Sunday, December 23, 2018

The moment Love was born. 

Hello and Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you each have a beautiful time with your families and are able to let everything go and just be in the moment with those you love. Lets not let outside things that don't really matter, get in the way of the inside things that matter most.
No more beautiful moment in history to celebrate than the birth of our Lord Jesus. On that one night, for the first time,  light dawned in a dark world and in a world full of hate, in that moment, love was born. For years, God had given mankind laws to obey, commandments and sacrifices to perform so that they could be holy and acceptable to Him. But they failed time after time. And still we fail, time after time. We can never be right or good enough to get up to God. So God, came down to us. 

Mary and Joesph looked for a place, but there was no room for them, so God allowed His Son to enter the world in a lowly, ordinary stable. And there in a town called Bethlehem,  hope arrived and God sent us His love. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Eternal Father, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God. Mankind had lost heart. So the Father gave us His heart. His Son, born in the most obscure way possible and laid in a manger. The Fathers priceless treasure lay in an earthen vessel.
No crowds to stand in awe, no orchestra music or spectacular ceremony, the earth did not stand still and yet the Savior of the world was just born. To this day, the world still has no place for God, no room for Him, although He constantly "knocks on the door" (Rev.3:20). So God allows His priceless "Treasure" to find a place only amongst the lowly. "Earthen vessels", ordinary people who have lain down their life to honor His (2.Cor.4:7/Is.57:15). 

Imagine if you held baby Jesus in your arms. What would you have seen? If you looked with your heart, you would have seen the Hope of Israel, the healing of the nations. You would have seen the end to death and the beginning of life. You would have seen the profound love of the eternal God in those beautiful eyes. 

So for Christmas, let us contemplate this spectacular event, not as a child's Christmas story that we have all heard many times, but as the profound reality and miracle of God, being born on earth, as a human so that He could grown up, die and rise again in order to rescue us. His birth was like no other. His death was like no other. His life IS like no other. 

Sorry this post is not going to be the best edited or written:) (not that any of them ever are;)) I am really rushed right now but just wanted to get you an update by Christmas.
We have had a tough time finding a place to stay here and as of this moment, don't have anywhere to stay for Christmas and the week after. The guy who owned the place we had reserved, at the last second said he changed his mind because he realized he could rent it for a higher price. Now by this time all the prices on places have gone way up because of the holidays so we have been doing a lot of searching. Its just hard to find and affordable safe place for eight people (there are shootings and gang wars every day in certain areas so we have to be wise).  I know something will work out and the Lord will lead us (hey, we'll take a stable at this point;)). 

One day when we were looking for a place to stay, we were walking down this street, there were real poor type houses on each side and then a drainage ditch in the center. We looked closer in the ditch and, guess what? We saw three crocodiles swimming in it! Not kidding, right in a down town kind of area with trash floating around them! The locals are like, "Yeah...and?" Ok, were not in Kansas:) If I go back there some time I'll try to get you a picture;)

Performing in a theater for a special Christmas show. 
Even with having to move around and deal with our living situation, we have still been doing a lot of events and performing and ministering all over the city. This month has been crazy and we are really tired now. Since we were here last, we received many requests to perform at schools at different community and city events and in the prisons. So we have had a really full schedule, this last week going every day, a few of the days double. Often we have had to split up to fit everything in. But it is such blessing and privileged to be used by God to touch others that anything we face is a small price to pay. 

My brothers and sisters and I performing a choreographed dance routine. 
On Thanksgiving we visited a special school where the directer had seen us perform at a different school months ago and really wanted us to come to his school. We were greeted by a bunch of excited students and teachers and they helped us carry our equipment to the gym. Originally they had told us it was going to be younger kids, under 13, but it ended up being 15 to 20 year olds which is usually more of a challenge:)

The Lord Jesus was with us and gave us the wisdom and boldness to reach into these kids world and give them reality. They were so attentive and respectful and cheered insanely loud for each act we did. They were eager to participate and really touched by all we shared. When we were finished and gave our final bow, no-one moved. All 400 teens just sat there and then stated chanting in English, "Thank you, thank you...". It was really cool. Talk about a special Thanksgiving:)! Thank you Jesus!
After the performance, we stayed another hour just talking one on one to so many kids, each with their own story. This area is a very bad, dangerous and violent area and these kids have each suffered greatly, lost a loved one or have a parent in prison. The days following our visit, we received more emails and texts then ever, saying specific meaningful things about how much our message changed them and gave them hope.

