Sunday, May 17, 2009

End of a great year

Another great year in Athens has come to a close. We closed up shop at Wesley a couple weeks ago and are settling in for the summer now. The end of the year is always a bittersweet experience for me, as I am so excited about the next year and all that the Lord has in store for us, but am also so sad to see so many good friends moving on. Seeing all the people leave is definitely one of the hardest parts of my job, but that is just part of the nature of college ministry, especially when most of your staff is made up of one-year interns! I will especially miss my 6 freshmen interns, as we had some wonderful times together. Thankfully, a bunch of them will be around next year!

This was easily the best and most fruitful year I've had in the ministry. I've said it before and I'll say it again: God is really doing something special in Athens. This year's group of freshmen was especially great. They are one of the most mature groups of freshmen I've worked with. While most of the freshmen we work with are either new to the faith or developing a personal relationship for the first time, many of these freshmen are already fired up for the Lord and excited about sharing their faith with the people around them. I will never get tired of watching these freshmen students hunger and thirst for the Lord.

It took a while, but Christina is beginning to settle into her routine at the coffeehouse. It was a crazy busy few months after it opened, but things are settling down now. They're getting ready to weather the storm that is the summer when all of the college students are home for the summer!

We praise God for all that He has done this year! He is so good and it is always so amazing to see all that He is doing here in Athens. We are forever grateful to be a part of all that He is doing here!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Home from Jamaica...(I miss the sunshine!)

We are home from Jamaica and had an amazing trip! We returned Saturday, March 14th after as good of a Jamaica trip as I can remember. Here are some of the highlights:

We got to build a house for a single mother of 5 children that had been living in a tiny shack that was smaller than the dorm room I lived in my freshmen year. It was an amazing experience as the mother and children were with us the whole week as we were working. Getting to bless this family was one of the major highlights of my week. At the end of the week, we had a big dedication of the house as we handed the keys to the mother. I had the joy of praying for the family and the house, and I started crying! In front of 80 people!! I hate crying!!! But it was a really great experience and something I'm sure none of us will ever forget.

Another highlight was getting to spend time at an orphanage for abandoned and disabled children. It was very eye opening getting to be with these children and see the poverty they live in. Many of the freshmen had life-changing experiences at these infirmaries and orphanages as they experienced things they hadn't seen before. We are so shielded in America from the things going on in the world around us that we often have no idea what poverty even looks like. Unfortunately our culture has been gripped with a materialistic obsession that is unheard of in places like Jamaica. I think a lot of the freshmen were blown away by the hurt and pain they saw in the eyes of these children. They did an amazing job of sharing the love of Jesus Christ with these kids for the short time we were there.

We also visited another infirmary, built a roof for a church, poured cement, built a new fence, and a few other things to bless the people of Jamaica and share the love of Jesus Christ with them. One of the greatest outcomes of the trip was the community we experienced on the team. We had 50 students with us in Montego Bay (the other 40 were in Mandeville) and these students left the trip as best friends. Since we've been home, it seems like they're going out to dinner every other day! It was also amazing seeing all that the Lord did in all of their lives. So many of these students came on this trip unsure of what their relationship with the Lord looked like, and they are coming home on fire for Jesus Christ, ready to serve Him and love Him with their entire lives. This is why I do what I do! What a blessing to see the Lord move in such mighty ways in these students lives!

Of course, we also found some time to have a little fun. We visited Dunn's River Falls, which is a giant waterfall that you can climb up. No one got hurt, everyone made it out alive, and they had a great time. Success!

Overall, I was blown away by the goodness of the Lord. He took care of every detail of the trip and blessed in ways we couldn't have imagined. Thank you so much for all of your prayers! God bless!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Greetings from Yamaica Mon!!!

Hello! I am posting from beautiful Montego Bay, looking out the window into the sunshine and the crystal blue ocean! I could stay here forever!!!!!

