it, please take the time to listen to MLK’s prophetic “I have a dream” speech.  I still cannot listen to it without tearing up.  I have included it below for your convenience

Finally, I want to share with you a prayer that I wrote several years ago to commemorate the day.  The following is an invocation written in 2008 for the annual MLK remembrance service in Bowling Green.  It is inspired by the UMC Book of Worship prayer for such occasion.

God of all creation, we stand together today and acknowledge your presence among us as we seek to be your people united in love.  As we worship today, we pray that you grant us a glimpse of your Kingdom. A kingdom where everything is made new and all nations walk together in the light of your Glory.

We thank you for your servant Martin Luther King Jr. who lived out the principles of your kingdom, and through his prophetic voice, offered the vision of what could be.  May we be challenged by his courage, emboldened by his passion, and inspired by his actions.  But heavenly father, may we not rest of the laurels of his godly work, but instead strive together to bring deeper love and greater unity as we all seek to live out your calling on our lives.  May we, even today, experience the same divine discontent that spurred Dr. King to be a voice for justice and an advocate for love.

Today we remember the conviction of Dr. King, who said:

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Therefore, let us pray for courage and determination for those who are oppressed.  And at the same time, may we not be blind to the oppression we bring, nor deaf to the voices crying against it.
Today we remember Dr. King’s words that

True peace is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice.

Therefore let us pray not only for relief from tensions and conflicts, but for a just and compassionate world.  May those who work for peace in our world be those crying loudest for justice and may we find peace not in the comforts of life, but in the tension that comes from standing in the gap.
Today we remember Dr. King’s insight that:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, because we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny,

Therefore, let us pray that we may see nothing in isolation, but instead find ourselves unified in love and perfected in peace.  May we rejoice with those rejoicing, and mourn with those morning.  And today father, may we join the struggles of those bothers and sisters throughout the world who are striving for peace and justice.
Today we remember Dr King’s lament that:

The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound, often the arch-supporter of the status quo. 

Therefore, let us pray that neither those gathered here today nor any congregation of Christ’s people may be silent in the face of wrong, but that we may be disturbers of the status quo when it comes into conflict with God’s Kingdom.

Finally, we remember Dr. King’s prophetic words that:

The dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Therefore, in faith, let us contend against evil and make no peace with oppression so that we join in the legacy of Dr. Martin King Jr. and work together to fulfill the vision he shared of your Kingdom come. 

Lord, while we still hear jangling discords in our nations, may we be beautiful notes in the symphony of brotherhood. 

In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace we pray, Amen.

Human Trafficking

March 20th, 2007 No comments

A definition:

“Trafficking in human beings” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

Article 3 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (Palmero Protocol)

The scale of human trafficking

Men, women and children are trafficked within their own countries and across international borders. Trafficking affects every continent and most countries.

Due to the hidden and illegal nature of human trafficking, gathering statistics on the scale of the problem is a complex and difficult task. There are no reliable national or international estimates as to the extent of trafficking. Figures are usually counted in the countries that people are trafficked into and often fail to include those who are trafficked within their own national borders. The following statistics may represent an underestimation of trafficking, but are the most credible and frequently quoted.

  • At least 12.3 million people are victims of forced labour worldwide. Of these 2.4 million are as a result of human trafficking. A global alliance against forced labor, International Labour Organisation, 2005
  • 600,000-800,000 men, women and children trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80 per cent are women and girls. Up to 50% are minors. US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2005
  • An estimated 1.2 million children trafficked each year. UNICEF UK Child Trafficking Information sheet, January 2003
  • The majority of trafficked victims arguably come from the poorest countries and poorest strata of the national population. A global alliance against forced labor, International Labour Organisation, 2005
  • Trafficking is the fastest growing means by which people are caught in the trap of slavery. Anti-Slavery
  • Human trafficking is the third largest source of income for organised crime, exceeded only by arms and drugs trafficking. UN office on drugs and crime
  • It is the fastest growing form of international crime, already generating 7 billion dollars per year in criminal proceeds. There are even reports that some trafficking groups are switching their cargo from drugs to human beings, in a search of high profits at lower risk. UN office on drugs and crime
  • People are trafficked into prostitution, begging, forced labour, military service, domestic service, forced illegal adoption, forced marriage etc.
  • Types of recruitment; include abduction, false agreement with parents, sold by parents, runaways, travel with family, orphans sold from street or institutions.


BG-ONE: Voices For Justice // Update

March 19th, 2007 No comments

We held our first organizational meeting for the upcoming BG-ONE event at Broadway UMC and things seem to be coming together nicely. We have decided to label this event as “Voices For Justice” and will work with the theme “Come Together.” While the overall focus is injustice, there will be some elements addressing racial reconciliation. Additionally we will be partnering with the official One Campaign in a more official way.