My brother doing a back flip.
My brothers and sisters and I are second degree black belts and use this art to teach focus and discipline. 
One young man, named Lucas, told us he had attempted suicide because he just wanted to give up on life. His mom had left, his dad is in the hospital, dying of a horrible sickness and he had no-one. A few days later we went with him to the hospital to visit his dad. He couldn't afford the trip to the hospital and him and his dead had tension between them since his dad had not been there through the years. We were able to spend time helping them bridge the gap by talking to them together and making them laugh. The dad looked like he was 80 when he was 50 and because the hospital food was so bad, he hardly eats. We were able to get the son some extra food to take to his dad and bus fares. It was a beautiful experience.

This was early in the morning on a deserted beach. But as summer is arriving here, the beaches are just packed with people and we walk up and down them with flags that have messages of hope and lift up Jesus. 

We received a request from the Brazilian army to perform at an event they put on for the people in a very poor area. They provide health care, job services, food ecs and they asked us to put on the show. There were around 5,000 people there throughout the day and it took a lot of work to get it all organized. But it went really well and we were able to reach a lot of people who live in the middle of nowhere, as well as many soldiers from the army.
Part way thorough our performance, a commander came up to us and informed us that the 4 star General, who is over the entire Brazilian army, who be coming to meet us and watch some of our show. It was an honor. He spoke good english and was very grateful for our work. He informed us that he would help us in anyway they could.

We did a special performance at ballet/hip hop dance show in a theater that was located at the foot of a really dangerous slum. They were having a Christmas celebration for all the dancers and we got to close the event with our show (which is specially designed for Christmas right now). The little ballerinas were so sweet and it broke my heart when a little girl, no more than five, starts telling me about the shooting outside her house last night and how afraid she was. They want to know if it is safer in America and if we ever are afraid there. The dance instructor told us that many days the kids can't make it to class because of the gang violence in their village. 

We had a beautiful time with them and we performed the Christmas story of the birth of Christ with each of us acting a part of Mary, Joesph, A Shepherd, Angel and wisemen (My brother as one of the thee kings on stilts you can kind of see in the back of the picture above). My sister closed our show with a beautiful story of a toy puppet ballerina, who comes to the cross and can break free to dance. Communicating all the things that tie us up and hold us back, our sadness, past, mistakes and regrets. The birth, life and death of Jesus were like no other, and through Him, we can be truly free. 

Another school we visited was technically only 30 miles away from us, but it took us over two and a half hours because of the traffic and bad roads (Thats like the norm here). We almost turned back when we were about two miles away because the last stretch of road was so bad. 
It was all mud, massive potholes and we were afraid we would damage our van. But since we had already come so far, we decided to take it real slow, walk ahead of the van and just crawl along. When we finally got there, it was a pretty chaotic scene. Kids were running all over, there were pigs and dogs walking through large heaps of trash, a ditch full of stagnate water and waste running along side and the school itself looked like a condemned building. The director told us that he really had no control over the kids and we were on our own to try to get things under control and organized. Oh no way... Neat, thank you!

But as always, the Lord Jesus came under us and helped us with His grace and tender mercy. We took control and pretty much told the kids what to do and explained who we are and that we were going to do a cool show for them. They instantly showed us respect and attention and the director was really ashamed and humiliated that he had let things get so bad. It's like so many of the people in charge at different places here have just given up completely. In part I understand, because things seem so hopeless and they themselves have difficult lives, but I have also seen how just a little portion of love and care, goes a really long way to changing and improving things.