Keenan and I have now been here for 3 days getting all of the final loose ends tied up. Things are coming together and I think we are all set! Which is a good thing b/c the students arrive today! Their flight arrives at 2:15 and the week officially begins. And here's the really good news: my wife is on that plane!!!!!!!

We'll have a day to relax before the work begins, since we came down a day earlier this year (we usually come down on Saturday but the flights were about $200 cheaper if we came down on extra day in Jamaica for less money??.....We'll take it!!). On Sunday we'll head to a Jamaican church and get a true taste of Jamaican culture. If you've never been to a Jamaican church before, it is quite an experience. Most Jamaican services last almost 3 hours!!! And you thought your service was long! There is lots of worship and singing and dancing, and the preachers get nice and riled up!! No 20 minute sermons here! If they last less than an hour it is a shock.

We have 3 elementary schools we'll be working with Monday-Wednesday in the morning time. We'll get to sing songs, tell Bible stories, and make crafts with the kids. Being with the Jamaican kids is always one of the best experiences of this trip. In the afternoons we'll be working on the work projects. One of the projects is something new this base is starting called Homes of Hope. We will be building a house for a single mom that has 5 kids and currently lives in a rundown, one bedroom house. She is a sweet lady and we look forward to working with her. We'll also be working on a church in Norwood, as well as some work here on the YWAM base.

Thursday we'll be visiting some infirmaries and orphanages, ministering to some of the people there. Often times, simply having a conversation with them and showing them you care has a huge impact on their life. The love of Jesus Christ is a powerful thing! We'll also be meeting in a spot that overlooks the island and spent a few hours praying for the island. There is so much darkness here, so much evil, and we just want to pray that the Lord will shed his light on this island!!!

Please continue praying for our group. This is an amazing experience for our freshmen as well as an amazing opportunity to share the love of Christ with the people of Jamaica. God is so good and it is an honor to serve Him in this way! God bless!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Heading to Jamaica!

Hey everybody! Preparations are coming together as we get ready for our trip to Jamaica. I'm sitting in my living room as it is dumping snow outside my window, dreaming of the beautiful sunshine of Montego Bay. I am ready! I'll be heading down on Tuesday, March 3rd with one of my interns, Keenan Klayman, as we will finalize everything before Christina and the rest of the students come down on Friday.

It looks like we'll be building houses, repairing roofs, fixing fences, meeting Jamaican kids, going to infirmaries, orphanages, and detention homes, and I'm sure lots more. Please pray the Lord's blessings on our team as we travel down there. Pray that the Lord will keep us safe both on the way there as well as on the trip itself. Pray that the Lord will use us to be a blessing to the people of Jamaica and for us to shine His light on them while we are there. Also, pray that the Lord will use this trip to transform the lives of these freshmen as they experience things they probably have not seen here in America.

We will return Saturday, March 14th during the evening. Looking forward to a great trip! God bless and I'll be sure to have an update here once we get back!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Update on the byerlys

I'm sorry! I'm the worst blogger ever! New resolution: 3 blog postings a month! I can do it! Here are the latest happenings from life in Athens:

-We had a wonderful christmas, getting to spend a few days with each of our families while also having some time to relax in Athens. Christina had to work most of the break but we were still able to have some down time to relax and be together. The highlight of the Christmas season for me (other than Jesus of course!) was my new eyeballs. All I asked for for Christmas this year was money to contribute towards Lasik surgery. I was able to have the procedure done on January 8th and it was the best decision I've ever made! I now have 20/15 vision and haven't had any complications whatsoever. I highly recommend Dr. Blue here in Athens. It was great!

-Christina has continued to keep busy with the coffeehouse. They have started having more events as a way for the community to come be a part of Two Story. They have had a couple of live performances from singer/song writers, as well as a Valentine's Day Murder Mystery Theater they put on this past Saturday. It was a blast! Students continue to pour into the coffee house and rave about the "homey"atmosphere it provides. Praise God for the wonderful things He has done and is doing through the coffee house!