A Mission Statement has been developed for our work: We seek to educate our community about local and global injustice, encourage our community to take action that will change this injustice, and build a community of activists united to make injustice history. Beyond raising awareness, we are also seeking to raise money to donate to local and global aid organizations including financing part of Kaleidoscope’s trip to New Orleans.

Schedule: We will meet on Wednesdays starting March 28 and will run until April 25. The actual event will be at 6:00 at Broadway UMC (1323 Melrose St). The April 25 date will be a rehearsal at Broadway and we will set up and practice the afternoon of the 28th.

Involvement: The primary artistic elements will be coming from the students in Kaleidoscope. We will be teaching classes in Hip Hop, Poetry, Art and Band. The technical arts will be handled primarily by adults and outside of the Wednesday sessions.

How can you help? Once again we will need your support and your assistance.

If you are available, we would love to have you join us on Wednesday nights to help and participate with the classes. Even if you don’t have a particular “skill set” we would love to have you connect with the students. Additionally, we need help with the technical arts aspect of the event (Rick?? Ron??). That would include videography as well as editing and compiling elements.

If you bring special talents or passions to the table, we would love to include that. Last time we found that some of the most successful elements were those that were not planned, but that were incorporated along the way. We are wanting to include more outside involvement in this event that can take place outside of the Wednesday Night gatherings. Specifically we talked about including artistic pieces from the community and various congregations around Bowling Green. We will need people to coordinate the art sale as well organize and lead setting up environment and displays at the church.
We have a rough outline of what the event will look like. Of course this is open to change and will evolve.

  • Prelude / Intro (Video)
  • Opening
  • Call to Worship
  • 8 Goals Video
  • ONE (hip-hop performance)
  • Racial Reconciliation Creative Piece
  • Dialogical Sermon
  • Making the Band Original Piece
  • Offering (Man on the Street Interview??)
  • “Waiting on the World to Change”
  • Conclusion (Communion?)
  • Closing Performance – Come Together

Please contact Ben Kickert or Gary Hook if you have questions.

BG-ONE // Voices Against Poverty

March 7th, 2007 No comments

Organizational Meeting Tonight!!

Hey folks, we will be meeting at Broadway UMC to discuss upcoming plans for our upcoming Voices Against Poverty Showcase. We will meet in the Video Cafe at Broadway. You can get directions here.

We will be continuing with the focus on the ONE campaign and the Millennium Development Goals, but the theme this time will be “Come Together.”

The preparation sessions will run from March 28 through April 25 with the showcase on April 28th at Broadway. We are in need of people to help organize and lead. If you receive this email it is because you either were involved in the first U2charist or you are a part of Emergent-BG. Either way we would love your help. Please feel free to forward this to anyone else who would like to be involved.

If you have questions I encourage you attend this organizational meeting on Wednesday or to contact Gary Hook or Ben Kickert. We will be sure to keep you posted on developments.

“Keepers” from the Seminar

January 20th, 2007 No comments

The seminar this weekend with Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke was excellent.  Steve was just as impressive as Brian, and the whole conversation was useful and challenging.  Here are some of the soundbites that stuck with me:

“In a post-modern theological setting, our dialog partners are no longer Christians.” -Brian McLaren

“As in art, poetry, music, etc., the best theology is worked out in pain” – Steve Chalke

“Sin is best understood as an infection rather than an infraction” -BM

“In an intelligent church, our Christology shapes our missiology, which shapes our ecclesiology” -SC

“A church is best defined as a dynamic set of ongoing social and spiritual relationships centered on Christ… everything else is cultural baggage.” -SC

“Our task is to create, model and encourage new ways of doing and being church at the heart of every community.” -SC

(in speaking of the Kingdom of God and the deliverance it brings) “We are saved FROM sin, not just from punishment” -BM

“We exist to bring God’s Kingdom, his Shalom, to these people.” -SC

“The greatest danger, and compromise in the church is to hide away and entertain ourselves to death” -SC

“We need to develop a culture among us where we can experiment and fail.” -SC

“There are two synergistic ways to bring about productive change in our churches: planting new churches that innovate to meet the immediate need, and renewing (or reconceiving) existing church that imitate.” -BM

“Let’s hope that churches on all levels and from all backgrounds are successful.” -BM

“I think mega-churches have a bright future, but it is a difficult future.” -BM

“God may not be a universalist, but we should all wish he was.” -SC

“I am not asking the question of who is in and who is out, I am asking the question of how can the Kingdom of God come to earth.” -BM

**quotes may not be verbatum**