Anyway, after some hard work and a lot of teaching and talking, we were able to have an awesome time with these kids and really make an impact in their lives. As well as making them laugh and doing magic and dance for them, we taught about a lot of tough issues like drugs, peer pressure, marriage, gangs and individually beginning to seek the Father and study the Scriptures. Many of them wrote us afterward to tell us how we changed them and we constantly stay in touch with some of them.  One of the teachers told us that many of the kids had fathers in prison, and that a huge problem was gangs that would come outside the school and sell the kids drugs. So we touched on these issues and thought them many things about thinking, consequences and making right decisions  
The teachers and workers had never seen the kids so quiet and respectful and couldn't believe we could keep them in this kind of order. Only be the grace of God. At the end all the kids just crowded around us and waited to get a hug, event the teen, "bad" kind of kids. They had never known this kind of love and care.

My brothers performing a funny clown routine.  
In between all our events we spend time down town in the very busy city centers ministering to the masses and helping the homeless on the streets. The center has been especially busy with the holiday shopping and we have been reaching huge crowds. 
Often as we travel to and from different schools, prisons and events, we take time after to walk through the surrounding area and go door to door. In certain places we can't drive in and there is no real center, so to reach the people we just spread out and walk to reach the "houses" (not that you can call them houses) and share the Gospel with them. Sometimes we give them little gifts, toys for their children, bibles and things to read, but mostly we give the the good news of the Father who sent His Son Jesus to provide us with hope in even the most hopeless situation. We have many beautiful encounters this way. 

We make up little packets to give the people we meet with items that some very generous companies have donated to us. Some for kids, some for the homeless and some for prisoners. 

This last month many of the sub cities and communities put on events where they invite poor families to come and give them a gift and food. (Sometimes they have a santa claus and sometimes santa ends up being one of my brothers or me in a frog costume in a sonata coat :)) 
After we were invited to one of these events, word spread about the Americans with a cool free show and we soon had five more. The people putting on these events (often a Catholic Parish) do not have a lot of resources or help so we end up helping organize the events, set them up,  and break them down as well as contributing candy, prizes or whatever we can afford. All of this work so that we can reach someone with the hope of the Gospel. That the birth of Jesus who we celebrate is alive today and can help you, take care of you and heal your pain. 
We have had some really beautiful times at these events, reaching people who come from the favelas and have nothing. They are so grateful for a Christmas and very open to the Gospel. These times have definitely been my Christmas present! Surely it is more blessed to give then to receive. 

My brothers and sisters and I on the stage in the santa hats:) 
Letting the kids participate and take center stage. 

A certain company actually donated us our shoes and uniforms this year, so in some of the pictures you see us in cool colored shirts or sharp uniforms, thats why;) It's hard to get many pictures since we are all working hard to keep things moving so some pictures aren't that great, or are the only act I am not in so I can grab a picture:)

These last two week we have also visited a women's prison, mens prison and a hospital type prison. I don't have any pictures of these for you because cameras weren't allowed in these ones. The picture below is in front of the women's prison where we performed from round 200 women. 
Walking through the prison it was just tragic. Each cell was overcrowded and packed with ladies. It's like 105 degrees here and even hotter inside their cement walls so they are just sweating hot. Roaches and bugs were crawling all over the walls and these women were in a very bad situation. Most of them are serving time from getting involved in trafficking with their husbands or boyfriends and now they are realizing horrible consequences. Living in a place not fit for animals.

We spent half the day with them and shared so many things. We do a theater act where by brother comes out frantically looking for something. My other brother comes out and asks him what he is looking for. He pauses and responds, that he is looking for his heart. He lost his heart. A slow song is playing and as he explain how he lost his heart my other brothers and sisters and I take a red scarf from his hand and make it disappear. Then my brother explains how the world can steal our heart, little bit by little bit till we have nothing left. But that God is a Father, who can take all our broken pieces and mend us together. The act ends in an upbeat dance choreography all six of us perform. (hard to write out, maybe someday I'll get a chance to film it for you:)) Anyway, it really connected with the women and they were moved.