-Freshley continues to move along well. We have had a great semester thus far and look forward to all the Lord has in store for us the next few months. We are taking 94 students to Jamaica from March 7-14. I can't believe how quickly it is sneaking up on us! The freshmen are super pumped and so are we. The trip got so big that we actually had to split it in half. So we're now taking around 50 students to Montego Bay and around 40 to Mandeville.

Thanks for all your prayers and support and I look forward to seeing you all soon!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Two Story Coffee House is up and running!

As many of you know, Christina's latest venture is officially under way. Christina accepted a job at the beginning of August to be the manager of a new coffeehouse in Athens. The coffeehouse was to be opened by Rob and Deandra Bailey, Rob being Christina's former youth pastor. Rob and Deandra felt a calling to plant a church in Athens about a year ago. After driving around Athens a few times, they thought it would be really cool to start a coffee house before planting the church. They thought it would be a great way to meet some people in Athens while also getting their foot into the culture here.

So, the project started in August and was lots of work for the first few months. Rob, who had recently sold a construction business, did all of the renovations on the house himself. After just a couple of months, they had transformed a 100 year old house into a beautiful coffee house! I wish you could have seen the house before the renovations! It was old, dirty, and falling apart. Rob worked incredibly hard, knocking down walls, building a deck, fixing the floors, fixing the ceilings, painting, hammering, drilling, and the list goes on!

After many long conversations, we came up with the name Two Story Coffee House. First, there are two stories to the house- a first story where people will order coffee, hang out, talk, listen to music, etc. And a second story, designed to be a quiet zone for students to study. However, there are also two stories to the house- the first story is that this is a place that sells coffee, the second story, however, is that this is a place where people can talk and relationships can be built. Get it....Two Story Coffee house! There are two stories AND there are two stories!

Finally, on Halloween night, Two Story Coffee House officially opened for business. The first few weeks have been better than we ever could have imagined! The coffee house has been packed out with customers and everyone seems to love it. It has become a very popular hang out place as well as a great place to study. In a college town, coffee houses are always popular!

Christina has worked A LOT of hours! But she seems to be enjoying the challenge. For someone who didn't even like coffee a few months ago, she has become quite the coffee expert! She has a wonderful staff who have been a huge help to the process, especially her two supervisors, Ellen Matthews and Chris Barr. They have all put in countless hours to make this place a success, and have had a blast doing it!

What has been really exciting is that the true vision for the coffee house has really been happening. Christina and the Baileys never intended for this to simply be a place where coffee was sold. All along, the true vision for this place was to create an environment where relationships and community could be built. While never intended to outwardly be a "Christian" coffeehouse, it was certainly intended to be a light unto the people of Athens. We have seen and been a part of numerous conversations with different people, and watched as it has truly become a place where community is being built.

We praise the Lord for all He has done so far through the coffee house and pray that it will continue to be a light unto the darkness here in Athens!

Where's Waldo event

We had our second "Where's Waldo" event last week. This is an event where we have a staff member dress up as Waldo and walk around the mall in Athens. The freshmen then go to the mall in teams and walk around the mall trying to find Waldo. They get points every time they find him.

Along the way, "Waldo's friends" are also walking around the mall. These are staff members dressed up in random costumes. We had a mummy, an explorer, a lost river rafter, a wizard, and many more!

The night didn't start off so well, as the mall vendors were a little freaked out by the random people walking around in costumes. So, the security guard made us leave before we had even gotten started. It was a pretty rough start as we had just had 60 freshmen arrive at the mall!

However, after some quick decision making, we decided to head to the SLC (Student Learning Center) on campus. We had Waldo and friends walk around the bottom floor of the SLC and outside in the surrounding areas. Thankfully, it all ended up working out really well, and we ended up having a great time and the freshmen had loads of fun!