The mens prison was also a tragic situation. The guys told us that they only get the water on three times a day and have to hurry to get a drink and wash. Since it is so hot and overcrowded, sometimes guys don't get their turn before it goes off again. They said because of the heat, their food often spoils before it is brought to them and they go without eating. Capoeira (which is a martial art that combines fighting and dancing) is very big here since is it Brazilian (originated in Africa but developed in Brazil). We do a dance choreography with capoeira, drums and fire that really gets them excited. We use to communicate and idea about each of us having our own unique rhythms and that we cannot let the world or any other voices, changed our rhythm. Afterward they participate with us and we "play" Capoeira with them. In this prison the men were really good and it was fun. 
We also did an act where a caterpillar becomes a butterfly to a high end electronic song my dad wrote. My sisters and I do a high energy dance with massive butterfly wings on that really lifts everyone up. We communicate and share about being "born again" and that no matter what has happen in the past, it does not have to determine their future. They are not what they did, but who they choose to become. Days afterward a prisoners wrote us (through his wife on the outside) and told us how much this act gave him hope and he replied he really could change and have a new beginning no matter his past. 

We did a cool event last night, later in the evening in a city way in the middle of nowhere. When we first arrived the park was dead, but as we turned on our music and started, crowds came and we shared a beautiful evening with these families. The mayor and governor of the city came as well and were very grateful that we could give them this. They had to hire military swat police to guard the park during our event since this area is so dangerous. The mayor told me that these families have absolutely nothing and have no Christmas besides this. We had brought gifts and candy for the kids and after we performed our Christmas play and shared about the life of Jesus, we gave them some gifts and it was really special. 

So check out how romantically ideal this area in the above picture was for us to set up :) :) We were performing on the other side of this and the only place to set up was under this viaduct. We couldn't stand up and ended up with a lot of bummed heads:)

Today we just got out of a performance at a prison for military police. I talked about this prison in a past post and about the complicated job that the military has here of trying to deal with all the gang wars and violence. Sometimes they get framed and set up for things that are out of their control (lot to get into now, but things are very complicated here with the entry of a new president who is going to begin to fight hard against serious corruption that is rampant throughout Brazil). 

Anyway, today was there family visiting day and Christmas celebration so there were around 200 families and we had a beautiful time with them sharing so many things. My parents have been married almost 40 years and help to teach others so many things about raising children and building a family grounded in forgiveness, understanding and the love of the Father. 
During our performance my brother broke his nose so we are concerned and sad about that. We have to take him to a hospital but won't be able to till Wednesday after Christmas. He is so strong and tough he makes nothing out of it and I know he will be ok, but as his big sister, It definitely freaked me out seeing it bleed so much.  
New years is going to be big here with crowds of around 5 million people. We are praying for the grace of God to impact the crowds with His profound love. On that note, happy new years every one:)! I can't believe it's going to be 2019, wow time flies doesn't it? 

There will never be another time like "Now".

The other night I dreamt that I only had one day left to live, and I was deciding what to do with that day. It was one of those long, vivid real, dreams, you know the kind where you dream in the dream? Any way, in my dream for my last day on earth, I wanted to help these four homeless boys, walk down this really busy street to share Jesus with the people and also to watch the college football national championship with my dad:) (you know how dreams go:)). Through my dream I figured out that I if I watched the clock carefully and kept looking at my watch, I could do everything I wanted to do. There was a lot of detail and I won't bore you, but I ended up doing everything I wanted to and making it to spend time with my dad as the sun was setting and I knew I would then say goodbye to my family and go home to my Father in Heaven. 
Well anyway, I'm not the kind of person who is into dreams or visions, but the dream just made me think about how fragile and short this life is and that we never know when this day could be our last. We don't know when we will no longer have a "later".  We won't get an email or alert notifying us that it's our last day on earth. Death is so final. 
When I woke up from the dream I was happy realizing that I AM living the exact day I would live even if it was my last. To love the lord Jesus, to love and serve others and to love my family. 

We have just one short life and all that matters is that here and now, we spend our minuets to find eternal moments, eternal life. We don't get younger, we get older and there will never be another time like right now, where we can give and love like never before. Jesus is worthy.
Let us each reflect on our lives, who we are, what matters and what is the story we will leave behind. Let us leave no words unsaid, no heart untouched and no love held back. Let us leave no road untraveled, no hurt unforgiven and no moment unmade. Let us love Jesus and celebrate His birth, by giving Him our life!

Merry Christmas, Love you guys - Ruth 

Painting on the walls in a Favela. 
If anyone wants to check out some awesome music and some of the songs we use in our performance, my dad just put out a new cd at. Just copy and past the links here because I can't remember how to embed them at the moment;)

and a video at:

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

An attitude of gratitude makes us rich. 

There are those who have everything and yet are thankful for nothing, but to those who are thankful, nothing becomes everything. 

Sunset in Michigan 
Hello everyone and Happy Thanksgiving! :)! I hope you are doing ok and keeping your heart up despite all the craziness in the world around us. 
I know it can be so easy to get weighed down with the burdens of life and sometimes just feel sad or troubled for no specific reason. Our minds tend to easily dwell on negative thoughts and overlook a a positive one right in front of us. We think about things we wish we had and yet fail to realize how much we actually have. We think about things we wish others would say or do for us, but then miss an opportunity to say or do something for others.  Gratitude is a gift we can give ourselves, which like a seed, will grow into a whole new attitude and bring a beautiful change to your life. 
Be grateful for that breath you just took, for the sun on your face or the rain on the window. Be thankful for your eyes to see, for a mind that can create and learn and for all the many gifts that surround you.

Aspen gold in Colorado.
I met a beautiful homeless man down town Chicago who had nothing to his name but a plastic bag with a few possessions in it.  He was so grateful for a shirt I gave him he started crying and just didn't stop saying thank you. Maybe you and I have more than a plastic bag to our name, but what we have does not make us who we are. Imagine if you did, really have nothing but one bag with a few belongings in it. What kind of person would you be? Could you find contentment and happiness? Riches are within and an attitude of gratitude makes us rich. 
I don't just mean just gratitude for things you can see, but rather a deeper gratitude that leads you to consider and contemplate a Father who gave us everything, even His own Son. 
Imagine if you gave a child the coolest gift ever for Christmas, like a pony or bike. Then, instead of being really grateful, a few days later the child asked you for something else, then something else, then something else. If you just kept giving the child things, it would make that first awesome gift you gave him like nothing. God gave us the free gift of salvation. He gave us His only Son, Jesus. There is literally nothing else, nothing greater He could ever give us. 
He gave us thee answer to every question and the solution to every problem. He gave us comfort in our pain, healing for our wounds and forgiveness for all our sin and mistakes past present and future.  He gave us hope in a hopeless world, laughter in the midst of sorrow, a love beyond anything we could dream of and practical help in even the most impossible situation. He gave us the high purpose of serving others and taking His love to the world. And above all else He gave us eternal life, to be with the Father forever in His eternal Kingdom and be saved from hell.

Instead of thinking about things we can't do or change, let us do something that will change the way we think - 

Contemplate Jesus. Study the Gospel of John. 

Christ died so that we would not live for ourselves, but for Him (2 Cor. 5:15). The depth of our gratitude shows the depth we grasp the magnitude of our sin and the phenomenal work that Jesus did to pay our ransom. Let us be full of thanksgiving to God our Father and consider the way we reflect gratitude in our lives.  That we give seeking nothing in return, that we love the unloveable and remember the forgotten. And that we look not merely to receive from life, but to define it. 

My family and I just arrived back in Brazil after spending a few months in the US. It was a long trip back since the cheapest flights had connections and a layover, so we are exhausted and recovering from jet lag and a huge culture change. 
It's funny how in just a few days you can end up in such a completely different world, now surrounded by extreme poverty, violence and  chaos. We pray Gods grace and mercy would help us to touch lives here with His love. 
Yesterday we performed an event for the homeless at a Catholic Parish. They provided a meal for around 150 families, and we performed a show of magic, dance and theater. I love to make them laugh in all their sadness and then plant a seed of hope that even though they have nothing, they can find a place in Jesus, a man who was also homeless. 
We already have a lot of events scheduled here in Brazil for Christmas and after, so we are definitely going to hit the ground running. On thanksgiving we have an event with 500 kids! So as you kick back, watch football and eat turkey, enjoy relaxing and know I'll be surrounded with 500 kids shouting and yelling in an acoustically nightmare situation...really...enjoy :) (Unless of course you have some really wacky relatives, then I got it better;))

It was fun lugging 16, fifty pound boxes, and 16 very heavy "carry ons" through two international airports (carry ons which are insanely oversized and bought from thrift stores so already beat up  and ready to bust;) :)! It's especially fun when we get to take them on and off the carts many times to go through security. Since we could never afford to ship things down to Brazil because its insanely expensive, we take everything we can on the check throughs which are allowed for free, so we are always pushing it with bringing bibles, our performance equipment, donated items companies have given us to give to the people we work with like stuffed animals, hygiene products, chess sets and small toys (to which I am extremely grateful)) 
When we landed in Brazil, this one guard was about to start opening and searching every box! We explained that we were working as volunteers in his country and that we would gladly open and every single box and spread all our stuff all over his counter, obviously greatly delaying everything and holding up the whole line :). He decided we could just go. 

We had spent the fall in America because we  had to take care of some things, and also because we got an amazing opportunity to work in some American prisons. We visited some of the universities, schools, cities, shelters and prisons across the US. The time went so quickly I can't believe it,  but in another sense, it seemed like five years. We did so much, touched and were touched by so many people and I feel like I have learned so many things and touched a deeper level of the Fathers profound love. 

Here is a quick update of our time in the States:)

One day when I was down town Atlanta, I met a beautiful family that was homeless. A mom, her sister and four small children. They were so open to the Gospel and grateful that someone would talk to them and care about them. I got them a pizza and some fries which made the little boys so happy:). The oldest boy was only 9 but really mature and eager to help his mom take care of his siblings. I held the littlest one for a bit to give the mom a break and he fell asleep in my arms.

We spent time down town Denver, working in schools and helping the homeless. In each city we visit we make up lunch kits and care packages that we give to the beautiful men and women who have come on hard times and ended up homeless. So many stories. I was also able to make a good contact with in the Colorado department of Corrections and we hope to be able to work with them in the prison in the future.

We make up lunch kits depending on what we can get affordable in bulk. 
When we were in Chicago, we had the idea after the Chicago marathon, to pick up all the coats and sweatshirts that the runners had discarded. It was raining so they were soaked and we took them home to wash and dry them then bring them back to give them out to the homeless throughout the city. They were so grateful to get a coat or sweatshirt of such high quality, since most of this stuff was expensive  on brand athletic gear:).
I met a homeless man in a wheel chair named Punchy. He had been through so much in his life it would be a really long story to write to you. His father had left when he was a boy, he had suffered abuse, then been in an accident and now his feet were so swollen he suffered extreme pain and couldn't walk. He also had very serious heart problems. I took him to lunch and shared the Gospel with him and got to know him, it was a beautiful time. He told me that sometimes at night he was so afraid to go to sleep because he was afraid he might not wake up. I shared with him about eternal life and the hope of knowing the Father.

Another young guy I met named Tray, had a seizure while I was talking to him. He had to sit down and breathe. He told me that 5 years ago he had a great life and job. One day he was waiting for the metro when he lost his balance and fell on the tracks. The train hit him and he suffered broken ribs, a broken skull (he showed me his scars) and other injuries. He spent time in the hospital and when he couldn't pay the hospital bills, he ended up on the street. He told me that now all he had to his name was the plastic bag in his hand. I don't usually give money to the homeless I meet because I can't really afford to, and often they would use it on alcohol or drugs. I usually give out lunch bag or clothes. But I decided to give this guy 30$ along with some stuff because he clearly had it together and needed some help. I had the contact to a shelter that said they could give him a bed. He was unbelievably grateful. 

My brother met a man name Anthony, who had just gotten out of prison after a 18 year sentence. He was given nothing, just set free. He was trying to take a bus but the driver wouldn't let him. He got into a scuffle, got arrested and sent to Cook County Jail for the night until the judge threw out his case the next day. We took him to lunch at subway and as he made up his food his eyes lit up just looking at all the options. He told us how this was a whole new world for him compared to what it was 18 years ago. He couldn't find a pay phone and so much was different. Think about how much has changed in 18 years?! We got him a room and the fair he needed to make it to his family. He was extremely grateful and wrote my brother the next day a long letter of gratitude. 

We had a number of performances scheduled at the largest jail in Chicago (actually in the entire US), but a high profile case started at the same time and our events had to be postponed. We were disappointed but got the chance to meet with some of the people in charge who were really cool and we hope to work together in the years to come.
Nearby the jail there here a few high schools in a real bad part of Chicago. These kids constantly have to deal with gang violence, poverty and the influence of drugs. We spent time with the kids, playing, taking and teaching them as well as giving them some different things to read, music to listen to and little gifts.

We were ministering near South Bend, so we got to visit the University of Notre Dame. Over 40 years ago my father gave his life to Jesus and was "born again" in the Notre Dame football stadium while looking out at Touch Down Jesus, so this place is special to us. My mom is Irish and my dad is Polish. They both gave my brothers and sisters and I a fighting Irish spirit :). They taught us to care about others and those that suffer and taught us that the things that matter most in life our worth fighting for.  I dance Irish step dance as we perform and definitely love all things Irish ;)

We had an incredible opportunity to work in state prisons in Michigan. It is very difficult to get authorization to work with the department of corrections in the US because of high security protocols and bureaucracy. So we were very grateful for this opportunity.
The man in charge who organized everything was awesome and extremely competent. He actually had gone to CMU, the same university as my dad. He genuinely cared about the prisoners and helping us. He is a really cool guy and friend. 

We performed for level 4, level 2, and level one guys, many who were serving a life sentence. They were able to bring together a large group of inmates and we had practiced our schedule many times so our transitions and acts were really sharp and on point. It was so cool to perform in a prison in English and have no language barrier.

The men were eager to laugh and really enjoyed our magic tricks. We taught so much about forgiveness, eternal life, using their time and the profound love of Jesus. The were so grateful and moved. Afterwards the guards gave us an extra 20 min to talk one on one with the guys and they all wanted to tell us their stories. Most of them had very long sentences. 
We heard a good quote in a movie one time that said, "You only have to forgive once, but to regret you have to do it over and over again every day". So many of these guys just live regretting what they did or full of vengeance at someone for what they did. To forgive is the only way to move on and begin to build a future, even behind walls.
In between performances they gave us a nice chicken meal, cooked by inmates, in the prison cafeteria and we got to get an inside look to some of the prison functions. 
In one of the prisons we were working, we were not scheduled to perform till the evening, so we took a day trip to visit Grand Rapids, the city where my dad grew up. We got to visit his house, grade school and high school, all the places he used to go, the park and also his mothers grave. I never had the privilege of meeting Rose,  my dads mom, she died of cancer when my dad was 20, but I wish I could have and I am grateful to her for giving me my dad :) She had wanted my dad to be a priest, but when she met my mom, and understood that my dad was dedicating his life to the service of others, she was happy. It was special to see so many places that my dad had told us stories about over the years. 
On these same steps, we have a picture of my dad posing with his whole football team when he was 14 years old in front of his school!

We had organized, a certain prison in Pennsylvania months in advanced and the organizer printed out a flyer and posted it around the prison so all the man were anticipating our arrival and excited for our visit. They set up a big backdrop stage in the gym, with bleachers for all the men to sit on and the organizers and staff were amazing and did a fantastic job making sure everything went smooth.  
The prisoners with life sentences who had been given privileges because of good conduct, had video cameras and film gear. They filmed our performance so that the whole prison could see our show and hear our message, it was really cool. 
We performed in the late evening and didn't get back to the motel till late that night. So many stories of mistake, tragedy and broken lives. To give these men seeds of hope, forgiveness, and share the love of the Gospel is such a gift. We do not bring them doctrines, laws or moral reform but rather the gift of a living, loving Father and His Son Jesus.

It took a lot of time and work but we were finally able to confirm events in a jail in New York City. It was a very cold morning and the wind off the water made it freezing. It took a while to get all of our clearances before we could cross the bridge onto the island. This prison in considered one of the worst in the nation and high security. The prisons are hard core guys, most of them apart of gangs. 
One of the men, when he came in was annoyed and had no idea what was going on. By the time we had finished our performance and the men were leaving, that same man was in tears, knew all of our names and said we had really changed him. The lady who organized the event, told us that for most events they do, because the men are not obligated to stay, they usually loose interest and leave. She was surprised that not one person had left. We thank Jesus for his grace and wisdom to handle this opportunity. 

Down town New York, near Grand Central Station, my brother and I met the lady who is in the photo below. It was actually her birthday and she felt completely invisible and unnoticed. We had some of the coats left that we had picked up after the Chicago marathon, and we gave her a really nice one, along with lunch and some money. She broke down in tears so grateful. 
I met this other guy living on the streets who had a strong accent. Who I asked him where he was from, he told me he had no idea. He was brought over to the US, and then ended up in foster care then on the streets. He started crying realizing he had no idea who he was or where he belonged. Another women must have been at least 75 years old, clean, kind, but sitting on a sheet on the sidewalk in the freezing cold.

I know its easy to kind of classify homeless people as "homeless people" if you know what I mean. It's easy to kind of group them into a category and overlook them, but they are people, each with their own story of loss and tragedy. When their mother held them in her arms, she never saw this future for them. All of us are a mistake, tragedy or misunderstanding away from being where they are. We have to think like this so that we learn compassion. Of course many use drugs and alcohol and many have made bad choices, but sometimes circumstance brought them there and sometimes they just need a hand on the shoulder that reminds them they are a person. Each one is an individual and we all need love and attention. 

As we spent time down town New York City, our back packs started out so heavy, full of lunch kits, bibles and coats, and by the end of a long day, they were completely empty. We touched so many beautiful lives, but not as much as they touched ours. When you see those in need, even if you don't have anything to give, give a little of yourself, and you will give them a lot. Ask their name or give them a word of encouragement and you just might keep them from giving up. Just think, maybe on thanksgiving, someone you don't even know you know, could be thanking God for you. 

I am thankful for so many things this Thanksgiving, most of all for the things I shared at the beginning of this blog. I am grateful that God doesn't expect us to be good to get up to Him, but that He became a servant and came down to us.  I am thankful for His love that carries me every day and gives me the strength to take up my cross and serve others. And I am so grateful for my family and a million other things I don't have time to write :)! 

I am extremely grateful to the companies and very kind, selfless individuals who donated different things to us and chose to help us in our work. I cannot thank you enough and otherwise could never have afforded to have things to give others. You have touched the hearts of many children, prisoners and people that are suffering and facing hard times. Thank you. 
And to all those of you who read this and met me at some point, whether we shared a short or long encounter, I thank you for what you gave to me and taught me. Maybe we just exchanged words, maybe a handshake or hug, maybe more. Maybe we never met in person except by email, but know that you matter, and you can make a difference in other peoples lives as you did mine. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone (even though they don't have turkey here;) kkk :)! Don't ever give up! Be thankful for what you have and you will forget about the things you don't have. Give, and you will forget about getting. Don't let the world bring you down. Be humble before the Father and He will lift you up. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Keep our head high and your heart higher! 
                                                                                       - Ruth 

"He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me; And to him who orders his way aright shall I show the salvation of God" (Ps.50:23)

Go Irish! Undefeated all the way :)!!